Old West ghost towns are as American as apple pie. So what better place to sponsor a pie-eating contest than the Bar X, a fake ghost town available for exclusive private events on the edge of Silicon Valley. Valentine Harris is providing the pies, hoping to boost business for her struggling Pie Town shop and become a regular supplier for the Bar X. But no sooner does she arrive in town than a stray bullet explodes the cherry pie in her hands. And the delicious dessert is not the only victim. Val finds the Bar X bartender shot dead in an alley. Egged on by her flaky friend and pie crust specialist, Charlene, Val aims to draw out the shooter. But solving a real murder in a fake ghost town won’t be easy as pie. And if Val doesn’t watch her back, her pies won’t be the only thing filled full of lead . . .
Since nearly dying while investigating a crime, Val Harris and her crust maker, Charlene have taken to solving much more mundane mysteries. When not solving crimes, Val and Charlene are working hard to build Pie Town, improve customer relations, create new recipes, and bring in wholesale customers to increase revenue.
As it happens, the Bar X “ghost” town is looking for a supplier and if Val’s pies go over well at their pie eating contest, Val will have her first wholesale customer. There’s a lot riding on this deal and Val has high hopes. Just as she and Charlene are delivering their baked goods, everything falls apart. One of Val’s pies is shot right out her hands and as she is running for cover, she finds the shot-up body of the Bar X bartender. Yeah, another dead body and murder to solve is just what Val needed in her life.
As always, Charlene is more than ready to dive headlong into the fray and this time, she’s going up her against her arch nemesis! With three amateur detectives, one worthless police chief, and one real detective on the case, it shouldn’t take any time to ferret out the killer. Unfortunately for all those detecting, the killer has no intention of being caught. In fact, the killer has every intention of taking out one or two more people before the whole mess concludes. Unfortunately for Val, she’s on the killer’s to-do list and her detecting partner has lost her mind and drive to solve the crime. If Val doesn’t figure it all out, she’s going to have no wholesale customer, no way to pay her increasing bills, and no life. Just another day at the office, right?
The Bottom Line: Bleeding Tarts has the kind of evolution I like to see in books/series, slow and steady with real purpose. Weiss has given Val forward movement in both her personal life (the yummy detective!) and in her professional life, while giving us more about crazy Charlene’s past. The two women are such a mismatched pair, yet so perfectly suited for another. Charlene is a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of woman, while Val is far more conservative and thoughtful in her approach to detecting, life, and business. Between the two of them, there is always some sort of madness occurring which makes the read so much more fun. There are hijinks and shenanigans, more than a bit of personal drama, and some very real drama to keep the reader interested and moving forward. The pacing is perfect for the story and I enjoyed this one from cover to cover.