ARC Review: Murder Can Frost Your Doughnut by Rose Pressey

  • Title: Murder Can Frost Your Doughnut (Haunted Craft Fair Mystery #4)
  • Author: Rose Pressey
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Release Date: 9/28/21
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Rating: ★★★
  • Publisher’s Summary: The ghost of an Elvis impersonator has got psychic painter Celeste Cabot all shook up…Celeste has pulled up in her pink Shasta trailer, aka mobile art studio, to the Sevier County Fair in the mountains of eastern Tennessee to sell her paintings. A highlight of the fair promises to be the celebrity impersonation contest. But the low point is when Celeste and her floppy-eared white Chihuahua Van (short for Van Gogh) find an Elvis impersonator in his trailer doing a great impression of a corpse, clutching a doughnut in his hand. Seeking a vision to solve the crime, Celeste paints her own Elvis portrait–and suddenly the ghost of the Elvis impersonator appears. They say fools rush in, but with the help of this spirit, Celeste sets out to find the real killer among all the fake celebrities. It’s now or never, because there won’t be time to tell the killer: “Don’t be cruel.” 

I have been a big fan of cozy mysteries since high school, and I always love discovering new series of them. Murder Can Frost Your Doughnut has a lot in common with many of my favorite cozy mysteries: an amateur detective, a small town setting, a love triangle. However, the paranormal element of this series set it apart from many of the others I read.

Celeste Cabot is a psychic painter. In fact, her paintings give her clues that lead her to solving the murder in Murder Can Frost Your Doughnut. Her powers also mean that she can see the ghost of the murder victim, which made this investigation especially interesting. My immediate thought was to ask why Donald couldn’t just tell Celeste who killed him, but Pressey does address that.

“Hey, I’m trying,” Donald said, forgetting Caleb couldn’t hear him. “You try recalling the details of your own murder.”

While this isn’t necessarily the most convincing explanation, I was glad to see that my question was anticipated and addressed. I enjoyed getting to “know” the murder victim in the story as that doesn’t usually happen in the murder mysteries I’ve read.

Like many other cozy mystery series, there is a romantic plotline. Two people: Caleb and Pierce are both interested in Celeste romantically. As they are both detectives, Celeste calls them throughout the story when she finds a clue or finds herself in danger. I wanted to find myself invested in this story, but there wasn’t enough development in Caleb or Pierce’s characters for me to feel attached to either one of them. It is possible that I would feel differently if I’d read the other books in the series.

In many of the cozy mysteries I’ve read, there isn’t really a sense of danger that threads through the entire story. The amateur detective tends to find themselves in a scary situation with the murderer as they solve the case, but that tends to be the extent of moments like that. Celeste finds herself confronting the murderer at serveral points throughout the book. She finds herself in a car chase and finds herself lured to a fun house under false pretenses. She also finds indications that the murderer has been hanging around her trailer. These moments made me feel a sense of urgency that I enjoyed.

There are several moments of vivid description that really set the scene for the craft fair where Murder Can Frost Your Doughnut takes place. The book opens with a description that pulls the reader into Celeste’s world.

The last rays of sunset faded and the sky turned a deep navy blue as evening arrived at the Servier County Fair. A late summer breeze ruffled the leaves of nearby oak trees. Lights dazzled on the Ferris wheel and carousel, waiting for the nighttime riders.

This description made me want to be at the fair with Celeste and her family and friends.

One of my favorite elements of cozy mysteries are recipes and discussion of food. This one does have a few recipes and plenty of discussion around food. However, I had a difficult time with the amount of food shaming I felt throughout the story. Celeste refers to a “weak moment” when she orders a deep fried Oreo and references that her mother calls a concession booth “the sugar coma stand.” It is so important that moral value not be assigned to food, and there was too much of that going on here for my liking.

I don’t think I’ll be reading the other Haunted Craft Fair mysteries, but I found Murder Can Frost Your Donut compelling enough.

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