Drizzled with Death (Sugar Grove #1) by Jessie Crockett (Berkley Prime Crime mass market, 1 October 2013).
The Greene family has been producing maple syrup for a long, long time. They provide the syrup for the annual pancake-eating contest in Sugar Grove, New Hampshire. Their current patriarch, Emerald, has won for the past 36 years and would have the thirty-seventh well in hand but for newcomer Alanza Speedwell. Though she's kept pace with him through six piles of pancakes, at the start of the seventh her eyes glaze over and her face falls into the syrup-soaked stack.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Dani, Emerald's the youngest granddaughter, who has turned the family's hobby into a growing business. So when the Greenes' syrup is blamed for the death, Dani takes it personally and decides to figure out who poisoned Alanza's portion.
I really identified with Dani, the youngest in her family and of very small stature, who has trouble making the rest of the clan take her seriously. There's a touch of romance tinged with humor, as one of Dani's suitors is a taxidermist.
Murder and Marinara (Italian Kitchen #1) by Rosie Genova (Obsidian mass market, 1 October 2013).
In an interesting twist, the protagonist of this series is a mystery writer who is successful enough that her agent and publisher are upset that she wants to take a break from her series and write a historical novel based on her own family. She convinces them to give her a year off, and moves back to her
hometown on the New Jersey shore to work at the family restaurant, Casa Lido in order to be near her sources of information.
But the town is up in arms about a reality television show being filmed there, and the Rienzis are among the most vocal opponents. So when the show's producer dies shortly after eating at Casa Lido, their staff is under suspicion. Business falls drastically, and Victoria needs to find out what killed him before the restaurant is forced to close for good.
I'm looking forward to trying the recipes at the end of the book, as well as the second installment of the series. A preview of The Wedding Soup Murder, due in the summer of 2014, is also included.
Chili Con Carnage (Chili Cook-off #1) by Kylie Logan (Berkley Prime Crime, 1 October 2013).
I love the title of this book, another food-based mystery, with perhaps the most novel (sorry) setting of the three. The Showdown is a traveling chili-cookoff, which does a circuit similar to that of a carnival. Our heroine, Maxie Pierce has joined the Showdown after getting the news that her father,
Texas Jack Pierce, who blends and sells chili seasonings. She and her half-sister Sylvia, despite their prickly relationship, are trying to keep the business going while they try to find out where he is.
Their first night in Taos, Maxie goes out with a new roadie named Roberto and does not have a good time. The next day, she angrily (and publicly) refuses when he begs her to give him another chance, but still, she doesn't expect his corpse to fall on her when she opens the door of an RV. The search for Texas Jack takes the back seat to the search for Roberto's killer.
Lots of twists and turns in this humorous story. I don't think I'll try the chili recipe at the end of the story; I think dill pickles are an odd addition. (But readers, please let me know what you think if you try it.)
FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publishers for the review copies of the above books.