This New Series is Off to a Cheddar Start
I love cheese (who doesn’t, right?), so I immediately took notice when I saw that Korina Moss had a new Cheese Shop Mystery series coming out. Cheddar Off Dead gets things off to a promising start.
Willa Bauer has landed in the town of Yarrow Glen in the Sonoma Valley, Calfornia, and is thrilled to finally be opening her new cheese shop, Curds & Whey. This has been a dream long in the making with several bumps along the way. She’s both thrilled and nervous that a local food critic, Guy Lippinger, is coming by with the intent to review her shop. She only gets more nervous when she learns what a harsh critic he can be.
To say things don’t go well when Guy does show up in an understatement. But things get even worse when Willa finds Guy’s dead body in the alley next to her shop a few hours later. Since he was obviously stabbed with one of the shop’s knives, Willa lands on the police’s radar as a suspect. Unfortunately, the murder weapon means that the other suspects were at Willa’s shop that night, and they are people that Willa was beginning to consider friends. Can she clear her name? Will her investigation ruin the relationships she’s beginning to build in town?
The cheese theme drew me to the book, but the location was a draw as well. As I’ve mentioned with a few other books, I grew up in Sonoma County, so I love getting to take these virtual trips home. True, Yarrow Glen is a fictional town, but it was still fun to be able to picture the area where the action was taking place.
The book does a great job at balancing the story and giving us the background we need on Willa. We get a sense early on that there is more to Willa’s past, and that is filled in as the book progresses. Meanwhile, it isn’t long before we meet Guy and the suspects before Willa finds Guy’s body. I always appreciate it when the author is able to balance those two competing needs of the story.
And we’ve got a solid mystery here. The pace is steady as Willa goes about uncovering clues. I did have to laugh at part of the set up since it fell into the “I know a secret” trope, but somehow, it didn’t bother me here – probably because Guy taunting people with it instead of wanting to resolve a situation. We only meet him briefly, but that’s enough to make it obvious there will be plenty of solid motives. When we reach the end, it is perfectly logical.
Since Willa is new to town, we get to meet the characters along with her. There’s a nice variety, and I really like them. I did wish the supporting characters were around a little more, but I’m just being greedy. I’m sure as the series goes along, we will get to know them all better. For a first book, they are strong enough to pull us in to the story.
What struck me early on was that Willa, and therefore us as the reader, liked most of the suspects. That gave the investigation some additional stakes, which I appreciated. Of course, our views of the suspects do change as the book goes along.
Reading this book made me crave cheese. And not the cheese I normally eat, either. I am going to have to find a place to get some gourmet cheeses before I read any more in the series. And there are a couple of recipes at the end to help your experimentation once you find those cheeses.
I will definitely be visiting Willa again. I am looking forward to seeing how the characters and their relationships grow as the series continues. If you enjoy cozy mysteries and haven’t picked up Cheddar Off Dead yet, do so today.
Save room for the rest of the Cheese Shop Mysteries.