A Spoonful of Murder
by Connie Archer
Mass Market Paperback:
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: August 7, 2012
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
When Lucky Jamieson inherits her parents' soup shop, By the Spoonful, she isn't sure she wants to run a restaurant business. But when an unpopular--with the women, at least--female tourist is found frozen to death behind the soup shop, Lucky is bowled over when her soup chef, Sage DuBois, is led out of the kitchen by the police. Lucky decides that the only way to save her employee and her business is to find out herself who killed the tourist and dumped her at their back door.
A Spoonful of Murder is a cozy mystery. It started out well, but I stopped enjoying the story once the murder happened.
I did not like spending time with Lucky. She was extremely self-centered. Lucky was upset when people repeated that a murder victim was found in the alley behind her shop because she felt this was ruining her shop's good reputation. Yet basically on the basis of a vague bit of gossip, she accused three men to their face of having an affair with and murdering the victim and also passed her suspicions on to several of their friends--potentially starting rumors that could ruin their careers and marriages. To her, it was wrong for other people to act in certain ways, but it was always fine for her to do so because "she wasn't trying to harm anyone." She lacked the ability to see life from anyone's perspective except her own.
She's also a criminal. She failed to report a breaking and entering in the victim's house that was directly related to the murder and even cleaned up the scene (so the police wouldn't know it happened). She broke into police evidence and looked through it. This is a lot more serious than just snooping around to help the police out, like in most cozy mysteries.
She also kept pushing people to tell her things that they legally shouldn't or which could cause them to lose their jobs if people found out who told her, yet Lucky couldn't seem to keep her mouth shut about these secrets to protect her friends. She seemed to feel that she had more right to investigate than the police, and she never urged people to go to the police with information that she thought was relevant. Yet she thought badly of the police for "not continuing to investigate" (which wasn't true--they did) and not acting on this information that they didn't even know about. They did act on the little she told them.
Lucky was always jumping to conclusions and thought the worst of practically everyone. For example, her parents gave meals on credit to hungry poor people and Lucky critisized this as a bad business habit. And yet, after the business went into debt, Lucky gave away a lot of free food to those ready and willing to pay for it.
Lucky didn't strike me as very bright. She worried that Sage would be instantly convicted, yet the only actual evidence was hardly convicting since a witness to an event before the murder threw reasonable doubt on the DNA evidence. This was hardly a shoe-in case.
At the end, several key characters apologized to her (for not listening--yet he did listen anytime she actually told him something--and for getting angry at being accused of an affair and murder), yet Lucky didn't apologize once for her much worse behavior. And everything turned out just perfect for her in the end. Talk about no consequences for your actions.
The research done for this novel also felt very uneven. The policeman guarding the jail cell could quote the exact rules for why Lucky had to sign in and let him see her driver's licence (and having to submit to those rules angered her), yet--after not searching her--he left her alone where she could have handed anything over to the inmate. He did this several times. This never would have happened, even in a small town. They apparently haven't heard of microwave dinners, either. Also, evidence in an ongoing case was left unsecure and in a public place, which wouldn't happen. The Chief of Police seemed competant and professional, but even he arrested Sage based only on the fact that Sage knew the victim and had reasons not to like her. Um, actual, solid evidence is required prior to arresting someone.
So, basically, I strongly disliked Lucky for how she treated people and how foolishly she acted, and I didn't feel the mystery element was handled realistically. I even had a hard time remembering that I should try to solve the mystery since I was so distracted by Lucky's behavior. I also didn't find the reason for everyone staying away from the soup shop to be realistic. Half the people would have been in there asking for gossip on Sage, yet everyone reacted the same way.
There was a minor amount of bad language. There were no sex scenes. Lucky did pray once, but it was more meditation on the problem with a minor hope her wish might be granted than a genuine prayer. Actually, it seemed like an excuse by the author to get Lucky in a certain place at a certain time. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this novel.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.