Today, The Poisoned Martini‘s is reading Christine Wenger’s Comfort Food Mystery, Macaroni and Freeze. This 4th book in the series released in July 2015 from Penguin books and their Obsidian Mystery imprint.
A famous TV chef and former Sandy Harbor resident returns to her hometown to judge a mac-and-cheese cook-off fundraiser. When the chef turns up frozen in a snowbank, all eyes turn to Trixie as suspect number one.
Following along as I review the novel LIVE!
This post will be updated (with time stamps) as I progress through the story and share my thoughts firsthand.
7:30pm – Start Time
Welcome back to Sandy Harbor and the Silver Bullet diner!
“I loved how the cold weather brought people together and was glad that they came to my diner for good food and to warm their bodies,” says Trixie is while working a shift at the diner on a winter Sunday.
The start is a truly cozy opening to a cozy mystery…
“Sandy Harbor was such a small village, most everyone knew one another.” And a discussion of weather, an inevitable occurrence in CNY especially in winter months. Ha! A meteorologist nicknamed “Flip a Coin!”
“Lake-effect polar vortex” is definitely a term that brings back memories of last winter!
Trixie enjoys “working the graveyard stint because [she] always found that the customers who came in to eat then were an interesting group.” “They all wanted something to eat–something warm and comforting–and that was my specialty.”
Mentions four different kinds of soup. I wonder which ones have recipes included…
“The people here like to look out for their own and help out wherever and whenever they can.” A mantra, I’m sure, dear to Trixie when she’s sleuthing on a case.
Uh, oh. “Ty was getting too stuffy lately anyway.” But then Trixie says, “I was was still busy building and cementing a brick wall around myself and my heart.” When are these two going to get together…?!
Only Texas-transplant Ty’s third winter. It does take awhile to get used to CNY winters.
Some Dinerese… “Two cowboys on a raft, wheat. One deadeye with sausage, sourdough…”
Oh, yes, the mysterious Bob, the missing Silver Bullet chef…
And now hail and lightning in winter as the chapter ends.
The library roof has collapsed. Everyone’s hoping the “Tidy Trio” are okay. They’re okay, but “Everything’s either completely ruined or damaged.” Horrors! A librarian’s worst nightmare: The books are gone.
Ah, a mention of a fund-raiser to support the library. A macaroni-and-cheese cook-off.
“I nominate Trixie Matkowski to be the chairperson of the library fund-raiser.” She walked into that one. And she still has flashbacks of the Miss Salmon Contest from book three!
TV chef personality Priscilla Finch-Smythe is expected in town. Wait, Mabel Cronk, who…? Oh, Priscilla’s a pseudonym. That should have been obvious.
Chapter Three, a week later… When will all the snow stop? “In about August,” someone says. “That joke never got old in Sandy Harbor.
Megan Hunter confirms that her mother convinced “the Countess of Comforting Comfort Food, Priscilla Finch-Smythe, to agree to come and judge and to host the winner on an episode of her show!”
The high school had a sorority? The Tri-Gams. Surprise, surprise. Antoinette Chloe Brown, aka ACB, was the first president of it.
The sorority is to have a tea at Trixie’s house because Priscilla used to work for Trixie’s Aunt Stella at the diner. Priscilla wanted to buy the diner at one point. Priscilla also has a few “demands” and wants to park her fancy motor home into Trixie’s “Big House,” the old Victorian with its numerous rooms.
The contest will be held at the county fairgrounds. And they should all wear Downton Abbey style costumes to the tea!
“A parade in the dead of winter?”
Fast forward to Friday the Thirteenth of February, the day of the parade and the tea. The town plows lead the parade and to clear the route!
Priscilla appears as if she were the Queen of England.
Yup. Antoinette Chloe is wearing flip-flops in February! And what a colorful ensemble, “muumuu, fascinator, blue hair, birds, teacups, perfume, and all.”
ACB thinks “it’s baloney that Mabel has that fake accent going and she has all her queenly ways.”
It’ll be another sleepless night for Trixie, who plans to enter the cook-off contest.
Good grief! Does Priscilla think she’s the queen arriving for parliament?! The fanfare…
Blondie takes a liking to Priscilla… or at least her fur coat.
Priscilla’s been married three times, “but who’s counting?”
Way to end the festivities, ACB!
Ty stops by and offers to clean up. Priscilla later presents her entourage: her stepson, Peter McCall, and her assistant, Jill Marley.
Jill is smitten with Ty, and Trixie’s mind is whirling with Priscilla’s insistence on an honorary breakfast dish.
The next day, Priscilla visits the diner. She mentions she’s expecting an important package. And though she criticizes Trixie’s potato pancakes, she asks for the recipe. The second one she’s asked for. Hmm, are the recipes she’s published hers?
The package arrives as Trixie’s leaving for the contest, and it’s from lawyers in NYC.
Trixie admits to a deputy, “Priscilla is such a difficult diva, and I really, really dislike having her around. I can’t wait to get rid of her.”
The contest hasn’t even started and some ladies are accusing Priscilla of having stolen their recipes. Ty manages to quiet them down for the time being. The ringleaders are identified as Marylou Cosmo and Dottie Spitzer. In addition to the contest participants, this is shaping up to be a mystery with numerous suspects.
Trixie remembers the important package and retrieves it, but Jill intercepts it.
Ten finalists are chosen for Priscilla to select from. She samples each dish, votes, and leaves the stage. The winner is announced, but the runners up don’t appear too happy.
Trixie finds Priscilla dead in the snow. “Choked to death with her red silk scarf and then left to freeze like a Popsicle.”
But was she really? Priscilla had also been hit on the back of the head, and Trixie had seen blood.
Trixie’s already to get sleuthing. “Time to get out of this bed and find out what happened to Priscilla. You know, there must be a suspect list a mile long.” However, ACB informs her that, “there’s talk about you.” Apparently, Trixie’s been the popular subject of gossip in connection with the murder.
Ty catches Trixie sneaking out of her house. He’s “investigating everyone on [his] hit parade of suspects.”
I’m loving their argument about her investigatin’. It’s very true to form for both characters and advances their relationship. They head to the diner and spot ACB.
“To think I trusted ACB to keep an eye on you,” says Ty.
Trixie quips, “ACB has ADD.”
Trixie’s anxious to listen in on the local chatter. Jill shows up and seems distraught, but she was seen “distraught and wet” on the day of the murder, too. Jill wonders why Peter hasn’t been arrested. His cell phone was found at the crime scene.
“Peter is a parasite,” Jill says.
Trixie takes ACB with her to talk to Peter. ACB suggests, “We could always play good cop/bad cop.” But first they need to climb a snowbank to get to their suspect. That is a scene I’d love to witness.
They overhear bits of a phone conversation.
If Peter lost his cell phone, where’d he get the new one?
According to him, Peter’s been designated Priscilla’s executor and sole heir. He also “has debts to pay.” He seems very eager to sell off everything he can, but has no interest in the possible plagiarized cookbook situation.
Wow! Jill just announced that!
Fun with phones.
Place your bets everyone.
Trixie has computer whiz kid Ray Meyerson look up info about the various suspects.
Love the TV references… first Castle, now Jessica Fletcher and Cabot Cove. Cabot Cove and Sandy Harbor have a lot of things in common.
Perhaps Priscilla wasn’t the one stealing recipes?
Trixie and ACB break up a fight.
Hmm… Jill or Peter or someone else?
Startling information about Priscilla’s health pre-murder. And that she was a homewrecker!
Four good suspects: Dottie, Kip, Jill and Peter. At least according to Trixie’s thinking.
A pizza party with the suspects.
“Feeling like Nancy Drew with my flashlight, I opened the door with the key and went in.” Time for the final clue?
11:30pm – Summation
There’s one clue that led me to guess the correct killer, but I wasn’t one hundred percent certain. What an exciting ending! Trixie does tend to get herself into trouble. Imagine death by snowplow!
It feels like Sandy Harbor and its quirky characters really shine through in this entry. The diner scenes especially have that small town feel. And as usual, Trixie and ACB are front and center working as a virtual team to investigate in their own bumbling way, though it’s Trixie who puts two-and-two together at the end. There’s some hearty laugh-out-loud moments here, and some of the shenanigans remind me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.
Of the included recipes, the champagne punch, cheese-olive puffs, split pea soup, Polish potato pancakes, and two macaroni and cheese dishes have the most direct connection to the story. One you probably don’t want to read on an empty stomach. At the very least you may want to have a snack or two nearby while reading.
I’d rank this fourth book the best of the series so far, and look forward to Trixie and Ty’s deepening friendship into something more, perhaps, in future volumes.
What’s a Live Read?
A Live Read is where I review the book as I read it. It’s kind of like writing notes in the margin of a book as you go. After the initial post describing the selected book, I’ll update periodically during the Live Read until the final pages. I intend to avoid any spoilers and certainly won’t give away the ending. Once finished, I’ll give a summation of my overall thoughts. I encourage participation either during the Live Read and beyond. Even if you’ve read the chosen book or not, feel free to chime in with your thoughts about the book, author, or mysteries in general.