When a band of travelers arrives in the village of Snowflake, Vermont and a dead stranger is found by the side of the road, the past returns with a vengeance. Long-kept secrets will be revealed, lost loves will be found and the lives of many in the village will be irrevocably altered.
Keep reading for my review and a giveaway below Connie’s guest post!
|Fox (Vulpes vulpes) at British Wildlife Centre, Surrey. (via Wikimedia Commons)|
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Connie Archer cooks up a delicious mystery in Roux of Revenge, the third book in the Soup Lover’s Mystery series. Set in a small town in Vermont, the novel features an engaging main character in Lucky Jamieson, the owner of the By the Spoonful Soup Shop, and a cast of interesting — but for the most part blessedly normal — secondary characters. Archer easily maintains the fine line between the boringly ordinary and the overly charming or eccentric, creating a place and characters that are both entertaining and believable.
The mystery begins when police chief Nate Edgerton arrives at the scene of a single-vehicle accident and finds the driver dead… but not necessarily as a result of the crash. Here’s another way in which Archer sets her novel a little apart from the typical cozy: although amateur sleuth Lucky is the main character, we do see some scenes from the police chief’s perspective, which lends them more immediacy than if the events were related by one character to another. Speaking of which, Nate, an older man, is also unusually forthcoming with both Lucky and her grandfather Jack, telling them more about his ongoing investigation than I think most policemen would. While his openness did stretch my credence a bit (almost the only thing in the novel that did), it’s more than made up for by the lack of either animosity or sexual tension between policeman and amateur sleuth. After a few too many cozies featuring one or other (and sometimes both!) I found the cordial relationship a relief. And it certainly makes it easier for Lucky to learn some of the pertinent facts. I also appreciate that Nate is not a “stupid cop”; he’s perceptive, canny, and not easily misled.
Another mystery arises around the same time, this one squarely in Lucky’s court. A strange man appears to be stalking her teenage waitress, Janie. As both mysteries escalate, the complications multiply. What secret is Janie’s mother Miriam keeping from her? Who is the dead man, and who is trying to keep Nate from identifying the body? How does any of it relate to the influx of ‘travelers’ working at a nearby harvest festival, or to the insurance investigator who just can’t let go of his only unsolved case? The escalation of tension is expertly done, and although most mystery aficionados will guess that the two cases are connected, the connections are far from obvious for quite some time. Ms. Archer employs her red herrings with skill, and isn’t above a spot of clever-but-fair misdirection. I did spot the murderer part-way through, in part because I’m very familiar with mystery conventions, but I could so easily have been wrong.
Lucky’s relationship with her boyfriend Elias, the town’s doctor, was the only place where I felt the novel stumbled even a little. Their relationship had clearly developed in the earlier books, and the inevitable obstacle which cropped up in this book, while it reveals a lot about Lucky’s insecurities, was a trifle obvious and more than a bit cliched. It also tripped my “why don’t they just talk to each other” button – though to Archer’s credit, avoiding the issue in question is consistent with both their personalities.
That small quibble aside, however, A Roux of Revenge is a well-plotted and solidly-written mystery, as flavorful and satisfying as the unique and hearty soups served at By the Spoonful. (You’ll find some recipes in the back, by the way. The Pumpkin Rice soup sounds delicious!) I’m delighted to have discovered this series, and I can’t wait to catch up on the first two books, A Spoonful of Murder and A Broth of Betrayal.
Final note: It’s worth checking out Connie’s website, where she has photos of small-town Vermont, a map of Snowflake, character descriptions, and a very up-to-date News page listing recent blog appearances, and her author bio.
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads links: A Spoonful of Murder; A Broth of Betrayal; A Roux of Revenge
Category: Cozy mystery
Series: Soup Lover’s Mystery #3
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin/Random House)
Release date: April 1, 2014
Book source: I received an ARC from the publisher as part of this blog tour.
WIN a copy of Roux of Revenge!
Win a paperback copy of Roux of Revenge. (I’m sorry, but US residents only, please. The publisher requests no P.O. boxes.)