Title: A Dash of Death (A Cocktails and Catering Mystery #1)
Author: Michelle Hillen Klump
Published on: 8 Feb 2022
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Samantha Warren lost her job as a reporter for the Gazette and her fiancé Greg in rapid succession. Samantha spends what was supposed to be her wedding night at a meeting of the local historical-homes council where she’s asked to serve homemade bitters to the guests. The same 300 bottles of bitters she had made as giveaway presents for her wedding…
Mark, a local builder and a member of the historical-homes council falls ill during the meeting. When the meeting wraps up, Samantha’s friend finds a cocktail glass containing oleander flowers in the bathroom. Samantha had used phlox flowers for garnish (and to add a dash of tang and spice to the drink.) So, who replaced phlox with the poisonous oleander? Was this supposed to be Mark’s drink?
The next day, Samantha wakes up to the news that Mark is dead. She becomes the main suspect in Mark’s murder. And, as a cherry on top, Mark’s estranged wife Gabby files a lawsuit against Samantha and the council for killing her husband. Samantha was already to a rough start since her breakup with her fiancé and now, being accused of murder was definitely not what she needed…
A Dash of Death is the first book in Michelle Hillen Klump’s Cocktails and Catering Mystery series. Set in Houston, Texas, the series features a reporter-turned-mixologist Samantha who is slowing ‘recovering’ from the basket of lemons life threw at her.
What a fantastic cozy series debut! A perfect combination of character introduction, series plot introduction and a mystery to keep one guessing till the end. I really loved the way Samantha uses her reporter skills to gather clues. My oh my, don’t get me started on all the bitters mentioned in the book. I am a teetotaler and I have never tried a drink before but reading this story made me want to try one. Orange peels, vanilla, cherry, a dash of spiciness in the form of chili and pepper tincture, goodness! Sounds like a mouth-watering concoction.
The story begins with Samantha getting ready for the council meeting. It was supposed to be her wedding day but thanks to her ex, Greg, who got cold feet at the last minute, she’s now going to spend her night catering to the guests at the council meeting. Years ago, Samantha had found a young woman wrongly accused of committing a crime and played a major role in proving her innocence. Two years after being out of prison, the young woman murdered an old lady. Samantha could never stop beating herself for being responsible for the old lady’s murder. Greg was the one who consoled her back then. And now, he’s gone away…
When one of the council members falls ill at the meeting, he’s taken home. He falls sick once again and is taken to the hospital where he breathes his last the next morning. Samantha was responsible for the drinks and since the victim died of oleander poisoning (which was found in his drink), Samantha becomes the main suspect. The victim’s estranged wife files a lawsuit against Samantha and the council members. The Gazette picks up this news and further leads to Samantha’s downfall. Her major freelance writing gig is gone – they don’t want a murderer working for them!
Throughout the story, we see the pain of rejection that Samantha goes through. Though Greg is no longer in her life, in her lowest period, she calls him. Then, someone asks her out on an impromptu date and she’s confused – is it too early to move on? Her thoughts go back to Greg… As the story ends, we readers learn Samantha and Greg share a toxic-ish relation.
Samantha’s two friends Marisa and Beth (Marisa’s girlfriend) also play a significant role in the story. Then there is Gabby, the victim’s estranged wife. Initially, Samantha is angry at the woman for ruining her life (the lawsuit, remember?) But when Samantha uses her reporter skills to dig deeper into Gabby’s life, she feels bad for her. The poor woman might be innocent after all… Hmm…
The mystery kept me guessing till the end and I could not identify the killer. Red herrings are plenty and twists and turns make sure the reader must take a break from donning the detective hat. Michelle is a master storyteller. A Dash of Death might be a first in the series but it has already made it to my list of favorites.
A Dash of Death by Michelle Hillen Klump is an entertaining, engrossing and mind-blowing cozy series debut. If you love cocktails and bitters, mouth-watering food (oh, there are a handful of recipes at the end of the story for you to try) and a mystery that keeps you guessing till the end, make sure to add A Dash of Death to your TBR list.
Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an ARC.