Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Catered Tea Party (A Mystery with Recipes)

Author:  Isis Crawford
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Audio CD; Ebook; Audible
ISBN #:  9781617733334; 9781520017105
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$21.37; $27.06; $11.99 Amazon
August 30, 2016

Three Stars


Quiet Longely, New York is abuzz with excitement over the opening of a revamped art complex - and catering sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons are helping put on an elaborate tea party for the opening night gala fundraiser.  But when the billionaire behind the project drops dead, the Simmons sisters find themselves steeped in a whistling kettle of murder...

Everyone in Longely is talking about Blue House, an art complex that will bring the town a theater, an art gallery, and even a restaurant and coffee bar.  But they're less than enthusiastic about Ludvoc "Zeb" Zalinsky, the self-made billionaire who's funding the complex - and rubbing everyone the wrong way.  Bernie and Lbby reluctantly agree to cater the Alice in Wonderland themed tea party he's planned, but it quickly becomes clear that Zeb is madder than the hatter he'll be dressed as...

The night of the benefit arrives and Westchester's finest show up in droves, having paid $500 apiece to attend Zeb's meticulously-orchestrated tea party.  But just when it seems the production is going according to plan, Zeb lifts an eletric tea kettle, clutches his chest, and falls to the floor in fittingly dramatic fashion.  The kettle shorted out and his pacemaker malfunctioned - but it doesn't take long for police to decide that this seemingly random accident was actually cold-blooded murder...

As Bernie and Libby set out to find the culprit, they realize Zeb might have had more enemies than money.  With so many culprits to sort through, only one thing is clear:  Zeb was poured a steaming cup of revenge - and a second serving may be on the menu...

********

Bernie and Libby own A Little Taste of Heaven cafe and bakery and have been hired by Ludvoc Zalinsky to cater his themed tea party, Alice in Wonderland at his new venue The Blue Heron.  He's created his version of the story, featuring a Chinese tea pot he paid an exorbitant amount for, but during the play he is electrocuted.  When the director is accused of the crime, Bernie and Libby agree  to help him find the real killer.  As they start investigating it becomes apparent that Zalinsky wasn't the billionaire he claimed to be, and that more than one person had a reason to want him dead...

The murder occurs early in the book, which is always good because we get a head start in trying to identify the murderer.  With a plethora of suspects in the running Libby and Bernie have their work cut out for them.  It seems everyone who worked for Zalinsky hated him, and no one was sorry to see him departing this life.  It also seems that every suspect had a reason to point them toward another suspect, which sends them in a different direction looking for answers.

Although he mystery was done well, being quite interesting; and it never hurts the plot to have many suspects at hand, we were never given enough time to actually 'get to know' any of them, so were never really given any true clues as to who the murderer could be.  There were plenty of twists and turns, and it came as a surprise even though the reasons why Zalinsky was killed are age-old.

This was a difficult review to write, mainly because I have always loved Ms. Crawford's Catered mysteries.  However, I found this latest book in the series disappointing, and I never really felt that "involved" in this book, for more than one reason, some of which I will list below:

How whipped is their father that he can't see Michelle for what she is?  Even the act of allowing the cat outside though he told her it was an indoor cat should have alerted him somewhat.  She opens a cafe with a name and recipes that are almost identical to his daughters' and he doesn't see it?  I get that he thought they might merely be jealous, but any loving father would have at least tried to figure out if they were being rational.  Not this one - he took Michelle's side without question.  He's supposed to be an ex-cop, but he was a pretty stupid one if he can't figure it out.

As this is the 12th book in the series, these women have been with their boyfriends since forever, so it seems odd that neither of them are engaged or married (or even living together).  Maybe they're just comfortable living in an apartment above their shop with their dad, but this doesn't explain why Brandon and Marvin have never felt the need to move on and/or want some sort of commitment.  I know some people might think this is fine, but really, both sisters are perfectly happy with this arrangement and the guys are okay with this?  For myself, I believe this is the reason the sisters seemed so "whiny" in this book, stressing about Sean and Michelle.  They're content with the status quo - living with dad above their shop - but maybe they need to move out of their comfort zone and actually have relationships.  I'll bet they'd relax, and they certainly wouldn't be so accessible to Michelle, would they?

Also, I've said many times over - and this was the biggie for me - that I detest books that hold you hostage.  I consider this a dirty trick.  This is especially true since it's usually a year before you get the next one.  Even though we pretty much know what will happen - eventually - it's unfair to the reader to make them wait.  Unfortunately, these are the things that count and make a book enjoyable to read.  While I have always enjoyed these books, I think that this particular one was the weakest in the series.  Hopefully, the next will find Libby and Bernie back to their old selves.

https://www.amazon.com/Catered-Tea-Party-Mystery-Recipes/dp/1617733334/


More on Isis Crawford's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/isis-crawford/

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