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A Cookie Before Dying
A Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery, No 2
Virginia Lowell

Berkley Prime Crime
December 2011/ 978-0-425-24501-9

Reviewed by Laura Hinds

Olivia Greyson and Maddie Briggs, best friends since they were children, run The Gingerbread House cookie shop, specializing in rare cookie cutters as well as the sugary treats themselves. Right next door, rival Charlene Critch owns The Vegetable Plate. Naturally, The Vegetable Plate features healthy foods, but owner Charlene takes things too far in her hatred of all things sugar.

One morning, Livvie finds the front lawn of her shop littered with balls of white paper that say "Sugar Kills." She·s convinced they are Charlene's handiwork, but when she looks over at The Vegetable Plate, she notices an upstairs light go on and off. Rushing over with the intent of confronting her neighbor, she discovers the front door unlocked and the shop trashed. The intruder is still in the building, but races out the back so that Livvie only sees him from behind, and cannot identify him.

The story picks up the pace from there, and before long, Charlene's ex-husband, Geoffrey King, is stabbed to death. To make matters worse, Livvie·s brother Jason confesses to the crime. Everyone knows Jason isn't a killer and Livvie and her mother both believe he thinks Charlene is the killer and he's taking the blame to protect her. Livvie makes it her mission to clear her brother·s name, while not interfering too directly in the police investigation. After all, she·s becoming romantically involved with Sherriff Del Jenkins and she doesn't want to get in hot water with him!

Set in small town Chatterley Heights, Lowell provides the reader with detailed descriptions of the old-fashioned Queen Ann house that Livvie works and lives in, as well as the other buildings around town. She makes ample use of small town gossip, as well as small town secrets kept for ages, but brings the reader into the story with both scenarios being carefully crafted.

The characters' personalities shine through clearly, although I must admit that a time or two, I felt the urge to shake a couple of them - most notably Jason, Livvie·s brother. His false confession didn·t ring true for a minute and his behavior was that of a lovesick teenager rather than an adult man.

This book is for cozy lovers, cookie lovers, and fans of amateur sleuths. There·s a solid mystery, good backdrop, a touch of romance and even some humor. I was disappointed that there were not any recipes included though. If you like Joanne Fluke's Cookie Shop Mystery series, you·ll like this series as well.

Reviewer Laura Hinds is the author of Are You Gonna Eat That Banana?
Reviewed 2012
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