Pros: Characters, talk of ice cream
Cons: The pacing is off, especially at the beginning
The Bottom Line:
A rival murdered
Delicious ice cream, murder
Mix in this debut
Rival’s Murder Cools Off Opening Week
Years ago, Cynthia Baxter was a prolific cozy mystery author. I read and enjoyed a couple of her books, and I always intended to read more, but I never got around to it. She stopped writing for a few years, but I was pleasantly surprised to see her name pop back up again with the new Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mysteries. Since I love ice cream, reading the first, Murder with a Cherry on Top, was a no brainer.
Kate McKay hadn’t planned to return to her home town of Wolfet’s Roost, but when her grandma needed help, moving back seemed the right thing to do. And now that she’s back, she’s discovered how much she missed this small, Hudson River Valley town where she grew up, so she’s decided to stick around and open an ice cream shop in downtown. She’s found a great location with one downside, it’s across the street from the bakery owned by Ashley Winthrop. The two have known each other all of their lives, but have never gotten alone. Kate is hoping that now that the two are adults, they can learn to get alone, but only a few days after she’s opened, she sees that Ashley is now selling ice cream in her bakery. That leads to the two having a very public fight.
The next morning, Kate is awakened by the police at her front door. Ashley was murdered in her bakery the night before. Several people have reported the fight the two had, and so Kate becomes a suspect. Fearing she might take the fall for the crime, she begins to look for the real killer. Can she figure out what really happened to Ashley?
First books in series walk a fine line. They need to introduce us to the characters while still giving us a compelling mystery. Unfortunately, this book fell into the trap of wanting to give us Kate’s backstory early on. Yes, we definitely needed at least some of the backstory to understand her and her relationships with the characters we meet, but it also really slowed down the first quarter of the book. The mystery begins to take hold after that, and by the second half we are fully immersed in the plot. I really didn’t suspect where things were going until Kate began to piece things together near the end, but things make sense when we reach the climax.
The characters are fabulous. Kate, her Gran, and her niece Emma are a wonderful trio. I’m intrigued to see where Kate’s love life is going to go as the series progresses. Some scenes involving that actually brought tears to my eyes. We don’t get to know many of the suspects too well, but in the little bit of page time they have, I feel like they come across as real, and if they had more page time we’d definitely get to know them better.
Then there’s the ice cream. We get plenty of talk about it as Kate dreams up new flavors and talks about some delicious sounding creations. Trust me, you are going to want to have access to some ice cream while you read. Although, I will say, some of the flavors sound weird to me, and it would be nice to see a few more traditional flavors on her menu. We get four recipes at the end of the book, so you can bring a bit of Kate’s shop to your home.
Cynthia’s new series is off to a solid start. If you are looking for a sweet new series to help you cool off as the summer heats up, Murder with a Cherry on Top is for you.