Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Serial Killers' Featured Review: Death by the Dozen by Jenn McKinlay

Want to know more about the idea behind Serial Killers? This post is the place to start.

This month's book is Death by the Dozen the 3rd book in the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series by Jenn McKinlay. Odd is the established reader and I'm new to the series...
Synopsis (Goodreads):
Melanie and Angie are determined to win the Challenge to the Chef to promote their Fairy Tale Cupcakes bakery. Mel's mentor from culinary school, Vic Mazzotta, may be one of the judges, but Mel and Angie will have to win fair and square. But, when Vic's dead body is found inside a freezer truck, Mel and Angie will need to use their best judgment to find the cold-blooded killer or they may lose more than the contest- they may lose their lives.
My Thoughts:
Stepping into book 3 of the series was a little jarring for the first few chapters. This was mainly because I was having a mental Character-mageddon in my head and couldn't remember who was who. Seriously, sometimes I worry that I consumed too much sugar and/or caffeine and all my brain cells are fried beyond belief and I'm never going to be able to get these years back.

Yeah. So, the point I'm trying to make is that there are a lot of characters that put in appearances (or are mentioned in passing) early on and it took me a while to catch on to who was who. However, once I straightened them all out in my head, everything was peachy keen.

I do think I should point out that it's been a while since I read a cozy. I should also point out that this book made me crave cupcakes in THE BIGGEST WAY. But back to the cozy thing. I tend to like these books because they're easy on the brain. I don't have to think too hard while I'm reading them. They are pure escapist pleasure. Did I figure out who the killer was before the characters did? For once, yes. Did I know why he was killed or what led up to him being found where he was? No. And therein is where the fun lies. Seeing Mel sort through the clues and begin to piece things together kept me entertained.

I liked the bakery, I liked the supporting cast of characters (more Oz, please!) and I enjoyed my time spent walking through Mel's life. I personally don't think I'll ever be able to enter a baking/cooking/etc. contest (even if you overlook the fact that I can't cook) because OMG!THE PRESSURE! Oh, and Olivia can go suck it. She's the type of person you love to hate, amirite?

Odd's Thoughts:
Dear cozy mystery authors: not every series heroine needs a cat or dog. Although I confess, I did not totally hate Captain Jack.

My favorite parts of this series remain Olivia Puckett, villainess and professional unhinged Scottsdale businesswoman, and the 7 DeLaura brothers, who are like Snow White's 7 dwarfs, but with airhorns.

Didn't think this particular outing came together as well as previous recipes (see what I did there? BOO YAH) because of all the dang shenanigans at the cooking competition, but the romance seems to be bubbling along nicely, with just the right amount of sugar balancing out the lemon juice. (Okay I'll stop).

The recipes at the back of the book were, as always, seriously stellar. I will be screwing up at least two, I can tell you that. Chocolate-Chili Cupcakes? Red Velvet Cupcakes with beets? My hips'll take two of each, thanks.

Also, and I know this is weird but: I love the cover of the book, and how after you read the book, the cover makes much more sense. This is the type of planning that warms the cockles of my devious little heart.

Next up: a recipe for candied heart-cockles in a crispy ginger crust.

Odd: Two things struck me about this particular entry in the series: that one, the mystery was less convincing than in previous outings and two, that the romantic triangly thing (it's kind of a romantic tension and a dead leg, but technically that's still three) was more convincing and actually suspenseful and interesting. Yeah, it wasn't so much in the previous two books, but it's possible we can blame that on my cold black heart rather than on McKinley's skill as an author.

But oy, everyone running in and out of each other's hotel rooms at this cooking competition? It was a Noel Coward play with complementary baked goods. For once, Olivia Puckett, the series' villainess hit the nail on the head: none of the competitors should've been sequestering themselves anywhere with any of the judges. A lot of the events were played for high laughs and I secretly love that Olivia's mental as a rabid wombat, but at the same time I was anyone but me here for the plot?

Kelly: Haha! Yes! The whole fraternizing with the judges thing kept causing this face o.O O.O O.o  Wait. There was a romantic triangle? Did I miss that?

Odd: Well there was Tate and Angie and ...Roach. And I didn't get my cinnamon cupcakes recipe. I'm still a little bitter, to be honest.

Kelly: Ahhh. If I'm going to be honest, Roach wasn't even on my radar seeing as how he wasn't really in the book. That's a terrible waste of sexual tension, if you ask me.

I love how you compared the DeLaura brothers to the 7 dwarves. So true. So very, very true. With AIRHORNS!

Odd: So I have to ask: would you keep reading this series? Or would you go back and read the first two in the series?

Kelly: I enjoyed this book more than I've enjoyed other cozies but I'm torn. I liked the book, don't get me wrong, but cozies in general are something I never end up terribly invested in. They are fluff.

I think my final answer is: I'd read more if I came across them, but they wouldn't be on my "to-buy" list.

Odd: It's much harder this time for me to pick a final rating. While this is generally one of the better culinary mystery series out there, this entry in it just wasn't up to snuff.

And I'm confused: cozies are fluff, but hot chicks chasing werewolves are...serious reading?

(This from the woman who just sat up most of the night reading "Hotshot P.I.", Harlequin Intrigue #417... :)

Kelly: Yes, hot chicks chasing werewolves are totally serious reading. Totally. I can't believe you even had to ask that!

This may sound weird, but I relate more to the chicks with the werewolf problems than I do to the foodie crowd.

That one sentence probably explains so much about me.

One (But Not Two) Severed Thumbs Up
While ultimately enjoyable, the newbie stumbled a bit in the beginning and the established reader thought the mystery wasn't quite up to par with the earlier ones in the series.

More books by Jenn McKinlay


  1. This question: "And I'm confused: cozies are fluff, but hot chicks chasing werewolves are...serious reading?" also floated through my head.

    But then, everyone should know that #NakedWerewolves are serious business.

    1. Well, #NakedWerewolves are serious business in MY world. As you well know.