Friday, October 19, 2012

If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance by Paige Shelton

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.

Paige Shelton's website is

If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance by Paige Shelton. Berkley Prime Crime. 2012. ISBN 9780425251614 (paperback), 293p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Harvee Lau said...

I'll be reading this sometime soon, so it's good to see your comments.

Lesa said...

Thanks, Harvee. Terrific new ghost in this one.

SandyG265 said...

I just finished this. It was a light read which is what I was looking for.

Jane R said...

Lesa, I appreciate your review. I have the first book in this series (If Fried Chicken Could Fly) and plan to take it with me while I'm traveling next week. I've heard good things about it, but it's interesting that you found the 2nd book a bit disappointing. It's a great storyline so I hope it picks up again.

Lesa said...

Loved If Fried Chicken Could Fly, Jane. Don't hesitate to take it with you. Sometimes second mysteries are just not as good. Even Barbara Peters says this. It is a terrific storytline, and I'm sure it will get better.