Friday, February 15, 2019

Dying for Strawberries (A Berry Basket Mystery #1)

Author:  Sharon Farrow
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback: Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496704863
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
$7.99; $4.99 Amazon
October 25, 2016


Much has changed for Marlee Jacob since she returned to Oriole Point, Michigan, three years ago.  Between running the Berry Basket, dodging local gossip, and whipping up strawberry muffins, smoothies, and margaritas to celebrate the town's first annual Strawberry Moon Bash, the twenty-nie-year-old hardly has time for her fiancé, let alone grim memories of her old life in New York...

But unfortunately for Marlee, Oriole Point is muddled with secrets of its own.  First her friend Natasha disappears after an ominous dream.  Next the seediest man in town threatens to crush her business.  Then an unknown person nearly kills her on the night of the Bash.  When she discovers a dead body while searching for Natasha, Marlee realizes she'll have to foil a killer's plot herself - before the past permanently stains her future.


Marlee Jacob owns The Berry Basket, a business in the touristy town of Oriole Point, Michigan, selling berry-related items.  After a run-in with the town's bully, Cole Bowman, who has promised he won't renew Marlee's lease, effectively closing her business, she's stunned; as are the rest of the townspeople, but for a different reason:  it seems Cole has come into ownership of Strawberry Fields, a parcel adjoining the town, and plans to turn it commercial, allowing chains into their little village that will probably put the local businesses out of business.  What Marlee doesn't understand is how the four members of the council could approve such a move, since they are also local business owners; and blurts out at the meeting that they were either bribed or blackmailed into agreeing to it.

When Marlee is attacked on the night of the Strawberry Moon Bash, and no one will believe her, she's determined to find out who wants her dead.  And when Cole's wife Natasha goes missing, she's convinced he's killed her, and decides to investigate on her own.  She doesn't find Natasha, but she does find Cole...dead in his home.

Now she's convinced that he was killed by one of the members of the council, and learns that Piper and Lionel have hired detectives to dig up secrets.  So Marlee decides to question each of them on her own, hoping to find out first if one of those secrets were terrible enough to cause one of them to kill Cole, and attempt murdering her.  But it just might get her killed instead...

I don't like giving mediocre reviews, but I will tell you right off that I'm not compromising myself by giving a great one just to make everyone happy.  Sometimes a book isn't a stinker, but it still makes it hard to slog through.  This, unfortunately, was one of those books.

It almost lost me at the beginning when Marlee apparently carries around an EpiPen because her boyfriend Ryan is allergic to bees.  He works at his family's orchards, but allergic to bees - right.  I carry one, but my husband doesn't because I'm not always with him.  After all, he's not the one having an attack, so why would he need it?  It's one thing to carry one for your minor child, but for another adult?  It's also illegal.  How stupid is Ryan that he would "forget" to carry it?  I've never forgotten - not once.  It just didn't make sense.  And therein, folks, lies the problem.  Beginning a book with something that just doesn't make any sense can skew the rest of the book for the reader.

Just because she was attacked she thinks it's perfectly fine to go around investigating peoples' pasts?  Pasts that have nothing to do with her and she has no business knowing at all?  At least it will be interesting in future books with the enemies she's made by doing that (surely these people can't be so forgiving that they ignore the fact she's forced them to tell her things they never wanted anyone to know.)  If I had even one of these secrets, I'd keep her out of my life forever.  A person like this has no boundaries.

Not to mention that Ryan is a royal jerk.  I was hoping he was the murderer (sorry, he's not.)  Why on earth she's interested in him is beyond me.  Just because a guy's 'hot' doesn't make him a keeper.  I have news for Marlee: if a man is hiding his past from you when you're going to be his wife, run as fast as you can in the other direction...because he'll do things in the future that he wants to hide from you, too.  (One can only hope he "forgets" his EpiPen in a future book and actually does bite the dust.)  He treats her like a child, acts like her business isn't as important as his, and isn't around when she needs him.  It also kind of seemed like she just capitulated when he wanted her; there was no sizzle between them, no connection, no real reason they're together at all.

And at the last, why would a reputable news source keep revisiting a TV chef's murder every single year?  It wouldn't happen.  It's not that riveting.  There were also little things like comparing every character to anther person/book character (Ryan Gosling, Jasmine from Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, etc.), and calling Drake a witch (a male witch is a Warlock) - Drake should have corrected her - better yet, the author should have known this fact before adding it to the story (yes, I know some male witches find it derogatory, but it still is a fact).

When the murderer was revealed, the killer wasn't really a revelation, and I had figured it out long before, but I will say that the reason for the murder was unexpected.  Since this is the first in a new series, I have given leeway that the author is still honing her craft, and I will probably read the second one.


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