Reviewed by Jeanne
Death, Lies, and Apple Pies by Valerie Malmont is the second in the Tori Miracle series. Horror author Tori packs up her cats, Fred and Noel, and leaves New York for Lickin Creek, PA and a visit with her new fiancé Garnet. Unfortunately, it turns out that the week of vacation Garnet had planned has gone awry, but Tori doesn’t have a chance to get bored: right off the bat, she’s named Celebrity Judge of the Apple Butter Festival, succeeding the extension agent who served last year. Other complications ensue when she discovers Garnet’s widowed sister has moved in with him and said sister is deeply involved with a group trying to stop a nuclear waste dump being placed near the town. The site hinges on whether or not elderly landowner Percy Montrose will sell the land for the dump. When Percy dies suddenly, the doctor says it was death from natural causes, but Tori isn’t so sure. It may just be the journalist in her, but Percy’s death is just too convenient for too many people. . . and that includes Garnet’s sister Greta.
I thoroughly enjoyed Death, Snow, and Mistletoe (fourth book in the series) and found myself easily caught up in this one as well. The names can be a bit off-putting at times (Bathsheba Butterbaugh or Greta Gochenauer) but that didn’t last long. Malmont does a good job of balancing the fun and mystery, and while there were times I wish Tori would pause before rushing in where angels fear to tread, I didn’t get annoyed with her as I usually do with heroines who are too impetuous. I also want to give Malmont credit for handling a difficult subject with some even-handedness: it would be easy to immediately side with one or the other group in the nuclear waste controversy, but she does a reasonably good job of presenting both sides of the argument.
The only bad thing is that there are just five books in the series. Apparently, the publisher didn’t think they were selling well enough and declined any more. The last book came out in 2003. It occurred to me that since publishing has changed so much, it might be that Ms. Malmont might consider self-publishing so I did a search. Sadly, it turned out that she had died earlier this year so unless she left a manuscript there will be no more.
Moving from apple pie to Key Lime pie, we have An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette, the first book in a new cozy mystery series. Hayley Snow was stocking shelves in New Jersey when she fell head over heels for a guy, even pulling up stakes and following Chad home to Florida. The relationship lasted about as long as one would expect, which is how she ended up on a houseboat in Key West. Always a foodie, Hayley finds out about a job opening at Key Zest magazine as a food critic—could anything be more perfect? Complications arise when it turns out the co-owner of the magazine is Kristen Faulkner, the “other woman” who replaced Hayley in Chad’s affections, not to mention his bed. Hayley sets out to taste and write a column, only to discover she’s under suspicion for murder. . . Kristen’s murder.
I try not to judge a mystery series by its first book. Such books usually have to spend a good bit of time introducing the cast of characters, developing a setting, and working up the premise. Appetite is pretty standard in that regard. The Key West setting is nicely done, the descriptions of food are good, and Hayley seems to know what to do in regard to writing. Hayley herself is bit ditzy for my taste, no pun intended, but I hope she’ll mature a bit as the series progresses. Yes, there was a cat. His name is Evinrude, and that's all I can remember.
The other problem is that I can’t stop thinking about Key Lime Pie.