Genre: cozy mystery (with recipes)
Expert muffin baker Merry Wynter is finally ready to turn her passion into a career. But when a dead body is found on her property, she's more worried about cooking up an alibi…
Merry is making a fresh start in small-town Autumn Vale, New York, in the castle she's inherited from her late uncle, Melvin. The house is run down and someone has been digging giant holes on the grounds, but with its restaurant-quality kitchen, the place has potential for her new baking business. She even has her first client—the local retirement home.
Unfortunately, Merry soon finds that quite a few townsfolk didn't like Uncle Mel, and she has inherited their enmity as well as his home. Local baker Binny Turner and her crazy brother, Tom, blame Melvin for their father's death, and Tom may be the one vandalizing her land. But when Tom turns up dead in one of the holes in her yard, Merry needs to prove she had nothing to do with his death—or her new muffin-making career may crumble before it starts...
I have read the first two books in the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series, and when Victoria Hamilton announced this new series, I wanted to read it as well. Who would not love to inherit a real castle? Even though it is in America instead of the usual Scotland ;)
Merry is 39 years young, and down on her luck after being accused of stealing in her last job. This was disastrous for her reputation in New York’s fashion industry. She inherited a castle with all it entails from her uncle Melvin, a man she hardly new existed. And in the months it has been for sale, no one has been interested in it. So she is now finally ready to move to Autumn Vale, and check it out herself. What has to be done in order to sell it, as she sure can’t afford to keep it herself.
Her first encounter with the citizens of Autumn Vale, where Wynter Castle is located, is not so positive though. The sheriff escorts her to her castle, as her navigation device is completely lost her in upstate New York. And to her horror, there are giant holes dug in the lawn and land surrounding the castle. No wonder no one wants to buy it! Who has done this, and why? Lucky for her, her local real estate agent has heard through the local grape vine that she has arrived, and he appears at once on her doorstep. McGill, she just can’t call him Jack, offers to fill in the holes for her, for a nominal fee, and Merry gladly accepts his offer. She understands that times are tough in this small town, a lot of the store fronts were boarded up.
And when McGill shows her around the castle, she can see the potential of the place, the beauty of it beneath the neglect. If only she had enough funds to do what she wanted …
But first she calls her best friend, explaining where she went and why. And before Merry knows it, Shilo has taken her up on her offer of coming over for a visit, with the intention to stay. Of course, the castle is large enough, and two bedrooms and a bathroom are quickly made inhabitable. Merry is very glad that Shilo has joined her, as she was feeling lonely in the big castle already.
But then the bad things start happening, the man Merry was convinced was ruining her property, is found dead in the latest hole he was digging, and Merry stupidly enough touched the murder weapon. What is going on in this small town? Was her uncle murdered as some one wants her to find out? Or was it really an accident, an old man in an old car on a frosty road? And his business partner and the man he was involved in a lawsuit with, Rusty, is he dead, murdered by her uncle Melvin as some think, or did he just leave town?
Merry makes some friends; she really has a weakness for strange characters, perhaps thanks to her own unconventional mother. But the more she digs into the mystery, the more dangerous it becomes. Until she literally stumbles upon the answer in her own woods …
I enjoyed this book, even though I did not have much reading time and had to be content with reading a few chapters here and there. The mystery was intriguing, and there is a small setup for the next book. But it was Merry who captured my interest from the start. Perhaps because she is more my age than most heroines in cozy mysteries. She is mature, and she has learned from her mistakes. She is also still grieving her husband, although he has died in an accident 7 years ago. Merry is a little bit interested in the handsome local sheriff, and she likes his mother a lot, but I don’t think there will be a romance blossoming any time soon.
I liked the fun accent Shilo provided to the story, her being there for Merry, but also going her own way, falling in love with McGill.
I will definitely read the next book.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian