Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Sheetcake Named Desire - Jacklyn Brady

A Sheetcake Named Desire
A Piece Of Cake Mystery
Jacklyn Brady
Berkley Prime Crime

Rita Lucero isn’t in New Orleans to take in the sights.  Her almost-ex-husband, Philippe, owns Zydeco Cakes.  The two of them met while training to be pastry chefs.  They split some time ago, but Philippe refuses to sign the final papers making their divorce official.  On Rita’s first day in the city, he manages to duck her.  She’s not going to let that happen again, so she very conspicuously sets up in the lobby of Zydeco Cakes.  He has to come through at some point.  And she’s fairly sure he wants to see her.  He left a message for her, saying that he’d made a ‘mistake’ and now wants to fix it.
Or maybe he doesn’t.  Sounds of a fight drift in from the loading dock and Rita, along with the bakery employees, drift that way.  There’s a lot to take in at the scene.  It seems that several of Rita’s and Philippe’s mutual friends went to work for Philippe; and Rita can’t help but notice that Zydeco Cakes is the realization of her dream shop.  Most importantly, Philippe was apparently fist-fighting with Ox, a friend who’d been like a brother to him.  Philippe is a little way away, in the rose garden out back.  He’s lying there with a knife in his chest, dead.
One shock follows another as Rita learns that, as Philippe’s legal wife, she inherits the bakery and Philippe’s home.  Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with the blonde magnolia who claims that Philippe intended to marry her.  But Miss Frankie, Rita’s almost-ex-mother-in-law seems just fine with it.  In fact, Miss Frankie seems happy to see Rita and asks her to stay on to help her deal with arrangements.  Of course, to the police, Rita is a prime suspect in Philippe’s murder.  And so is Ox.  Rita decides that she needs to sort out some things.  Not least of which would be to find out which of their longtime friends (now her employees) wanted to kill Philippe.
This is the first in a new series, and it looks like a real winner.  Rita comes across as a real person with real, complex emotions.  Watching her deal with Philippe’s death and the emotional aftermath really gives the reader insight into her character.  She feels a bit betrayed that all of their friends work at Zydeco, but she had nothing comparable to offer them.  Getting reacquainted while being the boss is stressful, but she handles it as well as she can, all while trying to uncover a murderer.

The mystery itself is well constructed and contains several subplots and possible outcomes.  Rita’s relationship with Miss Frankie seems realistic under the circumstances, with a few bumps but a lot of respect on both sides.  The setting, New Orleans, is wonderful and evocative as always, and I was happy to see the author avoid the “eccentric goofy southerners” stereotypes.  Each character has reasons for his/her actions.  Things like this make all the difference in a mystery, especially when a series is just beginning.  Includes recipes for everything from jambalaya to strawberry jam.
Rating: 7
August 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-24274-2 (paperback)


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