Charred by G.P. Gottlieb

It’s my stop today on the blog tour for Charred by G.P. Gottlieb. Many thanks to Lori from Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for the invite.

Title: Charred (A Whipped and Sipped Mystery #3)

Author: G.P. Gottlieb

Published on: 21 February 2023

Genre: Cozy Mystery

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Charred is the third book in G.P. Gottlieb’s Whipped and Sipped Mystery series.

Alene Baron, the owner of Whipped and Sipped is dealing with frustrated employees, closed schools, and a homeless man who harasses customers outside the door of her cafe. It’s 2020 and the world is unprepared for covid19. Alene is worried about her ill father. His caregiver Blanca is down with the virus and is currently hospitalized. Alene’s kids are grumpy and frustrated at being locked inside their homes.

Alene’s cafe is doing quite okay – business isn’t as usual but online orders and home deliveries has kept her cafe running. She cannot pay her employees full time but they make do with whatever available.

A body turns up at a burned building owned by husband of Alene’s best friend and pastry chef Ruthie. Alene was at the scene of crime with Kacey (employee at the cafe) and her boyfriend Kofi. They were at the building to rummage through the remains and salvage whatever Kofi can. He’s an artist who makes things out of burned wood. Alene had no idea Kofi had seen a dead body in the building. She learns of it from Kacey. But Kacey makes her promise not to talk of it to Alene’s boyfriend Frank who’s a detective with the Chicago PD.

At the same time, Alene’s father’s long lost brother Finn has contacted Cal (Alene’s father). He wants to meet Cal for one last time. Finn was convicted of bank robbery almost three decades ago. He was imprisoned and released a couple of years later. But he vanished from the face of earth until now. Why is he back and what does he want from his brother? Only Finn could tell…

Having read the first two books of this series, I was eagerly waiting to catch up on the latest installment. When I read the first book, I had trouble remembering who’s who because there were too many characters. But with book #2 and #3, it became quite easier not only to follow the recurring characters’ side stories but also remember their names and roles in the series.

Charred begins with the whole world going under lockdown. Gosh, reading this book brought back lockdown memories. The first year was worse because nobody knew what’s happening. People were falling sick all of a sudden, hospitals were full, schools and offices were closed. Alene too faces the confusion and frustration that most of us did during the first lockdown.

Alene’s kids are not coping well. Her dad doesn’t have caretaker now. Alene’s worried about her business. On top of it, her boyfriend/detective Frank has a problem of his own – something to do with his daughter Rhona. If these weren’t enough to keep Alene stressed, there’s a homeless man outside the cafe chasing away customers.

Then comes the mystery behind the dead body. Nobody knows who the victim is. But there’s a connection – Benjie. Ruthie’s husband Benjie owns the building. The victim was wearing a jacket that was previously owned by Ruthie’s kids. Is someone trying to frame Benjie? Alene and Ruthie think so.

We also have another side story here – that of Finn, Alene’s dad’s brother. This was an interesting addition to the series because family dynamics are explored. This seems to be a recurring theme in the series. We had previously seen Alene’s troubled relation with her ex-husband. Now we get to see that of her father’s.

There’s a lot of emphasis on how lockdown affected people – especially the front line workers. Alene spends every waking moment fearing ‘what if she catches the virus and gives it to her family too.”

The second half of the book was interesting. Many developments in the murder mystery – and Finn’s side of the story. Finally we have a series of events that leads Alene to the murderer – and she wasn’t expecting it. It was supposed to be a walk in the park, not walk into the killer’s arms!

Charred by G.P. Gottlieb was an interesting and engrossing mystery. Excellent storytelling and the mystery kept me guessing till the end. If you are looking for cozy mysteries set during the pandemic, I recommend you to give this book a try.

There’s a giveaway for this tour. Giveaway details are here.

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