Publication Date: 09/03/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Christine DeSmet on the WEB:
Excerpt from First Degree Fudge, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.
First in a new mystery series--includes fudge recipes!
New candy store owner Ava Oosterling specializes in making heavenly homemade fudge and fresh starts. But she’s just found out that her newest flavor is to die for….
Between getting her store up and running and uneasily settling back into her charming Lake Michigan hometown, Ava Oosterling has her plate full. She hopes using local fresh dairy and her own flavorful imagination to cook up one-of-a-kind fudge will also create a brand-new start for her. And if she can tempt wealthy ex–film star Rainetta Johnson to try her newest creation, Cinderella Pink, at a local fund-raiser, maybe her road to big-time success will be short and sweet.
But when Rainetta chokes to death on a stolen diamond hidden in the fudge’s fluffy depths, Ava is pegged as the prime suspect. Now saving her business and reputation means investigating a batch of townspeople who had numerous reasons to hate disdainful, hard-bargaining Rainetta. With Ava’s best friend and her former flame in the suspect mix, she must figure out who the real culprit is fast or face a very bitter end.…
Christine DeSmet is taking on fudge in her new Fudge Shop Mystery series. First-Degree Fudge is the first book in the series and will have readers drooling with it's descriptions of heroine Ava Oosterling's confections. Set in a small Wisconsin town on Lake Michigan readers will enjoy the down home atmosphere and quirky characters that Desmet brings into play in this cozy mystery. What do Cinderella Pink Fudge and diamonds have to do with murder? Readers are about to find out in this cozy debut!
There are some pro's and con's to DeSmet's first offering in this series. One of the pro's is definitely the author's ability to write descriptive prose. When DeSmet starts to write about the Cinderella Pink Fudge and other delights she hopes to produce for Ava's fudge shop, the reader will likely swoon. DeSmet talks about fudge in a way that will make the reader almost taste the delicious flavors, smell that candy smell and hear the ooh's and aah's. It also helps that the author puts a few of those recipes in the back of the book for readers to recreate for themselves. This was one of my favorite parts of the book and shows a lot of potential.
Another pro was the small town of Fisher Point, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. This was a perfect setting for this series. I haven't read too many cozies set in Wisconsin or on Lake Michigan, so that was something that drew my interest right away. When an author is starting a new series, it is extremely important for them to establish the setting and make it a place that readers will want to return to. The overall atmosphere of the series definitely had that enchanted small town feel, with places like Granpa's Bait and Beer Shop and the Blue Heron Hotel. I think DeSmet did a good job of setting up the town and it's quirky inhabitants.
Unfortunately there were a few problems with this debut that I have to mention. When it came to characterization, the author does a fairly in depth job with heroine, Ava Oosterling but the rest of characters fall a little flat. They are one dimensional and the reader will have a hard time figuring out whether this a person who may be in the next book or not. I think DeSmet focus was a little centered on the main character and left too much to the readers imagination on the supporting cast. I didn't get much back story or relevance to many of the other characters, even the killer.
The other issue I had was the main character herself. DeSmet describes her very well, but unfortunately I didn't like the description. She comes across as overzealous, and somewhat annoying. She does not try to work with the police, but against them. She also makes some decisions that were not in keeping with how the author was describing her. I think that perhaps as the series continues DeSmet may make Ava a little more likable. I think it is so important for the reader to identify with the heroine and it's missing to some degree with this one.
The mystery aspect of the story was a good one. I liked the overall theme of the former movie star and the diamonds and how that played into the plot of Ava's Fudge shop. There were a few times when I felt like the author was repetitive and others where some of the plot devices come out of left field. The villain was not very predictable which is usually a good thing, but in this case it's not. The reason the bad guy wasn't easy to figure out was because the plot was a little bit all over the place.
I definitely think there is potential here for a good series. We have to keep in mind that the first book in a series is generally not the best book, because so many things have to fall into to place to set up the entire series. The authors focus is often on too many things at one time. I think Christine DeSmet has a wonderful idea here, but the execution was a bit off. That's not to say that it can't be fixed. The next book in the series will probably be a lot better. I don't think we count this one out just yet. Try it for yourself and see what you think. It might be right up your alley. These are of course, just my humble opinions.
First-Degree Fudge is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
About the Author:
Christine DeSmet is a winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart as well as a three-time finalist. She is also a winner of the Slamdance Film Festival writing contest. A member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America, Christine teaches fiction and screenwriting at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
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