ABOUT THE BOOK:
A delicious new cozy mystery series featuring the Culinary Capers Dinner Club—who are fearless when it comes to cooking up new dishes and putting the lid on crime...Event planner Jennifer “J.J.” Tanner has a full plate, but that’s the way she likes it. First, it’s her turn to choose the recipe for the next meeting of the Culinary Capers Dinner Club, a gathering of foodie friends who experiment with entrées for their creative and gastronomical pleasure. Second, she’s organizing an Italian princess party for the twenty-one-year-old daughter of a high-tech millionaire.
But one thing J.J. didn’t plan on is that the caterer for the event—hotshot chef Antonio Marcotti—would end up murdered the night of the party. Or that she’d end up being a prime suspect after having had a heated argument with the unscrupulous chef. Now it’s up to J.J.—with help from her fellow Club members and a handsome if mysterious private eye—to turn the tables on the real killer...
“You know, it doesn’t count if you eat a Truffle on a Friday. Calorie-wise, that is. Especially if it’s the first Friday of the month.”
J.J. Tanner grinned at her friend and colleague, Skye Drake, then popped the chili dark chocolate truffle into her mouth. She closed her eyes as she chewed, and finished it off with a long sigh. “What about eating two truffles?”
“Don’t push it,” Skye answered, laughing. “So tell me, what do you think? Aren’t they to die for?”
“Oh, yeah. I’d go for it, Skye. I think we could work these into any event and I like the idea that we’d be the exclusive distributor for the truffles. And maybe as part of this new venture, she’ll keep us in our own personal supply.”
Skye slid out from behind her desk at Make It Happen, the event planning business she owned, and struck a goddess pose. “You think this body needs any more calories?” She looked down at herself and smirked. “Not likely. You on the other hand, my slender young nymph, are welcome to my share if this comes to pass.”
“Young,” J.J. sniffed. “I do recall us being classmates at Champlain College and it wasn’t all that long ago. Are you finding it more difficult to remember things these days?” She flashed a grin. “Anyway, happy to help, as always. So this means the corporate bash is wrapped up?
“As ready to go as it will be. Saturday night is the big event. I’ll be very relieved when it’s over. It doesn’t matter how many years I’ve worked as an event planner, I always hold my breath until clean-up begins. How is your Italiana princess party coming along?” Skye hefted a hip onto the edge of her desk and folded her arms across her chest. She wore her long blonde hair up in a chignon on days when she had meetings with clients. Today had been one of those days.
J.J. sighed. “I’m excited about it. The Italian part of the theme is a done deal. After all, what else would it be when the sweet twenty-one-year old to be is of Italian heritage. And I think the “princess” is delighted with my suggestion of making it an Italian Designer Delight. Everyone invited is being asked to wear in some manner, or carry, an Italian designer item. Angelica Portovino wants to be a fashion designer herself, you know. She’s a very fashion-conscious gal, even though her purchases are far out of line with most twenty-one-year-olds I know. But with a wealthy Italian dad who’s made it big in technology, the sky’s the limit, so to speak.”
“You’ve been waiting to use that one, haven’t you?”
“Absolutely. Seriously, it will all come together once I have the replacement caterer and menu wrapped up.”
“Who’s at the top of your list?”
“Evan is really pushing for Antonio Marcotti. He decorated Marcotti’s restaurant last year and says the guy’s a marvel with food. Italian, of course.’
“Is he the one who owns the place on Hart Street?”
“Yup. Bella Luna. I was pleased that he did agree to take on the job when I phoned him earlier this week. It’s such short notice but when I’d filled him in on the theme, along with a couple of food requests from the client, and the budget he said it all sounded fine. Actually, I think the name of the client was the major selling point. We have a meeting on Monday afternoon to go over the menu.”
“Sounds like a good fit. And talk about lucky. Think about it, if the original caterer had been even one week later in giving notice, you may have been up that proverbial creek without a paddle.”
“Don’t I know it.” J.J. looked at the clock that hung above the credenza that served as a coffee station as well. She started to tidy her desk. “I really can’t believe Marcotti is able to fit this event in at such short notice. I take that as a good omen.”
“And what about your own personal food dilemma?”
“Ah, you mean the one where I have to come up with a cookbook and then choose an entrée from it and furthermore, actually prepare it for the Culinary Capers? My second hosting of the dinner club?”
“That would be the one.”
“I don’t have anything in mind yet but I’m on it.”
“I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t point out that it’s been nearly a week since the last dinner club evening. That’s right isn’t it? One week on Sunday?” Skye peered over the red frames of her reading glasses.
“Are you enjoying this inquisition?”
Skye smiled. “Yes, I am. Thanks for asking.”
“I have had other things on my mind, namely work, boss. But it won’t be a problem. Tomorrow morning we’re all meeting at Beth’s coffee shop and I’ll announce the name of the cookbook, hence the need to hit the bookstore tonight. That’ll still give everyone three weeks to go out and buy the book, or borrow it, and come up with a dish to go along with the entrée I choose. I’m sort of leaning towards Italian.”
“Hmm, wonder where that comes from?”
“You’re right. I think I’m on a roll. I’m even dreaming Italian these days. In fact, I may just ask Antonio Marcotti for a few suggestions. However, it still remains that the major problem with choosing the main course is the part about having to cook it myself.”
“Oh come on now. You pulled off the last dinner you hosted, didn’t you? Everyone loved the whatchamacallit you made.”
J.J. sighed. “You can’t go too wrong with chicken jambalaya. There was a reason I chose a Southern cookbook, you know. But I do think my period of grace is coming to an end. I’ve been a member of Culinary Capers for six months now. I really need to come up with something a bit more complicated or I could lose my spot. And I’m trying. How does this sound - al dente or al forno, sautéed or seared? Don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about?”
Skye gave her a thumbs up.
J.J. sat back and laughed. “Wow, who’d have thought I’d actually be contemplating making an elaborate meal?”
“Could have knocked me over with a feather when you said you were joining the dinner club,” Skye answered with mock sincerity.
J.J. threw the small stuffed beaver, the revered mascot from their college days, which sat on her desk for just such moments, at Skye. “Thanks for the support.”
“You’re welcome and remember who you bring the leftovers to.” Skye waited a beat before continuing. “By the way, since the princess party is still two weeks away, are you able to meet with a new client tomorrow?”
J.J. paused in the middle of corralling her hair in a ponytailer. She knew it was seriously time for a haircut but wouldn’t you know it, the week she’d planned it, her hair fell just right, in soft curls well below her shoulders. And the bangs had even behaved. Now, if it could only be that agreeable the rest of the month. She picked a long dark brown hair off her white Cashmere top. “Business is really picking up these days. That’s two new clients this week, right? Which one is mine?”
Skye walked back around her desk and scrolled down her computer screen before answering. “Her name is Olivia Barker and she’s the Communications person for Kirking Manufacturing. They’re planning, to quote her, “a very special retirement party” in, I think she said, five months.”
“I love a client with a long timeline. It sounds like fun. Who’s on your list and I hope it’s a long way off also. I know you have that fundraiser coming up next month.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Still having problems with the chairperson?”
“She is a diva in her own mind. Very much the reason I prefer dealing with the male gender.”
“So that’s why I get Ms. Barker,” J.J. shot back, smiling all the while.
Skye shrugged. “You might get lucky. She may be a gem.”
“Perhaps. Or I may need to do a little polishing along with the planning. Is there anything I can help you with?”
The phone rang before Skye had a chance to reply. She shook her head in answer while picking up the receiver. J.J. watched her old friend, and more recently, her boss as she wound a thick strand blonde hair that had escaped its bonds, around her finger. She’s tired. It had been a long week, what with the current client list, the new ones being added, and trying to come up with ideas that would re-vamp their website. They weren’t yet at the stage where they had too many clients.
J.J. could help with the first but not the latter, although she loved tossing out ideas. That’s the part she loved the most about being an event planner – not the final product, but the process of creating it. She smiled as she checked her email for a final time that day. She was lucky to have landed on her feet and in such good company.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Toasting Up Trouble ( Dinner Club Mystery #1) by Linda Wiken is a 2016 Berkley publication.
The colorful cast of characters are zany, interesting, and at times very mysterious. I loved the banter between J.J and Ty, as they start off on the wrong foot with each other, but wind up making a pretty good team.
There is a secondary thread running through the book as well. J.J. discovers someone is stealing her event planning ideas, which added a little more depth to the story, without taking too much away from the main mystery.
I think J.J. is going to be a terrific amateur sleuth and I can’t wait to see what mystery she will help solve next and how things will progress with Ty.
The book also has a couple of yummy recipes included!
Foodies and cozy mystery lovers will definitely want to give this book a try!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
For 14 years, Linda Wiken owned the mystery specialty store, Prime Crime Books in Ottawa, ON. It was with sadness and a sense of anticipation that she closed the store in 2010. Now, she's embarked on a life of crime between the pages. Her first novel in the Ashton Corners Book Club mysteries, A Killer Read, was published April, 2012 as her alter ego, Erika Chase, and was shortlisted for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel at the Malice Domestic conference. There are now five books in the series.
She embarks on a new writing adventure as the real Linda Wiken with another series, the Dinner Club Mysteries, also from Berkley Prime Crime. The first book, Toasting Up Trouble, will be released on July 5, 2016.
Her short stories have appeared in the seven Ladies’ Killing Circle anthologies (three of which she co-edited), and in the magazines Mysterious Intent and Over My Dead Body. She has been short-listed for an Arthur Ellis Award, Best Short Story, from Crime Writers of Canada.