My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I picked this up from the library when I saw it was set in Eastport Maine where a good friend of mine lives and a place I've been too and loved. I thought it would be easy to get into since it was only book two but in reading other reviews, it's actually just a rebranding of an earlier series so now it's more like the 10th book with these characters so there is very little character growth. I almost didn't finish this one.
Don't get me wrong. It wasn't awful. I could deal with her breaking the fourth wall and talking to the reader (though I personally hate that). But it wasn't much of a mystery. There is never any suspects, not really. Jake (Jacobia) our point of view character, and her friend Ellie, basically stumble over the killer in the end (when the killer comes to kill them basically).
There are three subplots in this. Jake and Ellie are about to lose the series umbrella device, the chocolate bake shop (where Jake didn't endear herself to me by calling cinnamon an abomination, hmm I wonder why her shop isn't doing well). Being a tourist town with a short tourist season (it's pretty far up north), they can't survive the long winters on just local money. Worse Ellie's husband is working in Bangor most days (which is a hike and a half) so she'll probably have to move to Bangor so Jake isn't just losing a job but also her best friend.
ANdy and Sharon's wedding might save them (because of how much wedding cakes cost) but Toby Moran, Sharon's abusive ex-boyfriend was found dead (potentially having drunk a poisoned milkshake from Jake's shop) and naturally Andy is suspect number one. In order to save him (and thereby her shop) Jake has to get involved.
The third subplot truly annoyed me. It had nothing to do with the mystery and it was more page time than necessary. Apparently in earlier books Jake's dad had a heart attack and required care. Well now he's better and he went out and got cleared to drive. Jake and her step mom, Belle, go apeshit over this. She spends a third of the book scheming to force her dad to quit driving. Now, yes sometimes the elderly shouldn't be driving but her dad isn't demented, he's not blind. He merely had a heart attack. She and Belle spend far too much time infantalizing her father. And how much younger is Belle than her husband if she's that worried about her husband driving while old? At one point Ellie points out that Jake is being unfair and she almost rethinks it but doesn't and then later the sheriff Bob Arnold also points it out infuriating her. At this point, especially as someone who doctored a lot of geriatric people, I wanted to slap Jake for being so dumb about this.
As for the mystery, it started off okay if a bit coincidentally with Ellie knowing someone who might have been the source of the poison however unwittingly. Getting to that point was fine but then it sort of just goes off the rails with a good deal of the prose being dedicated to daddy driving or them losing the shop and not nearly enough in developing clues. But it was the ending that sank this one for me so I'll put that under a spoiler cut.
For one, who gets a splinter so bad it puts them into the hospital twice? Okay it's just a matter of word choice here but did no one at Kensington think it strange that a splinter ripped through an artery? A spear of wood from the old dock yes, a splinter? It was eye rolling and oh, after her arm was out of commission Jake is perfectly fine with Dad driving (so I was very irritated in the end that he gives up his new truck).
They never really figure out who was behind it until the guy attacks her and there was no reason he didn't kill her right off. He planned to overdose Jake on the stuff he injects her with twice (and then just leaves her so she can get away) so why not do it the first time? Oh right because that would end the story permanently. But it gets even dumber, rather than go to the hospital (because she's bleeding again) and tell the cops (whom she calls like three times) and tell them who did this to her and how that person might have Ellie hostage, she just goes after the killer herself (with Dad in tow so he's good enough to face down killers) Her reasoning, Bob Arnold was busy and she didn't trust anyone else. Oh lord, how dumb is that? They're cops. They're armed. They're trained for this.
And the last chapter was even dumber with Dad giving up the truck but worse, George, Ellie's husband, gets a permanent job in Bangor with bennies so they're going to have to move. However, the Coast Guard (for whom murder suspect Andy worked) had a ten thousand dollar reward for info to clear Andy which she and Ellie got. Suddenly the shop is saved for at least a few years and Ellie won't have to move....it's ten grand, not ten million. How is that a replacement for a job with benefits? How is that going to keep two people for years (in a shop that's not really generating money?) I could see it saving them for a month or two but for years? This is set in modern times and ten grand is not a fortunate. It's a nice windfall but it's not going to save two people from financial ruin.
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