What I Read in August 2016 Part VI. . .Kernel of Truth by Kristi Abbott-Cozy Mystery
Rebecca has returned to her hometown a failure. Though she went to culinary school and married a hot shot celebrity chef, her marriage failed and she's now broke. She takes solace in baking and cooking. Her grandmother figure, Coco Bittles, owns the fudge shop next door and plans to go into business with Rebecca combining popcorn with fudge (um yes PLEASE!). When Rebecca hears screaming coming from next door, she enters the shop through the broken window to find Coco lying dead. Rebecca wants the murder solved but she quickly becomes a prime suspect. All the locals gossip about her and Rebecca knows who is feeding that gossip-Jessica! Coco's niece and Rebecca's rival since grade school, Jessica is Coco's legal heir and will inherit Coco's secret fudge recipe. If only Rebecca had some way to prove Coco meant to go into business with her, it would clear her name and show everyone she is not a failure.
I made the mistake of starting this late last night. I stayed up until halfway through the book when I got too tired to read. The murderer is very easy to figure out. I knew who did it right away and didn't waver until about 3/4 of the way into the book. The person had the motive, the means and the opportunity. Not to mention the clues add up. All that was left was to find out how Rebecca can prove it. Sadly, she doesn't figure it out until the end. She has to be rescued by a man, so I am taking points off for that. The best part of the book is the recipes. Yuummm. As soon as it cools off, I want to try some of the popcorn recipes. I've made popcorn balls before and it isn't easy. Popcorn + fudge = YES PLEASE!
I'm undecided whether I like Rebecca. I felt sorry for her at first. Jessica is a first class *itch and I longed to slap her. I'm only 2 inches taller - with shoes on - so it's a fair fight! She can't bite my knee. However, Rebecca has never learned to be polite and fake nice. She makes no pretensions as to her feelings for Jessica and it turns the town against her. I felt a tiny bit sorry for Jessica actually, at times. She was right about Rebecca being a food snob. Can't you just eat something someone made to be kind and caring even if it's not made "properly"? How many people in this world would even know that? I DO agree about tea though. That powdered stuff in bags is NOT tea. Rebecca's constant pity party got a bit on my nerves. I know how it feels to return to your hometown a failure. I get it. She's not a failure! She owns a successful business and her treats make people happy. She has a dog and nephew who adore her, a loving sister and brother-in-law and a hunky lawyer who wants to kiss her. How is that a failure? I didn't understand the narrow-mindedness of small town life and how that played into Rebecca's feelings. Coco should have stood up for Rebecca in the first place and announced her business intentions.
Rebecca also does some really stupid stuff. Technically the first time wasn't all that stupid but the next two times she got in trouble, she should have known better. She, like most cozy murder mystery heroines, hides evidence and lies to the police. This time the sheriff is her best friend and brother-in-law, so that's kind of not a good thing.
I'm also undecided about Garrett. I share his feelings towards green bean-hating toddlers. He makes Rebecca nervous but she doesn't really specify why. He seems nice and willing to help. I don't really get what he sees in Rebecca though.
This book lacks many quirky characters who make up the small town. Mostly there's Annie, who owns the flower shop and is Rebecca's friend. She seems to be Rebecca's only friend but they're not super close. There's also Barbara who owns an antiques shop and is the victim of a break-in similar to Coco's. Finally there are the panhandlers. Jared is a complex character. I like his quirkiness. His friend Tom, on the other hand, needs to be bashed on the head with a frying pan. He may even be a murderer for gosh sakes!
I enjoyed the recipes more than the plot but I'm willing to read the second book if my library gets it.
A Front Page Affair by Radha Vatsal--Historical Mystery
Kitty Weeks has come to live with her wealthy businessman father in New York. She longs to fit in with the socialite society her money gains her entry to, but at the same time, she wants more than a life of keeping house for her father and waiting to marry. She takes a job at a newspaper, dreaming of being a reporter- however, in 1915, the only women reporters wrote the women's page of the paper. Reporting about society, who wore what, when is not what Kitty had in mind but she hopes to take on more responsibility soon. Her dream comes true sooner than she dreamed after she is sent to report on a Fourth of July party and is on hand when a guest is murdered. Suddenly Kitty finds herself investigating the murder. Her clues lead her to discover some possibly dangerous information that could threaten to undermine everything she's ever known.
I had mixed feelings about this book. I liked it but I was expecting more. It is thankfully a little different from the typical Edwardian novel, but not a lot different from any other Gilded Age mystery I've read so far. The plot kept me fully engaged and reading late into the night. I had to put it down and finish it the next day. However, I was a bit disappointed in the outcome. I really really hated the Italian stereotype. I know the stereotypes were common at that time, but the author really really didn't need to go there! I kept thinking, "What is this? The Godfather light?" The mystery goes in a different direction but the stereotype was there and made me drop down my rating.
The other thing that made me knock off points is Kitty's German. If Kitty went to school in Switzerland and learned Swiss German, she would not speak high German like a native of Germany. Any real German would know the difference at once. That part of the story was completely unbelievable, not to mention the way it happens. One other thing that bothered me wa sthe mention of "mutton chop sleeves." After I stopped laughing hysterically at the mistake, I realized that a good editor should have caught it and corrected it. Then when I saw all the research the author did, I was disappointed in her for not actually reading those ladies' pages! If she had, she would know that leg o'mutton sleeves (not mutton chop-those are whiskers) went out at the beginning of the decade. Goodness, one only needs to watch James Cameron's Titanic to see what styles were like in the 1910s and teens. Period dressmaking magazines and fashion plates are online so there's no excuse for the mistake, funny as it was. There are lots of descriptions of what Kitty was wearing but nothing that pointed specifically to 1915.
I liked Kitty but I didn't quite love her yet. She's a real sleuth, not a clueless debutante stumbling into clues to a murder. This is good and bad. It makes the story a little more serious than I prefer. Kitty couldn't decide whether she wanted to fit in or not. She ultimately makes her decision and learns her true worth to the paper. For some reason, I just didn't love Kitty or really click with her. I identified with her need to do something more than be a socialite and her quest for information. I can't really say why I just didn't click with Kitty.
There are a lot of secondary characters. There's Mrs. Basshor, the hostess of the party. At first I didn't like her but once Kitty got to know her better, I liked her a lot and I hope she becomes a mentor to Kitty. There's also Miss Busby, Kitty's boss at the paper. She's incredibly annoying but Kitty learns to have sympathy for her. I wish there was a bit more there so we know why she is the way she is. Aimee Cole, the widow of the victim, is a complex character. It would be interesting to get inside her head and know what she was thinking. Mr. Hotchkiss, Mrs. Basshor's right hand man, was based on Ward McAllister and Harry Lehr. I liked him as much as Kitty did and better than his real life counterparts. I really didn't care for Kitty's socialite friend Amanda. She annoyed me. There's also the mysterious Dr. Albert who seems nice. I was surprised by his story and that he was a real person! Kitty's father is also mysterious in his own way. I was surprised by the direction his story took and was hoping for something different. I didn't really like him very much. Finally, there's Booth and Soames, more mysterious men, one of whom is a potential love interest for Kitty, but I didn't see any spark of romance between them.
The author's note on the true history was slightly more interesting than the novel. This book is largely forgettable but not a bad read. I enjoyed it.