Series: Soup Lover's Mystery #5
Published by Berkley on April 5, 2016
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Source: the publisher
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Also in this series: Ladle to the Grave
Also by this author: Ladle to the Grave
When Lucky Jamieson opens up By the Spoonful to host an event with a famous author, she’s not expecting a bunch of nuts to descend on her small-town soup shop. But the author’s exasperating entourage—from a prickly publicist to a snippy son and his tipsy wife—give fresh meaning to the phrase, too many cooks spoil the broth.
The evening is more than spoiled, however, when it ends with a homicide. When the manner of the murder—as well as another recent unsolved crime—echoes the author’s fiction, Police Chief Nate Edgerton realizes he has a copycat killer on his hands. And Lucky hopes that one of her regular customers who has mysteriously gone missing isn’t involved. Once again, the soup shop owner will need to stir up some clues to find her friend and catch a cunning killer—before things really take a tureen for the worse...
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Climbing that mountain . . . again . . .
A Guest Post by Connie Archer
Every time I start a new book, I feel the earth wobble beneath my feet. The screen is blank. I stare. Not even an outline to jumpstart some sort of creative process. Even worse, not even a crime has come to mind. And every time, this process feels like I must gird my loins. Can girls do that? Have loins to gird? I’ll have to check that out.
It’s not a computer screen in front of me, but rather a mountain I have to climb. And I know it will be an arduous months-long (or more) journey. A little voice inside my head whispers, “You really think you can do it again? Really? Are you sure? Nope. Not sure at all, but the longer I stare at this screen and don’t get my fingers moving and my brain cells sizzling, nothing will happen.
I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve been writing a series. And there’s a tremendous comfort in that. Once the first book was done, I knew who my main characters were. I could see them. I knew their opinions, attitudes, flaws and foibles and eccentricities, even their daily habits. Granted, there’s still a new plot to invent, a new crime(s), and a choice of victim(s) and murderer(s), but the mainstays – the tent poles if you will — of this imaginary universe were in place. Everything else could be built around that.
More recently, I’ve been working on something new. And it’s a struggle. The start of every book feels that way, even in a familiar universe. As I sit and stare at a blinding computer screen, I feel like I really should be out buying climbing gear and hiring a Sherpa to help get me to the top of that mountain — the mountain that consists of a cohesive 80,000 plus words of a (hopefully) interesting story.
This time, I started with two characters who I knew would inevitably become intertwined, but I realized as I wrote one chapter after another, a new character was needed. He would be a grounding force. And then of course I realized all these new characters had to be worked out. I had to know WHO THEY WERE, what they ate for breakfast, what their fears were, what their desires were, what their failures were. I had to start from ground zero with nothing to build on.
This was so much harder than writing the series I was so familiar with. Even though I sometimes couldn’t remember the name of the street where my protagonist lived. How could I forget that? Was is Elm? No. Maple. No, maybe it was Elm. I’d have to go back and look at my original notes. How could I go blank? I certainly don’t want an email from a reader telling me I had forgotten the street where my main character lived. That would be really embarrassing!
It’s terribly hard to start a whole new project. No signposts along the way until you yourself create them. Hard to trust yourself that yes, you can do it again. So maybe it’ll get easier as I go along? I think it’s time to get the ropes, the boots, the camp stove and find a Sherpa.
This is my fourth Soup Lover’s mystery, and I’m impressed. It’s hard to keep a cozy series “realistic” — by which I mean, keep inventing mysteries that work within the fairly small community that usually comprises the setting, without having the situations and/or characters feel contrived or artificial. But Connie Archer manages it, and quite handily, too.
A Clue in the Stew introduces some new characters into tiny Snowflake, Vermont: Hilary Stone, a best-selling mystery author whose book event takes place at By the Spoonful, heroine Lucky’s restaurant; Hilary’s rather unpleasant entourage, including her son, daughter-in-law, and publicist; and Nanette, the restaurant’s new waitress, who quickly gets on everyone’s wrong side except Lucky’s grandfather, Jack. And there’s the dead body discovered in the woods…
When a second person turns up dead, killed by the same method, and a Spoonful regular disappears, Lucky and her friends try to figure out the connections to clear his name. Archer throws out plenty of clues, including a few red herrings. Nonetheless, she managed to surprise me several times with relationships, connections, or conclusions I didn’t see coming.
I love that Lucky is a normal, well-grounded person. She doesn’t intend to interfere with the police investigation, and usually shares what she finds out with Snowflake’s police chief as soon as she can. And while she sometimes gets into tight situations, she’s neither stupid nor careless. She’s likable, warmhearted, and loyal. Her friends and the other denizens of Snowflake are ordinary people, too, for the most part — as opposed to the over-abundance of eccentrics in some of the cozy series I’ve read. Frankly, I really like the town and its people. It’s that, along with Archer’s well-constructed plots and good pacing, that makes the Soup Lover’s Mystery series one of my favorite American cozies.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2016