Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Taste of Summer, in a New Cozy from Bree Baker, A CALL FOR KELP

I don't usually review a book this far ahead -- A CALL FOR KELP won't release until May 26. But I reached my limit on winter wonderland this week (entering March in Vermont is not really springlike), and dove into an advance review copy. Bree Baker's Seaside Café Mysteries, set in the North Carolina beach town of Charm, are sweet in every sense of the term: packed with foodie delights (and always some recipes at the end), layered with friendship and blossoming romance, and nimbly plotted to show how crime erupts from greed and ignorance. And how family and friends will pull you through challenges.

The series features Everly Swan, back in her hometown and running a café that specializes in all sorts of sweet tea blends, as well as summery delights like mango shrimp spring rolls (yes, that recipe is included!). Although pestered by the presence of her ex-boyfriend, a rodeo type, she's steadily making progress in a new relationship with the town's law enforcement detective, Grady Hays. But has Grady set a spy into Everly's business, to try to keep her out of investigating further crimes? How can she hold back, when her beloved great aunts are at risk once again?

Suspecting her new assistant Denise -- also the caregiver for Grady's son Denver -- pins Everly in an awkward position.
"I hope it's okay that I'm here already. I thought I could help you with the morning prep and we could talk more about the Mitzi Calgon case." She whispered the last part of her statement, then gave the world around us a quick look presumably for prying eyes or ears.

I pulled my lips to the side, unsure how to respond and feeling like her comment was part of a setup. Possibly something Grady concocted to gauge my involvement or teach me a lesson. ... "I thought you wanted me to stay out of Mitzi's murder," I said, glancing briefly into Denise's eyes before turning back for my house.
There are so many delightful touches and twists in this briskly paced mystery: the victim is a former actress from pirate films, the town swells with fans, Everly wrestles with doubts, and other romances look like they're blossoming too, in spite of more threats of violence.

Don't expect Everly to solve all the details on her own. The way her friends pitch in, though, is well worth the read, the red herrings make sense, and the solution to the murder is highly satisfying.

So when winter gets a bit much for you too, start lining up that important summer-time TBR stack, with a pre-order of A CALL FOR KELP at your local independent bookstore or online. No need to read Bree Baker's other books before this one, but all the Seaside Café Mysteries are enjoyable, and you might as well add more while you're ordering!

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.   

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