Book Reviews

Book Review – Evil Eclairs: A Donut Shop Mystery by Jessica Beck

This is the fourth book in a cute series about a baker who keeps getting caught up in mysteries in her small town. Suzanne Hart owns a donut shop in a former railroad station in her hometown in North Carolina. Her donuts are to die for, but not literally until the local love-to-hate host of a show on the radio station turns up dead with one of Suzanne’s eclairs stuffed in his mouth. The problem is, that the two just had a confrontation over his denouncement of the bakery and plea for citizens to boycott the place.

Now the prime suspect in Lester Moorefield’s death, Suzanne is determined to clear her name, with or without the help of the local police.

Since I started reading these “Stephanie Plum”-type books, I call them “fun fluff.” There’s nothing too deep in these types of novels. The main character, in this case, Suzanne Hart, is a capable woman who finds herself in the middle of trouble she didn’t ask for and doesn’t trust anyone else to clear her name. These are supposed to be books that are fun to read that doesn’t require a lot of thinking.

That said, there are a lot of plotholes in the book that can be frustrating at times. Suzanne frets over the money her shop is (or rather isn’t) making. She blames it on the publicity from Lester Moorfield followed by his death and the reaction of the townsfolk. However, she reacts to a customer dressed as a clown in an off-putting way despite the fact that he’s a paying customer. I get it, not everyone likes clowns, but her reaction based on how he is dressed seems reactionary and superficial. He’s never threatening to her in any way, and she kicks him out of the shop to the cheers of the other patrons, for no reason except for how he’s dressed.

As is always the case in these types of novels, the protagonist is more capable than the local police department. Unlike Stephanie Plum, who is a sometimes-bounty hunter, Suzanne has no connection to law enforcement, other than an often-absent boyfriend who’s a state investigator. Yes, she manages to easily conduct an investigation better than the local police.

There’s plenty of character time, too, as Suzanne deals with the possibility of her widowed mother dating again as well as her own stalled romance. Her best friend spends a lot of time away from her job accompanying Suzanne on the investigation. It seems unrealistic that she has that much free time to take off whenever Suzanne needs help, yet her detective boyfriend can’t leave his job to help her. It’s almost like a woman’s job is superfluous to what a man is doing, yet the author seems to also want Suzanne to be a liberated heroine.

In the midst of all of this are the recipes. As in earlier books in the series, the author includes some delicious donut recipes amidst the intrigue. I haven’t tried any of them, but they sound delicious and give a bit of a break to the story.

I can’t say that this book is my favorite of the series. There seem to be inconsistencies in how the characters are presented. It’s still a lot of fun, and there’s plenty of intrigue. I just have seen it done better, both in this series and with other female-protagonist mysteries.