Welcome to another Cozy Wednesday! With the weather getting colder and the snow last week this picture sure looks inviting.
I am really excited to have Livia here today. The Fresh Baked Mysteries are truly tasty delights and the first book in her Delilah Dickinson Literary Tour Mysteries, Frankly My Dear, I’m Dead,is waiting for me on my To-Be-Read stacks and I can’t wait to get to it. While doing a little of research to prep for her visit I was surprised to learn that she started writing stories with her husband and then branched out on her own. Well know I am just one of many that is so glad she did, I have enjoyed everything I have read by her and am excited for more!!
When I began the Fresh Baked Mystery series several years ago, I didn’t really intend for most of the books to center around holidays, but that’s the way it’s developed, for several very natural reasons.
For one thing, what better time to bake than around holidays? When I was growing up, pumpkin pie season began shortly before Halloween (after all, when you hollow out a pumpkin to make a jack-o’-lantern, you have to do something with the insides), extended through Thanksgiving, the traditional pumpkin pie holiday, and right on to Christmas. We can’t forget about pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins, either. (Phyllis certainly won’t forget pumpkin muffins after The Pumpkin Muffin Murder.)
Heart-shaped cookies and decorated cupcakes are popular for Valentine’s Day. Hmm, a future book, maybe?
Yes, holidays are an extravaganza of baking, all right, but what about murder, you say? It’s also well known that holidays are the most stressful time of year for many people. Nursing a grudge? Need money? Have a secret you don’t want exposed? Having to deal with the holidays on top of that is just going to make things worse. All the murderous impulses that bubble up are going to be that much harder to suppress, and if you’re desperate enough, you might just pick up a ceramic gingerbread man and bash it over somebody’s head . . .
Just don’t do it in Phyllis Newsom’s front porch, or she’ll be on your trail, as she is in The Gingerbread Bump-Off.
Another reason I like writing about holidays is that I have such good memories of holiday seasons from years past in my own life. I come from a large, gregarious family, and there were parties and family get-togethers for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July . . . any excuse to get together and have good times with family and friends. Phyllis feels the same way, and that’s why she usually finds herself opening her home for some sort of festivities, such as inviting those who have no other place to spend Thanksgiving, as she does in The Pumpkin Muffin Murder,or taking part in the Annual Jingle Bell Tour of Homes, which leads to murder in The Gingerbread Bump-Off.
Luckily, holidays don’t always equal murder, even for Phyllis, otherwise she might be tempted to stop celebrating!
It’s almost Thanksgiving in Weatherford, Texas and the First Annual Harvest Festival is just about to start. Phyllis is baking her Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins for the baking contest and this time her friend Carolyn is a judge instead of a competitor. In most contests they go head to head in the competition so there is less pressure on both of them.
That is until right before the judging is supposed to start. One of the scarecrow decorations turns out to be a disguise that turns the festival into quite a scary experience. The disguise is being worn by the festival’s organizer who is most definitely dead and not at all festive. The wife of the victim seems to be the most likely suspect but she is Carolyn’s friend and Carolyn begs Phyllis to track down the real murderer before her friend ends up wearing orange behind bars.
This was a face paced mystery that once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. The clever idea of hiding the body in a scarecrow decoration was genius. To think if it would have just not looked a little out of place it would not have been discovered until after the festival.
Phyllis is a fun protagonist because she just knows she will figure things out, she just needs to talk things through, sometimes with herself, but when she gets those clues put together just right and she gets that look on her face where everyone knows she did it, she figured it out.
A delightful addition to this series!!
Christmas comes to Weatherford along with the annual Jingle Bell Tour. One of the participants has to drop out for health reasons and Phyllis agrees to have her house be a last minute substitute, even though she already has her hands full planning her friend and tenant Eve’s bridal shower and wedding.
After a trip to purchase a more holiday lights and decorations and with the help of her friends and neighbors she has the house ready in plenty of time for the big event. With the tour ready to start in just minutes, Phyllis hears a crash on her front porch. She opens the door she finds Georgia Hallerbee, her friend and coordinator of the Jingle Bell Tour unconscious. Someone had used one of her decorations as a weapon to hit Georgia over the head.
Phyllis quickly transfers herself from hostess mode into detective mode and sets out to find the person responsible for this holiday tragedy.
What’s a holiday without a little murder in Weatherford? Poor Phyllis seems jinxed by these incidents but she takes them all in stride. With her gentleman friend Sam, they are off to solve another mystery. Love it!!
Livia J. Washburn is a wonderful storyteller and I love the adventures she takes us on with her characters. They are exciting and this one had quite a complicated plot with plenty of suspects. Plus there is never a lack of humor in these stories. They dialogue between the characters can have you in stitches. Poor Sam in the house with these three women, never a dull moment even without the bodies turning up. The back story of Eve and Roy adds a little intrigue as well. That story going forward could prove quite interesting since Eve is known for her many marriages.
This installment is a real holiday treat.
Thanks to the great people at Penguin I have
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Plus 1 Trade Paperback Copy of The Pumpkin Muffin Murder!!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”