A Crime of Passion Fruit
By Ellie Alexander
A Bakeshop Mystery #6
St. Martin’s, 2017
Torte―everybody’s favorite small-town family bakeshop―is headed for the high seas, where murder is about to make a splash. . .
Jules Capshaw is trying to keep her cool as Torte gets set to make its transformation from quaint, local confectionary café to royal pastry palace. Meanwhile, Jules’s estranged husband Carlos is making a desperate plea for her to come aboard his cruise ship and dazzle everyone with her signature sweets. She may be skeptical about returning to her former nautical life with Carlos but Jules can’t resist an all-expense-paid trip, either. If only she knew that a dead body would find its way onto the itinerary.
Now, instead of enjoying tropical drinks on deck between whipping up batches of sea-salted chocolates and flambéing fresh pineapple slices in the kitchen, Jules is plunged into dangerous waters. Her investigation leaves her with more questions than answers: Why can’t anyone on board identify the young woman? And how can she help Carlos keep passengers at ease with a killer in their midst? Jules feels like she’s ready to jump ship. Can she solve this case without getting in too deep?
I wasn’t very far into A Crime of Passion Fruit before realizing that Ellie Alexander’s bakeshop series would become a favorite of mine. The story is well written, intelligent, creative, entertaining, and just plain fun. Rather than being suspenseful, the focus is on logical crime deduction, a style that I love. Although this is #6 in the series – and I’ve not read the previous stories – it easily stands alone. I could pretty much figure out what had gone on with recurring characters. And kudos to Ms. Alexander for giving us a clean story with no profanity or graphic scenes.
The series centers around Torte, a small-town bakeshop in Ashland, Oregon – famous for its Shakespeare theater. A Crime of Passion Fruit, however, takes place on a cruise ship where Jules, at the request of her estranged husband, temporarily fills in as pastry chef. The vivid descriptions pulled me right into the setting and I enjoyed seeing a lot of the action from the crew’s perspective. Shipboard activities and themes were fun and imaginative. I confess to skimming over some of the food prep descriptions, but cooking fans will find these very interesting and informative.
A series is only as strong as its lead character, and I was immediately drawn to Jules – a natural leader who enjoys working with her mom and cares about people. She loved being a chef … “The kitchen is the great equalizer. People of all walks of life connect over food.” Secondary characters add even more depth to the story.
I especially enjoyed the romantic themes. Apparently two men are interested in Jules – Thomas, an Ashland police deputy, and Carlos, the estranged husband – and I don’t know who to pull for at this point. Thomas isn’t personally featured in this story, so I don’t know anything about him. But Carlos … Wow! At first, I thought their relationship was mainly based on surface-level attraction, but we see much more depth as the story unfolds. Carlos and Jules love each other, but have different life goals. This story ends in a tantalizing way for them and I’m eager to see what develops.
A Crime of Passion Fruit concludes with the hint of much more to come in the bakeshop series – Torte’s basement renovation, expansion, and the wedding of Jules’s mom. I eagerly await the release of book #7, Another One Bites the Crust, on January 2, 2018.
I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby.
When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research.
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