Author: Bailey Cates
Finishing up the month of paranormal books is the newest from the Magical Bakery series. I reviewed the prior book, Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti (#2) (click here) as well as interviewed the author (click here.)
Copyright: November 2013 (Signet Publishing) 336 pgs
Series: 3rd in Magical Bakery Mystery series
Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy
Main Character: Katie Lightfoot, co-owner of the Honeybee Bakery
Setting: Modern day, Savannah GA
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
Katie has been volunteering at the Georgia Wild Conservation group. Showing up to volunteer, she finds the director, Autumn Boles murdered and a strange origami bat in red paper clutched in her hand. This clue suggests that the Fegan Swamp, with reported sightings of an exstinct maroon bat, are central in the murder...which means that Steve Dawes' father could be involved as he is attempting to purchase and develop the land as a golf course. Since Steve chose to join with his father and the Dragoh all-male druid group, Katie has avoided Steve. On top of this, Katie's mother makes a surprise visit to try and patch the strained mother-daughter relationship. Her mother has some magical surprises of her own.
Katie is a common sense character I can relate to. I like her level-headed outlook and gusto for life. Declan, the firefighter boyfriend, is tested in this book regarding how well he can accept who Katie really is. Steve Dawes makes it clear that he wants to remain friends if that is the only way he can be in Katie's life. Steve is the wildcard still in the deck who works magic by Katie's side and understand that side of her. Mary Jane, Katie's Mother, added great depth to the Katie and I hope to see her more in future novels. Wren Knowles, Mimsey's granddaughter and the new head of Georgia Wild Conservation, was timid at first and began to blossom.
The "Book Club" members' cohesiveness is tested as well: Lawyer Jaida who specializes in tarot, Bianca is wealthy and works with moon magic, Cookie is the free spirit who uses Voodoo, matriarch Mimsey uses a crystal ball plus color & flower magic, and Aunt Lucy is a hedge-witch working with plants.
Fegan Swamp and the eerie Cypress tree were great settings, but other than Katie's mom taking a tourist bus through Savannah there is still now distinguishing the location from any southern town. I find it interesting that Savannah is supposed to be a good sized city of 131,510 people, you get the sense of a much smaller town in this book.
The plot is a solid cozy concept and plays out logically. There are a few misdirects for surprises. The pacing kept my interest easily. The climax had some excitement, but the prior book had such a hard-to-follow climax it seemed not as big as it could have been. The wrap-up tied loose ends but no real cliff hangers.
This series produces another rock solid hit with mystery and magic in a dynamic combination.
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.
With the holiday season fast approaching, there will be family gatherings and potlucks aplenty. Try this recipes out.
Crumb-Topped Apple Slab Pie
Prep: 45 mins Bake: 40 mins 375°F
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter-flavored shortening
8 - 10 tablespoons cold water
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 1/2 pounds tart cooking apples (such as Rome Beauty or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (10 cups)
1. Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with 18-inch-wide foil, extending the foil up over the edges of the pan; set aside. For dough: In a large bowl, stir together the 2-1/4 cups flour and the salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cold water over part of the flour mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to side of bowl. Repeat, using 1 tablespoon cold water at a time, until all of the flour mixture is moistened. Using your fingers, gently knead the dough just until a ball forms.
2. Preheat oven to 375F. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 19x13-inch rectangle. Wrap it around the rolling pin; unroll it into the prepared baking pan. Ease dough into the pan and up the sides, being careful not to stretch it. Trim dough to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pan. Fold dough edge over and flute as desired.
3. In an extra-large bowl, combine sugar, the 1/3 cup flour, and the cinnamon; add apples. Toss lightly until apples are coated. Spoon apple mixture into dough-lined pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle with Crumb Topping (pan will be full).
4. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender. If necessary to prevent overbrowning, cover top with foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking. Cool slightly in pan on a wire rack.
5. Serve warm or cool completely. Cut into rectangles. Makes 25
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup pecans
1. In a large bowl, stir together quick-cooking rolled oats, packed brown sugar, and all-purpose flour. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until topping mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in chopped pecans.