Phew, what a week. What a month. I decided to read a light cozy by one of my preferred cozy authors, Daryl Wood Gerber, to just read something, anything. Because of this, my disappointment in Shredding the Evidence may be exacerbated, but I do expect better from book 9 of a series I am generally a huge fan of. However, I will try and be as fair as possible.
From the Publisher:
The Agatha Award–winning author of Sifting Through Clues returns to the Cookbook Nook, where a combative food reporter gets her just deserts . . .
The denizens of Crystal Cove are salivating over the upcoming Food Bowl Week, when local chefs offer some of their best and most imaginative creations in bite-size portions all over town. Bookstore proprietor Jenna Hart is hungry to sample as many of the delicacies as she can, but when she stumbles onto the dead body of a local food reporter and learns that her best friend’s husband is the primary suspect, she’ll have to summon the appetite for a side dish of sleuthing to prove his innocence.
Jenna knows the ambitious and aggressive reporter, who was strangled at a fitness center with her shredded restaurant reviews scattered around her, left behind a long list of potential suspects. As she begins piecing together the scant clues, she uncovers illicit ties between the victim and a local newspaper owner, a spurned would-be lover, and a host of disgruntled restaurant owners not a bit torn up by the critical reporter’s demise. And with a solution so close she can almost taste it, Jenna turns up the heat on the culprit, realizing too late that she’s the next course on the murderer’s menu . . .
What I Enjoyed:
- Crystal Cove. One thing that I love about the Cookbook Nook series is that Crystal Cove is so delightful. I love the beautiful seaside setting with adorable restaurants and shops, with fun festivals that everyone in town chips into. In Shredding the Evidence, the festival was all about food with Food Bowl Week – how can you beat canapes and wine? Gerber describes food with delectable accuracy, and when paired with the ocean scenes, it makes for an idyllic setting, and very easy to picture.
- The Mystery. This is pretty shocking, since I really didn’t like this installation, but the mystery was solidly written. Kylie the food reporter has her fair share of enemies, and the killer does a good job of scattering genuinely plausible red herrings throughout. I discovered who the killer is around the same time as Jenna, so it was fun to go to the “big reveal” scene armed with the knowledge.
- The Cookbooks. Despite my current disdain for the series, Geber always sprinkles each book with cookbooks she names by name that I regularly look up and save for future use. Her cookbook game is on point.
What Didn’t Work for Me:
- The Fat Shaming. Okay, so this may be a person pet peeve. However, almost every word out of Jenna’s mouth or in her internal monologue in Shredding the Evidence was a put down of other women who are remotely heavier than her, including her postpartum best friend, Bailey. One of the victim’s potential love interests is a larger woman who used to work out, and who had to stop because of heel spurs and bad self esteem. That didn’t stop Jenna from tearing into her and making fun of her behind her back. This is all after Jenna brags about having the ideal body: “I was one of those rare birds who’d never fought my weight. My height had something to do with it. My metabolism, as well. Plus, I exercised daily. Not heavy aerobics but I walked, ran, and rode. Dad had drilled into me that I had one body in this life, and I was in charge of making it work.” So not only is she preachy, but she is also self righteous.
- Jenna and Rhett. I am going to get some flak for this, and probably rightly so. Rhett and Jenna are not as cutesy as many cozy mystery couples, which is normally appealing. However, Rhett’s new restaurant, them wedding planning (all white, Jenna? really?), Rhett missing all events from being too busy, and them essentially living two completely separate lives was disheartening and mostly unrealistic. Jenna is seemingly mostly okay with how everything is going despite Rhett missing wedding planning appointments (also, who the hell is paying for their wedding planner?!) and restaurant dates with a reservation. She even goes as far as regularly referring to their new home as “her house” and being fine with Rhett keeping his old home because “he needs a quiet retreat.” Retreat from what, an engagement that seems based on a pile of sticks?
- Bailey. Jenna’s best friend Bailey is on a tear in Shredding the Evidence, and despite being postpartum, it is not a good look for her. When Bailey’s husband Tito is accused of murder, Bailey makes it her mission to prove him innocent, but instead of doing this the honest way, she develops vendettas against every other potential suspect and goes way above and beyond the boundaries of appropriate behavior to do so. She even checks up on one of the suspect’s children at her school and interviews the principal about the child’s mental health. Beyond how unbelievable that is, it is also supported by Jenna, who goes along with Bailey’s hairbrained schemes even when she is uncomfortable. Bailey has gone from being one of the most likable characters to the least, and that is saying something next to the fat shaming Jenna. They are a pair of Mean Girls.
Real talk, I am in the minority by disliking Shredding the Evidence so intensely. The Cookbook Mystery series is usually a favorite of mine, with its wonderful beach scenery and foodie focused festivals. However, Jenna, Bailey, and Rhett have become increasingly unlikeable, to the point where there wasn’t a single character I identified with in this installation.
I do think that most cozy lovers will still love this, because it has all of the hallmarks of a great cozy: A good murder, scenery to die for, and a quirky background cast of characters that are easy to keep track of. My own fragile emotional state may have also contributed to this semi-vitriolic review. However, it was only 2.5 waves for me. Don’t let this stop you from at least checking it out, especially since it is on the Kindle for a low price! If you want to check out book 1 (which I LOVED!), Final Sentence, check it out here in paperback!