Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Kneading To Die (A Pawsitively Organic Mystery, Book #1) by Liz Mugavero (Cozy Mystery)

Synopsis Via Back Cover of Paperback:

Maybe the best thing that ever happened to Kristan "Stan" Connor was losing her high-stress public relations job. Now there's plenty of time to spend in her sleepy new Connecticut town working on her dream: baking healthy, organic pet treats!

Before long the neighborhood dogs are escaping their yards to show up at Stan's doorstep, begging for the kinds of special homemade treats her Maine coon cat Nutty loves so much. And Stan's pet-loving neighbors are thrilled with the new organic options available to their furry family members. But not everyone loves Stan and her newfangled organic ways...

It seems Carole Morganwick, the town vet, is from the old school of pet care. But when Stan swallows her pride and brings a very unwilling Nutty in for a checkup, she not only finds Carole dead under a pile of kibble. . .but also that she's in the dog house as the prime suspect! Finding the real killer and clearing her name will require some seriously surreptitious sniffing around. . .and hopefully, curiosity won't kill this innocent cat!

Book Details:

Series: Pawsitively Organic Mysteries

Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kensington (May 7, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0758284780
ISBN-13: 978-0758284785

Sapphyria's Review:

This is Book 1 of a the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series by Liz Mugavero.  It is a cozy mystery with nothing graphic (sex or violence) or disturbing.

After her position is eliminated in public relations for an incident that wasn't her fault, Stan (short for Kristan) decides on a complete change of scenery.  She moves out of her condo in the city and into an old Victorian farmhouse in Frog Ledge, Connecticut.  Her boyfriend, Richard Ruse (who is still employed by the same company that Stan was let go from), is less than ecstatic with her decisions.  His lack of support is a major downer; though, Stan keeps her head up and gives Richard the benefit of the doubt.  Stan's best friend Nikki, on the other hand, is excited for her.  Nikki runs a pet rescue named Pets' Last Chance Rescue and is frequently travelling to southern states to rescue pets on death row.

Stan's introduction to the neighborhood includes awesome neighbors, Ray and Char; local coffee shop owner, Izzy; hot tavern owner, Jake; homeopathic vet, Amara, sign maker, Gene; and a slew of other notable characters.  After mentioning that Stan makes organic pet treats and homemade organic pet food for her kitty, Nutty, the entire town wants in on them.  This, however, lands her in the sights of town vet, Carole Morganwick, who all but drags Stan to her vet clinic for an examination of Nutty.

The morning of the impromptu appointment, Stan walks into the clinic to find Carole dead in an exam room.  Being the newcomer in town, Stan is now the prime suspect since no one wants to believe that the long time townfolk may be to blame.  Stan, then, spends the rest of the novel trying to clear her sullied name (and the murder is just one thing that contributes to that....).

One of the best parts about this novel is that even though the police officer in charge doesn't want to investigate life long residents in the murder of Carole, just about every person has motive of some type.  It's easier to ignore the people who have lived in this sleepy little town and go after the newbie.  Unfortunately for Stan this means false accusations on many levels, investigating unknown people in her new town before she has a chance to say anything more than "hello" to them, realizing that someone in her life may be involved, and being lead astray, threatened, and disliked.

For formerly being part of the cut throat corporate world, I found that Stan was very much the opposite of those types of people.  She was very down to earth, easy to relate to, and very likable.  She was not snooty, haute, or snobby.  She never made herself out to be better than anyone else nor did she put anyone down or belittle them.  

I love the sparks that fly between Stan and Jake from the moment his dog accosts her :)  Duncan is a very unruly pup but takes a liking to Stan from the get go.  When he escapes from home, Duncan always ends up at Stan's house - maybe he's just using her for the delicious treats that she shares - but I think it's more than that.  Izzy has it out for Jake and warns Stan that he's a no good womanizer and to stay clear of him.  I found him to be a great guy that treats Stan a whole lot better than her supposed boyfriend, Richard.

Don't get me started about Richard.  He's - how should I phrase it appropriately for a cozy mystery review?! - a big, fat jerk, in my opinion.  He's a character all by himself and I don't really like him (not because he wasn't written well, but because he's a scoundrel).  I found myself rooting for Jake from the second he came on scene - especially after some of Richard's antics.

The twists and turns that abound in this novel definitely keep the reader guessing.  As Stan finds out more and more information about Carole and her interactions with other townfolk, it becomes abundantly clear that Carole was not a town favorite.  Every time someone is suspected, the author has written the case so well that you can't help but believe you've figured out who was behind the murder.  The perfect murder mystery, whether it's a cozy novel or not, is the author's ability to not give away any clues to the actual person involved.  I found that Liz Mugavero did just that.  There is really nothing that gives away the murderer before the author's specified place in the novel.  Well done!  

I have Book 2 waiting for me and I can't wait!

One of Many Favorite Quotes:
"Around the next bend Stan spotted a cemetery shaded by oaks and maples on a rolling hill......She liked cemeteries, a quirk that her family and friends didn't quite get.  If you thought about it as a bunch of bones rotting in the ground, or a boatload of corpses, sure, it might seem strange.  But she loved to look at the names, imagine the stories of the people and the families and legacies they'd left behind" (Mugavero, L., 2013, pg. 85).

I picked this quote because I, too, love cemeteries.  I don't love them in the same way that others might ~ I don't dance around headstones in the middle of the night under the light of the full moon or wait for the zombie apocalypse or ghost hunt (not that there's anything wrong with any of those things).  I grew up with a mother who did genealogy and part of genealogy is what we affectionately term "cemetery hopping."  Cemeteries are certainly sad during certain times in life, but they are also beautiful and a rich source of history.  I don't even have to know anyone among the plots to enjoy a trip to a cemetery.  I love to find the oldest, and in my opinion most beautiful, headstones.  I love photographing the scenery.  Anyway, thank you for stopping by to check out my review of Kneading To Die, and I hope you enjoy the novel as much as I did.

Review Copy Courtesy Of:  My Local Library

Sapphyria's Rating:

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