Donovan’s Bookshelf Review

A delicious-sounding café sporting the name ‘Whipped and Sipped’ doesn’t sound like its owner would be into solving a murder, but its neighboring gym owner is highly disliked in town, and his murder somehow comes as no surprise in Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery.

Alene Baron is not a professional, but she has had prior experience solving a murder (explored in the first book in the series). This case literally drops into her own alleyway. And so she is as drawn to the possibilities involving the deceased’s fighting family as she is the cooking and recipes which drive her own business, relationships, and interests.

The first note to make about this book is that more than its title is delicious. Mouth-watering descriptions of foods and their preparation permeate this engrossing story, giving it the culinary edge that will attract audiences not usually engaged with mysteries: “Kacey Vanza, daughter of the previous owner and Alene’s across-the-hall neighbor, came in looking depleted. Maybe because of her new boyfriend, thought Alene. Kacey got to work cleaning, cutting and prepping vegetables to roast. She’d turned into someone Alene could count on. Olly Burns, with a little help from a new employee, prepared and began frying huge pans of mushrooms and onions. Everything smelled so smoky good, Alene started thinking about adding a bowl of roasted and sautéed veggies to the menu. She pulled out her cell and texted herself a reminder.”

Another note that will attract both cozy mystery fans and those who typically read outside the genre is that G.P. Gottlieb uses this food focus to draw together family and friends as the story unfolds, cementing relationships with a delicious frosting of caring and love: “Alene’s father would be waking from his nap any moment, and he usually enjoyed a cup of warm cocoa no matter how hot the day was. He’d been losing weight lately, so Alene had brought home several tempting pastries to serve with his cocoa. Or maybe he’d prefer a smoothie. She started blending ingredients.”

As Alene faces post-death wills and financial planning and obstacles to her investigations, readers receive a delightful juxtaposition of food and detective work that bring Alene, her friends and family, and a city’s interests to center on the rippling effects of a murder.

These relationship explorations drive the story line as much as the intrigue, making Smothered particularly wide-ranging and recommended not just for the usual audience of cozy mystery readers, but those who want a story laced with intrigue, love, and insights into interpersonal relationships.

All these elements place Smothered in a class of its own, both in the mystery genre and beyond.

G. P. Gottlieb
D.X. Varos, Ltd.
Paperback: 978-1-941072-87-5    $18.95
Ebook: 978-1-941072-88-2           $  4.99