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This was an ARC from NetGalley.
Gingerdead Man is the seventh installment in Maya Corrigan’s Five-Ingredient Mystery series. As it often happens, I hadn’t read the previous books in the series, but it wasn’t hard to jump into this one and get to know the residents of Bayport, Maryland.
The series centers around Val Deniston, a thirty-something caterer who lives with her grandfather Don in the small Chesapeake Bay town. They’re both amateur sleuths, and have already solved a series of murders by the time this book starts. At the novel’s open, Don is sulking about having his role as the town’s Santa during the annual Dickens festival usurped by a newcomer nobody seems to like. Things take a turn for the worse when the man, Jake Smith, keels over during a post-festival tea party that Val is catering, apparently poisoned by a gift cookie. Soon, two additional poisonings –apparently unrelated– rock the small town in the weeks leading up to Christmas. And unfortunately for Val, they also involve people she’s either close to or has catered for.
This was a charming little mystery with all kinds of twists and false leads. Don and Val throw themselves into their sleuthing like a seasoned team, even when they don’t agree on all the evidence. It’s hard to really talk about the plot without giving anything away, so I’ll just say that the story had me guessing until almost the end. There is one small point at the end that I felt had been left unaddressed, involving someone close to the killer, but the ending was otherwise satisfying.
I also enjoyed the family and friend dynamics. Don is a bit of a grump, but Val handles him well and never lets him steamroll her once he gets going with the investigation. She does have a tendency to get herself into trouble, especially as the circle closes around the killer’s identity, and one scene near the end had me wondering why she’d done such a thing. But for the most part, this is a low-stakes comfort read for a chilly day and a cup of tea. And speaking of food, don’t miss the simple recipes at the end, which feature some of the dishes mentioned in the story.