Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: The Gingerbread Bump-off

Summary: Not only will Phyllis Newsom's house be featured in the annual Christmas Jingle Bell Tour of Homes, she also has a Christmas Eve bridal shower and a New Year's Eve wedding to bake goodies for. But like her tasty treats, she rises to the occasion. 

Before the tour gets under way, Phyllis makes a gruesome discovery on her porch: someone has tried to kill her friend. As Santa's naughty list gets longer, Phyllis tries to catch a half-baked killer. -- Obsidian

Since I am now officially decorated for Christmas, I thought I'd kick back and read a fun little Christmas-themed cozy.  I decided to pick up THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF by Livia J. Washburn, not because the cover was screaming Christmas, but rather because the back cover mentioned an "annual Christmas Jingle Bell Tour of Homes." I figured that this novel would work as a Christmas book, but I must say that the cover of THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF reminded me more of a Thanksgiving feast.

THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF was a fun little mystery and it definitely entertained me for a few hours yesterday afternoon. I'm not sure that I thought it was the best cozy that I've ever read, or that I even loved the characters, but it did help get me in the mood for Christmas. And I, of course, loved that it talked about food and even featured some recipes in the back of the book.

In THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF, retired teacher and landlord Phyllis Newsom is asked to participate in the Jingle Bell Tour of Homes. Just minutes before the tour is scheduled to get underway, she hears a crash and discovers an unconscious body of her friend on her front porch. Someone had taken a ceramic gingerbread and cracked it over the victim's head. (I know, right -- "Gingerbread Bump-Off"-- I had to chuckle!) Since Phyllis is an old pro at solving mysteries, she decides to jump right in (with a little help from her man friend Sam) and find the culprit.

Overall, I just liked THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF. There is absolutely nothing blatantly wrong with this story. I think I didn't relate much to the characters. For the most part, Phyllis and her friends were very likable; however, I didn't feel an affinity to them like I had hoped. It just seemed like something was missing from the characters and even the setting of the story. I guess it just lacked the charm that so many other cozies seem to have. Having said that, I definitely think there is an audience for these characters -- it just might not be me.

However, and this is a big however, I thought the mystery aspect of the story was above average. I enjoyed Phyllis' sleuthing and I thought the list of suspects was interesting. I liked how Phyllis' mind worked and how she eventually figured out who was responsible for the crime. I was fooled right along with Phyllis and I actually was pleasantly surprised with how the mystery was resolved. I do feel the mystery angle kept this book from just being a mediocre read for me.

THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF is the sixth book in the Fresh-Baked Mystery series; however, it was the first one that I've ever read. It definitely worked as a stand-alone, but I do have to wonder if I wouldn't have enjoyed the book more if I had read at least one prior book in the series. It wasn't that the story was hard to follow, but it did take me a few chapters to figure out the relationships between the characters -- maybe it's because I wasn't expecting a bunch of senior citizens to be living in a big rental house. Despite my issues, I do think the author did a pretty good job of filling in the reader to some of the past events.

While I didn't love THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF, it was a fun cozy that put me in the mood for the upcoming holidays. Recommended to fans of cozies and also to foodies.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Stacy at The Novel Life said...

this sounds like such a great, fun read just in time for the holidays!

Beth F said...

Even if it wasn't your favorite it sounds like just thing for December reading.

You're all decorated? Good for you!

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like this book has a lot to offer. I suspect you would have liked the characters more if you'd read other books in the series.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

There are enough similar series like this that I get them mixed up, so it's good to know one should stick with the series one knows to get the most out of it!

Liz Donatelli said...

The foodie mystery subgenre is super popular. Diane Mott Davidson writes a pretty good foodie mystery series (and includes recipes).

If you like funny mysteries, then I recommend Laura Levine's Jaine Austen Mysteries. (The PMS Murder & Killing Bridezilla are my faves!)