AUTHOR: Jenn McKinlay

PUBLISHER: Berkley Prime Crime

ISBN: 978-0399583834

I have to tell you that I will read anything Jenn McKinlay writes. (Well, almost anything. I draw the line at a contemporary romance featuring dogs—she just wrote one of those.) Her books are light, mildly funny, well plotted, and always fun to read. She avoids many of the problems the publishers’ formula requirements cause in cozy mysteries, and even after reading something like a half million such books and getting a bit tired of the formula, McKinlay’s books are still fresh and exciting.

Wedding Cake Crumble is no exception. One might worry that by the tenth novel in a series, the characters and situations might lose their charm and sparkle. McKinlay even mentions this very real danger in her acknowledgement in the front of the book. I have to agree with her that the series has lost nothing yet.

If you don’t know this series, now is a great time to start reading these books. Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura, best friends since childhood, are partners in Fairy Tale Cupcakes, a bakery in Scottsdale, Arizona. They have another bestie, Tate Harper. Tate became their mutual friend, forming an inseparable trio while they were still kids. They love to watch movies together and frequently challenge each other to recognize movie lines that crop up all the time. Tate has grown up to be a genius financier who remains deeply involved in his friends’ lives.

As their relationships grow over the years (and through the nine previous novels), we come to love them as we see them get involved in each other’s families, a series of puzzling murders, and some heart-warming romantic entanglements. One of those has resulted in Tate, the male member of the trio, proposing the Angie. This book works through the preparations for their wedding and culminates at the ceremony.

The mystery part comes about as the girls go about Scottsdale making wedding arrangements. First, they discover the body of their wedding photographer. Then shortly thereafter they find their caterer and limo driver also murdered. After a fairly convincing discussion of why it is that they keep discovering murders as they move through their otherwise normal lives, they need to figure out who is killing the people involved in the wedding.

Meanwhile, another friend, a bookshop owner, has just published the scandalous tell-all book by a local author who skewers the residents of her former gated community by exposing their bizarre secrets under the ineffectual disguise of nicknames like Hair Plugs (her ex-husband) and Child Bride (the beautiful minx who stole her husband). After an amusing—for us, not for the participants—confrontation at a book signing, the author is stabbed with a ceremonial pen.

All of this results in lots of confusion, suspicion, emotion, and hilarity now and again.

Now, remembering that I’m a crusty old male senior citizen, I have to address a problem that worried me. I did not want to encounter a lot of sappy details about the wedding. You know—all that stuff that the ladies glory in: colors, dresses, flowers, the wedding cake (cupcakes for this wedding, of course), decorations, centerpieces, invitations, and on and on.

Ms. McKinlay did a nice balancing job, providing just enough detail for the ladies but not so much that I had to skip any pages, as I feared I might have to. Nicely done, Ms. McKinlay.

Looking back, the motivation of the killer might be slightly less than convincing, but it did not seem so as I was reading. The unraveling of the mystery comes all at once, but again is just convincing enough while reading not to bother you.

If you have never read any of the Cupcake Bakery mysteries, my advice is to go back to the beginning and read them all. If that’s not possible or reasonable for you, go ahead and read this one. It will still amuse you.

Oh, yes… If it matters to you (it doesn’t to me), there are allegedly delicious cupcake recipes in the back of the book.