The Golden Spoon (2023) by Jessa Maxwell
For ten years, Bake Week has brought ten aspiring bakers to Grafton Manor to film a week of bake-off competition with "America's Grandmother," Betsy Martin serving as hostess and judge. Contestants battle for bragging rights as America's best baker, the Golden Spoon trophy, and a cookbook publishing deal and have to work hard to produce the best breads, cakes, pies, and other baked goods.
This year, the network has decided to shake things up a bit and have given Betsy a co-host--Archie Morris who has had his own show. Betsy is none too keen to share the limelight, especially with Morris whose style is much more abrasive. But when the contestants arrive and filming begins, Morris seems more than willing to follow the tone Betsy has set for the last decade. But then things start to happen...someone switches the salt and sugar in Peter Gellar's cannisters, someone substitutes gasoline for Gerald's orange essence...and then someone winds up dead.
Is someone trying to sabotage the show or is there a deeper motive?
The first thing I have to say--this is NOT a locked room mystery. A closed circle mystery, yes. But there are no locked rooms involved in the murder. None. The only "locked" area is the mysterious fourth floor--but the murder does not happen there.
The second thing I have to say is--this isn't bad for a first mystery. It made for compulsive reading--kind of like eating potato chips. But it wasn't filling. The premise is good and I enjoyed the baking competition set-up, but there really wasn't a lot of tension or build-up. It would have worked better if the sabotage incidents had caused the contestants to start suspecting each other--that could have really worked to set up the murder scenes and given us more solid suspects. But not much was made of the fact that someone was sabotaging things--except for Gerald's manic little episode. And the murder and wrap-up just felt rushed.
What I liked most about the story was Lottie and Pradyumna teaming up to do a little detective work--oh, not on the sabotage, mind you. There's a whole other thread that I won't spoil for those of you who haven't read the book. In fact, I found that thread much more interesting than the primary murder. If there had been a connection made between that thread and the current action, then my rating would have been higher.
As it is--a solid first mystery with a good premise and a few very interesting characters. The mystery plot itself could have been expanded a bit more. ★★★
First line: Betsy presses her cell phone to her ear, trying to hear.
Last line: [Redacted] smiles smugly as the door buzzes, locking [them] inside.
Deaths = two fell from height