Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, food, setting
Cons: Plot takes a little while to come into focus
The Bottom Line:
Leaves Sugar scrambling in
Charming second book
Sugar Will Need to Take Some Risks to Solve This Mystery
It’s obvious I love culinary cozy mysteries since I read so many of them. But it is always fantastic when something about one of them makes the book stand out to me. That’s the case with Risky Biscuits, the second Sugar and Spice Mystery from Mary Lee Ashford.
As this book opens, it’s been a few months since we last checked in with “Sugar” Calloway and her business partner Dixie Spicer and their Sugar and Spice Publishing company which helps small organizations put together cookbooks for fundraisers. They’ve taken on a cookbook for the St. Ignatius Crack of Dawn Breakfast Club which is raising money to restore a shelter in a park where they hold many of their all you can eat biscuit and gravy breakfasts. Things are going along well, thanks in large part to Alma, one of the leaders of the group who is super organized. She also happens to be a friend and neighbor of Sugar’s landlady Greer.
However, one morning, Greer calls concerned because Alma has vanished. Sugar goes to the retirement community where they both live to help search, but the search ends when the police announce that they’ve found Alma’s dead body. Now, not only is the cookbook project in chaos, but Sugar has to wonder what exactly happened to Alma. Since St. Ignatius is a small town, news and gossip seems to travel fast. Will Sugar learn something to help her solve the mystery?
So what makes this book stand out to me? St. Ignatius is in Iowa. I know, not exactly a common setting for mysteries. However, author Mary Lee Ashford makes it come to life with her descriptions. I’m dying to go visit this state to enjoy some of the land where she’s set these books. Oh, I realize that much of it is fictional, but I’m sure there are still plenty of beautiful spots. St. Ignatius itself is a great small town setting for a cozy. Everyone knows everyone else, and the town has a charm that makes you want to settle in for a nice long visit even if the murder rate happens to be higher than average. (I’ll arrange my visit between murders, please.)
The book takes a little while to focus in on the plot, with several things introduced that don’t seem related to each other. Yes, the reason for these elements does become obvious as the book progresses. I thought I had things figured out fairly early, but I turned out to be completely wrong. Yet the solution does make sense when Sugar pieces everything together.
Equally as charming as the town are the characters. When I was talking about the town earlier, I almost said something about being safe to visit as long as I didn’t meet Sugar and Dixie, but the truth is their office would be the first place I would want to visit. They are such wonderful people that I am sure we’d be great friends. The same is true of the rest of the cast. We’ve already met quite a large cast of characters, but they are unique and easy to keep straight. The suspects are strong characters as well, and it is easy to be left pondering which of them could have actually done it.
And, yes, there is plenty of talk about food. Another reason I want to visit the Sugar and Spice Publishing office is to sample whatever Dixie is testing out that particular day. Some of the food made me drool as I was reading. Fortunately, we get four recipes at the end for such various things as biscuits (no surprise) to a decadent sounding chocolate cake.
If you haven’t yet visited St. Ignatius, I definitely recommend you book a trip today. Risky Biscuits will entertain and leave you hungry for delicious food and another trip to this charming small town.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.