Series: Cookbook Nook Mystery #1
Format Read: egalley
Source: publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Buying Links: Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | OmniLit*
Blurb from goodreads:
In need of a change, Jenna Hart leaves the high-pressure world of advertising to help her aunt, Vera, open a culinary bookshop and café. Back with her family in Crystal Cove, California, Jenna seems to have all the right ingredients for a fresh start—until someone adds a dash of murder.
As a marketing expert, Jenna wants to make sure the grand opening of the Cookbook Nook draws a crowd, and no one is better at getting attention than her old college roommate, celebrity chef Desiree Divine. But when Desiree arrives in quiet Crystal Cove to do a cookbook signing, the diva stirs up more trouble than business…especially when she turns up dead.
Known for stealing husbands and burning bridges, Desiree left behind plenty of suspects—including Jenna. Though the celebrity’s life always appeared to be an open book, Jenna will have to read between the lines in order to clear her name, and catch a killer before another body is served cold.
I very much enjoyed the first half of this book. It was a quick, easy read with a nice light tone, and good characterization. I had read this author before under another name and wasn't impressed so I was happy that this book seemed a better match for me. But, some niggles from the first half and problems in the second half brought down my enjoyment of the book and in the end it was a struggle to finish.
There were some improbabilities - the supposed similarities between Jenna's father and actor Cary Grant; the intense hatred Pepper, a store owner and the police chief's mother, has for Jenna and her family; very convenient timing several times during the book; the conflict between Jenna and her father, honestly I thought it was a joke at first. Grief changes people and they do hurtful things to each other but I just couldn't buy it. Also, Jenna was remarkably unencumbered by her responsibilities as store owner; she has little to actually do with it except when it suits the story. The dialogue was occasionally stilted and some of the characters, such as Jenna's father and her aunt Vera, needed better fleshing out.
I did like the setting and Gerber's use of it, it was almost another character. I really liked the portrayal, for the most part, of Jenna's amateur investigation into the murder when she is the prime suspect. It felt like a realistic portrait of what the average person with no police or legal experience might do if they undertook an investigation. There were some unlikely coincidences but overall it was more realistic in that regard than most cozy mysteries. We see very little of the police investigation and Jenna feels utterly left out; which as a suspect, she would be. The chief is not one to conveniently share info, but neither does she she have an active dislike for our heroine, as you often see in cozies.
Still, the second half of the book dragged, the improbabilities piled up, and I rapidly lost interest. Gerber does give us lots of red herrings and false clues, but by the end I just didn't care anymore.