I had been waiting for some time for the second outing in the “A Cookbook Nook Mystery” series and it does not disappoint. Jenna Hart, the protagonist, is still working at her Cookbook shop, hosting a community grill off event, grieving for her “dead” husband and, of course, sleuthing.
The mystery revolves around a murder at the competition and involves many recurring characters from book one. After a rocky start in book one, Jenna and Cinnamon, the local Police Chief, have a tentative new friendship. The Mayor Zeller returns again in this book and features prominently in it. Many of the other locals are included as well.
The characters are interesting and many of them seem like people you could know in real life. There are lots of possible culprits to choose from and the plot takes the reader through many twists and turns. The mystery plot is two-fold, the current murder mystery and a continuing plot from book one about David, Jenna’s dead (maybe missing??) husband. I am eager to read the next in this series.
Garnethill is a book that was chosen as a group read for my Kindle English Mystery Book Club on Goodreads. I have never read anything by this author, Denise Mina before this book.
Garnethill is about an incest survivor who wakes up and finds her married boyfriend murdered in her living room. She was institutionalized briefly in the past and the book is as much about her attempt to hold onto her sanity as it is solving the murder.
The positives about this book are that it has a well done mystery, with enough characters to keep you guessing and twists and turns throughout the plot. The pacing is good and it kept me turning the pages in a race to get to the end. The setting is particularly well done, in description and in setting the mood of the book. It has a well developed sense of place as the reader follows Maureen to institutions, her family home, the police station, and day centers.
I found the portrayal of Maureen O’Donnell, incest survivor, mental health patient, and adult child of an alcoholic to be extraordinarily perceptive and full of the nuances necessary to make it real. Maureen is a study in contradictions, doubting herself and unable to trust others. Distrustful of authority figures, morally “flexible” – yet with a sense of right and wrong, intelligent yet with no ambition, craving independence yet feeling lonely…all of the things that come from being violated as a child and not having your emotional needs met in childhood. This is the best part of the book for me.
The main negative that I could find about this book is the portrayal of the police. It is a very stereotypical, cartoon-like characterization. It seemed we were supposed to side with Maureen in the interviews, but I could definitely see the police’s perspective. The body is found in her flat. Her behavior is odd, to say the least, she lied time and again (and got caught), and she came across as manipulative or even criminal. This part of the book is not up to the standards of the rest of the book. It seems like an adolescent take on authority – they are authority figures, hence they must be bad/incompetent/uncaring.
A final word to the wise, as I was not aware of this when I read the book, it is book one in a trilogy, so there are some things left unresolved. The good thing is that there was enough great stuff here that I will probably read the next two books anyway.