Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Souffle of Suspicion (A French Bistro Mystery #2)

Author:  Daryl Wood Gerber
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683315865
Crooked Lane Books
325 Pages
$25.25; $9.99 Amazon
July 10, 2018


Crush Week in Nouvelle Vie is a madhouse - in a good way.  Tourists pour into town for the pressing of the Napa Valley's world-renowned grapes, and all the town's businesses gets a nice lift, including Bistro and Maison Rousseau.  Mimi is raising the ante this year with a Sweet Treats Festival, a wonderland of croissants, cakes, tarts, and soufflés crafted with expert care by the area's top talents.

Chef Camille's sister, Renee, is managing the festival with a cast-iron fist, upsetting everyone, including her sister - which is bad for Camille when Renee turns up dead in the chef's kitchen.  Mimi is still building her business, so her first course of action is to whip up answers and catch the unsavory perpetrator before Camille takes a dusting and gets burned.


Mimi Rousseau owns an inn and bistro in Nouvelle Vie, California.  It is crush week, and tourists are filling the town, also to participate in the first-ever Sweet Treats Festival, being run by Chef Camille's sister Renee, who has left her husband to manage the festival.  Everything seems to be going fine, but then problems begin to arise - arguments between Renee and others; Renee's husband Rusty showing up and wanting her to come home again.

While Mimi isn't really concerned, that all changes when she receives a phone call from Camille and arrives at Camille's home to find Renee dead.  Camille is cleared of the crime shortly, but that still leaves plenty of suspects - and most of them are connected to the festival in one way or another.  Will Mimi be able to keep her bistro up and running with a killer on the loose?  Or will someone else be a target - including Mimi herself?

This is the second book in the French Bistro series, and as such I felt it was an improvement over the first.  The characters are better developed, and Mimi is finally finding her footing in her new venture and in her relationship with Nash, the ex-wine salesman who is now managing her mother's vineyard.

However, Nash's ex-wife Willow is trying to throw a wrench into the works as it were, and Mimi doesn't do a lot to stop her yet wondering how to deal with it.  She rather avoids the situation instead of confronting it head on, which makes her a contradiction of sorts since she has no problem confronting people about their alibis at the time of the murder and then verifying if they are telling the truth.  It's a little confusing how she'll confront possible murderers but not her boyfriend's ex-wife.  She says as how she likes Mimi, but since Willow is trying to break up her relationship with Nash it makes you wonder how Mimi thinks.  I'd be leery of someone like that, and I certainly wouldn't care for them much.

Mimi also laments how gorgeous Willow is compared to her.  Well, Willow wears makeup for one thing, and a little makeup goes a long way.  Perhaps Mimi should consider mascara, blush, lipstick (not lip gloss as these authors think all women wear, which is pretty much for preteens and teenagers) and a little eye shadow and she'd be surprised at the transformation.  (I honestly get so tired of all these protagonists 'throwing on a little lip gloss' and thinking they're hot.  Four out of five American women wear makeup every day - except in cozies - and you'd think it was an anomaly or something.  As one of those makeup-wearing women, I'd like to see at least a few of them wear more than lip gloss).  Anyway, that's just my opinion.

While her attention is focused instead on finding Renee's killer since she can see how miserable Camille is and she wants to ease her pain as much as she can, there is also a nice subplot of how Mimi is finding herself the owner of two cats who have appeared to have adopted her; and it's kind of sweet to see how she just allows the situation to continue and even sort of welcomes it when she feels she's a little nervous that the killer is getting a bit too close.

Close enough that the murderer thinks she's a threat and starts treating it as such; even though Mimi tries to brush it off, deep down she knows that someone is figuring out she's asking too many questions and isn't happy about it, and that's when things start to get interesting.

There are plenty of diversions and a lot going on, making for a very busy book indeed, but most of it is centered on the festival itself and the restaurant, leaving very little time for real clues to add up.  I enjoyed the mystery, there were plenty of red herrings, and the writing flowed at a nice pace.  However, if you pay attention the clues are there and the story was told well.

In the end everything was settled satisfactorily with all loose ties coming together nicely, and even a little bit of a teaser for the next in the series.  All in all it was an enjoyable read that makes us want to look for the next book.  There are quite a few nice recipes in the back also for those who enjoy baking (I do).  Recommended.


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