A Cherry Sinister Murder – Book Review

Title – A Cherry Sinister Murder

Authors – Nancy McGovern and Cyra Bruce

Genre – Fiction, Chick-lit

This is the first book in the “Slice of Paradise Cozy Mystery Series” – a series of culinary mysteries, all set around baking.

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“Layered cinnamon and clove-spiced maple syrup with honey-glazed pumpkin in a tall parfait glass. Then mini squares of apple-sage cake, followed by homemade cinnamon-oat ice cream, then a layer of cream. A sprinkling of cinnamon and a squiggle each of maple syrup and honey finished off at the top of the glass. A monster load of work, but worth it. Especially with the semi-baked raisin and grated apple combo between each layer. The Autumnal Pumpkin Parfait – her most favorite dessert ever.”

Faith Franklin loves to bake and aims to use her passion to make a living. She can’t imagine anything better than “kneading and mixing and measuring all day, working in a room filled with the warm, sweet, comforting aroma of baking. Living in her ditzy floral apron. Discovering new treats and making everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside”. Peanut butter chocolate gateau, raspberry and white chocolate brioche casserole, black currant compote with baked buttery brioche on top, peach puff pastry tart with almonds – new recipes and flavor combinations pop into her head randomly, and she’d rather spend all her time trying them out. As much as Faith loves to bake, she knows nothing about marketing or decorating or health and safety paperwork, and this has kept her from setting up her own place and venturing into baking professionally. Her mum is an editor of fiction books (the baking gene having skipped a generation), while her grandma runs a tea room near the beach in Florida. Grandma Bessie loves to bake but her present apprentice isn’t very good at the job, and she asks if Faith would be willing to take up the task.

“Bake when I’m happy, bake when I’m sad. When I feel like the world’s falling apart, the first thing I reach for is a mixing bowl.” Faith can’t let go of her dream job, even if that means relocating to Florida, along with her pet kittens – Cirrus and Nimbus – the fluffy little rain clouds. Faith settles in comfortably at work. The tea room, originally titled “Bessie’s Café”, is changed to “Slice of Paradise”, and Faith revamps the menu and works on all sorts of desserts to serve along with the hot beverages. The area where the café is located is called “Paradise Point” (from where the series gets its name) – The beach one way and the food section on the other side. There are several other vendors, each selling different food and drinks. When Grandma Bessie was running the place, she served mostly cakes, whereas Faith has added on cupcakes and éclairs and various other new items in addition to cakes. This does not go down well with another vendor Joanne, who runs a cupcake café, and feels outsider Faith is threatening her business. The vendors are called for a meeting one day and the two women have a tiff. To prove that she isn’t jeopardizing Joanne’s work, Faith decides to send her a box of her own cupcakes that evening, to show how different their baking styles are.

The next morning Joanne is found dead. The autopsy reports reveal she was poisoned. Poison that was found in a cherry on a cupcake. And Faith’s box of cupcakes in the room and her previous day’s altercation with Joanne, cause all accusations to fly towards her. Faith doesn’t even like cherries and her cupcakes didn’t have them. Where did they turn up from? And filled with poison that too. The rest of the story takes us through how the cherry sinister murder unfolds.

This was a light read I had picked up in between heavy, serious books, and didn’t go into it with much expectations. The writing isn’t that great, the dialogues are amateurish, and the entire murder is solved in a very juvenile manner – it was surprising that it took two authors to come up with this.

What I did like were the food descriptions – the scenes of Faith baking and her teaching the apprentice Laura are all food-filled and dessert related. Something that made this stand out from other food fiction books was the description of cooking processes. When the authors talk about using super long spoons, or the seriousness of sugar burns, it comes across that the book has been written by someone who actually bakes and has not just created a story around baking. Also, the scenes depicting Cirrus and Nimbus – the balls of fur aka rain clouds – are fabulous. Again, the descriptions revealing the authors have actually lived with animals and understand the intricacies of their behavior, which is very different from someone just liking animals. (Many animal-related books have not been able to capture such details).

Chick-lit is not my genre, though I love baking and animals and those two parts stood out for me. But as a murder mystery, this was a very juvenile attempt. It doesn’t build up any suspense, and the conclusion was bland, which is very ironic since it is the first book in a series. It doesn’t make me want to read the rest from the Paradise series, unless like this one, it is used as a filler in between heavy or serious books. One of the characters nicely states, “I’ll be having myself a sweet tea and one of your crazily delicious cappuccino cupcakes while I put my feet up and read my book”, but this isn’t the book to waste sweet tea and cappuccino cupcakes on. I would rate this somewhere in the middle. It isn’t a bad book – it serves its purpose as a light read, and someone who likes fluffy fiction might enjoy this thoroughly.

Rating – 2.5/5 (I marked this as a 3 on Goodreads since I couldn’t put in a decimal.)

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