Cheddar Off Dead is only the second in Julia Buckley's Undercover Dish mystery series, so you still have time to easily catch up. It follows The Big Chili, and this story is equally delightful. Buckley creates the Christmas atmosphere with music, snow, parties, Christmas baking. And, then she kills Santa.
Lilah Drake has what her father calls an "Undercover Dish" business, cooking for people who want to take credit for the food they don't have the time or talent to make. Third grade teacher "Miss Jenny Braidwell", Lilah's former college roommate, is one who has a reputation for making food everyone at the school loves, including the macaroni and cheese that Lilah makes and clandestinely delivers. The delivery goes fine, but Lilah's a little blue, missing the man who got away. So, when she sees Santa in the parking lot, she talks to him, telling him she wants a second chance. Afterwards, she heads to her car, only to hear Santa's voice, a shot, and a car. Then, Santa is lying dead, and Lilah calls 9-1-1. It's too bad it's Santa's death that gives her a second chance to make an impression on police detective Jay Parker.
Lilah doesn't mean to be a witness to murder. And, Santa's life and personal connections turn out to be a mess. But, the biggest mess is Lilah's own life and safety, as someone wants to keep this witness quiet. With the help of a police bodyguard, and sometimes Jay when he has the time, Lilah gets to know the people involved with Santa. It's a matter of life and death, Lilah's life, and, hopefully, not her death.
Buckley has created engaging characters, especially Lilah, the narrator. The women in the book are spirited and fun, and Lilah's friends are appealing. Her dog, Mick, is charming. And, Lilah's romance is proceeding satisfactorily. Cheddar Off Dead is an enjoyable entry in a favorite new series. I'm sure Jimmy Fallon will now be quoted in so many reviews of Christmas mysteries after he commented about Kaitlyn Dunnett's Ho-Ho-Homicide on The Tonight Show. His comment applies to Cheddar Off Dead as well. It has everything a reader wants, Christmas and murder (and recipes).
Julia Buckley's website is www.juliabuckley.com
Cheddar Off Dead by Julia Buckley. Berkley Prime Crime. 2016. ISBN 9780425275962 (paperback), 293p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.