October in Texas means Parent-Teacher Organization fundraising carnivals at many of the elementary schools. Retired teacher Phyllis Newsom always takes an interest in school happenings but helping to organize the carnival for Oliver Loving Elementary School wasn’t part of her plan. However, when a friend of Carolyn Wilbarger’s comes to her with a desperate plea for help with the bake sale, Carolyn and Phyllis reluctantly agree to assist.
Carolyn suggests a “healthy snack” contest in addition to the traditional cake auction - an idea quickly approved by the PTO board. In a moment of harmony, Phyllis decides to participate in the auction, leaving Carolyn the baking contest. Peace seems ensured; that is, until the obnoxious head of the PTO sticks her oar in their plans, insisting Phyllis enter the baking contest. Competition is again flowing between Phyllis and Carolyn and disaster seems inevitable, until the PTO chairperson is killed at the carnival and the retirees band together to solve the crime.
Murder by the Slice is the second entry in Livia J. Washburn’s “Fresh-Baked Mystery” series. This cozy mystery series is the perfect antidote to the preponderance of blood and gore thrillers currently in vogue. Some may choose to stereotype Washburn’s books as “sweet” or “wholesome;” however, that does her books a great disservice (although there are lots of descriptions of pastries).
Washburn has created a charismatic group of characters who happen to be seniors, an active diverse bunch, far removed from the stereotype of doddering, helpless “grey-hairs.” Phyllis and her friends are useful members of the community, valued for what they contribute, and actively embrace life.
Washburn’s avoidance of most obvious stereotypes portends great things for this series. It is this potential therefore, that makes the one pitfall she didn’t avoid all the more glaring. The character of Eve is sure to evoke memories of the Golden Girls, a parallel which doesn’t do the “Fresh-Baked Mystery” series any service. Phyllis’ constant references to Eve as a femme fatale feels out of place and undermines an otherwise fun read.
Several recipes are included at the end of the book. A sample recipe can be found here.
Read the review at Armchair Interviews.
Mass Market Paperback
Publication Date: October 2, 2007
Author Website: liviawashburn.com
tags: books book reviews Livia J. Washburn Fresh-Baked Mystery cozy mystery