Amy Ridley and her friend, Sophie, have perfected their chicken soup recipe, and the winter-weary residents of Kellerton, Michigan can’t wait to watch them compete against other local chefs in the Chicken Soup Showdown. But the charity event starts out with a bang, literally, when one of the rival chefs falls out of a freezer and onto Amy. If it wasn’t stressful enough for Amy to catch a dead body, the detective in charge of the investigation targets her best friend, Carla, as the chief suspect in the murder.
In order to clear her friend’s name, Amy does her own investigating. The problem is nobody liked the arrogant murdered celebrity chef, and soon her suspect list is longer than the list of ingredients in her secret chicken soup recipe. Can Amy figure out who killed the celebrity chef? Or will Carla be spending the spring in jail?
Other than adding the access door, nothing really needed to be done to the former bakery’s kitchen. Elliot Maxson had been a super neat control freak, so all of the appliances and work areas were spotless and in working order when he sold the bakery before retiring. The giant industrial ovens made the original coffee shop’s single convection oven seem like an Easy Bake Oven. Amy began arranging the loaves of bread, jars of nut butters, and pints of jams on the table while Sophie laid out cutting boards, bread knives, and spreaders.
“We should be able to get quite a few sandwiches out of each loaf if I cut the slices thin enough.” Amy plucked at the end of the plastic wrap on the coconut bread. The sweet scent was a little bit of tropical heaven in the middle of the cold Michigan winter. “I’m going to use cashew butter and pineapple jam with this, sort of like a piña colada.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Sophie said as she examined the labels on the jars. “You’ve done great coming up with all of these. I can’t wait to see what they taste like. I think I’ll go for sunflower seed butter with tomato jam on the rosemary bread.”
“Yum. I was hoping you would like my idea of savory PB and J.” Amy had bought jars of every kind of nut butter she could find at Columbo’s Market, from the standard peanut to soy bean. Then she scoured her cookbooks for unique jams and preserves, coming up with everything from a dried-apricot spread to whiskey-onion marmalade. The hardest part had been narrowing down all of the choices into half a dozen of each sandwich item. There were only so many samples they could eat at one time. It would take at least three test sessions to get through all of the culinary ideas she had unearthed in her cookbook-reading binge.
Soon all of the loaves of bread were sliced and small offset spatulas were stuck into every jar. Sophie had a notebook to jot down all of the combinations along with their tasting notes. Just setting up the ingredients seemed to have put Sophie in a better mood.
“Let’s make some incredible sandwiches.” Amy fist bumped Sophie. Maybe the gesture was a bit over the top for the circumstances, but it made her friend smile. “Lunchbox gourmet. Here we come.”
“You know, I kind of like that term. Would you mind if I poached if from you? Maybe I could make that a category on the café menus.”
“Go right ahead.” Amy swiped bacon jam on a slice of banana bread. Peanut butter was already spread on the other half of the sandwich. It would be her homage to Elvis Presley. “I think that’s what consultants are supposed to do anyway—give clients ideas.”
She would’ve happily helped with the new menu for free, as a friend, but Sophie had insisted on putting her on the payroll as a recipe consultant. The new title was snazzy, but it also came complete with a giant helping of apprehension that settled in her stomach like greasy mac and cheese. People with no formal chef training didn’t deserve to be consultants, did they? It was the equivalent of an unemployed geek who spent twenty hours a day playing first-person shooter video games in his parents’ basement being hired as a security specialist.
Amy’s nerves were already fried from getting ready for the Chicken Soup Showdown. This was her first competition against two other chefs. The prize wasn’t much, but money would go out to the chefs favorite charities.
Amy thought the missing knives, propane leak, drunk, and MIA chef were going to be the biggest problems she encountered at the beginning of the showdown. She was wrong. When the MIA chef falls out of the freezer on top of her, dead, she knows her day just went from bad to worse. To top it off the lead investigator is horrible at his job, and has made everyone she cares about a suspect.
Can Amy figure out who the murderer is before her or her friends get arrested?
This was a fun book to read. Especially with the “lead investigator” tripping over himself and everyone being a suspect.
Let’s Party Giveaway
Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.
Twitter (@JanelGr): https://twitter.com/JanelGr