ARC Review: “A Side of Murder,” by Amy Pershing

Hello all, and happy weekend! I had the pleasure of reading Amy Pershing’s new series, A Cape Cod Foodie Mystery, with the first book being A Side of Murder. Thank you, Netgalley and Berkley Books, for this opportunity! A light cozy is exactly what I needed.


From the Publisher:

A food writer must investigate the death of an old enemy in this witty and exciting new cozy mystery series set in beautiful Cape Cod, Massachusetts, known for seafood, sand, surf, and, now…murder.

Samantha Barnes was always a foodie. So when the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America) came calling, she happily traded in Cape Cod for the Big Apple. Soon the young chef is a rising star in the city’s food scene—until a feud with another chef (her ex) boils over and goes viral. So when Sam inherits her Great-Aunt Ida’s house on the Cape and lands a job writing restaurant reviews, it seems like the perfect pairing. What could go wrong? Well, as it turns out, a lot.

The dilapidated house comes with an enormous puppy. Her new boss is, well, bossy. And the town’s new harbormaster is none other than her first love. Nonetheless, Sam’s looking forward to testing her inner food critic at the Bayview Grille—and indeed the seafood chowder is divine. But the body floating in the pond outside the eatery was not on the menu. Though the drowning is called an accident, Sam is certain it’s murder. And as she begins to stir the pot, it becomes terrifyingly clear that she may be writing the recipe for her own untimely demise. 


What I Liked:

  • The Cast of Characters. Sam (best name ever, obviously) is a plucky, good food eating, wine drinking, loud laughing chef who stands out in every crowd. Her friends are tight knit and loving, all with their own quirks and life paths. I especially love Miles, the sassy gay organic farmer farmer who does random acts of kindness, and Sam’s quirky older neighbor Helene who offers comfort, wisdom, and wine, whichever is called for. Helene and Diogi the dog (D-O-G) may be my favorite sidekick-dog pairing, and they save Sam’s bacon on more than one occasion. I love that none of the characters veer into trope territory, and each have a strong individual presence.
  • The Cape Cod Setting. A great cozy always has a very strong sense of setting, and A Side of Murder is no exception. Cape Cod is clearly a gorgeous place – I live a little further down the coast on Long Island, so I am intimately familiar with beach life. What I was not familiar with, and now am very intrigued by, is the very cool coves, lakes, and marshes in the Cape Cod area. Sam and her beau Jason are avid boaters, and we got to see a whole bunch of scenes on the bay and in the marshes. I loved that part of the mystery is an evil developer that ignores environmental impacts (this is something that happens WAY too often by me also), and Pershing’s description of the winter versus summer crowd. This definitely makes me want to explore Cape Cod off season.
  • The Mystery. To be honest, often the murder feels sort of ancillary to a lot of cozies. Not here. Pershing never lets you forget that A Side of Murder is foremost about a murder, with great characters putting their heads together to solve it. The murder victim Estelle is disliked by basically everyone in town, so there is no lack of suspects. I didn’t guess the murderer until the end (though the reveal had its own problems), and there was a lot going on to keep you guessing.

What I Wasn’t Thrilled With:

  • The Foreshadowing. This is a personal gripe, and other readers may not mind as much, but I am not normally a fan of heavy foreshadowing. A Side of Murder was replete with it. Since it is Sam narrating in the past tense, she makes way more references to what she would have done or felt “if only she’d known” that a future event was going to happen. This foreshadowing began quick, within the first chapter, and it remained annoying throughout the first half of the book.
  • The Lowkey Ageism. It is a shame that this was evident, because generally Amy Pershing writes really rich and non-stereotypical characters. However, every single one of the characters over the age of 50 were luddites to the point of being ignorant. Not only is this insulting to older people, it also just true. My 70 year old dad regularly schools me in tech knowledge. So seeing the otherwise brilliant and sophisticated Helene, or Sam’s parents who are both sharpshooting journalists all seem unable to handle a cell phone or questioning what “the Youtube” is just felt ingenuine and an easy mark.
  • The Culinary “Asides.” I am a fan of cooking being a part of cozies, as long as it is subtle – setting in a restaurant, or great food descriptions incorporated into the narrative. However, Sam’s constant “tips and tricks” on cooking that are peppered into her stream of consciousness, some with essentially no context, was jarring and not helpful to the plot. It kept taking me out of the story, which is a shame because I did like the fact that Sam is a chef, just didn’t need every single one of her helpful chef tips in the midst of a thrilling murder investigation.

Conclusion:

I was for the most part pleased with A Side of Murder, and thought the mystery and characters were generally pretty good. However, the pet peeves outweighed a great mystery. I have a feeling a lot of other readers will bed to differ, though! Three waves out of five for this fun coastal cozy. Pre-order your copy here, with a rapidly approaching release date (February 23) get it while it is hot off the presses! Best of all, it is in paperback and on sale at Bookshop!

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