Brought to you by OBS reviewer Laurie
Beware of possible spoilers!
Murder, like Roquefort, stinks…
Cheese Shop owner Charlotte Bessette’s life seems quieter than ever with her fiancé out of town and her cousin Matthew and his children out of the house. But before she can put up her feet and enjoy a glass of chardonnay, Matthew asks her to play host to Noelle Adams, a bright sommelier visiting to help grow business for the local winery.
An affable wine aficionado, Noelle is paired well with the cheese expert Charlotte—but something seems to be troubling the secretive houseguest, and Charlotte’s life is upended when she finds the sparkling woman dead. Between Noelle’s hotheaded ex, the cagey owners of the winery, its jaded manager, and a wily reporter, Charlotte has her pick of suspects, but she needs to act fast—this is a mystery that only gets more dangerous with age.
Undeniably the best and worst thing about this book is that it made me want to eat ALL THE CHEESE. I’ve read numerous cozy mysteries set in all sorts of food establishments: restaurants, bakeries, candy shops, tea shops. Most of them don’t cause any particular cravings, but this book got to me. The recipes sound fantastic and I wanted gourmet cheese. In fact, I went to the store and purchased my own cheese assortment as a result of this book. Props to Ms. Aames for stimulating the cheese economy. The one exception to my drooling was the extensive discussion of turkey pizza. I couldn’t get my head around that one. The book is set near Thanksgiving, but some things were never meant for pizza!
I appreciated that the plot of this mystery is fairly complex, and there are numerous sub-plots to keep things interesting. Charlotte’s boyfriend is in a witness protection situation, working on some sort of mafia trial. The plot becomes especially interesting when it appears that the local winery might be involved in wine fraud. Some topics are inherently interesting; I’ve always felt that was the case with art fraud. I had never heard of wine fraud before this book, but it has that whiff of intrigue and connection to the criminal underworld that make as intrinsically fascinating as efforts to falsify great art.
A few minor elements in this book seemed rather far-fetched. Providence, Ohio, is portrayed as a quite a small town. I had a hard time believing that a town of this size could support a cheese shop, selling predominantly expensive cheeses. The population of Providence seemed to be much more knowledgeable about cheese than any other town in which I’ve resided. Also, some of the characters are larger than life, prone to knock-down, drag-out cheese fights in the street. Not necessarily believable, but these scenes are amusing.
My one significant complaint is one that I find to be an issue in many cozy mysteries. I get aggravated when the main character gets all huffy when the police don’t want her interfering in the investigation. Charlotte definitely falls prey to this, and she and her friends have several whine-fests in which they complain that the police chief has told them to butt out.
Overall, though, I thought this was a well-written and complex mystery, with a delicious setting.