Flourless to Stop Him
A Baker’s Treat Mystery #3
By Nancy Parra
Author’s Website: www.nancyjparra.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
The author of Murder Gone A-Rye and Gluten for Punishment returns to Oiltop, Kansas, where gluten-free baker Toni Holmes has to separate the wheat from the chaff to clear her brother of murder…
It’s never a good time for a crisis. Toni’s busy whipping up gluten-free holiday treats when a murder forces her to put baking on the back burner. A dead man has been found in the bathtub of a local inn—in a room registered to her brother, Tim.
With her sibling now a prime suspect in a mysterious homicide, Toni is determined to find out who set him up. But she’s about to get some unwanted assistance from former investigative journalist Grandma Ruth, who won’t let anything slow her progress in running down a killer…
How special…a body in a bathtub at the Red Tile Inn. In a room rented out in her brother Tim’s name? Toni was visiting her best friend Tasha, who ran the Inn, and the poor housekeeper found the body while she was there. Toni returned to Oiltop, Kansas, after finding her now-ex-husband to be unfaithful and after her mother’s passing. Toni inherited the family homestead and had to keep some of the many rooms available for any of her family to stay when necessary. With 52 cousins, many with spouses and children, there was almost always someone who coming to stay. Toni had also been diagnosed as celiac; she learned how to cook and bake delicious, gluten-free foods and desserts and decided to open Baker’s Treat, the best (and only!) wheat-free bakery in Oiltop.
Usually Toni was the one who found the bodies. Thankfully this time she was merely visiting Tasha when the dead man was found. Nothing feels right about this murder, however. Tim Ryder had been staying with Toni for several months to save money to get into his own place, which he had done only weeks earlier. He had no reason to spend money on a motel room. Nor did he use or deal drugs, but a large bag of cocaine was found in Toni’s garage based on a ‘tip’ that was called in.
The dead man was finally identified as Tim’s former best friend. A trail of check-ins at the local motels showed that “Tim” checked in at least a couple times a week. Toni had helped solve mysteries since her return to Oiltop, but felt that due process of law would be better served by allowing the police to pursue their investigation, at least until they stopped looking beyond Tim.
Christmas was approaching quickly, and Toni struggled to find moments to sleuth. She had to make all of her promised baking dates for Christmas events so she would have enough money to catch up overdue bills and hold her shop through the lean winter months. Then the first blizzard hit, shutting down Oiltop and the power from Toni’s bakery… which could close her doors permanently if her inventory and work in progress were lost to the outage.
Adding to the confusion, cousin Mindy was visiting from NYC for reasons known only to Grandma Ruth. Two good-looking single guys were interested in asking Toni out, both of whom she had decided to put off until a year after her divorce and after Christmas. Sam Greenbaum, a rancher, frequently bought coffee and treats from her bakery. Local attorney Brad Ridgeway also purchased his share of coffee as he defended Toni’s family members or friends as needed.
Grandma Ruth could almost have her own series – she is a priceless nonagenarian whose scooter chair works better than some 4-wheel drives! Her mind and her tongue are razor sharp; she is an endless source of information and laughs. A retired newspaperwoman, she blogs her investigations online and rivals the local newspaper reporter, Candy Cole. Toni is a strong woman who has taken the lemons of her divorce and her celiac diagnosis and turned them into the lemonade of her own business. Tim, Tasha, and other characters are as developed as necessary for their respective roles in the mystery. I really enjoyed both Toni and Grandma Ruth the most, as well as one of the men who is interested in Toni (and I’m not tellin’ who!).
The plot was thoroughly executed with continuing twists and turns to keep it interesting. Nancy Parra is a delightful writer with imaginative characters, a great sense of humor, and unique talent to create a satisfying murder mystery. No matter how I looked at the given clues, I couldn’t solve the mystery until the final pieces were disclosed and the bad guy revealed. The little town that Toni calls home has a rich blend of residents and sounds like a beautiful place to be. The family homestead sounds like a small mansion where there is still space to maintain a hiding place when all of the family shows up.
I truly enjoyed Flourless to Stop Him, the third in the Baker’s Treat Mystery series. It can be read as a stand-alone mystery, as I have not yet read the earlier two novels – which I plan to remedy! I highly recommend this mystery to anyone who likes unique baking cozies that include humor, an atypical huge family of characters, a challenging mystery, and potential for romance. Don’t wait for December to read it, as thoughts of snow can be refreshing year-round!