Title: Gingerbread and Ghosts (Peridale Cafe Mystery #10)
Author: Agatha Frost
Published on: 12 December 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Christmas is around the corner and it is time for festivities. But not for Julia South, the owner of Peridale Cafe. Grandma Dot gets herself into a mess when something goes deadly wrong at the opening night of a play. For a scene, Dot is supposed to shoot her co-actor with a fake gun but someone has replaced the fake gun with a real one. Marcus, the co-actor is fatally shot dead by Dot. Julia learns Dot and Marcus had a history – Marcus has cheated her of thousands of pounds soon after Grandpa Albert’s death and Dot had taken Marcus to court.
Julia has to juggle between proving her grandmother’s innocence, dealing with her sister Sue’s about-to-pop twins, Detective Inspector/boyfriend Barker Brown’s dream to be a renowned author and Jessie’s adoption drama.
I have been following this series for a while now. Julia, Barker and Jessie have come a long way and so have the rest of the characters. It is always great to see a character grow as the story proceeds. In Gingerbread and Ghosts, Jessie’s adoption and Barker’s dilemma takes precedence over the murder mystery.
The mystery behind the ‘accidental’ murder of Marcus is interesting. Catherine, Marcus’s new wife, seems to have a spot of luck always – four out of five ex-husbands have died, leaving behind a vast fortune to their ‘dear and young’ wife. Is this mere coincidence or did Catherine kill Marcus? If so, does this mean she killed her other husbands too?
Poppy, the teenager with a shock of red hair, piques Julia’s curiosity. The girl is either downright rude or jittery. She also seems to have caught the attention of the local Post Office owner Shilpa’s son Jayesh. Shilpa’s comment made me cringe – she says Poppy might not be a good partner for her son – Shilpa’s (and her son’s) skin colour and Poppy’s red hair might not look good on their offspring! Seriously???? Then she goes on to say she went against her mum’s wishes and married a man named Smith. Hmm!
The charm and quirk factors were a little low in this book. Grandma Dot usually brings oodles of quirk to the story but she’s locked up in prison! She’s called Dangerous Dot in the prison. She also looks to be pretty comfortable in prison. She somehow blames herself – after all, she’s killed a man (unknowingly) and feels bad for it.
There were a couple of annoying elements that spoiled the read a tad. Grandma Dot is immediately arrested based on witness statements. The police are convinced Dot is the killer and do not want to look into other possible motives. Jessie goes berserk with the whole adoption process; if I have to describe Jessie in a word, I would say ‘Uncontrollable’. Barker has something important to say but he’s still waiting for the right time – for Julia, family comes first. She’s so engrossed with proving her grandmother’s innocence, she fails to see the signs her boyfriend’s been throwing in her direction.
Gingerbread and Ghosts was a quick and entertaining read irrespective of the niggles. This book can be read as a standalone but it would be good to start from book #1 to get a hang of the characters and story so far.