Spoon to be Dead: A Dessert Cozy Mystery (Shake Shop Mystery, 3)
“Mentink has designed a story that will keep the reader wondering, and then knowing, and then wondering again, as the suspects and victims keep changing places.”
Dana Mintink’s newest cozy starts out with a bang when Gabe Bigley, her main character’s ex-husband, slams into her Shimmy and Shake ice cream shop in Sprocket, Oregon, and announces he just killed someone. Trinidad Jones can’t believe her ears. Gabe’s other two exes, Juliette and Bonnie, are also thrown for a loop with this confession. Gabe is injured, and the ambulance is called.
Neither Trinidad nor Juliette can believe his story, in spite of him being a first-class liar. But even more unbelievable is learning that Bonnie is going to remarry Gabe. What can she be thinking? Trini and Juliette rush to the purported scene of the crime and find Oscar Fuentes face down and as dead as can possibly be—the victim of a hit and run.
Scooter, Oscar’s pet parrot, is the only witness to the crime, and not much help with an explanation.
Oscar was known around town as an expert birdwatcher, and every week he and his buddies, Stan Lawper and Leonard Pinkerton, go about searching for birds. But today, neither man joined Oscar. By accident or on purpose?
Gabe has just been released from prison for theft, and as much as Trinidad and Juliette are not enthused to see Gabe, they find it hard to believe that he could kill anyone. Commit fraud, yes; steal, yes; but murder? They don’t believe it. And Gabe’s sister, Cynthia just happens to be the chief of police. She doesn’t believe Gabe is guilty, either, but she now has to step away from the investigation. Step away, perhaps, but not stay involved? No.
Trinidad has a reputation for investigating murders, and while Gabe’s memory of the event is foggy he quickly involves Trinidad to help find the true murderer. This does not go over well with Quinn, Trinidad’s current heartthrob and he lets Trinidad know—could this spell disaster for romance?
The list of possible alternates begins to form. Leonard Pinkerton, owner of the Sprocket Steamboat, a tourist attraction, has wanted to purchase Oscar’s premier property on the lake, as it would be a great second port location for his steamboat enterprise. Oscar has held out, much to Leonard’s chagrin.
Trinidad learns that while the car that hit Oscar was driven by Gabe, he had a fellow traveler, Harry Fortesque, newly hired by Leonard as a handyman for the steamboat. Could Harry have been hired by Leonard to kill Oscar and implicate Gabe?
And what about Stan Lawper. How close were he and Oscar? And there is Iris, Oscar’s cousin. She is his heir and will inherit the property that Leonard covets. Could they be in cahoots? She inherits and sells to Leonard? But Iris refuses Leonard’s offer. Trinidad wonders, “Oscar’s death had certainly given Iris a leg up in the world. Might she have hired Harry to kill her cousin, and Gabe had gotten accidentally roped into the mess?” More questions than answers.
As Trinidad contemplates alternative suspects, Leonard approaches her and asks her to cater an event to be held on the steamboat. This will be her first catering event and since ice cream doesn’t sell well during the winter, she agrees to the gig. The host is a secret, but not for long, as the town soon learns that the host is basketball star, Cordell “The Crusher” Barrone. It isn’t long before Trinidad discovers that Barrone’s mother, “Queenie” is the same person that Gabe defrauded and went to jail for the crime! Another suspect?
And there is Renata Pinkerton, Leonard’s sister, who seems to not have a life of her own since Leonard began his tourist work and Renata has to do most of the work! Would life be easier for her if Leonard got Oscar’s property?
Mentink develops believable characters, thus challenging the reader to pay close attention. Trinidad realizes the importance of the task before her as she sums up the chore. “And the list of suspects was not growing any shorter: Leonard, Iris, Cordell, Harry, or some partnership within that.”
And what can Trinidad do when one of her prime suspects, Harry Fortesque, commits suicide? Or does he? So many wrinkles the investigation is beginning to look like a shirt that’s been left in the dryer for three days!
In the meantime, the plans for Gabe and Bonnie’s wedding move forward and both Trinidad and Juliette know there is something more going on that Bonnie won’t share with them.
Mentink has designed a story that will keep the reader wondering, and then knowing, and then wondering again, as the suspects and victims keep changing places. She merges togther several side stories that all get neatly sewn together in the last act. She does a very good job of not letting the reader get ahead of Trinidad, and the final climactic scene really sends a chill up one’s spine. When the real murderer is uncovered, the reader will be surprised and it’s a good ending.