Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters; good mystery
Cons: A little slow to get started due to backstory
The Bottom Line:
Death of a neighbor
Keeps café owner busy
Good twists on genre
It’s always fun to find an author with her own twist on the genres I love. In this case, I’m talking specifically about Battered, the first Whipped and Sipped mystery from G. P. Gottlieb. It’s a culinary cozy, but the main character runs a shop that serves healthy treats.
Alene Baron runs Whipped and Sipped with her best friend, Ruthie Rosin. Together, the two have turned the café and coffee shop into a healthy choice with a loyal clientele. They serve only the best coffee, and most of their items are vegan, even the sweet treats, that is popular in their neighborhood in Chicago. Alene lives a few blocks away from the café in a condo she shares with her father and her three children.
Her world is a little chaotic, but it gets more so when she finds one of her neighbors dead one afternoon. It is clear that he was murdered, and soon Alene is casting everyone in the role of killer. Since she knows everyone who might be a suspect, can she figure out what really happened?
Another way this debut has a twist is the location. Cozies set in big cities like Chicago are rare; the setting is usually a small town. However, this book doesn’t feel like it is set in a big city. Most of the action takes place within a few blocks, and Alene knows all the suspects well. It feels like a cozy even if it is in a big town. Honestly, I appreciated the way G. P. Gottlieb pulled that off.
There are a lot of characters, and their relationships are complicated. There is a cast of characters before the book gets started, so if you get confused, you can easily refer to that. I found it took me a bit more work than some books to keep everyone straight, but I was soon able to do so. It helped that the further into the book I got, the more the character’s personalities came through. The more real a character is, the better I can remember them. There are several prickly characters here, but that also helped me keep them straight and made it easy to consider them suspects.
I’ve complained in the past about books that have data dumps of backstory, and this book did fall into that trap, making it a little slow to get going. We do need to know at least some of the background to understand what happens, however. Once the murder takes place, we are able to follow Alene around as she tries to sift clue from red herring. I thought I had it figured out a couple of times, but the solution still surprised me.
And recipes! This book has a lot of recipes. There are thirty, and they range from orange poppy seed muffins to fish tacos and gluten-free vegan cookies. Yes, there are quite a few vegan recipes here, including vegan sweets, so if you are looking to eat a little healthier, this book will help you.
Battered took a little time to get going, but it was worth it. If you are looking for a slightly different take on a culinary cozy mystery, this is the debut to read.
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