Pancake House Mystery, Book #5
By Sarah Fox
Author’s website: authorsarahfox.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
When a murder case from the past heats up again, it’s up to Marley McKinney to sort through a tall stack of suspects in the latest Pancake House Mystery . . .
Although it’s a soggy start to spring in Wildwood Cove, the weather clears up just in time for the town to host an amateur chef competition. Marley McKinney, owner of the Flip Side pancake house, already signed up to volunteer, and chef Ivan Kaminski is one of the judges. But when Marley visits her landscaper boyfriend Brett at the site of the Victorian mansion that’s being restored as the Wildwood Inn, she discovers something else pushing up daisies: human remains.
The skeleton on the riverbank washed out by the early-spring floodwaters belonged to eighteen-year-old Demetra Kozani, who vanished a decade earlier. While the cold case is reopened, Marley must step in when some of the cook-off contestants fall suspiciously ill. Stuck in a syrupy mess of sabotage and blackmail, it falls to Marley to stop a killer from crêping upon another victim.
I very much enjoyed this fifth in the Pancake House Mystery Series. Sarah Fox has given us a fun and feisty cast of characters who demonstrate small-town living at its best. The oceanside setting on the NW Pacific coast is like a dream come true, and the mysteries are riveting.
Marley inherited her lovely oceanside Victorian home, the orange tabby Flapjack, and The Flip Side pancake house from an older cousin not quite a year ago. She had no idea what she was in for when moving to this community that she had only visited in the summers when she was growing up and doesn’t regret a moment of it. Marley has been dating her teenage crush, Brett, who had been too shy to ever ask her out as a teen. While Marley runs The Flip Side, Brett runs his own landscape and gardening service in Wildwood Cove.
After a very wet spring, Brett is finishing the landscaping for Wildwood Inn, which will celebrate its grand opening soon. Marley stopped in to visit him and saw a tiny black kitten darting about. They tried to catch it so it wouldn’t be lost in the neighboring woods, and after Marley grabbed it, a gruesome sight met her eyes, probably loosened from the earth by the earlier river floodwaters. A partial human skull was coming out of the ground.
Brett called Uncle Ray Georgeson, the local sheriff. Within a short time, a skeleton was also found. The remains were later identified as those belonging to a teen who had disappeared the night of her high school graduation ten years earlier. It had been thought she went to New York City to become a model, but finally her mother, living in another state, put out the alert that Demetra was missing. There was probably only one real suspect at that time, Tyrone, the teen she had been dating.
Marley has been asked to help judge the 7th Annual Olympic Peninsula amateur chef competition when one of the judges had to leave town for work. Her talented, gruff mountain of a chef with a heart of gold, Ivan, judged the first round in her stead. There are two groups of competitors, teens and adults. As the second round was beginning, one of the judges became ill and had to leave. Immediately before the third and final round began, one of the adults and one of the teens became ill and had to drop out. It wasn’t just winning the competition that was important; there was a substantial cash prize as well.
Marley’s father died before she was born of an undiagnosed heart problem. Much to her surprise, she saw a man in town who looked just like an older version of the father who she knew only through photographs. She has never seen him in Wildwood Cove before and definitely wants to find him before he leaves.
Marley has helped solve various crimes in the past, beginning with the beloved cousin who had left her the home and restaurant. Brett’s Uncle Ray has not been happy about the risks of citizen involvement and has discouraged her in the past. While she is still curious, and asks a few more questions than she should, Marley takes a quieter role this time, even as she learns of one other potential suspect who knew Demetra back in the day.
With each successive novel in the series I feel that I know the characters even better than before, they are so ready to come to life and step out of the pages! I like Marley, her best friend Lisa, and Brett’s sister Chloe. They are close and loyal friends with common interests. Lisa even took the tiny kitten Marley and Brett found when Flapjack didn’t welcome another feline on his turf. One can even almost picture the characters that are not likable, including a couple suspects.
Looking closely at the unrelated mysteries – the murder, mystery man, and poisoned contestants – each has been planned with care. Plot twists change the landscape several times, but I was completely unprepared for who really killed Demetra and why. Even the person who made the amateur chefs sick was a bit of a surprise; I couldn’t figure out a motive. Those are hallmarks of a good mystery when at least one of the bad guys is a total surprise. The end is a complete, delightful, surprise! This novel can be read as a standalone and enjoyed, even more, when you’ve read any others in the series. I highly recommend this, and the rest of the series!
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*