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Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz
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Erin Murphy returned home to run the family mercantile with her mother Fresca. People accuse Fresca of stealing Claudette's recipes, and when Claudette turns up murdered, Erin's one-time friend employed now as the town detective suspects Fresca of the crime. The mystery did not hold together well. The narrative seemed scattered. Shallow characterization contributed to a disconnect with the story. I struggled with the decision to keep reading or abandon it. I decided to see if it improved. I think it came together enough at the end, but readers still wonder how it got there. I doubt I'll read any more of the series. ( )
  thornton37814 | Feb 12, 2019 |
Erin Murphy has returned home to Montana after many years away to help run her family business, Murphy's Mercantile. She's decided that the way to go to make it profitable is to carry items made in Montana, including her mother's own Italian recipes.

But first her mother is accused of stealing the recipes of an old friend, Claudette, who has hightailed it to Las Vegas with a local chiropractor; and even though Fresca (her mother) denies it, there are still rumors. Then, when Claudette suddenly returns - and is found dead behind the mercantile - the rumors are getting serious. Suddenly Fresca is the main suspect and Erin decides the only way to clear her mother (who refuses any help) is to find the killer herself. But will her investigation do more harm than good?

I honestly really wanted to like this book, and I tried...but I kept falling asleep every time I picked it up. I'm not sure why; usually I have no problem reading books straight through, and even managing to read one a day. But this one...

The characters were boring. The dialogue was boring. We never get to know anything at all about Claudette; there is only one small conversation between Erin and her where she tells Erin the rumors are false and how she found out the chiropractor was never in love with her. Then...she's dead. So we never get to engage with her at all - even though everyone says that she was wonderful, all I got to see was a crying, near-hysterical woman over a broken short-lived affair.

The detective in charge of the case is an old ex-friend of Erin's, and honestly, I finished the book because I wanted to see why they'd drifted apart after Erin's father's death, and it was a letdown. Also, I didn't understand why she felt the need to call her mother by her first name. Didn't she want customers to know they were related? Was she afraid of being accused of nepotism? It didn't make any sense. Many, many people work with their parents and call them Mom or Dad. It seemed ridiculous. If she wanted customers to know who created the recipes, just have the woman wear a name tag or something. Don't call your mother by her first name at work and then 'mom' at home. Good grief.

I think part of the problem is Erin is self-centered. She seems a bit snobbish, and so does her sister, Chiara. Also, there's just Too Much Detail about things that aren't important to the reader. It's hard to actually place, but the dialogue for one could be a little more interesting. (And honestly, who's going to join a Jam Club?)

In the end, the reason for the murder didn't really make any sense to me, so that's part of the reason the book fell flat. As it is, I always try to give the author a pass on the first in a new series, and I will read the next in the hope that it will improve. ( )
  joannefm2 | Feb 26, 2018 |
Death al Dente is a good cozy mystery and I hope the rest of the series will be as good.

Erin Murphy comes back to her home town to help her family's store 'The Merc' get a fresh make over so-to-speak. She is introducing foods produced in the area and has all kinds of new ideas for events. One of these events is the Festa di Pasta showcasing the Mercantile and other local businesses to raise money for the local food bank. Unfortunately a friend of her family's is murdered during the event.

When police start looking at Erin's mother as a prime suspect she has to go into detective mode to clear Fresca's name. This begins a tangle of secrets, poison, he-said she-said stories, hostilities kept under the surface in this small town and much more.

The plot moved along without any lulls and I have to say I couldn't figure out who the murderer was until it was revealed. To me that is the sign of a successful mystery. ( )
  Diane_K | Sep 28, 2017 |
Erin Murphy has recently returned to Jewel Bay, Montana, to put new life into Murphy’s Mercantile, a general store that’s been in her family for 100 years. Her emphasis is on locally produced food items that will be in sync with the town’s upscale image as a haven for foodies. Her return coincided with the store’s former manager’s move to Las Vegas with her married beau – a chiropractor turned Elvis impersonator.

Rumor – untrue as it turns out -- has it that Claudette was dumped to make room for Erin and that Erin’s mom’s line of Italian sauces is based on recipes stolen from Claudette. As the story opens, Claudette has returned from Las Vegas and is murdered while a food festival, organized by Erin, is going on. Suspicion falls on Erin’s mom, Fresca. When the state police take over the investigation, Erin is concerned that outsiders may very well glom onto her mom and not look for whoever really killed Claudette, so Erin starts investigating.

Death al Dente is standard cozy fare, Erin Murphy a standard cozy heroine. Although the plot was OK, the writing seemed “cluttered” to me, the pacing slowed by too much emphasis on everything except the crime and its resolution. Too many characters, too many secondary plots, too much to divert readers from the mystery elements. ( )
  NewsieQ | Jun 27, 2016 |
Death al Dente is the first in a series called "A Food Lover's Village Mystery". Erin Murphy has recently come back to her hometown after working and gaining experience in Seattle. She's back to work in Murphy's Mercantile, or the Merc; the family business. She begins to change and update products and how the business is run as well as organizing a village-wide "summer kick-off" celebration. On the first night of the celebration she finds a former employee dead in an alleyway. The local cop is her former best friend who might not be all that impartial. Her mom becomes the main suspect and the murder begins to affect the business so Erin wants this murder solved as soon as possible.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I liked the characters and the story was entertaining. Can't wait to read the next book in the series. ( )
  mmoj | Feb 3, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425259544, Mass Market Paperback)

FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!

The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as a Food Lovers' Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family’s century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. But Erin’s freshly booming business might go rotten when a former employee turns up dead…

Murphy’s Mercantile, known as the Merc, has been a staple in Jewel Bay for over a hundred years. To celebrate their recent makeover as a gourmet food market, Erin has organized a town festival, Festa di Pasta, featuring the culinary goods of Jewel Bay’s finest—including her mother Fresca’s delicious Italian specialties.

But Erin’s sweet success is soured when the shop’s former manager, Claudette, is found dead behind the Merc on the Festa’s opening night. With rival chef James Angelo stirring up rumors that Fresca’s sauce recipes were stolen from Claudette, Erin’s mother is under close scrutiny. Now Erin will have to hunt down some new suspects, or both her family and her store might wind up in hot water…

INCLUDES FRESH, DELICIOUS RECIPES!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:42 -0400)

"Murphy's Mercantile, known as the Merc, has been a staple in Jewel Bay for over a hundred years. To celebrate their recent makeover as a gourmet food market, Erin has organized a town festival, Festa di Pasta, featuring the culinary goods of Jewel Bay's finest--including her mother Fresca's delicious Italian specialties. But Erin's sweet success is soured when the shop's former manager, Claudette, is found dead behind the Merc on the Festa's opening night. With rival chef James Angelo stirring up rumors that Fresca's sauce recipes were stolen from Claudette, Erin's mother is under close scrutiny. Now Erin will have to hunt down some new suspects, or both her family and her store might wind up in hot water..."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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