A Scrapbooking Mystery, Book #14
By Laura Childs, Terrie Farley Moran
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
The Winter Market in the French Quarter is in full swing, but murder isn’t taking a holiday in the latest from the New York Times bestselling author of Parchment and Old Lace…
The holidays are a busy time for scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand—but not so hectic that she doesn’t have time to enjoy browsing the booths at the Winter Market with her best friend Ava. The last thing the ladies expect to see is a thrashing man stabbed by a serving fork, dying in front of them.
The victim is loathed restaurant critic Martin Lash, who posted his scathing reviews on the Glutton for Punishment website. And the prime suspect is New Orleans restaurateur Quigg Brevard—who was seen giving the critic a tongue-lashing minutes before someone stuck a fork in him. An old flame of Carmela, Quigg asks for her help, which does not please her current beau, Detective Edgar Babcock, to say the least.
Before her relationship is the next victim, Carmela needs to find a murderer who had no reservations about punishing the culinary curmudgeon.
Carmela’s life is anything but boring, between her scrapbook shop and related craft classes, her boyfriend, and BFF Ava. An ex-boyfriend who is in trouble, and Carmela as well when he asks her to help find the real bad guy; her boyfriend, Detective Edgar Babcock, is not a happy cop about it. This is only the second mystery that I have read in the series of which this is the 14th; it can be read as a standalone as the co-authors share sufficient background for the new or returning reader to feel like a seasoned reader.
Quigg Brevard is the successful owner of two restaurants and a vineyard. He and Carmela had gone out a few years ago and remained friends after deciding they were not suited romantically. Carmela and Ava were at the Winter Market, a celebration of arts, foods and other unique items when they heard Quigg having a shouting disagreement with someone. He had a food booth set up; his disagreement was with a local restaurant reviewer, Martin Lash, who put a terrible review on his web site of the Mumbo Gumbo, one of Quigg’s restaurants. Only moments later after the shout down, the reviewer staggered around the corner of the clothing booth where Ava was trying on a new outfit with a serving fork sticking out of his neck before he collapsed, dead, on the ground.
If that doesn’t put a damper on a fun evening, I don’t know what would! Babcock was not at all delighted to arrive at the Winter Market to find his lady friend with another dead body, especially with Quigg nearby. Unfortunately, with the loud disagreement between restaurateur and reviewer heard by so many, Quigg was his primary suspect unless or until someone more viable appeared. Quigg, very frightened by Babcock’s questioning, asked Carmela to try to find the real bad guy/ bad gal before the noose cinched around his neck any tighter because she had a history of solving murders. Carmela had to try to honor her friend’s request without Babcock finding out, as he didn’t want her doing any more sleuthing.
The characters in ‘Crepe Factor’ are varied, many very likable, and all defined with care. Carmela is a loyal friend, fun to be around, creative and intelligent, and that combination makes her a good sleuth. Ava is a psychic whose shop sells many voodoo items, and gives Carmela a voodoo doll to use as if it were Babcock, telling her to poke a pin in it when she was angry at him. Babcock is straight-laced and doesn’t have the joie de vivre that Carmela does; I wonder at times what she sees in him. Ava’s current boyfriend who she has nicknamed Roman Numeral (as he has III behind his name) does have a quirky side, which could be why he and Ava get along so well. Quigg is the quintessential bad boy, yet he has a good heart – one that still beat for Carmela.
The plot is detailed with layers of mysteries surrounding Lash and implicating at least one if not more additional parties in the miry muck he was involved in. There are definitely moments of excitement when Ava joins Carmela in some of her out of town investigating; Carmela may be in over her head this time. The rich descriptions and dialog bring this story to life even as the plot twists suddenly change the panorama of the novel. The suspects change throughout, but I must say the final bad guy/ gal was unexpected. While I did partially guess at part of the plot, earning, probably a C- or D, it really was Carmela who put it all together. The resolutions were satisfying and all loose ends tied up; Carmela could now return to her shop in time to sell more Christmas and New Year’s materials and crafts. I highly recommend ‘Crepe Factor’ to fans of either or both authors, and those who would love to armchair travel to historic New Orleans for the mystery and holidays.