Sunday, March 29, 2009

Death Takes The Cake - Melinda Wells


Death Takes The Cake
A Della Cooks Mystery
Melinda Wells
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

As the new star of a new cooking show on the Better Living Channel, Della Carmichael is pretty pleased with her lot in life at the moment. She also owns a cooking school in Santa Monica, but that’s under renovations at the moment. So this seems like the perfect time for her boss, Mickey Jordan, to throw her a curve ball. Actually, he lets his son, Addison, do the throwing. It seems that Addison has already made a deal with the Reggi-Mix Cake Company to create the first annual Reggi-Mix Cake Contest. And to use Della as one of the contestants. And, by the way, film the entire contest, from coming up with a recipe to testing to the actual baking of the finished product and the award, for a reality show. Addison claims it will boost the ratings for Della’s show. Della is pretty sure it’s going to boost her blood pressure.

One serious problem is the use of Reggi-Mix cake mix. To Della, it’s an inferior product that tastes like cardboard. And she went to college with Regina (Reggie) Davis, with less-than-friendly results. In fact, the last time Reggie and Della were face-to-face, Reggie was threatening to kill Della. Mickey brushes these worries aside, sure that Della can make even cardboard taste good; sure the college animosity will have evaporated; and mindful that they’ve already signed the contracts. Della’s just stuck with the project.

Della’s got some other things to worry about, too. Like the crime reporter she’s been seeing, and his appearance at a local restaurant with a blonde bimbo not his sister. And a best friend, Libby Marshall, crushed that she may have found evidence that her reliable dentist husband is cheating on her after a couple of decades of marriage. These worries take a back seat when Della discovers Reggie’s dead body. Someone was either mad, or had a dark sense of humor: she was left with her face buried in a bowl of cake batter in the test kitchen.

There are some neat twists that come into play during this mystery, allowing the several storyline threads to come together in unexpected ways. It does take a good amount of narrative time for this to happen, but, for me, the setup was interesting and enjoyable enough that it didn’t seem to matter. As before (KILLER MOUSSE) Della is a very real character. She’s an adult woman embarking on an unexpected second life after the death of her husband. The way she deals with her relationship with the reporter is mature – but not too mature to be believable – and shows a good deal of self-respect. Any woman who can conduct herself that way, run a cooking school, provide recipes that anyone can create using easy-to-find ingredients, and solve a few mysteries is someone with whom I’d like to be friends. I’d be the George to her Nancy Drew any day.

Rating: 7 ½
February 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-22642-1 (paperback)

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