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by Eve Calder
St Martin's Paperbacks, July 2019
352 pages
ISBN: 125031299X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Kate McGuire had a really promising life in Manhattan as a pastry chef in a good restaurant, a nice apartment, and an engagement to the perfect man. All in one day she was notified that her apartment building would be going condo and she had to move out, her restaurant gave up and closed, and she realized that Mr. Perfect wasn’t and broke the engagement. In a move that many of us have dreamt of and never pursued, she decided to sell as much of her stuff as she could, close her bank accounts, and get in her old car and go to Florida, heading way down to coast to a tiny island community named Coral Cay.

Of course, her car croaked as soon as she hit town, but she met the mechanic who could get it going again and he was just the first of a bunch of good people whose lives intertwined with the endless stream of tourists needing to be catered to. He gave her walking directions to a number of places, including The Cookie House owned by widower Sam Hepplewhite who was looking for an assistant.

For reasons unknown, Sam refuses to bake and sell sweet things, but he is an amazing baker of breads and maker of meals so the shop sort of makes it financially – but just barely.

Yes. It’s a cozy. Kate finagles a way to live in the storage area above the shop and begins plotting ways to convince Sam that baking cookies and pies and cakes would be a bonanza for his business. It’s named The Cookie House, isn’t it? So she fixes up the storage space and moves in and is diverted almost immediately.

A local real estate agent, Stewart Lord, who is full of himself and basically contemptuous of every other human being he has contact with, ambles into the shop to pressure Sam once again to sell his shop for a pretty low price – it is doing rather badly after all – and Sam once again refuses. Quite greedily and nastily he also gets Sam to give him the cinnamon rolls Sam has baked for his own breakfast before he stomps out.

The rolls are poisoned – no surprise in a cozy – and Stewart dies right away. The local police fix on Sam immediately as the murderer because everyone knows that Sam and Stewart never got along, and Sam is arrested and put in jail. Kate promises him to keep The Cookie House going until they can straighten things out and she joins forces with a great lady whose flower shop and landscaping skills are amazing. Between them and the others who care about Sam they repaint the shop and do a ton about curb appeal and Kate takes control and begins baking.

And, again, it’s a cozy. The flaws in this novel are the usual cozy flaws: the willingness to break the law in order to gain possession of evidence the police haven’t found and aren’t looking for (never heard of chain of evidence and don’t care), and so forth.

And if these people eat any more sugar my teeth are going to fall out!

BUT! And it’s big. The setting is charming instead of cloying. The plot is reasonably strong though resolved in the cozy way. And the characters are very well drawn and developed – in fact, the complaint I have is that they are so downright intelligent that they could have gotten to the truth without trampling all over the legal issues and that would have made this cozy really special.

I encourage author Eve Calder to keep right on going with this series. I think it will pull in a large and happy audience. And if she could trust Kate et. al. to use the brains she’s given them, then WOW’S the limit.

§ Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, August 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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