I turned forty this year. Forty seems to be a sobering age for every woman, but it hit me especially hard. When most women get to be my age, they at least have some bragging rights: successful career, happy marriage, beautiful children, nice home. I had none of the above. My so-called bragging rights included a failed marriage, a dingy apartment, and twenty years’ service in a dead-end job. Cue violins. [Excerpt from Murder Takes the Cake]
Murder Takes the Cake by Gayle Trent
Bell Bridge Books, 2008
Crime Fiction (MYS); 260 pgs
Murder Takes a Cake was my first experience reading an e-book. Technically though, I cheated by printing the book out so that I could carry it around to read at my convenience. For those who prefer paper books, it is available in that format as well so do not despair if you decide you would like to read this book.
Daphne Martin, named by her mother after author Daphne du Maurier, has left behind an abusive husband and a dead end job in Tennessee, returning to small town Virginia to be closer to her family. She is trying her hand at running her own business, baking and decorating cakes. Daphne’s first customer just had to be Yodel Watson, the town’s meanest gossip.
Hoping that the third time is the charm, Daphne makes her way to Mrs. Watson’s house with her latest attempt to meet the older woman’s demands; only, she finds the woman dead on the floor. Gayle Trent’s cozy mystery takes off like a shot, growing more complex and multilayered as the story unfolds.
The mystery deepens when Daphne is asked to retrieve the dead woman’s diary for safe keeping until Mrs. Watson’s daughter can come to town to get it. Inside the diary, Daphne discovers secrets she may regret knowing for all the trouble it lands her in. Unfortunately, some of what she uncovers hits close to home, and she begins to question her own family’s past, particularly that of her mother, a woman Daphne does not especially get along with.
Daphne decides to search for answers herself when her name is tarnished by evidence that Mrs. Watson had been poisoned. Plus, she cannot help but to pry into her own family history.
Daphne is a well meaning character who has had a difficult past. She can be stubborn, which proves to be both a curse and an advantage as it sometimes leads her astray while at other times makes her stand her ground even when threatened. Daphne comes close to being annoying, but did not quite go over that edge fortunately. With all the small town gossip, I wondered just how much Daphne was contributing to it herself.
There is a host of interesting characters that Daphne encounters both in her inquiries and through her business. I look forward to getting to know Ben better. He is a childhood friend of Daphne’s, now a reporter with the local newspaper. One of my favorite characters, besides Sparrow, the one-eyed cat, is Juanita who works at the local grocery store. She is a very minor character, but one that holds a lot of promise. Then there are the eccentrics like Belinda Fremont who throws birthday parties for her dear guinea pigs and Fred, a bagger at the grocery store, who runs hot and cold depending on the day.
The mystery itself is curious, leading readers in a variety of directions. Although I figured out the whodunit before Daphne did, it still came as a surprise when I realized who it was.
Murder Takes the Cake has all the earmarks of a good cozy: a mystery to solve, a cast of colorful characters, humor, and tiny hint of romance. It is a promising start to a new series. You did not think I could resist a one-eyed cat, did you?
Visit Gayle's Websites:
Daphne's Delectable Cakes
Gayle's Squidoo Page on Freelance Writing
Thank you to Angela with WOW! Women On Writing and author Gayle Trent for the opportunity to read and review Murder Takes the Cake.