Tag Archives: Recipes

Jessica Beck. Deadly Donuts. United States : CreateSpace, 2013.

Deadly DonutsThanks to the summer heat, Suzanne Hart’s donut sales are lagging. Turns out nobody in April Springs craves a freshly fried donut and a piping hot cup of coffee with sky-rocketing temperatures and soupy humidity that keep them just as shiny as Suzanne’s glazed donuts. So her shop, Donut Hearts, has been quiet, verging on deserted. Suzanne doesn’t mind the lack of foot traffic. She is glad to have her college-aged assistant Emma out of classes and in the shop and she maintains high spirits despite the disappointing turn in business. Unfortunately, her most recent customer delivers a nasty little treat. The mystery man alleges to have proof that Suzanne’s father was a cold-blooded killer. After a bit of initial contempt, Suzanne arranges to meet the mystery man beneath the town clock at one in the morning to see his supposed evidence and decide if his half-baked claim is truer than she would like to believe. If it is true, then it might just cost Suzanne more than she can afford.

Unfortunately, when Suzanne meets the mystery man under the clock at the designated time, she finds him – very dead. Minutes after Suzanne arrives on the scene and stumbles upon the unlucky corpse, the cops show up. At first things don’t look good for Suzanne, but then they look even worse for her mother who was suspiciously absent prior to the murder. Yet again, Suzanne and her closest friend, Grace Gauge, start examining the case. Suzanne is determined to find out who murdered the mystery man and if, in turn, his allegations about her father were accurate. As Suzanne and Grace sniff out all the possible leads, they discover that Suzanne was not the only person the mystery man tried to blackmail.

Meanwhile, Suzanne’s philandering ex-husband, Max, begs for her help. Max claims he is a changed man. The changes, he insists, are all due to his love for Emily Hargraves, the owner of Two Cows and a Moose, the local newsstand. Emily is a peculiar character with a whimsical penchant for dressing up her stuffed animals (two cows and a moose, of course) in costumes. Max has resolved to abandon his slick charm if can get a chance with Emily. He waxes poetic about his newfound love and sincerity. But since his odds seem weak, he is hoping for reinforcement. More specifically, Suzanne. Unwittingly, Suzanne is pulled into playing matchmaker for the very odd pairing. She has no qualms about lending Max a hand, but she is surprised that another woman could truly reform her chronically charming ex-husband.

This is the tenth installment in Jessica Beck’s Donut Shop Mystery series. If you’re new to the series, jump back to this blog post that covers the first book, Glazed Murder. Beck wields self-reflective humor by referencing the cozy mystery sub-genre on a few occasions throughout the novel. In one particularly navel-gazing instance, Suzanne quips that her mother had “even read a series based on a donut-shop, of all things.”

Beck offers four enticing donut recipes: two traditional recipes from scratch and two recipes relying on some prepackaged ingredients, which should satisfy readers of all cooking levels. She integrates the recipes within the text of the story. If you’re based in the Triangle area and don’t feel in the mood to slave over a deep fryer, then you could always enjoy this book over some Monuts or Rise donuts and coffee!

After

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Elizabeth Craig. Quilt or Innocence. New York: Signet, 2012.

Quilt or InnocenceAll Beatrice Coleman wants is a nice, quiet retirement. Now that she’s moved to small town Dappled Hills, North Carolina she is closer to her daughter, Piper, and has plenty of free time to catch up on her reading. Beatrice has visions of spending her days lying in a backyard hammock sipping leisurely on a mint julep. Almost immediately, Beatrice’s fantasy is interrupted by her intrusive next-door neighbor, Meadow Downey, who barges in and forces Beatrice to attend one of her Village Quilters guild meetings. Although Meadow pulls her into the group, Beatrice is reluctant to get involved. She didn’t come to Dappled Hills for the company. Prior to her retirement, Beatrice worked as a folk art curator in Atlanta. Coincidentally enough, she is familiar with all of the technical details of quilts and has even appraised some in the past. But Beatrice has never attempted to make a quilt herself – nor did she have any inclination to. Quite frankly, she resents been torn away from her sweet corgi, Noo-noo, and her current read, Whispers in Summer.

Before she can say “backstitch,” Beatrice is embroiled in the local quilting scene, and all of the drama that comes with it. She learns quickly that the beloved Patchwork Cottage, which supplies all the town quilters with material, is set to close. Most of the guild members support Posy, the shop owner, and a couple members implore her to stand her ground against Judith, her landlord. Judith is forcing Posy out by raising the rent. Surprisingly, Judith is also a quilter and active with the guild. Despite the shared hobby and associations, Judith is interested in launching a high-end women’s boutique in the space, which she believes will be a more lucrative venture. Judith is not exactly popular in the guild. Fellow members tell Beatrice how Judith often stoops to blackmail and delights in meanness. The night of a quilting bee, for instance, Beatrice catches Judith in the act of ripping off another member.

More than a few people wouldn’t mind Judith gone, obviously. When she turns up dead the morning after the quilting bee, fingers point in every direction. Many possible motives arise and novelist Elizabeth Craig believably shifts among all of the reasonable alternatives. Just as Beatrice fell into the Village Quilters guild by accident, so too does she become embroiled in the mystery of Judith’s murder. Beatrice asks lots of questions and uncovers a number of intriguing, if not incriminating, tidbits about the guild members. Although Beatrice doesn’t claim to carry on an investigation, her sleuthing clearly rattles the murderer, who leaves threatening notes on her doorstep stuffed inside of empty Nehi bottles.  Even with the prospect of continued and escalated threats, Beatrice does not cease asking questions nor remove herself from the case. She’s in too far now to stop – with the murder and the quilting. As Beatrice probes further, she realizes that maybe she didn’t want the sleepy retirement she hoped for all along.

Much like one of the quilts Beatrice admires in the novel, “It looks like a quilt to curl up in on a cold night. With a mug of hot chocolate,” Quilt or Innocence, is a comfortable, engaging read. Although Meadow is the designated eccentric oddball of the bunch, Craig delivers many distinctive characters. At the end of the book, Craig rewards readers with quilting tips and four tempting recipes. This is the first book in Craig’s A Southern Quilting Mystery series. For readers who want more: the second book in the series has been released and the third will come out in December of this year.

We previously covered one of Craig’s books in her Myrtle Clover Mystery series, A Dyeing Shame.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble. New York: Viking, 2013.

miss juliaReaders of this series know that Miss Julia has come to love Hazel Marie and her son Lloyd, who is the illegitimate son of Miss Julia’s late husband.  They are family.  So much so that Julia and her new husband, Sam Murdock, have settled the pair, along with Hazel Marie’s husband, J.D. Pickens, and their twin girls into Sam’s old house.  Not only does the Pickens family have a nice house, but Sam’s cook, James, has stayed on to help.  This is a blessing because Hazel Marie was never much of a cook and those babies have her worn down.  But James is no spring chicken and when he injures himself in a fall, the Pickens household is in crisis.  James needs help to get in and out of bed, so Hazel Marie must tend to him and her babies, keep the house in order, and cook the kind of meals that keep a man at home. (J.D. was a womanizer before he married Hazel Marie and he travels quite a bit for his work–all of which causes Miss Julia to worry about this marriage.)

Of course, Miss Julia steps in.  She has trouble finding a temporary cook, so she lines up various friends to come over and both cook and give Hazel Marie cooking lessons.  (The recipes that are used are scattered throughout the book.)  Organizing all these cooking lessons is quite a juggling act, but it is nothing compared to managing the personalities sharing space at the Pickens house.  James proves to be a demanding patient, Hazel Marie’s sleazy uncle, Brother Vern, is back in town and has moved in, and Granny Wiggins, who Etta Mae has recruited to clean, is a tornado of energy–and opinions.  Plus, Miss Julia and Lillian have both spotted J.D. with another woman and they will do anything to keep Lloyd from finding out that his new dad is no saint.  This, the fourteenth book in the Miss Julia series, is a tasty dish of misadventure, misunderstanding, and southern charm.

A note on the dust-jacket:  The imagery on dust-jackets has become stereotypical and formulaic–and sometimes even misleading.  It’s not uncommon for the image on the cover to misrepresent some basic element of the location or the main character by, for example, making the heroine a blonde when the book says she’s a brunette, or showing a mountain lodge out of Travel + Leisure when the action takes places at an abandoned hunting cabin.  The dust-jacket for Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble is an exception to this trend.  It’s a delight to look at the image and see so many items mentioned in the book–everything from a bag of Gold Medal flour to a grilled cheese sandwich to J.D.’s aviator style sunglasses.  Kudos to the people at Viking Press.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Ross, Ann B.

Chris Cavender. Killer Crust. New York: Kensington Books, 2013.

killer crustAs regular readers of this series know, the bottom line at A Slice of Delight pizzeria is mighty thin, so it’s no wonder that Eleanor jumps at the chance to enter a pizza-making contest with a  $25,000 prize.  The contest organizer, the misnamed Laughing Luigi, is a bit of a snake, but Maddy’s fiancé, lawyer Bob Lemon, says the contract looks on the-up-and-up, so the sisters sign on the dotted line.

Things soon go very wrong.  Eleanor and Maddy are thrilled to be ensconced, at Luigi’s expense, at the new luxury resort where the cook- off will take place.  But it’s clear that the three other cooking teams all have histories–bad ones–with Luigi.  Luigi seems to be using the contest to settle scores but before he can do much damage, he’s dead.  Unfortunately for Eleanor, Luigi choked on a piece of her pizza. Despite Luigi’s death, the contest goes on.  Can Eleanor can score a double–win the cooking contest and catch the murderer?  With so many good suspects, Killer Crust is a classic who-done it.  As with other books in this series, the author includes a tasty recipe at the end.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Jessica Beck. Illegally Iced. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013.

James Settle was a newcomer to April Springs but with his easy going style he fit right in.  He was a blacksmith and many people, including Suzanne Hart, were delighted to have the lovely things that he made.  Everyone in town knew that Suzanne and James were friends, but that doesn’t prevent Gaby Williams from fingering Suzanne as the murderer when James is stabbed in the city park across from Suzanne’s donut shop. Yes, Suzanne and James did have a public argument the morning that he died, but a little bit of smoke wafting into the donut shop wouldn’t have spoiled their friendship.

Suzanne has an alibi for the time of the murder, but she knows that she will be under a cloud of suspicion until the murderer is found.  As in similar situations in the past, Suzanne turns to her friend Grace to help with the sleuthing. The friends discover that James was estranged from the other members of his very wealthy family, so greed could been the motive for his murder. But we all know that the other common motive for murder is that nasty mix of love/jealousy/revenge. Which is it in this case? As Suzanne and Grace add to and subtract from their list of suspects, it is fun to see how their minds work and how they navigate Suzanne’s delicate relationship with April Springs Police Chief Martin who is still courting Suzanne’s mother.

Readers will also enjoy the scene in which Suzanne’s book group discusses The Killer’s Last Bite, a book in a long running series of mysteries. The women ask some of the same questions that readers might ask about this series. Can we assume that the answers are the author’s?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Jessica Beck. Powdered Peril. New York: St. Martin’s, 2012.

Suzanne Hart has never much liked Peter Morgan, the boyfriend of her good friend Grace.  She can’t quite put her finger on what it is about Peter that makes her so uneasy–is it that he reminds Suzanne of her charming, philandering ex-husband Max? When Grace shows up at Suzanne’s house in tears one night, Suzanne learns that her instincts about Peter were right.  Peter had more than a little something on the side; his phone (which Grace found in a sofa cushion) showed he was dallying with a handful of women.  Busy man.

But in short order, Peter is a dead man.  The night of the breakup with Grace, Peter drowned his sorrows at the Box Car Grill.  After Trish threw him out of the grill, Peter took revenge on Grace by vandalizing Suzanne’s donut shop; then someone battered Peter to death.  Initially Suzanne and Grace are suspects, but Chief Martin knows them well enough to rule them out–and to warn them not to investigate the crime on their own.  But of course they do.  They find that Peter played fast and loose with the truth and with other people’s money.  Their suspect list includes Peter’s brother, his business partner, his landlady, and several women in April Springs and a nearby town.  Even Suzanne’s new assistant, Nan Winter, seems to have had some kind of relationship with Peter.

Many of the characters in earlier books such as George, Emma, and Jake, make just token appearances in Powdered Peril which is more of a straight-up whodunit than some other books in this series. But like all the previous books, this one includes recipes for those tasty donuts.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Beck, Jessica, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Jessica Beck. Drop Dead Chocolate. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2012.

Matters of the heart are front-and-center in this latest addition to the Donut Shop Mystery series.  Suzanne’s mother, Dorothy, is so outraged by Mayor Cam Hamilton’s latest sleazy business venture that she decides on the spur of the moment to run against him in the upcoming election.  Dorothy doesn’t feel the need to consult with anyone about this, not even April Springs’ sheriff, Phillip Martin.  As readers of the series know, Sheriff Martin has carried a torch for Dorothy for decades and since his divorce he has been courting her.  Suzanne has come to peace with that even though she and Sheriff Martin have had run-ins over Suzanne’s habit of sticking her nose into police business. Someone who can’t accept the sheriff’s budding romance is his ex-wife, Evelyn.  When she hears that Dorothy is going to run for mayor, Evelyn decides that she will enter the race too.

April Springs is abuzz at the thought of a three-way race, but that gleeful excitement is short-lived because soon after Dorothy and Evelyn submit their filing papers,  Mayor Hamilton is found bludgeoned to death–in the building that was to be Dorothy’s campaign headquarters. Suddenly, Suzanne’s mother is Suspect #1.  Chief Martin quickly realizes that his romantic entanglement with Dorothy make it inappropriate for him to investigate the case.  The state sends in an outsider (sort of)–state police investigator Jake Bishop. Jake is Suzanne’s boyfriend, but he is all-business once he takes over the case.  Suzanne promises to stay away from Jake while he leads the investigation and not to poke around in case herself.  Chief Martin also agrees not to freelance on the case.  But Mayor Hamilton double crossed, intimidated, and exploited a lot of people and when Suzanne and the chief  hear their stories, they soon forget their promises to Jake.

Was Hamilton killed for love, or money?  And who will be the next mayor of April Springs?  This seventh book in the Donut Shop Mystery series saves its best surprise for the end.

 

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Chris Cavender. Rest in Pizza. New York: Kensington Books, 2012.

Maddy’s boyfriend, Bob Lemon, has popped the question, but the much-married Maddy isn’t sure that she’s ready for another walk down the aisle.  Eleanor’s thoughtless reaction to this development has made a touchy situation more so, so the sisters decide to distract themselves by investigating the murder of celebrity chef Antonio Benet.  Benet, who was in Timber Ridge for a book-signing, was murder in A Slice of Delight, so their friends already half-expect them to look for the killer.

And there is no shortage of suspects.  Chef Benet was an arrogant, angry man.  His chief assistant despised him, his wife thought he was having an affair, and his producer was trying to keep him from bolting to another television network.  But Eleanor can’t help but wondering why Benet would want to do a cooking demonstration at the local bookstore.  Did the famous chef have a connection to someone or something in Timber Ridge?  Did he bring trouble with him, or was it already waiting for him in Eleanor’s little mountain town?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Cavender, Chris, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Jessica Beck. Killer Crullers. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2012.

Simon Henson has left an unpaid, custom order of his favorite crullers (extra icing) on Suzanne Hart’s hands for the last time. When a stranger comes in at the end of the day and asks for whatever donuts she has left, the proprietor of Donut Hearts is more than happy to sell him the dripping confections. She is less than happy, however, when the gentleman walks next door and starts throwing the donuts at her friend Gabby’s thrift shop.

Desmond Ray claims that Gabby Williams stole a priceless diamond brooch and $10,000 in cash mistakenly left in the pocket of a coat that formerly belonged to his elderly Aunt Jean. When Gabby denies the accusation and Suzanne reclaims her crullers, Desmond threatens to settle with them both. He makes good on his threat, in a way–the next day, he is found, murdered, directly between Suzanne’s and Gabby’s shops. What could be worse for a small business owner? Gabby is the prime suspect for both theft and murder, but swears she’s been wrongly accused on both counts. With her state police investigator boyfriend out of town, what else can Suzanne do but find the real killer and prove her friend is innocent?

All the familiar faces, including Suzanne’s friends Grace and George, her assistant Emma, and her lovely mother, are back in this sixth book in Beck’s cozy mystery series. The author handles difficult topics such as adultery and abuse of the elderly with a light hand, spending equal time on the crime solving and our heroine’s relationships. Readers will be interested to know that there could even be wedding bells for someone!

Check the availability of this  title in the UNC-Chapel Hill library’s catalog.

 

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Joan Medlicott. At Home in Covington. New York: Atria Books, 2004.

A year after the fire that destroyed their 19th-century farmhouse, the Ladies of Covington have rebuilt and moved on. But wood, plumbing, and tiles aren’t the only things that have changed in their lives: Hannah, Amelia, and Grace each face difficult decisions and shifts in their relationships with those they care about most.

Hannah’s daughter Laura is heavily pregnant and worried about how this first child will change her career-focused life. Hannah herself receives a piece of mail that causes her to relive her unhappy past; because of it she grows increasingly anxious about her agreement to marry Max. Grace’s son Roger loses his longtime partner Charles to HIV-AIDS and decides to move closer to his mother–a decision that Grace isn’t completely happy with. Amelia isn’t either, since Roger rejected the love of her close friend Mike, who has yet to recover. Grace becomes jealous of her boyfriend Bob’s friendship with the ribald Ellie, and Amelia begins to wonder if she can live with this new, brooding Hannah. All three of the Ladies worry about teenage Lucy, who gets in trouble at school and may be talking with an unsavory person in an online chatroom.

With so many stressful changes happening, the Ladies decide they need a vacation and promptly book a Caribbean cruise. Everyone tries to relax, but it’s difficult living in such close quarters. Amelia and Hannah begin to fight, and Grace feels caught in the middle. Even though the the fire is long over, could the Ladies go up in smoke? As usual, Covington works its magic, and all turns out well with good food and good friends.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2004, Madison, Medlicott, Joan, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship