Illegally Iced Review
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There’s really no better way to beat the winter blahs than with a fresh donut and a hot cup of coffee. Pair it with a sweet, cozy mystery—like author Jessica Beck’s latest Donut Shop Mystery, Illegally Iced—and you’ve got the makings of a sweet, relaxing afternoon.

When donut shop owner Suzanne Hart learns that her friend and April Springs blacksmith, James Settle, has been murdered, she regrets that their last conversation was a disagreement. For her neighbors in April Springs, meanwhile, the somewhat heated discussion seems to be motive enough for murder. And although Chief Martin quickly clears Suzanne of any suspicion, she knows that the only way to prove her innocence in her neighbors’ eyes is to find the real killer.

With help from her best friend, Grace, Suzanne begins searching for answers—and she quickly discovers that there was much more to her down-to-earth friend than she ever would have imagined.

  
 
The latest Donut Shop Mystery is just as cozy and charming—and as mouth-watering—as fans of the series have come to expect. The small-town Southern setting gives it a kind of down-home warmth that’s hard to resist. And while the characters aren’t exactly brimming with personality, they’re likable characters nonetheless—and their growing, evolving relationships (especially the relationship between Suzanne’s mom and the police chief) add some interest to the story.

The mystery is light but interesting, with a number of possibilities that are carefully laid out and explored in Suzanne’s thoughtful, meticulous manner. There’s nothing really complicated about any of it, but it’s fun to follow along with Suzanne and Grace as they travel from donut shop to shooting range to posh manor house, searching for clues that will lead them to their friend’s killer. And while the conclusion is a bit abrupt, the story comes together in a way that generally makes sense.

Meanwhile, an added treat, Beck once again sprinkles the book with her own donut recipes—as if she’s reminding readers to take a break every few chapters to grab a snack and refill that coffee cup. Each of these recipes will make you want to fire up the deep fryer (or, if you don’t already own one, to run out to the story to buy one). Personally, I’m dying to try the Kool-Aid Cake Bites—a state fair favorite.

The story does take a strangely self-conscious turn, however, when—through Suzanne and her book group—Beck starts discussing the mystery-writing process. She even uses the opportunity to defend her choice to include recipes between the chapters. And while this may seem like a clever way to respond to any questions and criticism that she may receive, it feels awkward and distracting—more distracting, in fact, than the recipes that she’s trying to defend.

Distractions aside, though, Illegally Iced is yet another sweet, tasty treat for cozy mystery fans. It isn’t a gripping, thought-provoking thriller, but if you’re looking for a light, laid-back read, Beck’s latest Donut Shop Mystery is a good choice. Just be sure to keep some sweet snacks near your favorite reading chair—because it’s guaranteed to give you sugary cravings.


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