I had reviewed the debut book in the series, Snow White Red-Handed (click here) and an insightful interview with the author (click here). Although I skipped the second book in the series, I am jumping back in with this third installment.
Copyright: Feb 2016 (Berkley) 320 pgs
Series: 3rd in Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series
Sensuality: Attraction, period romance
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy
Main Characters: Miss Ophelia Flax is a fired New York actress, posing as a wealthy soap heiress
Setting: 1867, France
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
Apparently the prior book leaves Ophelia in a bit of a dilemma, she is engaged to the brutish Comte de Griffe in an attempt to irritate her preferred investigative partner—and romantic sparring partner—the pompous if dashing Professor Penrose. She fully intends to break the engagement, but her friend Henrietta is trying to marry a nobleman and asks that she keep up the charade during the Comte's winter hunting party to allow her time to snare a husband. Bad gets worse when Penrose arrives with his lovely new fiancée, plus a stagecoach of stranded travelers arrive at the Comte’s sprawling château.
But, the worst strikes when the Count insists on the wedding in a short few days and the ring is stolen preventing Ophelia from bolting for fear of being labeled a thief and the police on her trail. She frantically is looking for the ring when murder strikes and she already has suspicions. The murder is made to look like the Beast of Vezere has struck, but Ophelia notices Belladonna berries have played a role. Scene point-of-view swaps between Ophelia and Penrose which benefits the story.
Local legends of a half man and large wild boar seem confirmed with an old jaw bone discovery and a cave with petroglyphs. But who has made a shrine to the legendary beast in the cave?
Ophelia is resourceful, smart, and worldly but feels trapped by the situation and her feelings. Comte de Griffe has boorish table manners, wild mane of hair, and a habit of prowling away the wee hours is at first thought the beast and Ophelia the beauty, but is there a more real beast?
Professor Gabriel Penrose is on the trail of yet another fairytale's factual basis, but he finds himself more concerned with Ophelia and the danger surrounding them. He is similar to Flynn Carson played by Noah Wyle of The Librarian movies, just a bit more of a professor. Ivy is Gabriel's fiancée, but she seems to be a little too perfect. Henrietta and Forthwith are schemers and keep things hopping. The breakout character was Abel Christy, a precocious thirteen year old British noble who was among those stranded by a broken down coach and his escort is the first murder victim. He has two loves: science and eating.
The setting is an isolated region in the middle of France with a neighboring village that feels strange and doesn't like visitors, plus the cave with an altar to the mythical beast creates an eerie atmosphere. The story gets stranger at each turn and the setting adds to that feeling.
The plot has several levels and several twists and turns. The pacing maintains the interest with varied elements being developed. This is one of those books where you tell yourself "just one more chapter" and find a few hours have gone by. The climax is quite a ride, the killer reveal is a surprise, and the wrap up leaves things further complicated between Gabriel and Ophelia.
This series is hitting its stride and hooks the reader, reeling you into Ophelia's intrigue filled world where you won't want to leave.
Rating: Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend.
Easy Slow Cooker Black Forest Dump Cake
1/2 cup butter
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained and juice reserved
1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling
1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and mix with reserved juice from the can of pineapple. Mix in the cake mix and stir. Set the mixture aside.
Spread the crushed pineapple in a layer on the bottom of a slow cooker. Spoon the cherry pie filling in an even layer on top of the pineapple. Stir the butter/pineapple juice/cake mixture, and pour it over the pie filling.
Set the slow cooker to Low, and cook for 3 hours. Spoon the dessert into bowls, and let cool about 5 minutes to cool the hot pie filling before eating. Top with whipped cream.
Use a large crockpot because the cake will rise.