Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron

Title: Bayou Book Thief (A Vintage Cookbook Mystery #1)

Author: Ellen Byron

Published on: 7 June 2022

Genre: Cozy Mystery

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Twenty-eight-year old widow Ricki James leaves Los Angeles to start a new life in New Orleans after her showboating actor husband perishes doing a stupid internet stunt.

Ricki’s dream comes true when she joins the quirky staff of Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, the spectacular former Garden District home of late bon vivant Genevieve “Vee” Charbonnet, the city’s legendary restauranteur. Ricki is excited about turning her avocation – collecting vintage cookbooks – into a vocation by launching the museum’s gift shop, Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware. Then she discovers that a box of donated vintage cookbooks contains the body of a cantankerous Bon Vee employee who was fired after being exposed as a book thief.

The skills Ricki has developed ferreting out hidden vintage treasures come in handy for investigations. But both her business and Bon Vee could wind up as deadstock when Ricki’s past as curator of a billionaire’s first edition collection comes back to haunt her.

Will Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware be a success … or a recipe for disaster?

Bayou Book Thief is the first book in Ellen Byron’s Vintage Cookbook Mystery series.

The story begins with Ricki waiting to meet Eugenia, President of Bon Vee Culinary House Museum. She’s nervous and wonders if Eugenia would accept her proposal to start a vintage cookbooks and kitchenware section at the museum.

Eugenia readily accepts Ricki’s proposal and Ricki is over the moon. But things take a turn for worse when an employee is caught stealing vintage cookbooks. The next day, he’s found dead in a box of vintage cookbooks. As Ricki starts to look into the owner of the vintage box, she learns the box and its contents were donated by the victim himself.

Curiosity gets the better of her and Ricki starts to investigate. She’s been a victim in the past – her previous boss turned out to be a fraud. This was followed by a failed marriage with her late husband. Ricki wants to make sure she’s not in trouble now… but it comes at a cost. The local detective is okay with Ricki investigating things on her own, but it doesn’t mean Ricki must put herself in harm’s way, innit?

I loved the story, the series-plot setting, the scene setting and the theme. I also found the main character (Ricki) and her backstory interesting. The only niggle I had with this book was the plethora of characters. As a series debut, character introduction plays a major role, yes. But I had trouble following who’s who until the first 75% of the book. To be honest, this dampened the read a tad. Just a tad.

The mystery behind the murder and the victim’s secret obsession kept me guessing till the end. We have a couple of side stories here. The ones that stood out the most (for me) were Ricki’s past (curator life and married life), Virgil’s involvement (former chef and most-probably Ricki’s beau in the near future *wink*), and a volunteer docent who’s leading a double life (or, should I say secretive life?)

The storytelling is excellent and the characters, likeable. Too many red herrings made it impossible for me to play detective so I let our amateur sleuth Ricki do the honors of finding the perp.

Overall, Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron was an entertaining read. An impressive start to the series. I am looking forward to knowing what’s next for Ricki.

I received an ARC from Berkeley Publishing Group and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.

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4 thoughts on “Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron

  1. I could understand the character thing dampening your enjoyment! That would bother me too, but I still might give it a read. I’m a sucker for anything set in New Orleans lol. Great review!

    1. Thank you.
      I will be reading the second book of this series soon – New Orleans setting once again. 😊

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