Monday, October 03, 2011

Death By The Dozen - Jenn McKinlay

Death By The Dozen
A Cupcake Bakery Mystery
Jenn McKinlay
Berkley Prime Crime

It’s time for the Scottsdale Food Festival and every chef is town is gearing up to participate.  This will be the first year that Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura will enter their cupcake bakery, Fairy Tale Cupcakes, in the cooking competition.  The cash prize ($10,000) is nothing to sneeze at; but the real prize is the local prestige and the possibility of being covered by the Food Channel.  One of their celebrity chefs, Johnny Pepper, will be acting as emcee for the event. Another star, Vic Mazzotta, was Mel’s favorite instructor when she attended the local culinary academy.  He’ll be one of the judges.
With all the chaos of competition, and the success of their bakery, Melanie and Angie have to find someone to fill in while they’re gone.  Angie’s many brothers are willing, but the ladies decide it’s time to hire an intern from the local school.  What they get is Oz, who looks like a towering goth/punk/thug.  With few options, and less time, they decide to take a chance.
The competition is based on using a mystery ingredient to create a dessert.  There will be several elimination rounds, culminating in a final four, with the winner taking all.  During the first day, Vic Mazzotta’s frozen body tumbles out of an ice truck.  Melanie is devastated, and her grief turns to anger when she hears that rumors claim it was some kind of suicide.  She knows that wasn’t Vic’s style.  But Vic was an outspoken kind of man and he made plenty of enemies, personally and professionally.  In fact, several of them are in town for the festival.  In between crazy cooking challenges and trying to run her bakery from afar, Melanie decides to find out what really happened.
This is the third in a series (SPRINKLE WITH MURDER, BUTTERCREAM BUMP OFF) and, so far, the best as far as good old entertainment value is concerned.  Anyone with even a passing familiarity with food/cooking shows will understand the characters and undercurrents going on here.  And if you’ve ever watched “Iron Chef” or “Cupcake Wars” or any of the competitive cooking shows, you’ll immediately understand the idea of cooking with a mystery ingredient and barely enough time.  The challenges are realistic, and Melanie comes up with some great desserts.  For those who’d care to give it a try, the recipes are included at the end.
The mystery is well-written and woven into the fabric of the competition setting quite nicely.  There are lots of new faces in town for the event, meaning lots of possible suspects and motives.  For those who’ve read the series from the start, local arch-rival Olivia is there, apparently determined to win at any cost.  She adds a bit of lunatic comic relief to the proceedings.  Oz is a great addition to the series, and I already have a soft spot for both him and the charming Captain Jack.  A great mystery, an entertaining all-or-nothing competition, and some real danger make this one the best installment so far.
Rating: 7 ¾
October 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-24405-0 (paperback)


At 10:40 AM, Blogger Jenn McKinlay said...

Wow! Thank you so much for the review. I'm delighted that you enjoyed it.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Deborah Hern said...

I take it you're the author? If so, I've enjoyed the entire series and several of the recipes!


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