Is Val’s breakfast pie the quiche of death? Owning her own business seemed like pie in the sky to Valentine Harris when she moved to the coastal California town of San Nicholas, expecting to start a new life with her fiance. Five months–and a broken engagement–later, at least her dream of opening a pie shop has become a reality. But when one of her regulars keels over at the counter while eating a quiche, Val feels like she’s living a nightmare. After the police determine the customer was poisoned, business at Pie Town drops faster than a fallen crust. Convinced they’re both suspects, Val’s flaky, seventy-something pie crust maker Charlene drags her boss into some amateur sleuthing. At first Val dismisses Charlene’s half-baked hypotheses, but before long the ladies uncover some shady dealings hidden in fog-bound San Nicholas. Now Val must expose the truth–before a crummy killer tries to shut her pie hole.
Nothing has the potential to kill the prospects of a new restaurant like a customer keeling over at the counter while eating. Just six months into her restaurant’s run, one of Val Harris’s regulars does just that, he keels over while enjoying a slice of her hot-out-of-the-oven quiche. All the momentum Val had going went rolling right out the door with the medical examiner and dead body. If things don’t turn around quickly, Val stands to lose everything she has.
With little else to do and very few customers, Val begins asking questions about her deceased customer. As it happens, he and his recently departed best friend liked to armchair sleuth with local unsolved mysteries and as Val continues to poke around, she discovers that one of those mysteries may have gotten both men killed. Make no mistake, Val isn’t in this alone and from the beginning she gets a load of (unwanted??) help from her crust maker, the eccentric and quite geriatric, Charlene. Charlene has lived in San Nicholas most of her life and knows the ins and outs better than anyone. For every question Val has, Charlene has either an insightful answer, a bit of backstory, or some preposterous scheme meant to unearth answers.
To be sure, Charlene is a bit crazy, but she’s got good intentions, and finding out who killed her two friends will not only get a killer off the streets, but set Val’s restaurant (and Charlene’s employer!) to rights and get the customers coming back through the doors. With each new clue, Charlene and Val get closer to not only solving two murders, but several minor incidents as well.
The Bottom Line: This is the second cozy mystery series by Kirsten Weiss I’ve dedicated time and energy to. Like the other series, I fell easily into the Pie Town Mystery series with it’s quirky characters, generally charming atmosphere and environment, and a twisty and turny plot worthy of each and every quirky character. Through late-night stakeouts, minor breaking and entering, some not-so-subtle questioning, and some seriously awkward encounters with her weasel ex, Val (and Charlene) get to the bottom of a mystery that is tanking Pie Town. With nothing but sheer will and determination to see her business succeed, Val stumbles and fumbles her way through the mess and, in the end, prevails and discovers just why armchair sleuthing was a hobby for the dead men.