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When the Cookie Crumbles
Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery # 3
Virginia Lowell

Berkley Prime Crime
August 2012/ 978-0-425-25148-5
Mystery/Amateur Sleuth/Cozy

Reviewed by Laura Hinds

Olivia Greyson and her best friend and business partner, Maddie Briggs, run The Gingerbread House, a small town bakery that sells cookies, cookies and more cookies. They also stock the appropriate accoutrements, such as baking supplies, cookie cutters, and even lovely hand-embroidered aprons.

The Gingerbread House is located in Chatterley Heights, a small town where everyone knows each other. As Chatterly Heights prepares to celebrate its 250th anniversary, the planning committee is on edge, as their self-appointed leader, Mayor Karen Evanson, snaps a sharp verbal wit to get them to do everything her way and do it pronto. During one of the last planning sessions, being held at The Gingerbread Shop, two supposed strangers enter uninvited and declare that they are Paine Chatterley and his wife, Hermione. Reports of Paine’s death sometime previously had been in error, and he was back to claim the family mansion. Chatterley Mansion that is, which the town had inherited and had been restoring for the anniversary celebration.

Paine is disagreeable and smug, and declares Chatterley Mansion off-limits for tours. Hermione appears flustered and easily confused, but generally is pleasant. It doesn’t take long for someone to murder Paine, and unfortunately for the local police, there is no shortage of suspects. Paine had enemies from his formative years in Chatterley and had been racking up new ones at a rapid pace. Olivia, with a little encouragement from Sheriff Del Jenkins, does some snooping. Del has said she could visit with the widow, and see if she might have some success getting her to open up about her late husband. Del, however, warns her not to go too far and put herself in danger. As if any amateur sleuth, particularly one with a good track record could help herself!

Lowell has a knack for drawing a reader right into the heart of her stories. I especially enjoyed the fact that I didn’t peg the killer until he or she revealed themselves, near the end of the book. The cast of characters are typical of a real-life small town, with a bossy mayor, busy merchants, and a once wealthy family who has gone to ruin.

The romance between Olivia and Del continues to deepen, and their sexual tension is palpable. This is a yummy mystery, and I loved the atmosphere of the cookie shop. The only problem was that I hadn’t had the foresight to stock up on cookies and had no baking supplies at hand. So be forewarned, you’ll be right in the middle of enjoying this story when you’ll be more than ready for some gingerbread cookies. I suggest you either bake or get to a bakery before you start to read.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Cookie Dough or Die #1
A Cookie Before Dying #2

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