Finished Off in Fondant
Courtney Archer Mystery #2
By Rosemarie Ross
Author’s website: rosemarieross.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Despite a few early hiccups, Courtney is thrilled with her starring role on The American Baking Battle, filmed at a grand resort in the Pocono Mountains. The icing on the cake? The new season has a wedding theme–complete with formalwear. But the first day on set, the producer seems to care more about profits than pastry–and the topper comes when her cohost Skylar falls ill. Little does she know things are about to end in tiers…
When a barely coherent, blood-covered Skylar is discovered at the doorway of his room, Courtney is horrified to walk inside and find a towering wedding cake–thoroughly smashed by the body of a woman in a bridal gown. Now suspicion is filling the studio and falling on Skylar, and Courtney has to look at coworkers and contestants, working through layers of deception to find the real culprit.
Finished Off in Fondant has the intriguing setting of a reality TV show of a wedding-themed bakeoff at a resort nestled in the Poconos. It includes a fascinating, creative cast of characters along with a murder possibly committed by a member of the cast or a competing baker. Ironically, it is the very same place, the very same bakeoff program, where this cast was confronted with a murder the year before. A contestant died, and a chef was a suspect. This time the murdered gal is someone with a past connection to one of the co-hosts, who is the prime suspect. Stir in two of the cast planning an additional show and a sheriff who doesn’t want help from the cast or contestants.
Courtney and Skylar are cohosts hired for the American Baking Battle – Weddings bakeoff. Shannon and Harrison are judges of the contestants’ offerings. Last year, Courtney was the main suspect in a murder that occurred when the bakeoff was being filmed. This year, the theme of the bakeoff is Weddings. Skylar, usually an easygoing guy, is not happy, making disparaging comments about how important a wedding is to women when it is but one day of the marriage. Within a short time, he becomes ill, and goes to his suite to rest. Two contestants appear to be ailing, as well, and go to their rooms at the resort.
Courtney sent Skylar a text to see if he wanted her to bring him soup. He called almost immediately, barely coherent except so say he needed help. When she and Shannon arrive in the hallway where his room is, he is lying on the floor, very sick, with blood on one side of his face, hair, and clothing. When Courtney looked inside the door of his suite, she is shocked to see the dead body of a woman in a bridal gown with a knife stuck in her chest, lying across a five-tier wedding cake on the coffee table. It’s happening again.
Many things are going on with the show. The producer of the bakeoff is on-site, demanding and difficult to work with as he tries to keep the filming under budget. Skylar is the main suspect, not only because the woman is found in his suite and her blood is on him, but because of their association in the past. He continues to get ill from an interesting cause. Courtney knows her friend is not involved in the murder and wants to prove it by finding out who is.
The characters are less clearly defined than I prefer. While appearances and various costumes are detailed, I didn’t feel I got to know anyone very well other than Courtney. I did not know how old, even a decade range, the co-hosts, judges, or the two men Courtney is interested in are. One of the biggest things we learn about Courtney is how she seems almost obsessed with which of two men is the one she should choose. One is Drake, the head of the security company. The other is Eric, her business partner and close friend. He is spending a lot of time with Pamela, the second-in-command at the security company. She is tasked with protecting Courtney and keeping her out of the investigation. Instead, she and Eric spend a lot of time together with their heads together exchanging secret smiles. Courtney thought about these two situations often enough that, for me, it interrupted the flow of the mystery.
The mystery itself was fascinating, especially as one plot twist after another made Skylar look more guilty. The perfect red herring was introduced who was very easy dislike. There was just enough information provided for the reader to try to figure out who the bad guy was. The solution was satisfactory, with all the loose ends tied up. I recommend this cozy mystery and suggest that one read the series in order.