Friday, January 13, 2017

Custom Baked Murder (A Pawsitively Organic Mystery)

Author:  Liz Mugavero
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781496700193
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
December 27, 2016

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Summer is winding down in Frog Ledge, Connecticut, but Stan's love life and career are both heating up nicely.  In between planning her new pet patisserie and cafe′, Stan is settling into living-in-bliss with sexy pub owner Jake McGee.  Love's on the menu for Stan's mom, Patricia, too, who's engaged to Frog Ledge's mayor, Tony Falco.

Mayor Falco's dogged ambition isn't popular among locals, but it's his executive coach, Eleanor Chang, who's inspired a dangerous grudge.  When Eleanor is found dead, there's a whole pack of suspects to choose from.  Stan has first-hand experience of Eleanor's unsavory business tactics.  But finding out who forced her to take a fatal plunge off the corporate ladder means unearthing some shady secrets...and a killer who's too close for comfort.

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Kristan "Stan" Connor lives in Frog Ledge, Connecticut with her boyfriend Jake McGee, owns a gourmet pet food business, and is busy planning the opening of her new pet patisserie.  She's also dealing with the fact that her mother Patricia is engaged to the town's mayor, Tony Falco (not Stan's favorite person), and expects her to attend the engagement party.  But before she can even leave her home her sister Caitlyn arrives on her doorstep along with her daughter Eva, and expects to stay with Stan 'temporarily'.  Stan and her sister have never been close - being polar opposites - yet she decides now isn't the time to deal with it and they head out to the party.

Stan has more surprises waiting for her:  when she arrives she finds Eleanor Chung, an old co-worker who now has Stan's job and aiming to gloat; and when Stan escapes her she comes face-to-face with other ex-coworkers, including her ex-boyfriend Richard Ruse.  But the surprises don't end there:  After a confrontation with Richard he storms out of the house in a drunken stupor and Caitlyn finds Eleanor upstairs - dead in the master bedroom with Patricia's engagement ring in her mouth.  To top it off, Richard is arrested for the crime.

Stan knows he's innocent, but needs help to prove it.  Unfortunately, that help won't come from Jake's sister, Jessie Pasquale, since she's been removed from the case.  It also isn't coming from Tony, who arrived at the party shortly after the murder and isn't telling anyone where he was or why.  Yet she's determined to help clear Richard, even if she has to do it alone.

While Stan thought the move to Frog Ledge would allow her to live a nice, quiet existence she's finding that's not so in this book.  With her business taking off she's busier than ever; along with Brenna's help she's had to hire a new employee to help out occasionally.  And with Jessie temporarily out of commission, she's doing a little investigating on her own, keeping Jessie in the loop and trying to fly under the radar because she's sure the Major Crimes unit knows more than they're saying, and that it all has something to do with Tony.

When she discovers that almost everyone had a motive to kill Eleanor - including her own daughter - it makes it even harder to sift through the suspects.  With the evidence pointing toward Tony, Stan wonders just how well anyone knows him, and if her mother might be marrying a murderer...

I found this book to be delightful.  What a whirlwind of activity, with poor Stan trying to open her business, find a killer, and deal with both her mother's interference in the planning of her new store (since her mother is an investor she decides it gives her the right) and Caitlyn, who is going through a divorce and being courted by an ex-beau who just won't give up, even though she swears she wants nothing more to do with him (or his misguided attempts to win her back).

As the story progresses, we get to know Caitlyn better as a person, which results in surprises for both Stan and the reader.  Stan also discovers some facts about Tony, which makes him more human somehow; and we're drawn into these things as much as we're drawn into Frog Ledge and the rest of its inhabitants.  The characters are real, fleshed out people, not cardboard; and it's easy to want the best for this little town, Stan and her friends.

When we do discover the identity of the killer (for we know there is one, after all) I can truthfully say I wasn't too surprised; I had an inkling (but then, I read a lot of mysteries and can pretty much decipher clues along the way), and it was rather sad yet understandable all the same.  In all, it was done nicely and believable, and that's what mysteries are all about.  Ms. Mugavero has once again given us a mystery we can sink into and enjoy, characters that are lively and quick, and a town I would like to visit.  Nicely done and highly recommended.



More on Liz Mugavero's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/liz-mugavero/

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