Series: Novel Idea #3
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Published by Berkley on 4 February 2014
Reading Challenges: 2016 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
Lila Wilkins’ literary agency is hosting the cooking aspect of the local Taste of the Town festival and she is hoping it will go off without a hitch. She didn’t count on the inflated egos and general nastiness of all of the author chefs that have been invited to participate. When one of the chefs is unexpectedly killed, Lila gets involved.
According to the letter at the back of the book, ‘Lucy Arlington’ is actually Ellery Adams and Sylvia May. Given that this has been co-authored, it is quite likely that the unevenness I felt came from two authors trying to mesh their different styles. I actually wish that this series had been published under their respective names so that I knew what I was getting into rather than finding out after I had slogged my way through the book.
The not so good bits
The authors have clearly tried to create a warm and cozy vibe with lots of literary references and gosh darn it cute characters. Rather than enjoying the book, I felt smothered by the purple prose. I prefer to be shown rather than told so lines such as: “we could all meander around the farmers’ market or browse the paintings and handmade pottery sold by the sidewalk vendors” (p. 233) felt over the top.
The characters were fairly stock standard with all the chefs being horrible and self centred while Lila and her friends were sweet, caring, honest etc. Many cozies suffer from this so I wasn’t overly surprised. What did get me though was that the younger characters’ voices felt off compared to the older ones. There is a scene where a guy in his 30s says, “You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever known Makayla. It’s not just your green eyes, or glowing skin or supermodel body, either. It’s your kindness, intelligence, your love of art and books, and the way you care about the people of this town that make you so exquisitely beautiful” (p. 248). Again, maybe young men that the authors have met talk like that but it seemed a little forced rather than natural.
Often a character will quote a book and then feel the need to explain where the quote came from e.g. “a line from Ella Newark’s novel The Book of Unholy Mischief came to mind, ‘Unrequited love does not die…'” (p. 243). This grated on my nerves as often a couple of words is enough to get the point across rather than the entire reference – I frequently quote favourite books and plays but I don’t think I have ever had to explain the origin of them to people who have read as widely as me. As this is badged as a literary cozy, readers would be expected to have an above average knowledge of popular texts so the background to something like Tristan and Isolde shouldn’t be necessary.
Lila isn’t a very good detective. She and her police detective boyfriend forgot that the person who was murdered wasn’t scheduled to use the oven that blew up. Common sense suggests that it would be worth while investigating who had a grudge against the person who was supposed to be cooking in that kitchen as well as the one who died. Lila doesn’t actually solve the crime but rather the guilty person decides to spill all for no real reason. If you had got away with murder, why admit it? Having said that, the guilty person is very easy to identify and unfortunately the large cast of characters fail to conceal their identity. At one point Lila wonders if she was talking to a killer and then rather than dealing with them out in the open, she heads into her kitchen where there are no witnesses and lots of weapons. Seriously?? There is a sub-plot with a person who is leaving poetry for the barista Makayla as a way of expressing his love for her. Lila is tasked with finding out who they are and even when she sees a man with a poetry book, she doesn’t join the dots. As a side point, I have no idea why the boyfriend encouraged Lila to go off investigating by herself as that was sort of his job. There is even a random hiking adventure that Lila plans in the hope that whoever the killer is will be so overwhelmed by the beauty of the place (or the bugs) that they confess.
Reminded me of…
Death on Demand series by Carolyn Hart – the literary references are packed in quite heavily but the ones in this book are quite random whereas those in Hart’s series tend to be from mysteries.
This book simply didn’t work for me. I realise that my opinion contrasts widely with the majority of reviews on Goodreads & Amazon so I have given specific examples to explain why I felt the way I did. If the things that bugged me don’t bother you, then you will probably enjoy the book.