Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Book Review: Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron (Vintage Cookbook Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and story that kept me turning pages
Cons: Ending, while logical, a bit abrupt
The Bottom Line:
Cookbooks, New Orleans
Start of promising series
The pages flew by

Stealing Books Should be Punished, but Maybe Not by Death

I’ve been looking forward to Bayou Book Thief ever since I first heard about it.  Author Ellen Byron has made me very interested in Louisiana, and knowing she was turning her attention New Orleans with this new series made me want to read it even more.  I am happy to say I got lost in the pages of this book.

Ricki James-Diaz has returned to the city of her birth after losing her husband to a stupid internet stunt.  She’s hoping to turn her knowledge of books and, specifically, her love of vintage cookbooks into a new career, and it appears her dreams are a good match for the Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, where Ricki sets up the giftshop of her dreams, complete with the vintage cookbooks as well as other vintage kitchen items.

Of course, all work places have a cantankerous employee or two, and Ricki quickly learns that at Bon Vee, that is Franklin Finbloch.  He’s been an employee for years – that is until the day he is caught trying to steal books from Ricki’s new shop.  But, like a bad penny, Franklin turns back up – this time in a trunk that Ricki thought was filled with books that someone had donated to Bon Vee.  Ricki can’t help but feel that she’s brought this trouble to her new friends at Bon Vee, so the way to clean things up is to find the killer.  Can she do it?

There is a certain amount of set up we need in this book.  While we are meeting Ricki and her new coworkers during that time, it did make for a little slower beginning than I would have liked.  And, honestly, I’m not sure how the book could have been written any tighter.  On the other end, the climax was a little abrupt.  Yes, everything is logically explained, which is always good.

But these are the only flaws in a fun debut.  We get several sub-plots that helped draw me into the book.  I really had a hard time putting it down when it was time to get back to real life.  The pacing in the middle was great, and there were several interesting surprises along the way.  I also appreciated how Ricki’s knowledge of books came into play several times over the course of the story.

Ricki has quite an interesting backstory, yet we get that in doses as we need it.  I appreciated that it wasn’t just dumped on us.  Being the first book in the series, the potential series regulars also serve as suspects, and they do a great job of being both.  The fact that I was really liking some of the suspects made me even more invested in figuring out who done it.

Bon Vee is located in the Garden District of New Orleans.  I’ve visited the city once, and reading about it again here made me want to go back and visit again, especially since I pretty much missed this part of the city.

Yes, there are six recipes at the end of the book.  In a twist that ties in perfectly with this series, they are from vintage cookbooks.

I really did enjoy Bayou Book Thief.  I’m thrilled we get to visit Ricki again before the end of the year.  If you are looking for a fun new series, this is one to check out.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. New Orleans is a city I've always wanted to visit! Nice review, Mark!

    1. Wendy, you have to visit! It’s a great city

  2. I really like the premise of turning a love of vintage cookbooks into a business. I am still working on Ellen Byron's Cajun Country series, but I look forward to reading this one soon and am glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  3. Mark, thanks so much for another articulate, carefully thought- out review!

  4. I've noticed a bunch of cozies having abrupt endings. I'm starting this one tonight and am really looking forward to it.

  5. This sounds good! I visited New Orleans a few years ago and we did visit the Garden District!

  6. Great review, Mark, glad you enjoyed it.

  7. I love a good cozy and this sounds good set in NOLO

  8. Thanks for the introduction to this author for me. I am a big fan of cosy mysteries. That it has recipes at the end makes it even more delightful.


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