Paige Shelton brings back all the beloved characters from her Country Cooking School Mystery series in the new book, If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance. Naturally, in a community as unusual as Broken Rope, Missouri, there's the addition of a new ghost, Sally Swarthmore. There's also the addition of a large cast of characters from outside the town. Broken Rope may still have a reputation as an unusual town for murder, but this time, it's not a local resident who dies.
Isabelle "Betts" Winston and her Gram are doing the midsummer cleaning of the Cooking School before starting a night class dealing with everything about potatoes when Betts receives a request from her best friend, Jake, the town historian. A group of foodies need a place to stay for the night when their reservations for the local hotel are messed up. Jake suggests they stay at the Cooking School, but Betts' brother has a better idea. He's working construction at an about-to-be-opened B&B, and he thinks they could take in the busload of visitors. That traveling group, though, leads to nothing but trouble for Broken Rope.
It doesn't take long for that group to cause trouble, either. Early the next morning, Jake finds the body of one of the foodies outside his office, and two others have disappeared. The local police are forced to call in reinforcements to investigate the complicated case.
It's even more complicated than they know. While Betts is caught up in that case, she's also investigating the story of murders that occurred years earlier when Sally Swarthmore was supposed to have killed her parents with an ax. When Sally appears to Betts, she wants her to hunt for her missing diary, convinced that will prove her guilt or innocence. And, the more Betts gets to know Sally, the more she hopes to prove she's innocent. Sally's story seems to lead in the same direction as to clues about the missing foodies.
I love the ghost stories of Broken Rope, Missouri. Betts' relationship with the ghosts is fascinating. And, Sally Swarthmore is an intriguing character. This series remains charming because the ghosts will be new and fresh in each book.
However, If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance is disappointing in some ways. I'm not a big fan of "If I had only known," and a few too many times in this book, Betts indicates that she missed seeing someone at the old Monroe House, and the ending might have been different. Every time Shelton pointed to the old house, she was obvious about it. And, it's clear that something was going on there, and the characters who should have known that didn't investigate. There were too many obvious clues to characters and locations to make this a totally satisfying story. The Cooking School elements were just a minor part of this account. Even the wrap-up of Sally's story seemed a little too abrupt.
I read Paige Shelton's If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance for Betts, Sally Swarthmore, and Sally's story. Those elements were fun, while some other aspects of the mystery were disappointing.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.