Torte—the beloved small-town bakeshop run by Jules Capshaw—is set to hit the stage. But who would have guessed that murder would makes a surprise appearance?
It’s the role of a lifetime for Jules. The Shakespeare Festival has returned to Ashland, Oregon, for the season and Torte has been cast as the supplier of Elizabethan-era treats for the main event. But on the eve of opening night, a brawl between Jules’s friend Lance, the artistic director, and a strapping young thespian named Anthony almost brings down the house. . .and the next morning, Anthony is dead. Jules knows that Lance loves his drama—and his just desserts—but she also knows that murder is way off-script for him. Now it’s up to Jules to cut through a bevy of backstage betrayals and catty co-stars who all have their own secrets—before the curtain drops on someone else. . .
St. Martin's Paperbacks (January 2, 2018)
The Bakeshop Mysteries have become one of my favorite cozy series--I love the characters and the Ashland, Oregon setting. It's such a great town and I love how Ellie Alexander brings it to life. Without giving spoilers if you haven't read the previous six books, I can tell you that in Another One Bites the Crust, we are starting the busy season as the Shakespeare Festival is kicking off and also at Torte--the bakeshop run by Jules and her mother, Helen. The festival's flamboyant artistic director, Lance, has become a close friend and Jules is concerned when he seems out of sorts and it only gets worse when the lead actor of Anthony and Cleopatra ends up dead and Lance is the chief suspect. Of course Jules is going to help him and she finds herself caught up in another mystery, while expanding the bakery and other 'life stuff' (no spoilers) ;-) she is involved in.
The usual cast of characters is in play--Torte's college-age staff, Helen and the Professor, Ashland's head of police, Thomas (deputy and Jules's old boyfriend), plus there is a new doughnut-loving investigator called in on the case from the 'big city' of Medford, who we may see more of. The food descriptions don't stop--something I love in a foodie cozy and I like the cooking and baking details and tips that the author works in. The pacing and how the mystery unfolded is good--I like that Jules has a fairly level head most of the time and although it wouldn't be a cozy if she didn't take some risks in the name of mystery solving, I don't find myself 'yelling' at her in my head as much as the leads in other cozies. I also was happy that Jules's estranged husband Carlos was not a big factor in this book. I like Jules best when she is independent and not focused on romantic tangles.
Although you could read this book without reading the first six as Alexander does a great job in layering in the backstory, I wouldn't recommend it. You get more of the details and the evolution of the characters by reading the series in order and you get to taste Torte's and Jules's creations vicariously by reading them--just don't do it on an empty stomach. (Here's my blog review of the first five books.) Although I am reading an advanced reader's copy e-book and have not officially confirmed it, there are usually some of Jules's sweet and savory recipes at the end of each book and plenty of food inspiration along the way. Another One Bites the Crust is a fun way to start 2018 and a great book to curl up with a cup of tea and a muffin and enjoy--or, if it's lunch time or late night and you have a hankering for savory comfort food, read below for my take on Jules's Grown-Up Grilled Cheese.
Author Notes: Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. She is the author of the popular Bakeshop Mysteries and the new Sloane Krause Mysteries.
Connect with Ellie on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram
There is no shortage of food inspiration in these books but here's just a small example from the sweet--lemon tarts, coconut cream pie, cowboy cookies, fig tarts, carrot cake, pastry treats from Shakespearean days for an event like clotted cream, trifle, puddings, tarts and royal marchpans (marzipan sculptures), French macarons in all manner of flavors, chocolate-covered strawberries, cinnamon pecan muffins, apple turnovers, bread pudding, cookies, cakes and cupcakes, and fresh raspberry jelly-filled doughnuts. There are savory dishes like chicken tortilla soup and bean and cheese sandwich wraps on homemade tortillas, salsa and guacamole, paninis, roast beef and cheddar cheese sandwiches, and French Onion and Cheeseburger soups. There's also plenty of tea, coffee and coffee drinks like a vanilla rose latte and a jelly doughnut latte. That's just a small sampling and why I am always drooling reading these books.
For my book inspired dish, it was a grilled cheese sandwich of fontina cheese, fresh basil and tomatoes with the unique addition of honey on the bread that caught my eye and wouldn't leave my head. Even though in many places it isn't the season for fresh tomatoes and basil, in our mild climate I have access to local tomatoes and herbs most of the year so I grabbed the cheese, a couple of local Roma tomatoes and a big bunch of basil (pesto will occur later) along with a small wedge of fontina cheese from the gourmet section of my local grocery store.
For the honey, I went not-so-local, wanting to try the New Zealand Manuka Honey I received in a kit from Melora. It's debuting at Costco stores here, Arizona and Orange County. I will be doing a review post on it later (I'll just tell you now that it's non-GMO, wild harvested and Fair Trade and really yummy) but I couldn't resist using it for this sandwich.
From Another One Bites the Crust, Jules says:
"I scanned the shelves in the fridge and decided on a grown-up grilled cheese with fontina, basil, tomatoes, and honey on thick-sliced Parmesan bread. I warmed butter in a skillet and spread it on both sides of the fresh bread. Then I cut thin slices of fontina and layered in basil leaves and tomatoes. Once the sandwiches had been stacked, I drizzled a touch of honey on the top and placed the first one in the sizzling skillet.
The lemon tea soothed my nerves as I flipped the first sandwich and drizzled honey on the other side of the bread. Fontina is an Italian cheese made from cow's milk. And not just any cows. The most exquisite fontina is produced in the summer months when the cows are moved to higher elevations to dine on rich alpine grasses. It's a wonderful melting cheese with a creamy texture and woodsy aroma."
Jules tells Thomas she's calling the sandwich a grown-up grilled cheese:
"Thomas bit into the sandwich and closed his eyes. He tilted his head to the ceiling then looked at me. 'I'm calling it the best thing I've ever tasted.'"
Notes Results: For my sandwich, I followed Jules's instructions above, only I did not have her Parmesan bread, using some fresh bakery sourdough instead. The result was still delicious--one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I have eaten. The combination of the savory ingredients, set off by the sweet honey is delicious and the cheese perfectly melty. Honey might seem odd on a grilled cheese, but just the small drizzle on the bread really works. I served my sandwich with my favorite dill pickle Kettle Chips because why not work a bit of sour into the mix too? I will definitely make this sandwich again.
I have to link up this delicious sandwich to Souper Sundays--hosted right here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup.
Another One Bites the Crust is my first foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the January 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.
I'm also linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "Another One Bites the Crust" was provided to me by the publisher. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.