Who wouldn't like a mystery that features cupcakes? I'll admit there are a number of reasons I enjoy Jenn McKinlay's Cupcake Bakery mysteries. They're set in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I recognize a number of the sites in the books. It's hard to resist all those recipes for cupcakes. It’s fun to watch the three protagonists challenge each other to movie quotes. I know and like Jenn, a fellow librarian. But, the best reason to read her third book in this series, Death by the Dozen? It’s the best yet, with great characters, and a terrific, tightly written plot.
Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura, owners of Fairy Tale Cupcake Bakery, just make it in time to enter the bakery challenge at the Scottsdale Food Festival, no thanks to their arch-rival Olivia Puckett, who does everything she can to block their entry. Knowing they’ll be tied up for a while, they ask for an intern from the local tech high school. When Oz shows up, he’s not quite what they expect. He’s a hulking teenager in black, with piercings and a chain. But, he does like to bake.
Even the judges aren’t what Mel and Angie expect. Two were men who hated each other, teachers at the culinary institute where Mel went to school. A third is a former fellow student who also disliked one of the judges, Vic Mazzotta, now a Food Channel chef, and Mel’s mentor. Mel may know most of the judges, but it’s still a formidable competition, a challenge to bake with mystery ingredients.
Angie is determined to beat Olivia Puckett in the competition. But, Mel’s will to win is dampened when Vic ends up dead. Now, she just wants to know who hated him enough to end his career for good.
McKinlay’s Death by the Dozen has a little of everything. There’s so much humor in the friends’ competition with Olivia, from the opening scene to the end. There’s always humor when it comes to Angie’s seven brothers. The baking challenge is thrilling to anyone who frequently wants food challenges on television. There’s a little romance, along with the suspense of the mystery and the food challenge.
Now, Jenn McKinlay has added to her interesting cast of characters. Oz and the new kitten in Mel’s life, Captain Jack, are welcome additions to a cast that was already fun and a little off-beat. McKinlay truly has written her strongest entry in this series. It’s almost as hard to resist the appeal of Death by the Dozen as it is to resist cupcakes.
Jenn McKinlay's website is www.jennmckinlay.com
Death by the Dozen by Jenn McKinlay. Berkley Prime Crime.
©2011. ISBN 9780425244050 (paperback), 294p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.