I’m determined to get back to book reviewing. For me, it’s the best way to broaden my reading habits, which are currently appalling with the exception of re-reading Essie Summers. So I went on to Amazon, where I have Kindle Unlimited and picked the first one that caught my eye. I sorted by cozy fantasy and newly published and found Death Caps for Dessert. I settled down, started reading and then I questioned whether I would make a good reviewer for this. On one hand I can’t give an amazingly wonderful glowing review and as an author I know how that will hurt. On the other hand, I feel there is an element of ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’. There are a few little bits and pieces that have niggled at me and which could be put down to lack of research. I’m writing about research. I’m going to be honest, but that honesty can also include the good bits, and I’m glad to be able to include those.
Death Caps for Dessert is written in the first person present tense, which isn’t my happy place but it works. It’s helped by the changes in narrator, so that the reader can get different points of view and insights. I think that it’s a great way of conveying lots of information to a reader without an info dump, especially as there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. You have a fairy princess, currently living in the mortal world, having to share information with a Detective Chief Inspector and there’s a lot of specialist knowledge to share.
The action takes place in a small English village during the first round of a televised baking competition. There isn’t much description of the village, but the background feel was very much that of an English country village and I felt relaxed about it. I spotted a few places where it showed that it was written by an American, but I can’t really quibble. The American author was much better at writing about England than I would be at writing about America.
This is quite a short book, and I felt that it suffered for that. There’s a lot of story there, and some interesting characters waiting to come out if they have enough space. I felt that there wasn’t enough time to know and sympathise with the murder victim. I’d like to know more about the set up and more about the backgrounds. It felt very pared down on the detail. This can be good, though, as it means you concentrate on the story, but I felt that it needed a little more around it.
It felt a little rushed at times. There were parts which I felt could have been explored more, including the actual murder. And here’s a big quibble of mine – I think that there was a lack of research. As you can tell from the title, the instrument of murder was poisonous mushrooms – deathcaps or death caps. The poisoning symptoms in the story weren’t the same as reported in places like Wikipedia (which can be wrong) and WebMD (which can be wrong). The authors gave a good and reasonable explanation why there should be a difference, and I’m a great believer in ‘this is fiction and includes fairies so why quibble’ but it niggled a little. I feel that there were lost opportunities with the poison.
The whole issue with the poisoning sums up my problems with the book. It felt like the scene had been shortened and compressed, just like the book. When I finished, I felt that I had read the first third of a book. It didn’t feel like I had the first book in a trilogy, but like I had read the first few chapters. The murder is resolved in the book, but it felt like there was a lot more to the story, just like I felt that there were more to the characters. What we saw of the characters was excellent, but it wasn’t much.
So much for my quibbles. There was a lot of good in the story. I thought it was an interesting plot and had a lot of potential. I was very happy to see another author agreeing with me about the nature of fairies and I very much enjoyed that aspect of the book. Surely the nature of the plots in the fairy courts need to be explored further. I need to also mention the excellent writing when it came to description. There was some really beautiful language in there, and there were moments when I just paused to enjoy it. For example, when Godive touches John, there is a connection: ‘Maybe, I think, it’s the physical contact between us that’s reminded him of the reality amid this hauntingly fantastical situation.’
Overall, it’s not a bad read. I think I will keep it on my ‘watch out’ list and dip back in for further stories. I think it will be best read as part of the series, and I very much intend to indulge when more of the promised series are out.