Everyone swears by Yeast of Eden, the Mexican bread shop in town. But tonight, the only thing on the menu is la muerte . . .
Struggling photographer Ivy Culpepper has lots of soul-searching to do since returning to seaside Santa Sofia, California. That is, until the thirty-six-year-old enters a bread making class at Yeast of Eden. Whether it’s the aroma of fresh conchas in the oven, or her instant connection with owner Olaya Solis, Ivy just knows the missing ingredients in her life are hidden among the secrets of Olaya’s bakery . . .
But Ivy’s spirits crumble when a missing classmate is suddenly discovered dead in her car. Even more devastating, the prime suspect is Olaya Solis herself. Doubting the woman could commit such a crime, Ivy embarks on a murder investigation of her own to prove her innocence and seize the real killer. As she follows a deadly trail of crumbs around town, Ivy must trust her gut like never before—or someone else could be toast!
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Kneaded to Death
By Winnie Archer
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Winnie Archer
All rights reserved.
Santa Sofia is a magical town, nestled between the Santa Lucia Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean on California's Central Coast. I've always seen it as the perfect place. Not too big, not too small. Historic and true to its commitment to remain a family-oriented place to live. The town accomplished this goal by having more bikes than people, concerts in the park, and a near perfect seventy degrees almost year-round.
I had been gone from my hometown since college but had come back when a horrible accident destroyed our lives as we knew them, taking my mother far too young and leaving my father, my brother, and me bereft and empty. We were still struggling to make sense of what had happened and how a nondescript sedan had backed right into her as she walked behind it in the parking lot at the high school where she'd taught.
"No one saw anything. It was a hit-and-run," my best friend, Emmaline, had told me sadly. "She never saw it coming, and the doctors say she didn't suffer."
That made no sense to me. She was run over by a car. There had to have been pain and suffering, even if it was brief. I relived what I imagined were my mother's last moments. The split second when she saw the truck backing up, realizing that it was coming too fast and that she couldn't get out of the way in time; the impact when it first made contact, hurling her back against the asphalt; the force of the vehicle as it rolled over her. I caught my breath, swallowing the agony I knew she'd felt.
The final result of the tragedy was the emptiness of being back in Santa Sofia without her. The place where I was born and raised no longer filled me with the comfort it used to. Things were different now; six months later, I was still trying to pick up the pieces.
Since I was a little girl, taking photographs had always been my saving grace. Capturing the beauty or heartbreak or pure, unbridled emotions in the world around me showed me how small I was in the scheme of things. At the same time, it allowed me to revel in the moments I captured, treasuring each one as a work of art in and of itself. My mother had given me a camera when I was nine years old and constantly in her hair. "It'll keep you busy," she'd told me, and it had. I had picked up that camera and had never put it down again. Now I had a degree in design and photography. I'd started a photography blog to keep my creative juices flowing, posting a picture a day. I'd had a vibrant business in Austin. But I was floundering. Since I lost my mother, finding inspiration had become a challenge. My voice had been silenced, it seemed, and I had nothing more to say with the images through the lens.
This lack of direction and the loss of my creative vision are what led me to Yeast of Eden, the bread shop in Santa Sofia. I might be able to end my dry spell if I could find inspiration somewhere. Somehow. But now, as I stood at the doorway, one hand on the handle, I wondered what in the hell I'd been thinking. Baking? A pan of brownies from a boxed mix? Sure. A batch of chocolate chip cookies, courtesy of the recipe on the back of the Nestlé package? Definitely. But from-scratch bread? Not in my wheelhouse. Baking was a far cry from finding beauty through the lens of a camera. The mere thought that I was even contemplating this bit of craziness clearly meant that I was under duress.
True, I'd been to the local bread shop every day since I'd moved back to Santa Sofia. Truth be told, the place was becoming my home away from home, but that did not give me the right to think I could actually make the stuff. And it certainly didn't mean baking would solve my problems. Grief had to run its course. I knew this, but the reality was that I'd never not feel the emptiness inside.
An image of my dad popped into my head. "What did you bring today?" he regularly asked me. It was becoming almost a joke, because I'd already cycled through nearly everything Yeast of Eden had to offer ... twice. Baguettes. Sourdough. Croissants. Rye. Wheat pumpernickel. Focaccia.
There were so many choices, and I loved them all. But I did have my favorites. The flaky, buttery croissant in the morning or a crusty sourdough roll at lunch — these were the staples. On a sunny day, the pumpernickel with sliced turkey and cheese hit the spot. When it was rainy, I bought a round loaf of French bread, turned it into a bread bowl, and filled it with homemade chowder.
But this time I wasn't here to buy bread; I was here to get my hands dirty, so to speak. To plunge them into a bowl of dough and knead, knead, knead. And somehow, despite logic and despite reason, I knew that it was going to be life changing. I had no idea how ... or why, but as sure as I was standing on the cobbled sidewalk in Santa Sofia, and as sure as the breeze off the Pacific Ocean blew through me, I was 100 percent certain that the bread-baking class at Yeast of Eden was going to send me on a new trajectory.
But was I ready?
Before I had the chance to answer that question in my head, the door opened, and a woman in a colorful caftan and red clogs, hands firmly on her hips, emerged. Her iron-gray hair was cropped short and loose, playful curls danced over her head. Her green eyes, heavily flecked with gold, stared me down. "Ven aqui, m'ija," she said to me in Spanish, as if I could understand her. Which I could not. "You have to come inside to change your life."
I jumped, startled. "To change my ... what? I'm sorry. What?" "You don't think I recognize you? You, mi amor, are here every day. You have discovered the magic of this place, and now you want more." She smiled, her eyebrows lifting in a quick movement that seemed to say "I see this every day." "Come in. We're all waiting."
"You're all ...?" I stared. "Who's waiting?"
This time the woman laughed. She threw her head back and gave a hearty guffaw that made me take a step back. Of course, I recognized her, too. Her daily authoritative presence had made it easy to deduce that the woman owned Yeast of Eden. "The rest of the bakers, por supuesto."
Her laughter seeped into me, and despite myself, I felt a smile tilt my lips upward, but I bit down to stop it from being fully realized. Being happy was simply not okay. How could it be when I'd lost my mother just a few short months ago, and when my dad, my brother, and I were hanging on to each other just to get by? My grief had become part of me. It was embedded in my soul. Trapped in my pores. Smiling felt like a betrayal of my sorrow. A betrayal of my mother.
The woman watched me with a gaze that seemed to burrow through every bit of me. Her voice softened. "It will be all right, you know."
A flurry of goose bumps danced over my skin. I'd spoken to this woman no more than a handful of times, and the interactions were always superficial and cursory, and yet somehow she seemed to know exactly what I was feeling. I tried to school my expression. I tended to show every one of my emotions on my face the very second I felt them; I was working on that particular problem.
"I don't know what you mean," I said, my voice a little more indignant than I'd intended it to be.
She considered me again and then gave a succinct nod. "Está bien, m'ija. Come in then." She held the door open, letting me pass. "It is time to bake some bread."
"I'm not ... I've never ... I don't cook, you know," I said, already apologizing for the future failure I was afraid might happen once I got into the kitchen.
"Perhaps not yet, but you will ...," she said, letting the words trail away, and just like that, I felt as if I really might be able to do the impossible and learn this new, tantalizing skill.
She flipped the sign hanging in the window to show CLOSED and locked the door. I followed her deeper into the bread shop, the scent of fresh-baked bread swirling around me and enveloping me like a cocoon. As I breathed in, letting it soak into me for just a moment, I felt the grief that was always with me soften around the edges. For the first time since I could remember, it ebbed and I felt my lungs open up.
I followed her flowing caftan–clad body through the swinging doors, which led to the back room. "La cocina," she said, gesturing wide with her arms. "This is my favorite place in the world. Settle in, m'ija. This is where you belong."
I didn't know if she was right about that, but I let the comment go, instead looking at the other women gathered around the room. They had been chattering excitedly, but their voices had tapered off as we walked in.
"It's about time," one of the women said, her gaze trained on the bread shop owner. "At long last. Lista? Are you finally ready?"
"Keep your pantalones on, Consuelo." The iron-haired woman wagged a finger at the one called Consuelo, and I noticed how alike they looked. Sisters. They had to be. Consuelo was a few inches taller and her hair was dyed a deep brown, but they had the same eyes, the same nose, slightly curved down at the end, and the same hollowed cheekbones.
The other women in the kitchen were of varying ages. I placed the owner — I still didn't know her name — in her early sixties; Consuelo, a few years younger; and another woman, who was wearing wide-legged black pants, a T-shirt with a cardigan over it, and slip-on sandals, somewhere in her late fifties. Three others were closer to my age.
I stepped forward and gave a little wave. "I'm Ivy Culpepper."
The owner's eyebrows flicked up again, as if something she'd thought had just been validated. "And I'm Olaya," she said. "Olaya Solis. This is my shop. Bread baked the way it used to be made back in Mexico."
The comfort I'd felt when I'd walked into the shop and breathed in the scent of bread deepened. It almost seemed as if we were connected somehow, this woman and me. But the moment I thought it, I shook the thought away. It was ridiculous. I'd been away from Santa Sofia for nearly a decade, and before I started coming to Yeast of Eden, I'd never laid eyes on Olaya Solis.
But still ...
Olaya stepped up so that she was even with me, and started pointing. "Consuelo is my sister. Y tambien ... so is Martina."
The woman in the cardigan, Martina, lifted her chin and gave a slight smile and a shy wave.
"Martina is the quiet one in the family," Consuelo said, her own voice booming.
Consuelo definitely was not the quiet one. They were three sisters who might be different from one another, but they had each other. I had a brother, and while we were close, it wasn't the same as what I imagined having a sister would be like.
"I'm Jolie," one of the younger women said. She looked to be in her mid- to late twenties, maybe not around the corner from my own thirty-six years, but relatively close. She had long, straight black hair, which she'd pulled back into a careless ponytail. I inadvertently touched my own mop of curly ginger locks. I looked just like my mom, which I was grateful for, but as a result, I generally appear just a touch disheveled and not nearly as effortlessly put together as Jolie appeared. My hair looked like it had been shampooed with liquid paprika and made my green eyes sparkle like shiny emeralds. I'd pulled it up, wrapped it around and around, and tied it with a hair band.
My whole childhood, I'd longed for the sleek look that Jolie had, instead of the free spirit presence that I'd inherited from my mother. I waited for that old, familiar feeling of envy to seep in ... but it didn't. Jolie was a beauty, but for the first time, I consciously realized that while I wasn't gorgeous like she was, I was okay with who I was. More than okay. I loved looking in the mirror and catching a glimpse of where I came from. Of who I came from.
"Nice to meet you," I said.
"There was a teacher — Mrs. Culpepper — at the high school. English, I think. Are you ...?"
"She was my mother," I said, glancing away.
"Wasn't she ... was she ... ," Jolie began, but she trailed off.
One of the other young women finished for her. "There was a hitand-run at the school a few months ago."
"It was a horrible accident." I managed to keep my voice from quavering.
"Oh!" Jolie's jaw dropped. "I'm sorry."
Olaya placed her hand on my back, a comforting gesture. "Let's get to our baking," she said, sensing that I didn't want to talk about my mother's death. She introduced the other two young women as Sally and Becky. They each lifted their hands in a quick wave, and we all found our spaces at the counter. Each station had a name tag with a name neatly printed on it. Next to the name was a drawing of an apron. From what I could see, each apron was unique. As Olaya directed me to my station, I saw that even I had a name tag.
I spun around to look at her, raising my eyebrows in puzzlement. "How ...?"
"I knew you'd be coming," she answered.
I couldn't fathom how she'd known with such certainty that I'd come to this baking class when I hadn't even known for sure. But there was my name, my station, a lovely petit four, and an apron, all waiting for me. Each baking station had been equipped with a large mixing bowl, a container of flour, ajar of yeast, and the other essential ingredients for bread making, as well as a glass of ice water for our own hydration. I immediately took a deep sip, steadying my nerves. Only one empty station — water and petit four untouched — remained. Everyone else seemed to have eaten their sweet treat. I followed suit and nibbled mine.
Olaya took her place behind the stainless-steel center island and began talking. I'd detected a slight accent when she first met me at the door to Yeast of Eden, but now, as she spoke about the history of bread making in Mexico, it became more pronounced. "I know what you are thinking," she said. "Tortillas, yes? The bread of Mexico has always been tortillas. And yes, I make and sell Mexico's traditional fare once in a while. But bread ..." She gestured toward the swinging doors, which led back to the front of the now closed shop and the display cases that were littered with what was left of the day's baked goods. "I have been baking bread since I was a little girl. Once I started, I never stopped."
I listened, enthralled. Her words seeped into me, and I understood completely. It was all about passion. Mine was photography. I had left California to go to college in Texas and had stayed there for many years, building my business. Circumstances had brought me back, I was starting over, and turning to the lens was the only thing I knew how to do. I imagined the display cases in Yeast of Eden overflowing with the day's offerings every morning, and I had a sudden hankering to photograph them. I made a mental note to myself to bring my camera in the morning and take a few shots, excited to see how the light would be and thinking about how best to capture the delicacy of the bread.
As Olaya continued filling us in on her history as a bread maker, the back door opened and a woman in a knee-length jean skirt and a floral blouse breezed in. "Sorry I'm late!"
"Late?" Olaya said, not missing a beat. "Jackie, five more minutes and I would have locked the door. You would have been stuck outside, with not an ounce of bread. You would have been ... How do you say it?" She drew a finger across her neck. "Out of luck."
Clearly, Olaya didn't like tardiness with her classes. Duly noted. But I'd detected a light touch in her voice, and there was the faintest hint of a smile on her lips. I suspected that Jackie wasn't often on time and that Olaya had learned to accept this about her.
Jackie looked around and frowned, but Olaya ushered her to her workstation. She grabbed an apron off a hook and handed it to her. "But you are here now. You might as well stay."
"I had my own class to wrap up. Not as meaningful as baking bread, of course, but my livelihood." Her eyes glinted mischievously as she pushed her name tag aside, tied on her apron, took a drink from her ice water, and bit into her petit four. "Did I miss the talk about you baking bread as a child in Mexico?"
"She was just finishing," Consuelo said, and the two women's gazes met.
Jackie mouthed, "Phew!" and a knowing grin crossed each of their faces. Evidently, they had both taken the bread-making classes before and had heard Olaya's stories.
Olaya ignored her sister and her friend. She scanned Jackie up and down, and her gaze settled on the wedge heels. "Very nice shoes you are wearing," she said. "Perfect for baking."
Jackie burst out laughing and boisterously kicked up one leg behind her in an old Hollywood starlet manner. "That's exactly what I thought. You know my philosophy. One should always look her best, and shoes are the instant wardrobe definer." She fluttered her hand. "Carry on, Olaya."
Excerpted from Kneaded to Death by Winnie Archer. Copyright © 2017 Winnie Archer. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed the book because I love a good mystery. This story was well developed and the characters were likeable. Except for the ones we weren't supposed to like. The actual villains were sad, broken people and I think realistically portrayed. The descriptions of the homes were vivid enough to make me able to envision them in my mind's eye and since I am an old house fan, this was an unexpected delight. Good read!
So many interesting story elements! Grieving her mother’s sudden death in a hit & run accident, Ivy Culpepper returns to her hometown to live with and care for her father and brother. While adjusting to her loss and relocation, Ivy discovers the local bread shop, Yeast of Eden, and at the urging of the shop owner, Olaya Dias, signs up to take a breadmaking class. When during the first class, one of the other women there is found murdered in her car parked behind the shop, Ivy gets involved in the search for her killer. Assisting her are a number of quirky and lovable characters: her loyal pug, Agatha; elderly classmates; new friends; old friends; and her former high school sweetheart for whom she still carries a torch. I enjoyed this story, the first in The Bread Shop Mystery series, with its great, very individual characters. Up until the start of the story, Ivy has been building a life as a professional photographer in Austin since her high school boyfriend left her behind after graduation. Being from Texas myself I was partial to that part of her history and looked for relevant tidbits and mentions. Author Winnie Archer sprinkles the dialogue with Spanish phrases and delicious breads. Thankfully, recipes for a couple of these are included in the back of the book. I recommend this book for readers that like the culinary mystery subgenre or just mysteries on the cozy side, in general.
I really enjoyed this cozy mystery. The protagonist, Ivy Culpepper, is appealing, and I enjoyed her taking bread making classes at Yeast of Eden. The bread shop owner, Olaya, is smart and kind, and provides a warm and cozy atmosphere for her students. Ivy is a professional photographer and helps Olaya with her store advertising. When a student is murdered out back of the bread store, Ivy, Olaya, and other friends and neighbors seek the truth about her killer. Set along the coast of Santa Sofia, California, the story turned out to be one so interesting I didn’t want to put it down! There are several surprising twists to the plot which make it hard to figure out whodunnit. I love Ivy’s little fawn Pug, Agatha.
Title: Kneaded to Death - Bread Shop Mystery Book 1 Author: Winnie Archer Publisher: Kensington Books Published: 2-28-2017 Pages: 352 Genre: Mystery & Thrillers Sub-Genre: Suspense, Cozy Mystery, Amateur Sleuths, Culinary Mystery, ISBN: 9781496707727 ASIN: B01GBAG7KO Reviewed For NetGalley and Kensington Books Reviewer: DelAnne Rating: 4.5 Stars Returning to Santa Sofia following the death from the unsolved hit and run of her mother. 36 year old Ivy Culpepper, photographer and blogger has been floating through life ever since. Hoping to rid herself of her apathy she takes a class at Yeast of Eden, Olaya Solis's bakery. One of her classmates Jack is is called away to take a call during the break. When she fails to return the class becomes aware of raised voices out in the hall. Then they see Jackie sitting in her car and they check on her a find her dead. Police look to Olaya as the number one suspect. Not believing for a moment that Olaya could be a killer Ivy begins looking for the killer herself. As she checks out the suspect the killer starts looking at her.. Will she solve the murder before her timer is up. Filled with interesting characters and an intriguing mystery to solve. Winnie Archer draws readers from the very beginning with the revealing of Ivy's own mother's unsolved hit and run case then adding in the unexplainable murder of Jackie. Things move at a fast pace. readers can follow the clues along with Ivy as they try to find the character before the final unveil. For an opening gambit, "Kneaded to Death" is a light, fun read. My rating of "Kneaded to Death - Bread Shop Mystery Book 1" is 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Kneaded to Death was a great cozy with everything a cozy should have. A small community feel, quirky characters, and a great sleuth in Ivy Culpepper. Archer had me guessing to the end with her excellent cast of suspects
Dollycas’s Thoughts This series is off to a wonderful start. Ivy Culpepper has returned to Santa Sofia following her mother’s death to be closer to her father and brother and to deal with her own grief. I myself am dealing with the grief of losing my son so I clearly identified with Ivy’s grief. We all grieve differently and Ivy find herself taking a bread making class at Yeast of Eden, the Mexican bread shop in town. Before they even finish the first lesson one of the students in murdered just outside of the shop. When she learns the owner of the shop is the police’s prime suspect, Ivy starts to poke her nose into the investigation. The bread crumbs she is following lead her somewhere very unexpected. Can her theories really be true or is this just a half baked idea she has come up with to deal with her pain? She rises to the occasion as she tries to catch the real killer. For me there was much more to this story than a cozy mystery. I was very interested to see how Ivy dealt with her grief. I was happy to see her find a support group in the woman in her bread making class. I have learned how important it is to surround yourself by individuals that have your back and are there for you whenever you need them. For me it has been family, friends and surprisingly an online support group. The theme of this story, the making, kneading and baking the bread was a great way to facilitate just what Ivy needed. Of course, a murder to solve is a great diversion that works in books, not so much in reality. The characters in this story are all very well developed. I love the smattering of Spanish within the dialogue. Surprising how much of high school Spanish I remember. Don’t worry everything is translated in a very natural way the does not obstruct but adds to the conversations. The mystery itself takes some really nice twists to get us to the final reveal. Secrets and surprises drive the plot to a very captivating conclusion. Ivy grows so much within these pages. Her life is really at a crossroads. I was so happy with the way the story ended. I am so excited for the next installment of this series. I really want to visit these characters again soon and get to know them even better. I was nervous about reading this story last week as we hit the two year mark of my son’s death, but in a way I can’t really explain it gave me “food for thought”. Support can be found in so many places. We just need to have the courage to reach out or step into places and circumstances that may be uncomfortable at first but beneficial in the long run. I am not sure if the author’s mission was to give this type of a lesson, but I sure appreciated this story.
It took me a little bit to get into the sway of this new story. Photographer Ivy Culpepper has returned home to Santa Sofia, California after the accidental, hit and run death of her mother. At loose ends living with her father, she decides to take a bread making class at a heavenly sounding bakery, Yeast of Eden. There, she meets a small cast of characters that will nudge her back into the real world. Olaya Solis, the sister I tend to think that has the most to do with the bakery becomes a suspect in a murder of a woman who is both a neighbor and member of the class. In addition to the bakery, I loved the descriptions of life and homes on Maple Street. The mystery had a lot of twists and turns, to keep me (and Ivy) guessing for quite a while. I thought it was interesting how the author tied a personal connection in with the final piece, really help flesh out some characters. I really look forward to another book featuring Ivy.
4.5 out of 5 stars. Kneaded to Death by Winnie Archer is the first book in the new Bread Shop Mystery series and it's a wonderful beginning to the series! I really enjoyed this first installment of this brand-new Bread Shop Mystery series. The characters in this series are unique, complex, and delightful. It's always hard to come back to where you were raised and even harder after a tragedy has struck, but I thought Ivy handled seeing old friends/boyfriends and dealing with her grief very well. I like the fact that it's Ivy's friend who is part of the police force and not her romantic interest. It makes for a nice change. The setting descriptions were okay, but not quite as detailed as I would have liked. Other than the bakery itself, I had a hard time imagining the various places in the book. The story line was clever and interesting. It moved along at a decent pace. There were plenty of suspects to choose from and I didn't figure out the culprit before it was revealed (yay!). I didn't give this 5 stars partially because while I enjoyed it, I doubt this will be a book I read more than once. The other reason was my thought that there should be more description if the settings. However, I did enjoy the book and would definitely recommend it! I look forward to the next book in the series. ** I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher through NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. **
Perfect mystery, perfect characters, perfect ending with just enough hints of the future to keep the reader (me) coming back for the next book. I was fairly confident I was going to like Kneaded to Death because I have loved everything I've read by this author. She makes up the best characters and weaves them into relationships with characters that you wouldn't expect. Plus the upside is these characters can develop further in the upcoming books. Set in Santa Sofia, California, six months after the hit and run death of her mother, Ivy Culpepper has moved home to help her father deal with his loss and because she needs family too. She visits a local bread bakery and is invited to join the group for classes. The first night of class, there is a disturbance in the parking lot and when the student bakers go out to investigate, they find one of the other students dead in her car. As Ivy starts to investigate, she finds there are many mysteries in her corner of Santa Sofia. Very enjoyable cozy mystery. I can't wait to find out what happens in the next installment.
A great start for a new series. Ivy Culpepper and her friends from the small seaside town of Sante Sofia, California welcome the reader to a fast paced and mystery filled story. The cover of Kneaded To Death would have sold me. I looks like a charming place to visit. But beware there is murder a foot. I just loved Ivy Culpepper and what a cute name. I found myself calling her Culpepper Along with her litte dog Agatha she searches for answers to not only the death of a fellow study but the 6 month old death of accidental death of her mother comes to be questioned. Ivy is helped in her quest for answers by an 80 something year old Mrs. Penny Brandford who partners with Ivy on stakeouts and comes up with a plan to capture the killer or killers. Of all the characters in the book I just loved good 'ole Mrs. Brandford! She's spry thing that uses her walking stick for a weapon when necessary. And Ivy does have a love interest Miquel the owner of the local Mexican restaurant.There is a little history there. The reader is left expecting a bit of romance in book two of the series. The author gives you a little treat at the end with two recipes! I am looking forward to more in this series! I received a complimentary e-copy from Net Galley and Great Escapes Book Tours.
Kneaded to Death is the first book in a new series, "A Bread Shop Mystery". This was a great start to this series. Ivy Culpepper, the main character is a photographer who has moved back to the coastal California town of Santa Sofia. Her mother was killed in a hit and run accident a few months prior and she has moved home with her pug, Agatha, to live with her father and brother Billy. Each day, Ivy stops by Yeast of Eden, a local bread shop. She and her family love the bread, so Ivy signs up for a baking class to keep herself busy. She discovers a connection with the teacher and owner of the shop as well as an elderly woman, Penny Branford. During the first night of class, one of her classmates is poisoned. Not only does she witness what she thinks is the murder, but she meets up with her highschool sweetheart who has also returned to Santa Sofia. As Ivy gets involved in the investigation of Jackie's death, she also works with Penny Branford to spy on a neighbour who has been bullying people in their historic neighbourhood. As the investigation continues, Ivy begins to suspect that her mother's death might tie in with Jackie's and that it was not an accident, but murder. As this is the first book in the series, there is quite and introduction to the major characters. It gives the reader an opportunity to get to know the inhabitants of this little town who will hopefully be in further instalments of the series. Although there are several things happening in this story, the author does a great job of keeping the story on an even keel and you do not lose the train in the story. I did not guess who the culprit was in this story, as there were several red herrings thrown in. My only concern is that a character who was quite involved in the mystery is really not in the story, just appearing at the end. I am looking forward to seeing where the author will take the residents of Santa Sofia in her next book. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
Kneaded to Death by Winne Archer is the first book in A Bread Shop Mystery series. Ivy Culpepper has returned home to Santa Sofia, California after the unexpected death of her mother, Anna. She was killed in a hit-and-run accident in the high school parking lot, and the killer has yet to be apprehended. Ivy’s grief has only been soothed by the bread from Olaya Solis’ bakery, Yeast of Eden. When Olaya offers a breadmaking class, Ivy is quick to sign up. Ivy is hoping it will help provide her with inspiration for her photographs and photography blog. She has not been able to get inspired since the death of her mother. Ivy and six other students are in the class. Just before the break, Jackie Makers, a fellow student, must take a call. They are getting ready to start up again, but Jackie has yet to return. The group hears raised voices outside, and they head outside to find out what is happening. Ivy sees her old high school beau, Miguel Baptista arguing with Randy Russell, co-owner of the local antique mall. Miguel is attempting to calm the man down. When Randy is finally subdued, the group notices Jackie sitting in her car. It looks like Jackie will not be finishing the class. When it is discovered that Jackie was poisoned, Olaya ends up at the top of the suspect list. Ivy knows that Olaya would not harm a soul, and starts asking questions around town. Ivy gets pulled into a controversy on historic Maple Avenue where Jackie owned a beautiful house (that Ivy would love to own). Santa Sofia is not the quiet town Ivy left when she went off to college. Will Ivy be able to capture the killer or will she end up getting burned? I found Kneaded to Death to be nicely written and easy to read. I liked the characters (especially Mrs. Branford) and the hint of magic. The description of Maple Avenue was delightful. There are some beautiful historic homes on the street (especially Mrs. Branford’s Victorian). I thought the mystery was well crafted, and it kept my interest (hooray). The author provided some nice clues that will help the reader identify the killer (you must pay very careful attention). I give Kneaded to Death 4 out of 5 stars (are you shocked)! My one complaint is Ivy’s obsession with Miguel Baptista. They dated in high school, but Ivy has never gotten over him (in eighteen years and now we understand why she is divorced). I thought her ogling of Miguel to be a little over-the-top (once would have been fine). I hope that Ivy’s grief is lessened in the next book. It is quite prevalent in Kneaded to Death which is understandable. There is another subplot in Kneaded to Death that is equally intriguing. There is not, though, too much going on in the book. I could keep track of the storylines and the characters. I thought Kneaded to Death was a good first cozy mystery. The series has potential, and I am looking forward to the next book in A Bread Shop Mystery series.
Kneaded To Death is the first book in the A Bread Shop Mystery series. I enjoy reading most all cozies with a culinary or themed storyline. Many of these series I am able to learn something new, but I felt that this series spent too much time discussing the process of making bread for my taste. Other than that I really enjoyed the story and one that kept me guessing to the end. Ivy Culpepper, an aspiring photographer, has returned to her hometown of Santa Lucia after her mother was killed by a hit and run driver. She hopes that coming back, she, and her brother and father will be able to obtain closure for this terrible accident. Ivy has been a frequent shopper at Yeast Of Eden, a local bakery, and when she notices a sign for a bread baking class she decides to enroll hoping it will help her deal with her mother’s death. The first class is about five minutes from the beginning when the last attendee, Jackie, finally shows up. Everyone gets settled into their workstations and they begin to assemble the ingredients this evening bread, when Jackie says she has to take a call from her daughter, Jasmine. A short time later, Ivy and the rest of the class hear a disturbance from outside. What they find are Randy Russell and Miguel Baptista in a heated argument. Soon after Baptista and Russell are calmed down the lifeless body of Jackie is found in her car, just a few feet away from where the argument had taken place. One day, as Ivy and her father are driving through the neighborhood they come Penny Branford’s home and Ivy is reintroduced to Mrs. Branford. Soon after Penny learns that Ivy is a photographer, she asks Ivy to help her spy on a Buck Masterson, a neighbor. Masterson and his wife act as the guardians of the neighborhood and reporting people who they feel are irresponsible and changing the historic appearance of the neighborhood. Ivy soon learns that Penny is most interested in watching Jackie’s house to find out just why the Masterson’s have been mysteriously trespassing on her property. A wonderfully told mystery with an interesting cast of character. I particularly enjoyed the character of Penny Branigan, despite the problems that come with old age, she still remains alert and feisty. Hopefully, in future books, we will be able to learn more about Ivy’s dad and brother. Will be watching for book #2.
A mouthwatering tale of bread, murder, and more bread. I’ve been looking forward to reading KNEADED TO DEATH. I’m a self-professed breadaholic, so this book was on my radar right away. And, the descriptions of the different breads did not disappoint, and indeed succeeded in making my stomach growl. It seems like I could smell each yeasty loaf as it came out of the oven. Yum! I had a love/I’m-not-sure-about-her relationship with protagonist Ivy Culpepper. My opinion seemed to change every chapter or so. Ivy did have an awful tragedy in her life set six months before the book’s beginning, so I’m aware she wasn’t supposed to be all happy-go-lucky. And I did love that she found peace through baking, and using her camera. Hiding behind that lens can help heal a world of hurts. I’ve done it myself, so there was a bit of a connection there with her. There were many unique characters in KNEADED TO DEATH. I enjoyed the Solis sisters, and that they slipped a lot into their native Spanish from time to time. However, I wish there had been a few more translation moments for the readers. The mystery was pretty solid, with plenty of suspects to keep me on my toes. The reveal of who murdered a fellow classmate in Ivy’s bread making class took my completely by surprise. There was also a twist brought in. There was another twist brought into the reveal as well. All in all a good start to a new series. I look forward to book two, and trying to connect more with Ivy. KNEADED TO DEATH comes with two tasty recipes at the back of the book.