This is the first book in the Cheese Shop Mysteries that I have read. I decided I needed to jump into the series that received the Agatha Award for best first novel with "The Long Quiche Goodbye."
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Copyright: February 2012 (Berkley) 336 pgs
Series: 3rd in Cheese Shop Mysteries
Sensuality: mild romance
Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy
Main Characters: Charlotte Bessette, proprietor of Fromagerie Bessette - aka the Cheese Shop
Setting: Modern day, Providence, Ohio
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
The town is gearing up for the Winter Wonderland fair where the Cheese Shop will have a booth. Kaitlyn Clydesdale, who grew up in Providence. breezes into town with grand plans of buying up land and starting a competing honeybee farm. Kaitlyn proves to be a cut throat business woman and is killed in short order. Unfortunately, the prime suspect - the established honeybee farmer, is the boyfriend of Rebecca, Charlotte's employee. Charlotte is also working out some questions surrounding her boyfriend, Jordan with the added complication of her ex-fiance Chip in town on Kaitlyn's payroll, trying to win Charlotte back.
Charlotte seemed nice enough but rather easily pushed around. This is my first book in the series so I can't judge whether this is the usual or just unique to this book. In particular I am referring to her employee Rebecca giving Charlotte orders, sending her on investigations rather than handle business during the faire (which meant dual hours for the shop and the fair booth.) If a small business owner really let an employee take off on a whim and dictate to the boss, she would be out of business quickly. This was just too unrealistic. Matthew, Charlotte's cousin and business partner was a good character and his twin daughters are a delightful touch. Matthew's ex-wife Slyvie is over-the-top in clothes and pushy which I wasn't finding beneficial to the story. Rebecca, former Amish, is hyper-emotional and just grated on me. Then there is Jordan, the handsome cheese-maker and love interest. I liked Jordan's character and would have liked more page time in this book. The standout character was Tyanne, who gets hired at the Cheese shop and despite her soon-to-be-ex flaunting a younger woman she throws herself into the job. Tyanne was in pain but showed her metal.
The setting seemed like a standard small town for a cozy with nothing exceptional. The winter fair was the best part of the the setting and gave the town more of a realistic touch. The cheese shop theme gives you tidbits about cheese that I personally enjoyed - but I love cheeses.
The plot was a basic cozy mystery with a few suspects. The mystery unfolds as more information is doled out about Kaitlyn and her deals. The biggest key to the mystery is finding the actual murder weapon, which is elusive until the end.
The killer confrontation was nicely suspenseful, the way I like them. The wrap up, down to the last sentence, is touching and sets up the next book expertly.
This is a good cozy mystery with plenty suspects and suspicions. My only reservation is the character Rebecca and her unrealistic sway over her employer, as mentioned before.
Rating: Good - A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying. If you are already a fan, you will want to read this book but it may not be the best to start with.
There are book club questions available on the author's website (click here.)
Here is the short book trailer for the book.