A CHEESY MYSTERY

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Submitted Date 10/08/2022
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I'm as powerless to resist a pun as Superman is to Kryptonite (same with cheese). That's why, when I saw a cozy mystery titled Up to No Gouda, my eager little eyes lit up. I adore cozy mysteries, but they're as varied as a bag of nuts. Sometimes they're perfect literary snacks, and sometimes they leave a bad taste in your mouth. So, as a stranger to Reilly's work, I wasn't sure what to expect beyond the usual cozy elements (if you're unfamiliar with this mystery subgenre, read this this).

Up to No Gouda is the first in a series that launched earlier this year. It features Carly Hale, who has just returned to her hometown after the untimely death of her husband. She's opened her dream business, a grilled cheese cafe, in the old ice cream parlor of her childhood. But it's not long before trouble comes knocking in the form of an ex-boyfriend. Lyle Bagley is pompous, arrogant, and happens to own Carly's building. He wants her out to make room for his new fiancee's boutique. When he turns up dead, however, Carly's employee is the prime suspect.

It's up to Carly to clear Suzanne's name and save her business. The police chief is an old friend, but not exactly the sleuth of the year. With the help of an eager amateur reporter, an estranged best friend, and a young culinary prodigy, Carly is determined to expose the muenster who smoked Lyle before her cafe is toast.

This novel checks all of the boxes for a standard cozy mystery except one. Nearly every cozy has an animal companion to keep the main character on their toes. While there is a little dog in the story, it's on the periphery, almost as if Reilly finished writing and then said, "oh, wait, I forgot to add the requisite animal." That being said, it's a fairly minor issue in the grand scheme of the book. There's also a hint of romance, but Carly is hesitant to engage in much flirtation because of her recent loss. I suspect this is a seed for the future storyline.

It may seem idiosyncratic, but continuity, spelling, and grammar errors can kill the vibe of a book for me, especially if it's professionally published. If the editors didn't care enough to put the script into a spellchecker, why should I care enough to read it? Happily, I didn't find any of these faults in Up to No Gouda.

My favorite elements of the book were Carly's reunion with her estranged high school best friend and the character Grant. Grant and his parents are the only black characters in the book, as far as I can tell. Instead of treating Grant like a trope, Reilly writes him as a multidimensional character with an entrepreneurial attitude and stellar work ethic. I'm not sure how I feel about Suzanne, although I certainly wouldn't blame her if she did kill Lyle.

Likewise, Carly didn't build much of a connection with me. As a relatively clever woman with a deceased husband and a strong drive to make her melty cheese dreams come true, you'd think I'd be all in. But, I didn't find myself very invested in her character. She felt like a neutral vehicle to carry the reader through the story. Perhaps she'll be a stronger personality in the sequel. For now, the supporting characters are enough to give the story some sparkle.

As for discovering the murderer, I had no idea who it could be until just before the big reveal. Take this with a grain of salt, however, since I am rarely sharp enough to figure out the killer on my own. My memory for names is like Swiss cheese and if I put down a book for a minute, I will have forgotten the characters that aren't right in front of me. You, on the other hand, might be able to sniff out the culprit right away.

Sandwiched between the covers of this book are an interesting plot and a story that kept me engaged. It also made me very hungry for grilled cheese! As with most cozies, there are recipes for the treats in the book on the back pages. My copy also includes a snippet of the second book to tease me into continuing the series. I've stayed away from reading it because I intend to shell out my cheddar for the second book, No Parm, No Foul, anyway.

 

As usual, don't just take my word for it. Check out these other resources:

Linda Reilly's website

The Bashful Bookworm review

Novels Alive review

Indie Bound - buy local!

*Photo by Alan Levine via PxHere

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