As the owner of Pie Town, Val’s been tapped to judge the pie making contest at the annual pumpkin festival in the coastal California town of San Nicholas. Things could get sticky though–her boyfriend, cop Gordon Carmichael, is entering the competition with his “special” family pumpkin pie recipe. But Val’s got bigger problems than a conflict of interest when she and her flaky piecrust-maker Charlene discover another contestant crushed under an enormous pumpkin.
When grudge-holding Chief Shaw comes up with a half-baked reason to toss Carmichael off the case and onto the suspect list, it’s up to Val and Charlene to find the tricky killer. But as they dodge lethal pumpkin cannons and follow the clues into a figurative and literal maze, the pie pals are in for the scariest Halloween of their lives–and it may be their last . . .
Source: NetGalley and Kensington Rating: 4/5 stars
Pie Town is a veritable boomtown these days and Val can’t believe her good fortune. With the annual pumpkin festival just around the corner, Val is hoping for a windfall and a load of great publicity for Pie Town. Though she’s putting in more hours than ever before, Val is happy with her life and simply can’t imagine it any other way.
As always, Charlene is up to no good and she simply can’t wait for the crowds to crash the pumpkin festival. With Val in tow, Charlene trips off into the pre-dawn hours to see the giant pumpkins that will be judged once the festival actually begins. Val is blown away by the tremendous size of the gourds and thoroughly disappointed by the dead body under one of the entrants. Yeah, death by giant pumpkin shouldn’t be a thing, but then, Val and Charlene have a habit of finding the weird wherever they go.
Lickety split, Val and Charlene are forbidden by the police chief from “nosing around” the investigation and Gordon – the only actual detective on the force – is removed from the investigation. Oh, and Val’s stepmother has come to town because things couldn’t possibly get anymore weird. Val’s stepmother is gung-ho to become a part of Val’s life and that means getting to know her friends and poking around in her business. In short order, Val is up to her neck in batsh*t crazy old ladies, including a 100-year-old witch who is seemingly out to get Val and curse her life. Because why not?
Over the course of her investigation, Val gets run off the road, shot at by a pumpkin cannon, and followed relentlessly by an unknown interested party. Charlene gets a drone, Val’s stepmother evidently travels strapped and ready for action, and Gordon is stress eating. What’s more, Val is putting in more hours than ever before and showing up at Pie Town even when the shop is closed. There’s nothing about any of those things that isn’t unnerving, and Val’s got to figure out how to navigate everything and everyone in addition to finding a killer.
The Bottom Line: Yet again, Val spends a good portion of this book (YAY!) evaluating and reevaluating her life and her life choices. The hours she works are becoming problematic for her relationship with Gordon and Gordon’s life, even beyond being a detective is becoming more complicated. To be sure, the presence of Val’s stepmother is a doozy of a plot twist, and Charlene is stellar, as ever. Of course, I like Val and her antics, but I am finding that the minor characters in this series are far more interesting and entertaining. There’s such a wonderful vibe among the minor characters that really help bring the whole series to life. If everything and everyone continues to evolve as I believe they will, this series is only going to get strong the longer is continues.