Friday, January 07, 2011

Buttercream Bump Off - Jenn McKinlay

Buttercream Bump Off
A Cupcake Bakery Mystery
Jenn McKinlay
Berkley Prime Crime


Watching your widowed mom prepare for her first date in thirty-five years can be nerve-wracking. Fortunately for Melanie (Mel) Cooper, she’s got a distraction. She’s holding a couple’s baking class at her bakery, Fairy Tale Cupcakes. No cooking class can override the call for help she gets later in the evening. It’s mom, saying that her date, Baxter Malloy, ended up floating face-down in his own swimming pool. Leaving aside, for the moment, how mom ended up in her underwear at a man’s house on a first date, Mel springs into action. It only looks worse for mom when the police discover that Baxter didn’t drown; he was strangled with one of mom’s stockings. That’s awkward.

Turns out, there were plenty of people who might want to see serious harm visited on Baxter. He’d run a Ponzi scheme that defrauded many wealthy people out of every penny they ever had. His estranged son, who now goes by the name Roach and plays in a famous rock band, coincidentally happened to be in town that week. Mel thinks that makes him a viable suspect, but Roach and Mel’s business partner, Angie, are in some kind of whirlwind relationship, so that’s awkward in more ways than one. Any way you slice it, Mel needs to figure out who killed Baxter to keep her mom and her friend out of danger. Or jail.

This is the second in a very entertaining series (SPRINKLE WITH MURDER) based around the owners of a cupcake bakery. If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to avoid sweets, either avoid this book or use it as a vicarious sugar fix. There’s lots of cupcake talk, flavor inventions, and even recipes included. (I tried a couple from the first book, with great results.) The lifelong friendship between Mel, Angie, and their third partner, Tate, seems real and organic. I love their running game of identifying movie quotes. Angie has been in love with Tate forever, but Tate remained blissfully unaware until Angie started dating Roach. It adds a level of real personal involvement for everyone.

The mystery is interesting and there are plenty of potential suspects in the area. Aside from Roach, there’s everyone in the area affected by Baxter’s fraudulent money games. And, of course, the police are looking hard at Mel’s mom, because it’s hard to believe that she went to change and just happened to miss someone showing up and killing her date in those few minutes. The dialogue is done very well, and the pacing is quick and even. I pretty much read this in one sitting. And now I want cupcakes.

Rating: 7 ½
January 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-23924-7 (paperback)


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