Merry's career as a New York City stylist has crumbled, but her passion for muffins has helped her rise upstate in Autumn Vale. Everyone in town loves the tasty treats. Still, she would like to return to her glamorous life. Besides, the upkeep of Wynter Castle is expensive, and Merry's cup isn't exactly overflowing.
So in order to bring some prospective buyers into the mix, Merry whisks together a spooky soireee and decorates the castle with dashes of fabric and a sprinkling of spider webs. Friends new and old are invited, and everyone has a blast. But as the revelers empty out, Merry notices one partygoer who isn't leaving - or breathing. Now Merry must hurry to unmask a killer before her perfect plans turn into a recipe for disaster.
Merry inherited the castle from her uncle, as his only living heir. Unless you count Cranston Higgins, who showed up claiming to be Uncle Melvyn's long-lost grandson. Which Merry isn't too sure about, and wants to consider the matter further - and do some DNA testing to make sure. She lives there with her friends Shilo and Pish, and is renovating (slowly) the castle so that she can sell it. In the meantime, she bakes muffins to take to the local bakery (!) and the retirement home, and a couple of other places.
When she decides to throw a not-so-Halloween party (not scary, just a little decorating), she invites some of her wealthier friends, hoping that one of them - or someone they know - will be interested in purchasing the castle from her, and she can go back to her life. What she doesn't admit, though, is that she likes the new life she has and wants to stay. She just can't afford to do so. So, after cleaning up the night of the party, she comes across a dead body, her life suddenly becomes complicated.
Okay, here's the thing: I really wanted to like this book. A lot. But it took over 90 pages before we got to the murder (and isn't that why you read a murder mystery? To get to the murder and solving it?) In my mind, that's like watching a murder mystery movie and the 'deed' doesn't occur until an hour in. By that time, would you still be interested in the movie? The first 90+ pages were basically revisiting people and getting background, which is fine, but it dragged on and on...
One thing I really didn't get is the fact that Binnie, the bakery owner, bakes things like ciabiatta and such, but refuses to bake mundane things like muffins! Really? In a small town? A bakery owner? Who does she think is residing there? I'm not saying that there isn't a desire for things like that in small towns; not at all. What I'm saying is the fact that if that's all you sell, you might as well put the 'for sale' sign up now. I live in the big city, and if our bakeries didn't sell muffins and cookies, they wouldn't be in business. People eat what they're used to, but no one (I hope) makes a diet of ciabiatta and foccacia bread.
Okay, rant over. That being said, there isn't a whole lot of time spent on her muffin-baking. That's because she finds out one of her friends is sort-of-a-suspect, so she figures she has to find out who the real killer is, even after she's told to leave it alone by the hunky deputy, Virgil. But she doesn't want to get involved with Virgil, because for some strange reason, she's still being loyal to her dead husband, who passed away eight years ago. I get the fact that she loved him; but they were married only two years, and after eight years without him, a little of that memory might fade; and even if it didn't, she either needs to move on with her life or go into permanent mourning.
Now that I've said what's wrong with the book, let me tell you what's right: The mystery itself is tight, and when all the information comes out, it makes sense. It ties in with the first book of this series, Bran New Death, so it's recommended that you read that one first. But if you haven't, you can always go back and read it to get the full picture. I'm hoping the series improves as it moves along; and like a firm rule I have, I always read at least three books before I decide to either go or stay with it. Recommended for mystery lovers; but be aware that the first part of the book drags a little. As a bonus, there a few recipes in the back of the book.