Editor's note: From escaped convicts to dead bears to Civil War era disguises, four authors with local ties have recently penned mysteries that are clean, too.
If you like a simple, clean mystery this book may be for you.
Everything's in the pot — or more specifically the book — when it comes to "Trouble's On The Menu: A Tippy Canoe Romp."
So while it makes for a rather benign mystery novel, it's also a typical collaboration kind of story. Utah authors Caleb Warnock, author of “Backyard Winter Gardening,” and Betsy Schow, who wrote "Finished Being Fat," worked this out together.
In the first few chapters, more things happen to the heroine that would usually fit into a bigger book. It's entertaining and you feel for Hallie Stone, but the situations aren't fleshed out and it's hard to care very deeply about any of the characters, fun as they are.
In the first chapter, our heroine runs down a local favorite, offends the owner of the only food joint in town and bumps into the mayor, who is cute. (She's a new widow who is in town to settle the affairs of her late, estranged husband. He's single. Hmm.)
She's the new landlady for a number of popular hometown businesses and is not sure she wants to do more than visit and run.
But, stand-up buffalo-berry shakes and pizza made with natural yeast — Warnock has a best-selling natural yeast recipe book — tempt Stone to stick around.
Problems mushroom: The governor wants to close the local school; some mad man is sabotaging efforts to save the tree farm; and the press is out looking for stories to fill pages during the slow news days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The mayor commits some petty crimes trying to save the family farm. (Pulling mail back out of the box is a federal offense, is it not? Borrowing money from city coffers is illegal no matter the good intent, correct?)
It's a typical first novel with recipes at the end.
For those who have lived in Utah County, particularly in American Fork and/or Alpine, it's just plain fun to try and figure out who's who in this mystery. Althought "Trouble's on the Menu" is not specifically set in Utah County, there are several landmarks that will seem familiar.
Timpanogos Cave is in there, as is the Alpine Christmas tree farm, the American Fork High School marching band, and the old Christiansen's store on Main Street that was linked by back hallways to several other stores.
There isn't any swearing or other foul language and there is only mild violence described, including a fire and some fisticuffs. The romance doesn't go beyond kissing.
Read it with low expectations and all will be fine.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.