01 April 2023

Two Culinary Cozy Mysteries (Weekend Cooking)

Today I'm writing about two culinary cozy mysteries I've recently read. One strays a bit from the genre's usual formula, and the other one is as cozy and familiar as it gets. I enjoyed them both.

The cover shows a light brown woman with tight braids and wearing an apron.Against the Currant by Olivia Matthews (2023, St. Martins Press) is a fun first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in the Little Caribbean neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Lyndsay Murray worked hard to realize her lifelong dream of opening a West Indian bakery-cafe in partnership with her Grenadian family--Mom, Dad, brother Devon, and Granny. On opening day, friends, neighbors, and relatives line up to buy Spice Island Bakery's sweet and savory treats. All is going smoothly until a rival bakery owner shows up and begins to publicly bully Lyndsay into shuttering her shop. When the baker is later found murdered, Lyndsay becomes the prime suspect.

There is much to love about this cozy. First, it's unique in avoiding many of the usual cozy tropes. Lyndsay is smart, knows how to defend herself (she's a kickboxer), and always puts her family and business first. She, of course, does conduct her own investigation of the murder, but the story always comes back to her business, for example, we see the family baking and Lyndsay doing the book work and closing up the cafe at the end of the day. We don't see Lyndsay going down into a dark basement all by herself, and when she senses danger, she exits or calls for help.

The secondary characters are always important in a cozy, and this one is no different. Here, we get to know Lyndsay's close-knit family, learning their backstories and current life situations. We also meet Lyndsay's cousin and some neighbors and friends.

Lyndsay's character is well done: she's determined and smart but is also insecure. She worries about letting down her family and wants to protect them from harm. The bakery and the Little Caribbean streets and locals also play big roles in the story. I can't wait to revisit the clan and neighborhood in future books.

Note too, that this culinary cozy ends with two recipes from Spice Island Bakery: Currant Rolls and Coconut Bread. I like that I can bring some West Indian sweets into my kitchen.

The audiobook was beautifully read by Janina Edwards, who particularly excelled at the many needed accents. See my review of the audiobook at AudioFile Magazine.

Book cover showing a stack of round cheeses set up at an outdoor weddingCurds of Prey by Korina Moss (2003, St. Martin's Press), the third installment of the Cheese Shop Mystery series, has all the elements fans are looking for in a good culinary cozy.

Set in the Sonoma Valley, the series centers around Willa and her cheese shop. As background to the series and to the murder, we learn about Willa, her friends and co-workers, and the townsfolk. In this outing, Willa and other local caterers are setting up for an outdoor bridal shower on the grounds of a wealthy estate. Trouble brews before the party gets started and by day's end, there's been a murder.

Because Willa found the body, she's curious about the case. And when the town's mayor asks her to unofficially investigate, Willa can't resist. Of course, she's not in this alone and can rely on help from her closest friends. The plot has a good mix of town happenings and various red herrings. Willa and her friends cooperate with the police, who seem to know what they're doing. Throughout, we see Willa cooking up a number of yummy-sounding cheesy dishes for herself and others.

I enjoyed the escape to California and getting to know Willa. I didn't guess the killer, but once the villain was revealed, I could see that it made sense. As with all good culinary mysteries, the book ends with a couple of recipes for dishes mentioned in the story.

Note that although I haven't read the first two books in the series, I never felt lost or that I was missing out. I'm looking forward to reading more adventures with Willa and the gang.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


rhapsodyinbooks 4/1/23, 8:37 AM  

Thanks for posting these. Both of the settings sound great. The Little Caribbean neighborhood is a wonderful area to set a book, and as for the second, who could resist a cheese shop in the Sonoma Valley (makes me want to go there....)

Jackie McGuinness 4/1/23, 9:37 AM  

These sound like good reads!

gluten Free A_Z Blog 4/1/23, 9:49 AM  

Although I usually read non fiction, these books do sound fun and interesting. I always love the cooking themes. Thanks for the reviews.

Tina 4/1/23, 9:56 AM  

I like a book with recipes included and a bit of Caribbean i our kitchen would be very welcome.

Vicki 4/1/23, 6:40 PM  

It's been too long since I read a cozy. Both of these sound good!

Claudia 4/1/23, 7:54 PM  

Sounds like a series I'd like. Have reserved Cheddar off Dead, having decided to start with the first. Thanks for the recommendations. Our library doesn't have the other one yet.

Marg 4/1/23, 9:46 PM  

I haven't read a cozy mystery for years! These two both sound good, but if I had to choose it would be the first one.

Thanks for sharing with Weekend Cooking.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 4/2/23, 8:30 AM  

I really need to read more, you always offer a great review!

Sherry's Pickings 4/5/23, 12:48 AM  

I usually find cosies of any sort too - well, cosy! But the first one you mention sounds somewhat better! Happy Easter.

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