Sophia Cummings has moved to Rumford for good. With her best buddy Charlotte Harrington, she co-manages the bakery – For Goodness Cakes. For Goodness seems to be Bitsy’s (Sophia’s mum) favorite word. Hence the name – For Goodness Cakes.
The duos are busy baking and preparing for the fund-raising event that is going to take place that evening at the Grape Valley Vinery. The place is owned by Ray Peels and managed by Giles and Tammy Dugan – the father-daughter duo. The event aims to raise money for the newly constructed (additional) two storeys at the library.
Catherine Fraxman, the librarian, is disappointed to hear that Ray, who had promised to give half-a-million dollars to the library has now taken a step back. He says that he’s selling the Vinery and he would not be giving any money to the library.
Catherine is angry and so is Madison. Madison is Sophia’s friend and real estate agent. She was supposed to look after the dealings of the Vinery. But when Ray makes insulting remarks by saying that she’s a hilly billy real estate agent, Madison loses her temper. She innocently remarks that she could do with strangling the guy for making such an audacious statement.
Sophia is now worried about the payment. She has spent a lot of money on the baking for the fundraiser and what if Ray refuses to pay? Off she goes in search of Ray Peel when she stumbles and falls in the Vineyard. She falls headlong onto something… or rather, someone – Ray! The guy is bashed in the head and his eyes are now lifeless, staring into oblivion.
With a couple of witnesses testifying that they heard Madison’s remark, Madison is now the main suspect in Ray’s murder. But Sophia knows that her best buddy is innocent. Though her boyfriend-sheriff – Carter – warns her not to poke her nose into something that can get her into trouble, Sophia decides to find the perp and clear her friend’s name.
The first thing I noticed about the story is the variety of baked goodies that Sophia makes! Cherry flip-flops, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, custom-made birthday cakes, macaroons, and whatnot, absolutely drool-worthy!
Bitsy, Sophia’s mother, is funny and weird. She always dreams (secretly) of her daughter marrying a rich guy and having a couple of babies. She’s also a bit disappointed that her daughter likes baking better than laces and pearls. But deep inside, Bitsy is proud of her daughter.
Charlotte and Madison, Sophia’s friends, play a very good role in the story. From being there for each other to helping out each other in tough times, the trio’s strong bond is well portrayed in the story. Sophia’s character is likable. Her loving and caring nature is portrayed every now and then in the story.
When Sophia learns that Madison is a suspect, she vouches to do whatever it takes to clear her friend’s name. Carter, the sheriff and Sophia’s boyfriend is another likable character in the story. Carter, though sometimes disappointed that Sophia wants to play detective, portrays an image of a loving and caring partner.
The four ladies – Sophia, Bitsy, Charlotte, and Madison form a “detective” group of their own – Operation Merlot. Although it’s only Sophia who does all the snooping around while the others gorge on baked goodies and drink wine. Duchess, Sophia’s Persian cat, was a cute addition to the story.
The story gets even more interesting when Sophia returns to her house after a date night with Carter and finds her house ransacked. To add to this mess, someone throws a brick through her shop window and threatens her. Carter is worried that Sophia might be in danger, but nothing can stop her.
The identity of the perp was shocking and unexpected. This is what I like about a good whodunnit. The suspects’ list is long – there’s Reba (works at the Vinery), the Dugans, Lanie (who slapped Ray), and Catherine. With a rumored affair between Ray and Reba, things get saucily interesting.
The author’s storytelling skills’ good. I liked the way the story proceeds, from a couple of people in the suspect list to ticking them off as innocent and finally ending up with none in the list. What else does one need in a Cozy story – baked goodies, a little bit of romance, a murder or two, someone threatening to stop the investigation, and a long suspects list. The story is a really good blend of all these and many more.
Batter Off Dead by Maymee Bell is interesting and keeps you hooked on till the end. And, for those who love to bake, there are a couple of recipes in the end.
Thank You, NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the ARC.
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