Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder by Valerie Burns

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Madison Montgomery flees the social (media) disaster of her doctor fiancé leaving her at the live-streamed altar by flying to New Bison, a small town in Michigan. Her recently deceased great-aunt Octavia left her a house, a bakery and a dog, and Madison is more than happy to take a break from the humiliation of her daily life in sweet California to go and sort out her business in the cold. from the Midwest instead. The problem is, Aunt Octavia made it clear that if Madison wants to keep any part of her inheritance, she’ll have to hang on to those three big gifts for at least a year before selling.

Baby, Aunt Octavia’s 200-pound English mastiff, quickly endears herself to Maddy, who is somewhat surprised to find herself also quite seduced by Aunt Octavia’s lakeside house and cozy bakery. And while she quickly makes friends among the locals, she is somewhat disconcerted to find herself courted by various parties who want to redeem her heirlooms. However, the longer Madison stays, the more reluctant she is to sell herself and leave, much to the chagrin of her overbearing father. Admiral Jefferson Augustus Montgomery is quick to remind her that she has no baking or business management experience and that she must return to California and continue her search for a man who will support her as he always has.

For once, Maddy refuses to follow her father’s orders. Part of his desire to stay stems from a series of mysterious events around town as well as cryptic video messages recorded by Aunt Octavia before her death. Aunt Octavia, in love with Sherlock Holmes, was convinced that something nefarious was going on in New Bison and had assembled her own group of Baker Street irregulars to investigate. With their leader dead, they now look to Maddy for guidance.

Although Maddy is flattered that she needs her brains to change, she doesn’t quite know how seriously she has to take Aunt Octavia and her Irregulars until a corpse is found in her bakery. This confirms their certainty that there is a murderer running around town, whose plans may have something to do with Aunt Octavia’s investigations. Can Maddy find out who it is without risking her own life and those of her new friends in the process?

This is the freshest and most lively food novel I have read so far this year! Social media obsessed Maddy is a girl after my heart. I found much of his life deeply relatable. The diversity throughout the novel was a delightful bonus.

I’m also fairly certain that the mystery isn’t closed and that I know who the mastermind behind New Bison’s shady actions really is, despite the (only) murderer apprehended in the final chapters of the book. I can’t wait to read the next episodes of the series to see if my theory is correct!

There were three delicious baking recipes included here, and I had to try the first one, if only to add a few more servings of vegetables to my kids’ lives.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ tsp salt

¾ cup sugar

1 cup finely grated unpeeled zucchini (do not squeeze or dry out)

¼ cup cooking oil

1 egg

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons lemon zest

For the icing (optional, but why not you?)

½ cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Instructions

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Combine sugar, zucchini, cooking oil, egg, lemon juice and lemon zest in a separate bowl and mix.

Add the dry ingredients to the zucchini mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

Optional

Mix the ingredients for the glaze and drizzle over the bread. If the bread is not cold, the frosting will soak into the bread and be even more lemony.

It was one of the fastest treats I’ve ever baked to disappear into my family’s bellies, which is saying a lot considering how much I’ve done for them and how much my kids are usually difficult! I loved how shredded zucchini adds both moisture and necessary nutrients and vitamins to lemon quick bread, making it such a healthy and delicious treat. And while I would absolutely make a frosting to spread on it, I had no more powdered sugar: the bread was still very delicious without it.

Next week, we cook up a seasonal specialty as we head east and look at a murder that strikes far too close to home for our heroine. Join me !

See also: Cooking books: Murder spills the tea by Vicky Delany

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