Final Sentence (Cookbook Nook Mystery #1) by Daryl Wood Gerber (Berkley Prime Crime mass market, 2 July 2013).
After the accidental death of her husband, Jenna Hart leaves the pressure-cooker world of advertising to join her Aunt Vera in opening a cookbook store and café in the seaside village of Crysta Cove, California. Jenna plans a splashy grand opening, featuring a signing by her college roommate Desirée Devine, now a famous chef. As she remembers, Desirée's life is fraught with drama; as soon as she parks her two motor homes outside the Cookbook Nook, she argues with a neighboring store owner, as well as her own staff.
Later, that evening, Jenna is walking on the beach outside her cottage, admiring the sand sculptures left over from a competition, when she trips over one and realizes that under the sculpture of a mermaid is a real body. And the body belongs to Desirée! Because there was a rumor that Desirée had been having an affair with her old friend's late husband, Jenna comes under suspicion.
The fear of being arrested for a crime she didn't commit, on top of the stress of relocating and opening a new business, as well as continuing to grieve for her husband, turns Jenna into an emotional wreck. But she's still determined to prove her innocence.
The story's charming location and appealing characters hold promise for an engaging new series!
Yarn to Go (Yarn Retreat Mystery #1) by Betty Hechtman (Berkley Prime Crime mass market, 2 July 2013).
Casey Feldstein has tried on several professions, but hasn't been able to find one that suits her. So when her aunt, retired actress Joan Stone, invites her to spend some time in Cadbury-by-the-Sea in Northern Califonia, Casey eagerly leaves her nagging parents and boring boyfriend behind in Chicago.
But Joan is killed in a hit-and-run just a few months later, leaving everything to her niece. Overwhelmed, Casey continues to live in Joan's guest house, avoids going into Joan's home, and tries to figure out what to do. Joan ran a craft-retreat business, using a nearby resort hotel as a location, but Casey provides baked goods to several establishments in town.
When she learns that Joan still had a knitting retreat booked, her first thought is to cancel, but there's no way she'll be able to refund all the registration fees, Casey decides to go through with it, despite knowing nothing about the craft. She even thinks it's going well until one of Joan's "regulars" is found murdered in her room.
Feeling somehow responsible, Casey tries to figure out what happened, and discovers that the situation is much more complex than it seemed.
Casey is easy to identify with: who hasn't, at some point in life, been perplexed about the future? stories. But, determined to learn what's right for her, she admirably stands up to pressure from both her parents and her former beau.
This is a worthy addition to the craft mystery subgenre, and I look forward to further installments in this series.
FTC Full Disclosure: My thanks to the publisher for the review copies.