My rating: 3 of 5 stars stars to Jenn McKinlay‘s Sprinkle with Murder, the first book in the “Cupcake Bakery” cozy mystery series. I’m a fan of Ms. McKinlay, as I enjoy both her “Hat Shop” and “Library Lovers” mystery series, which pushed me to try this one. It was a fun read that took me about two hours on a train to/from Long Island to see family for the day, and I will continue to read the series.
Mel and Angie have been best friends since an incident with a chocolate bar and a bully in the sixth grade. Almost 25 years later, they co-own a cupcake bakery together in their Scottsdale, Arizona hometown. When their third best friend Tate ask them to design his wedding cake for the upcoming nuptials, they are a little leery (give he is their silent partner in the business) and they aren’t very keen on his bridezilla. Christie Stevens was a famous designer who seemed to make it big by stealing from others and being a general nasty businesswoman. When she ends up dead after taste-testing one of the cupcakes Mel made, the press suspects foul play, claiming Mel had long-buried feelings for Tate. In order to save her reputation, and the bakery, Mel investigates Christie’s life and comes up with a few suspects. While trying to save themselves from the murder, someone else falls prey to the killer, and a rival bakeshop owner takes advantage of the situation. In the end, the stories collide for a bit and Mel almost bites the dust. Luckily, her new crush, Angie’s brother, comes to her rescue.
1. McKinlay’s writing is direct, funny and charming. She’s consistent in her tone and story, finds good red herrings and creates strong interest in the cast and story.
2. The characters are likable, and they have some longevity. The rivalry will turn out to be a fun one to follow, as will the different love interests.
1. In the beginning, McKinlay is clear to call out that Tate isn’t gay although he was teased about it as a child. What’s wrong with making a supporting character gay? Perhaps because in this case it was his bride-to-be who was murdered, him being gay wouldn’t have turned out too well… especially when there are already strong hints that he has feelings for either Mel or Angie, and Angie has secret feelings for him. I think it would have been a better and stronger story if he was gay and there weren’t any romantic feelings between the 3 friends.
2. The book is over 7 years old, so it may have been one of the first, but there are at least 10 of these types of series where the protagonist gives up a day job to own a bakery and then solves murder mysteries. Love the concept. Perhaps it was the trend setter. But… something needs to stand out to make it different than the rest. I’ve only read a few series, and just the first one of this series… so I’ll hold judgment until I get through a few more. Make it stand out, Jenn… I know you can do it!
A fun read, definitely worth giving it a chance. But challenge yourself. Find 5 or 6 of these series where they revolve around bakeries and decide which has the best chance to survive! McKinlay’s definitely at the top of the list in my book and if the series pushes a bit more in the next book, I’m sure it’ll get a 4 of 5 stars from me.