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by Vicki Delany
Kensington, July 2022
304 pages
ISBN: 1496737695

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lily Roberts is already regretting being a contestant on the hot new TV reality show, "America Bakes!" Tea by the Sea is a small tea-shop in a small town in Maine. There is barely room enough in the kitchen for Lily to bake and the waitresses to fix the tea, much less throwing in camera folks and all the other necessary people required for an on-location shoot. There are plenty of locals more than happy to be the "guests" for the shoot, including the mouthy husband of the local mayor. He's a real pip. And there are three judges: Claudia D'Angelo, the author of several classic cookbooks; Scarlet McIntosh, there just for eye candy, and bad-boy chef Tommy Greene. Tommy Greene deliberately provokes one of the waitresses and her mother, Cheryl Wainwright leaps (on camera) to her defense. The directors, Josh and Reilly, are delighted. Confrontation on these shows bring in more watchers, and this is classic. They don't even need a brouhaha between Lily and Allegra Griffin, owner of the bakery that is competing with Tea by the Sea, for a shot at advancing up the food-chain to the national competition. Lily has a conversation with Tommy later, in which he tells her that he apologized to Marybeth and it's just part of the shtick.

That's all well and good until the next morning, when Lily returns to Tea by the Sea and finds Tommy dead in her kitchen, and her marble rolling pin the obvious blunt object used to kill him. The local detective, Chuck Williams, has a history with Cheryl, and is quick to see her as the obvious killer. Lily won't believe that of Cheryl, and resolves to figure out who really wanted Tommy out of the picture. There are a plethora of suspects, some obvious and some not so much.

Vicki Delany has been writing mysteries for a while and it shows. Her characters are all people you or I might actually know, with all the flaws and imperfections that make a person real. Lily's growing relationship with Simon is an example of how well she can write about emotions. The setting could really be anywhere; it's not a part of the plot or the story and that doesn't mean Delaney doesn't convey the beauty and austerity of living on the Maine coast. She does. The story flows nicely. I was jerked out of the book momentarily by a conversation Lily overhears; the cogent point reminded me of a Rex Stout novel I read years ago and no, I don't remember the title. Those who are not Stout aficionados probably won't bat an eye when they read it. Delaney is a skilled planter of clues; I totally missed the biggest one that enables Lily to know who the killer was. I wish you better luck.

P.J Coldren: I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and two fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, July 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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