ARC Review: “Murder in the Cookbook Nook,” by Ellery Adams

Another day, another week, another late ARC. And yet another unforgiveable ARC, because Ellery Adams is the bomb! She is another one of my favorite cozy writers, and I was honored to have Netgalley and Kensington let me have this opportunity. Murder in the Cookbook Nook came out two weeks ago, and book seven of the Book Retreat Mysteries is bound to please all book people and cozy lovers everywhere. So without further ado…


From the Publisher:

The witty new story from the bestselling author of The Secret Book & Scone Society series is perfect for bibliophiles who love a A Bookish Cook-Off with a little murder on the side…

Six chefs are preparing to compete in an outdoor tent at Storyton Hall in Virginia for prizes that will boost their careers—but is there someone who can’t stand the heat? It looks that way when one of the contestants is found dead in a pantry packed with two centuries’ worth of cookbooks, among other treasures and rarities.

Could there be a connection to other recent events in town, like tampering with the costume of a local mascot? Jane isn’t sure, but after someone serves a second course of murder, the kitchen must be closed and the killer must be found . . .

I wouldn’t call this the best synopsis I’ve ever read. Jane has allowed a popular cooking competition to film at Storyton Hall, and there is immediately signs that something wicked this way comes. Fires, explosions, a dead chef, and mysterious notes abound. An unpopular victim, a wedding to plan, and lots of new and fun characters… including a surprise visit from Adams’ beloved characters of her Books by the Bay series.


What I Loved:

  • The modernity. One thing that I love about Ellery Adams’ books is that she doesn’t try and make all of her cozy heroines luddites. Jane may be the owner and guardian of a book bed and breakfast, but she is also up and equipped with modern technology. She uses smart phones, state of the art security cameras, and anything else that keeps her in the modern world and her inn safe. One of my biggest gripes in cozies is a heroine’s uselessness with even text messages. Jane uses every tool in her arsenal to help solve the murder. Combined with the social media references and basing the book around cooking shows (a very popular premise right now), this hit all the right modern notes.
  • Olivia and Jane. Full disclosure, I generally frown upon authors that “plug” their other series into books. However, this was less of a plug and more of an exciting crossover with well-beloved characters from Ellery Adams’ Books by the Bay Mystery series. Even better was the fact that Jane and Olivia got along swimmingly, and bonded immediately. I loved how well Olivia melded into Jane’s friend group, and how her and Haviland the dog played significant roles in protecting the people and solving the mystery. Chef Michel, also from Books by the Bay, is another delightful addition, and his recipes were inspired.
  • (In the same vein) The characterizations. In general, Murder in the Cookbook Nook is character driven, and every character is so well fleshed out. All of the chefs, Mia the cooking influencer, her entourage, Jane’s family and friends – every single character has their own personality and arc, no matter how small their role. While the plot suffered a bit from this (more on that below), I happen to prefer character-driven narratives personally.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • The multiple mysteries. While I was able to keep track, Murder in the Cookbook Nook has a lot of varying events that could be related, could not be related, and end up being semi related but through a very tenuous connection (fires, explosions, murders, thefts, oh my!). All of this action wasn’t hard to keep track of, but it also didn’t flow well. The amount of action that Jane had to contend with in such a small book didn’t feel genuine, and ended up coming off as extra/unbelievable.
  • The lack of Jane/Edwin page time. Jane and Edwin – swoon. I love Edwin, with his dashing travels and loving ways, but now that he has his own restaurant, him and Jane didn’t get nearly as much time together as I would like. While I love that Jane is a strong and independent woman, I would still love some particularly romantic scenes, especially since we know that Edwin has it in him. I am cautiously hopeful we will get more Edwin in the next book, if their relationship trajectory is any indicator.

Conclusion:

While I really did enjoy Murder in the Cookbook Nook and loved all of the character development, it felt a little like filler. This isn’t a bad thing – too many books in the Book Retreat Mystery series and jam-packed with extra important plot points – I could have used a little more. However, still a great addition to the series! Four waves out of five! Order your copy here (in paperback!), and if you are new to the series, order book one Murder in the Mystery Suite here (in paperback and on sale!)!

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