A Sheetcake Named Desire by Jacklyn Brady.*
One of the "big new things" is designer cakes. You know, the ones that look like Hogwarts or R2D2? There are television shows about bakeries that make them, so it's high time there was a mystery series about one.
Just because someone follows a trend, it doesn't mean they'll do it well. Fortunately, Jacklyn Brady does it very well. Our heroine is Rita Lucero, a young pastry chef who's living in Albuquerque and working at her uncle's Mexican restaurant.
Separated from her husband Philippe Renier, and having been unsuccessful in having him sign the divorce papers she's sent him more than once, she finally goes to New Orleans, hoping that she'll have better luck in person. She decides to just drop in at his bakery, Zydeco Cakes, on the premise that he can't avoid her if he doesn't know she's coming.
When she arrives at the bakery, Rita is informed that Philippe is unavailable, so she decides to wait. It soon becomes apparent that something is wrong. Rita goes into the back room and discovers that Philippe and his assistant "Ox" seem to have come to blows. She follows the ruckus outside and discovers Philippe's body stabbed with a knife.
As his estranged wife, and having discovered the corpse, Rita is the main suspect. But she knows she's innocent, and with the help of Philippe's mother and his staff (many of whom are old friends of Rita's, too), she attempts to prove it.
Rita, unsure if she still has feelings for Phillipe but certain that she has to move on with her life, is a believable character, as is the detective, who actually makes an effort to find the real killer.
This book is almost a travelogue of New Orleans. Rita is a foodie first and a true desert girl next. She delights in the jambalayas and cornbreads and cakes and pastries while at the same time bemoaning the heat and humidity that frizz her hair and make her clothes stick to her. And Brady does not ignore the trials the city faced all-too-recently, which makes the ambiance even more authentic.
Like any good food mystery, the book ends with recipes for some of the mouthwatering concoctions Rita describes.
*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher, who sent me a copy of the book for review purposes.