Catering to Nobody

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $49.00
Paperback $7.19
Hardback $12.97
Kindle $3.99
Associated ISBNs 9780553584707
9780449220467 — Paperback
9781574902044 — Hardcover
9780312042776 — Hardcover
9781575110202

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

As a cozy mystery, this one wasn’t bad but it wasn’t super well written. I had some issues with the plot and characters.

I think this one is a little dark for most cozy readers, and not dark enough for mainstream thriller/mystery readers.

Readers Annotation

 

Summary

After her son’s teacher commits suicide, Goldy must cater the wake. However her ex father-in-law, Fritz, is poisoned and her catering business is shut down. Goldy decides to investigate the poisoning and the teacher’s suicide in order to get her business running again. She works with Shultz, the policeman she starts dating, to solve the crime while trying to reach out to her son Arch who was close to the teacher.

Goldy looks through the teacher’s house under the pretense of looking at it to buy. She breaks into the teacher’s locker at the gym and looks at the teacher’s medical file at Fritz’s office.

In the meantime she struggles to pay the bills by cleaning other people’s homes. Arch is acting out despite Goldy’s attempts to reach out to him and her roommate Patty Sue is acting strange. She meets up with her friend and fellow ex-wife Marla.

Arch discovers a bloody knife in a car Goldy borrows from Fritz. Goldy’s ex mother-in-law over self medicates and dies. Goldy figures out it was Fritz who killed the teacher, his wife, and was manipulating a now pregnant Patty Sue into having sex with him. Fritz tries to take Goldy  out but Arch and Pomeroy (another teacher) take Fritz out. It turns out that Pomeroy was the one poisoning Fritz because he hold Fritz responsible for his wife’s death.

Evaluation

This wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t earth moving. I had a lot of issues with Goldy’s relationship with Shultz and its believability. I also had some issues with Arch, but he’s a teenage boy so that might just be why. The plot was a little unbelievable, in that there’s no way she would have had tacit police acceptance of her investigating, and the whole idea of her “investigation” was pretty crazy. Goldy and Arch were the only characters that were really three dimensional. All the other characters were pretty glossed over. I don’t think I really believed the setting or action. It was a small town, but I’ve read better depictions of small towns (Agatha Raisin).

I think this might not entirely work for its intended audience. Its a little dark for a cozy mystery, and the casual mentions of spousal abuse are really off-putting. Its not as fun as most other cozy mysteries.

Genre

Cozy mystery, Gentle Read

Readalikes

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

A Taste for Murder by Claudia Bishop

Significance

One of the first cozy mysteries.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What do you think about Goldy’s relationship with Shultz?

How believable is it that Goldy was able to conduct her own investigation?

Was this an acurate depiction of small town life?

Author’s website

Diane Mott Davidson’s Facebook page

Awards

 

Reviews

PW

Kirkus

Why I Chose It

Another required read. However, I’ve secretly been wanting to see if these were any good because I appreciate a good punny title.

Other Information

Whitethorn Woods

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $5.56
Paperback $9.94
Hardback $2.00
Kindle $11.99
Associated ISBNs 9780307265784
9780307278418 — Paperback
9781594132452 — Paperback
9780786291168 — Hardcover
9780307455239 — Paperback
9780752881478 — Paperback
9780752873350
9780307267443
9781448703715 — Prebind
9781405615860
9781552786475
9781552786024
9781405615853

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

This is a really well written story, with many POVs that all tie together.

I think that its a really gentle read with generally likeable characters which lends itself to a lot of varied interest. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Readers Annotation

Whitethorn Woods is connected to the people and they can either save it or let it go.

Summary

This story unfolds from many different points of view. Each character’s story is somehow connected to Whitethorn Woods and the “magic” St. Ann’s Well within it. They all come down on both sides of the issue of keeping the forest or building a highway through it. Each character has their reasons for either believing or disbelieving in the magic of the well. More often or not the character stories come in pairs, each telling a different side of the story.

There is the story of the priest who doesn’t believe in the well and isn’t sure that the people of the village really believe in the Catholic church any more. He visits the man who abused his wife and the old man Nolan and his sister. He doesn’t want to take sides on the issue of the highway, even if he doesn’t believe in the well.

Neddy Nolan is a simple man who lived with his brothers in the city doing odd jobs and saving his earnings. He eventually buys the family home, much to his brother’s consternation. He marries a beautiful teacher with a past doing exotic dancing. He has a plan to save the well.

Each story touches on different issues. Vera is an older woman looking for love. There is alcoholism, abuse, baby stealing, and family drama. All connected to the well and the woods.

Evaluation

I really liked this book. It was calm and enjoyable in a way that most of the books I’ve read aren’t. I liked how each story was connected to each other and the well. Almost all the characters were good people and likeable. There wasn’t much of a plot, but the story was more about the lives of the characters than anything.

All the characters were well-rounded and believable. Each had their own story, told from two sides which added depth to their character to see them through their own eyes and the eyes of someone else.

While the woods were a connecting element of the stories, they weren’t the primary setting. There were a lot of different settings, so they weren’t as immersive, because it was about the characters and their journeys, not necessarily where they were.

I got invested in the novel, and I found the end really moving. It was a lovely book to listen to. I think its a great book for people who want a nice, uncomplicated read. Its very calming and uplifting at times.

Genre

Gentle read, multiple perspectives

Readalikes

Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber

Love Letters by Katie Fforde

Significance

Lovely weave of many perspectives relating to a single issue. A picture of the human condition.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Discuss faith and its relationship to the well.

Pros and cons of the highway and its proposed plan of construction.

Which story did you relate to the most? Why?

Author’s website

Maeve Binchy

Awards

 

Reviews

PW

Kirkus

Why I Chose It

This sounded like a nice community book. It sounded like there would be minimal drama and romance but plenty of feeling.

Other Information

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $24.09
Paperback $7.00
Hardback $10.92
Kindle $7.99
Associated ISBNs 9780804111638
9780783803463 — Paperback
9780312081539 — Hardcover
9781845290801 — Paperback
9781849011341 — Paperback
9781429901536
9780754074977

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

This is a pretty well written book, with unique characters.

Cozy mysteries are quite popular, and this is a great example.

Readers Annotation

Newly retired PR manager Agatha Raisin moves to a small town and is accused of murder.

Summary

Newly retired from her PR job, Agatha Raisin has moved to a small cottage in the country in the village of Carsley. She decides to embrace small town life in her own way, entering a quiche contest with a quiche bought from a London shop. She loses the competition and is a little bitter about it. However, the quiche judge Cummings-Brown dies of poisoning that night apparently after eating her quiche.

Forced to reveal that she bought the quiche from a store, Agatha decides to clear her name. So she starts investigating on her own. She talks to the ladies in the quilting circle and the woman that the judge was having an affair with. She makes friends with Detective Wong who foists a kitten on her. She organizes a charity auction and sells a lot of her own items while making it very successful thanks to her former position in PR.

She eventually discovers that the widow Cummings-Brown keeps her food in a refrigerator and that she poisoned her husband.

Evaluation

I kind of loved this cozy mystery. Just enough snark and “big city to small town” to make this a completely enjoyable read. Agatha’s voice is really unique and she is trying to fit in, but just doesn’t fit the small town model.

I thought that the plot, while silly, was just great. The characters are really cute, and there’s a clear difference between the “big city” people and the small townies. You knew their frustrations and quirks. It was really cute.

I thought this was really enjoyable. I loved the tone and the idea. Its a great cozy mystery, and spawn a lot sequels so there’s plenty more where this one came from. I think its perfect for cozy mystery readers. They get an amateur sleuth with a unique voice in a quaint English village.

Genre

Cozy Mystery

Readalikes

Antiques Bizarre by Barbara Allan

The Body in the Big Apple by Caroline Graham

Significance

A great example of someone going from a big city to a small town and how hard it can be to adjust.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What did you think of Agatha’s personality?

Was it believable that judge Cummings-Brown didn’t choose Agatha’s quiche?

Why do you think Agatha kept the kitten?

Author’s website

M.C. Beaton

Awards

 

Reviews

PW

Kirkus

Why I Chose It

I wanted to try another cozy mystery, and this series kept catching my eye at the library and in the Genreflecting book.

Other Information


 

State of the Onion

state-of-the-onion

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $9.99
Paperback $7.19
Hardback
Kindle $7.99
Associated ISBNs 9780425218693
9781597227254 — Paperback
9781101206522

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

This is a pretty well written and put together book. Everything is pretty straight forward with no real glaring errors.

I think its a little darker than most cozy mysteries, so it might be a little off putting for cozy readers, but because its a little darker it might appeal to more mainstream mystery readers.

Readers Annotation

She became embroiled in an assassination plot, but the heat is in the kitchen.

Summary

Olivia (Ollie) Paras is an assistant chef at the White House. A man has run passed the Secret Service to get into the White House. Ollie happens to have a frying pan as he runs past her and she decks him twice. He says he needs to warn the President. He recognizes Craig, a  Secret Service man, and Craig calls him Naveen. That night, as Ollie watches the new, they say that a different man broke into the White House. This peaks Ollie’s interest.

Ollie is in the middle of battling a daytime food show host for the job of head chef at the White House and she’s dating a Secret Service man (Tom). Ollie tries to find out if Naveen is at the D.C. jail, but he isn’t there. Tom and Craig bang on her door at four in the morning to interrogate her about it. Naveen contacts her later that day and sets up a meet at noon the next day.

Ollie meets Naveen at the Mall, but they’re meeting is cut short when a very blond man shoots Naveen. Ollie runs for it and is taken into police custody for questioning. The man who shot Naveen is the assassin the Chameleon.

Ollie’s competition (Laurel Ann) shows up early, Ollie has to deal with a state dinner, and the police all in one day. Laurel Ann manages to offend all the staff during her audition.

Ollie goes to the gun range to practice and runs into Tom after a run in with the Chameleon. Ollie visits her father’s grave at Arlington and has another close encounter with the Chameleon.

Henry and Ollie go to Camp David to make food for the negotiations. When they come back they start preparing for the big state dinner. The dinner gets moved out doors. While refreshing the refreshments at the dinner, Ollie notices a suspicious man. Figuring out that its the Chameleon, she stops him from killing the prime minister, and chases him. The Chameleon turns out to be Kasim (the prince/princess’s aide). Tom shoots him.

Ollie becomes head White House chef.

Evaluation

This was a pretty nice Cozy. Its a little darker, a little more serious, than most Cozy mysteries, but it works. Its got a thrilling plot and interesting characters. I found myself enjoying this book, but not overly much. I think, for me at least, this book fell in the awkward place of “not fun enough” for Cozy, and “not dark enough” for the usual mysteries I read, which left it kind of in no man’s land where I don’t know how I feel.

I think the plot was pretty good. Hyzy juggled the two plots well (the head chef competition and the assassination plot) so that neither felt neglected. The romance plot may have been a bit much though. If there were one thing that felt a little forced and underdone it was Ollie and Tom’s relationship (and associated drama).

I thought the characters were well done. Each character had their own personalities and their own motivations, and it was all pretty clear to the reader. The setting was vibrant, and like you’d expect for a White House kitchen (I guess, I’ve never thought about it before).

I think the intended audience might feel like me: “not fun enough” and “not dark enough.” Its a fine line to straddle. I think it is still an appealing Cozy-ish mystery and definitely worth reading. It had some great action scenes that may appeal to people who read more mainstream thrillers and mysteries.

Genre

Cozy Mystery, Culinary Mystery

Readalikes

Lemon Tart by Josi S. Kilpack

Tall Tail by Rita Mae Brown

Significance

A darker Cozy mystery. Also, White House chef mystery, definitely unique.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What did you think of the reveal of the Chameleon?

Discuss Peter Everett Sargeant III.

Was it believable?

Author’s website

Julie Hyzy

Awards

Anthony Awards: Best Paperback Original

Reviews

PW

Goodreads

Why I Chose It

It sounded like a cozy mystery I would enjoy and I wanted to try another cozy mystery.

Other Information