A Dash of Death (A Cocktails and Catering Mystery)
by Michelle Hillen Klump
About A Dash of Death
A Dash of Death (A Cocktails and Catering Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – Texas
Crooked Lane Books (February 8, 2022)
Hardcover : 304 pages
ISBN-10 : 1643859374
ISBN-13 : 978-1643859378
Digital ASIN : B094GN846Y
A Houston reporter-turned-mixologist mixes it up with murder in this series debut from Michelle Hillen Klump, superbly catering to fans of Diane Mott Davidson and Lee Hollis.
Bad news for Samantha Warren: The plucky Houston, Texas, reporter lost her job and her fiancé in rapid succession. But Sam has a way of making lemonade out of the bitterest of lemons. At a meeting of the local historical-homes council, she serves up the homemade bitters that she made as gifts for her wedding party. She intends to use that as her “in” to become an in-demand party mixologist. But the party’s over for one of the council members, who keels over dead soon after he sips the bereft bride’s bitter brew.
It turns out that the victim, Mark, was poisoned—his drink spiked with oleander. Since Sam mixed the drink that Mark imbibed right before his demise, she finds herself at the front of the suspect line. Now, she’ll have to use all of her reporter’s wisdom and wiles to clear her name.
Who could have wanted Mark dead? His wife, Gabby? His girlfriend, Darcy? Someone who wanted his seat on the council? Or another citizen of this sweet Texas town that holds some seedy secrets?
Job hunting, building her mixology business, and fending off late-night phone calls from her nearly betrothed don’t leave much time for sleuthing. But if Sam can’t “pour” over the clues to find the killer, it may soon be last call for her.
Readers are introduced to former Houston reporter Samantha Warren and her friends Marisa and Beth. Samantha was supposed to be getting married but her fiancé decided to back out of his commitment leaving her with a ton of heartache. She does have a very interesting hobby of making unique bitters to add to drinks. She had made and bottled a huge batch to use as party favors for her wedding. Stuck with 300 bottles of cherry vanilla bitters Beth and Marisa talk her into being a last-minute replacement to serve cocktails at the Highland Historic Home Tour. She can get rid of her surplus and may find someone interested in buying her products and hiring her to be a party mixologist.
The historic homes party is very well attended and patrons are loving Sam’s drinks until one of the council members becomes ill and later dies. While cleaning up and emptying glasses as the party ends Beth finds a glass containing oleander, a deadly poisonous flower. While Sam would never even consider bringing that flower to any party she still becomes a prime suspect in the man’s death. She quickly realizes she needs to tap into her reporter talents to find out who would want the man dead and how they did it in the middle of a crowded event. She is also dealing with her ex’s phone calls and the feelings she still has for him. Add to that building her mixology business she has her hands full.
Growing up my parents owned a tavern and helping out behind the bar I learned that a dash of bitters was important in drinks like an Old Fashioned. Since then the bitters field has grown to now include several different flavors. In A Dash of Death Samantha is passionate about coming up with as many new and exciting flavors as she can and developing signature drinks to use them in. I was very intrigued by this new cozy mystery theme immediately. Samantha comes up with some crazy concoctions and most of them really work.
Samantha is an interesting protagonist. Losing her reporter job nine months prior to losing her fiancé really turned her life upside down and she really needs time to adjust. That may be why I had such a hard time connecting with her at first. She was starting to grow on me by the end of the story. As her life gets more on track I know she will be more identifiable. Thankfully the author surrounded her with a strong supporting cast. Her friends have her back and I really enjoyed any time the three of them were together. Samantha also meets someone new that could be pivotal in her life going forward.
The mystery was well-plotted. Samantha’s reporter skills come in handy as she tried to find the killer. A surprise lawsuit shakes things up a bit but my focus was continually drawn to one person. For the life of me though I couldn’t figure out their motive without a bunch more clues being revealed. I really did enjoy following along with Sam step by step until everything clicked into place. Ms. Klump did an excellent job of giving Samantha different theories to present to the police in hopes of drawing their attention away from herself. It is clear to see the author’s journalism background in the way her protagonist attacks her investigation. I really enjoyed the descriptive style of writing that brought the story to life in so many ways.
Ms. Klump has set this series off to a wonderful start. I really want to get to know Samantha better and to see her succeed and be happy. She and Beth seem to have a plan and I hope they can make it work because you know with a cozy mystery series they are going to face their share of dead bodies. I think this author and this series have a lot of promise and I am looking forward to wherever she takes her characters next.
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About Michelle Hillen Klump
Michelle Hillen Klump is a former newspaper reporter who covered government, courts, and crime throughout Arkansas and Central Texas. Still a working journalist, she is also a member of Sisters in Crime. Her short fiction has appeared in Crimson Streets and Tales of Texas, volume 2, a Houston short story anthology.
Great Escapes Praise for A Dash of Death (A Cocktails and Catering Mystery)
by Michelle Hillen Klump
A Dash of Death shakes things up for Samantha with an overabundance of bitters, a fatal flower, a toxic cocktail, a bothersome ex-beau, a fatal flower, a troublesome lawsuit, and a resolute reporter.
~The Avid Reader
I am fascinated with the mixology theme. I am looking forward to more in this series.
~My Reading Journeys
There are quite a few twists, turns, and red herrings throughout this story. It kept me captivated and guessing from page one to the end. It’s a great start to a brand new cozy mystery series. I can’t wait to read more.
~Socrates’ Book Reviews
This was a great debut! This mystery was fun and exciting and I can’t wait to read more. Looking forward to reading book number two to see where it goes from here.
February 8 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author – SPOTLIGHT
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February 9 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW
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February 10 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
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February 12 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW
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February 18 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
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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.”