Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Batter of Life and Death (A Bakeshop Mystery)

Author:  Ellie Alexander
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781250054241
St. Martin's Paperbacks
304 Pages
$7.19; $8.99 Amazon
June 30, 2015


It's autumn in Ashland, Oregon - 'tis the season for a spiced hot apple cider with a serving (or two) of Torte's famous peach cobbler.  It's also the perfect time for Jules Capshaw to promote her family's beloved bakeship by competing in the Pastry Channel's reality show, Take the Cake.  The prize is $25,000.  But as Jules quickly learns, some people would kill for that kind of dough.  Literally.

Then, just as Jules dusts off her Bavarian Chocolate Cake recipe and cinches up her apron, the corpse of a fellow contestant is discovered - death by buttercream.  What began as a fun, tasteful televised adventure has morphed into something of a true-crime detective show for Jules and everybody else on set.  Who could have killed Chef Marco, and why?  Can Jules sift out the killer before someone else gets burned?


Jules Capshaw left her cruise ship job to go home and work with her mother at the family pastry shop, Torte.  She's also separated from her husband, who kept a secret from her during their marriage that she thought she'd never be able to forgive, which is the main reason she returned home.

When a reality film crew comes to town, they're going to film their cooking show in Ashland, but unfortunately, one of the celebrity chefs is murdered and she's pretty much railroaded to take his place.  While she's not happy about the situation, she has another train of thought and that is the fact that Torte will get some publicity from the show, so she agrees.

But it's not long after that her shop is vandalized, and it's obvious the person who killed Chef Marco might not be done with the job.  Can Jules discover the killer - even as Thomas has warned her away from the crime - before someone else is killed, maybe even her...

Well, I should have known there would be problems with this book when I read that while the chefs were staying in a hotel, the film crew would be staying in the theater.  Really?  Are the crew sleeping on cots on the stage?  Or is there an accompanying inn with the same name attached?  Nothing is mentioned aside from this fact.

Next, all the chefs are cooking at various kitchens around town instead of a central one, which makes no sense at all.  With this arrangement, no one is watching them bake; therefore, there are no witnesses as to whether or not they're using the ingredients they said they were, or if they baked their own products or not.  Television cooking shows have the chefs actually cook while they're filming, so the audience can watch the action, as it were; not bring in a dish and say they made it.  Unbelievable.

Then, when Jules finds Chef Marco's body, she says as how she just witnessed a murder.  Um, no.  She found a dead body, she definitely did not witness a murder.  These are two very different things (and I don't know why the editor wouldn't catch this gaffe).  If she'd witnessed the murder, chances are the book would be over very quickly since she would have seen the killer.

The producer of the show brings Richard Lord in as one of the chefs...except Richard isn't a chef, and he doesn't even make his own food.  So why?  This alone doesn't make any sense.  Let's just say the idiotic viewers of this show (because they'd have to be to believe this nonsense) would Google the man and discover he wasn't a chef.  Wouldn't that hurt the credibility - and viewership - of the production?  Any producer who would allow him onto the show should be fired.  Not to mention that cooking shows are as much about the chefs as they are the food - people watch to see tempers flare, tension rise, etc., and if they're all cooking off stage, none of that would occur.  You're otherwise basically watching people pick up a prize for 'best of,' and who really cares?

Jules also won't tell the other female chefs to clean up after themselves - they're obviously pigs (but Jules and her crew are clean as a whistle) yet keeps complaining and saying she'll tell Phillip about it.  Again, um, no.  She owns Torte, she needs to tell them they can't cook there anymore if they aren't going to clean up after themselves.  If they don't want to do it, kick them out. 

At the last, I should have known better when the book began with, 'They say that time heals a broken heart.'  Through the entire book she's wondering about her feelings for Thomas, and anyone can see he has feelings for her, yet from what I gather about later books in the series, she's also still wondering about her feelings for Carlos.  Carlos just needs to go.  He wasn't that interesting to begin with, and Jules obviously wants to stay at Torte.  What kind of marriage would that be?  For someone who's supposed to be savvy and intelligent, she's screwed up in the romance department.

Sooo...she waffles about Thomas through the entire book, and then at the last few pages they talk and guess what?  All of the readers are thinking maybe she'll start seeing him again.  Once more, um, no.  The author obviously just wanted to keep the 'will she or won't she' factor going throughout the book with a hint of romance.  There never was going to be one!  They just want to 'be friends.'  It was a ruse, people.  An excuse to keep you reading the book.  If she starts all over again with Carlos - and from all appearances it may very well be true - I am so done with this series. 

It's not just that I hate wishy-washy women; I also hate the fact that readers are 'teased' with scenarios that never come to pass; and all of the things I've stated above that don't make sense make me wonder if future books also have details that are nonsense.  For this I couldn't give it above two stars.

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