Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Murder By The Slice - Livia J. Washburn

Murder By The Slice
A Fresh-Baked Mystery
Livia J. Washburn


Phyllis Newsom, a retired teacher, knows first-hand how difficult it is to raise any decent amount of money with a bake sale. Which is why she’s dismayed to find that she and her friend Carolyn have been roped into helping out at the local elementary school’s fall carnival by hosting… the bake sale. This time around, though, Carolyn has some ideas that will make this sale stand out from the others. There will be an auction of fancy cakes donated for that purpose; and the baked items must all be healthy. The healthy snacks will be judged by anyone who buys a ticket, and a ribbon will go to one with the most votes.

This plan, when presented to Parent-Teacher Organization president Shannon Dunston, does not go over well. But, with support from other mothers on the board, the vote quickly passes and the plan put into motion. Shannon is not pleased to be overruled. Shannon, to be honest, is not pleased with much of anything these days, and the rest of the moms on the board deeply regret electing her as their president. Phyllis suspected as much when, arriving at the school, she and Carolyn witness a nasty argument between Shannon and her ex-husband.

On the day of the carnival, things seem to be going fine. The judging of the healthy snacks may bring in more money than the regular bake sale. The principal is just about to begin the auction for the fancy cakes, when screams erupt from the hall outside the gym. Rushing to investigate, Phyllis is shocked to see Shannon, lying on the floor, obviously dead. She was stabbed, and it’s just possible that one of the cake knives was the murder weapon. Phyllis feels sad for the woman; she was strident and snippy, true, but she had her share of problems, too, and maybe one too many enemies.

This is the second in a series, following A PEACH OF A MURDER, and the author deftly avoids the dreaded sophomore slump, turning in another winning entry. The atmosphere of a small town in Texas is brought to life by the many returning characters, and the way that each character has at least some passing connection to the others. Phyllis is a woman of a certain age, nostalgic for times gone by, but more than realistic enough to live in the here and now. Her competitive friendship with Carolyn is complicated and bespeaks a decades-long familiarity. There are plenty of suspects in the murder, making the culprit difficult to spot. And, to round out the experience, recipes are included for a few of the healthy snacks, as well as a couple of the fancy cakes.

Rating: 7
October 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22250-3 (paperback)


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