I Spotlighted this book back on May 28 and so happy I finally was able to read it!
On the Chopping Block (A Callie’s Kitchen Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – Wisconsin
Release Date – May 24, 2016
Print Length: 228 pages
Greek-American food business owner and single mom Calliope “Callie” Costas faces Greek tragedy when a murder shakes the picturesque waterfront community of Crystal Bay, Wisconsin. Recipes included!
Building a small business has been murder, but Callie Costas didn’t expect to be confronted with an actual body. The 36-year-old Greek-American proprietor of “Callie’s Kitchen,” a meals-from-scratch business in an idyllic small town, has been busy creating a post-divorce life for herself, her young daughter and her pet Yorkie, Koukla. After a lot of hard work (including staving off her father’s continual advice), she’s got the locals and tourists clamoring for her delicious Mediterranean dishes and Midwest comfort food classics. Recently, she’s started a budding romance with a fellow foodie, the wealthy owner and chef of Crystal Bay’s most popular bistro.
However, success is as fleeting as one of Wisconsin’s glorious autumn days. As local businesses begin to shut down due to a slow economy, Callie is struggling not to become another statistic. A contest with a hefty cash prize seems like the perfect chance to fix her financial woes, until a shocking murder threatens not only her livelihood – but her life.
When she’s targeted as a prime suspect by an attractive expat British detective, Callie’s situation becomes more delicate than her Greek egg-lemon soup. She’s got to find the killer and fast if she wants to protect her daughter, save her business and stay alive.
As soon as I saw this book was set in Wisconsin I added it to my reading list. I also love watching the show Chopped in all its forms on the Food Network, so knowing a Chopped type competition was a catalyst in this story didn’t hurt either. I wish the actual contest had been part of the story.
Callie Costas was raised by her father and was expected to take over his restaurant when he retired, but she decided to venture out on her own and open “Callie’s Kitchen”. Her business was doing o.k. but if she had won the local Chopped Challenge she would have been able to add more staff and upgrade a few things. Her divorce was amicable for the most part, and her daughter is growing up fast. She also has a little Yorkie to snuggle with, but maybe it was time to start dating and find a man to snuggle up with. Enter Drew, another restaurant owner, and winner of the Chopped contest. They finally have time for a real date – at his house – with him cooking her dinner – to celebrate his win. She never thought the night would be ruined by a murder and her being in a detective’s sights as a prime suspect. Before anyone else gets CHOPPED, including herself, she is going to start her own search for the killer.
This was a fun read for me on so many levels. My parents used to run a restaurant much like Callie’s and the first thing I noticed was that girl needs more staff, especially if she is going to leave so much on her “errands”. Max is a great worker but they are going to burn themselves out quickly. The food they make, especially the little coffee cakes, almost had me drooling all over my Kindle.
The characters were all very realistic. Even Detective Sands with his yummy British accent. Callie is surrounded by people that love her and want her to succeed even as her business dwindles because she is suspected of murder. I really like that she is a woman my age and following her dreams. All of the characters are very well developed and engaging but I know there is so much more to tell. I want to get to know them better.
Wisconsin is beautiful in the fall and fictional Crystal Bay, said to somewhere in the Lake Geneva area, is wonderfully portrayed. The leaves changing their color, the weather getting cooler, a time that is already getting to close to happening in real life here this year. I am a summer girl at heart.
The mystery went in a whole different direction that I had not expected and when I saw where it was headed I thought I had it pinned down to one or two individuals. It all came together for me before it did for Callie, but that big climatic scene when she figured it out had me on the edge of my seat. After that story ended by putting a huge smile on my face.
This series is off to an excellent start. While I hate to see the crime rate of Crystal Bay rise, I can’t wait to return there for another visit soon.
About the Author*
Award-winning writer Jenny Kales is the author of ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK, the first in The Callie’s Kitchen Mystery Series. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in English and spent several years working as a copywriter and corporate communications marketing writer for many top companies. Her freelance writing about parenting has appeared in many venues including The TODAY Show Parents site. Her award-winning blog, The Nut-Free Mom, has been featured in newspapers and websites around the world.
Fiction writing is her first love and her marriage into a Greek-American Midwestern family inspired The Callie’s Kitchen mysteries, featuring Calliope Costas, food business owner and amateur sleuth. The setting of the story, “Crystal Bay,” is inspired by a favorite family vacation spot – Wisconsin’s beautiful Geneva Lakes.
Jenny is an avid reader, cook and baker and she’s addicted to mystery TV, especially anything on Masterpiece Mystery or BBC America. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, two daughters and one cute but demanding Yorkshire terrier.
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