Author: Dianne Harman
Publisher: Dianne Harman
Overall Rating: 2.25 stars out of 5 Stars
Life is certainly busy enough for Liz Lucas at the Red Cedar Spa, and her home-cooked dinners are quickly becoming one of the reasons why guests far and wide come to experience the small town charms that inhabit her world. That, and her mammoth of St. Bernard named Brandy Boy who “rescues” her guests with little nips of brandy night caps. Things were going so well in fact that she decided to hire a local boy by the name of Mark to help her out in the kitchen.
But things aren’t going as smoothly as she thought in the small town of Red Cedar. After a perplexing afternoon of kitchen prep work where the usually fun-loving Mark is silent and thoughtful, and unsuccessful attempts to discover the cause of his change in behavior, Liz learns that the boy has died, as a result of his car careening off the road and over a cliff.
Faced with a bumbling investigation detective, rumors and innuendos, and a growing list of suspects for something that may have been either a suicide, an accident, or murder, Liz takes it upon herself to solve the case, drawing the attention of someone who desperately wants everything to remain the same.
First, let me say what I liked about this book. It was a nice, easy, breezy read, and the tone of it was friendly and conversational. Also, the recipes in the back are well worth looking into– after all, any pie involving chocolate and peanut butter is worth the price of admission, right? If you’re looking for a light, entertaining weekend read, this would be a good place to start.
Unfortunately, where the book falls apart, at least for me, is in the “mystery” portion of the book. As a self-described “mystery fanatic” I take my mysteries very seriously and often hold them to a different standard than other genres. Unfortunately for this book, I found quite a number of things that put the work of this author dangerously close to my “do not read again” list, despite her popularity. I’ll break it down into two basic categories: subtlety and realism.
While the author has an easy feel to her read, the various clues, and information in which the mystery fan usually enjoys “hunting for” within conversations, observations, or inside the characters’ mind are presented to the reader with about as much subtlety as a sledgehammer. More often than not, the reader is told things through exposition or conversations that were clearly (and sometimes painfully) put there to get information to the reader. It nearly took all the fun out of reading– the saving grace being the antics of the dogs, and my wonderment at what “big reveal” would come next.
The second area where the mystery portion of the book fell apart was sadly in the details. In many cases, a mystery can be made or broken there, so in my book, you have to be a bit careful. Many of the details that the author provided did not make the book seem realer, or three-dimensional, but rather a parody of real life.
- I have never once in all my travels, stopping at various diners in the United States met a veteran waitress who worked her shift wearing stiletto heals. And as a former waitress, I KNOW that there would be no way I would do that. My feet would be driving me to murder by the end of the day!
- In all my exposure to law enforcement, (television, real life encounters, movies, interviews I’ve conducted, conversations over a few beers, etc) I have never met any members of law enforcement, or investigation services that were so utterly forthcoming with potentially case-blowing information, especially to people that should have been considered potential suspects at the time of the conversation. I understand what the author was trying to do– get the information out there for the reader– but it still felt like somehow I had slipped into an alternative reality.
- Some of her characters- thankfully not all of them were almost laughingly one dimensional, and (I’m sincerely hoping) parodies of their real life counterparts. Like the stiletto wearing waitress with the blond beehive hairdo, or the smarmy sheriff who bumbled his way through any investigation while fantasizing about our heroine in black lingerie, or the man hating, son-obsessed, slightly crazy seamstress with plastic wrapped furniture, or the Chinese Tong member who apparently loved clams so much he became known as the “Clamhammer”. One or two outlandish and over the top characters are fine… but when the book is absolutely chock full of them, they start to lose their appeal.
So in summary, if you’re looking for a story that is an easy read, with over-the-top characters, and some mouth-watering recipes, I invite you to pick up this book. If you’re looking for an enjoyable mystery, you might want to look elsewhere.
0 Stars- Perfect for kindling or wasting space on your hard drive
1 Star– Perfect gift for that person you can’t stand
2 Stars- Put it on your “to borrow” list
3 Stars- Buy it if you get the chance- worth a weekend read
4 Stars- Definitely add to your library
5 Stars- Impulse Buy Approved.
© 2016 – 2017, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.