Book Review: Murder at Mile Marker 18 by Denise Jaden

Murder at Mile Marker 18 by Denise JadenTitle: Murder at Mile Marker 18

Author: Denise Jaden

Publisher: Denise Jaden Books

Publication Date: October 21, 2020

Genre: Cozy mystery

One Sentence Summary: Mallory Beck, the widow of a mystery novelist, only meant to bring over a casserole to a grieving family, not be convinced by a 15 year old that it was murder, and she should be allowed to help.

Of all the mystery subgenres, cozy is my favorite. Homey, delightful, and with nothing terribly disturbing or graphic, they’re just my kind of tea. When I learned Murder at Mile Marker 18 was also a culinary mystery, passing on it simply wasn’t an option. I love cozy. I love culinary. Give me a culinary cozy mystery and I’m in heaven! This one did not disappoint, and now I have more recipes to try because this books comes with some.

A Perfect Cozy

Mallory Beck just lost her husband and has been finding it difficult to emerge from her relatively new home in a delightful large town in West Virginia. But she manages to, barely, drag herself to church, only to find out another woman lost her husband in a car accident. Surprising herself, she volunteers to deliver a casserole to the grieving family.

Only, she discovers one scarily put-together widow, an all together too sexy maid and her lazy son, a surly teenage boy, and a teenage girl with a hunch. And let’s not forget a room full of dubious mourners. It doesn’t take too much for the fifteen-year-old Amber to convince Mallory something doesn’t add up in her dad’s death. And even less time for Mallory to find herself starring in a mystery novel alongside a spunky teen girl and a very handsome cop Mallory knew briefly when she was a kid.

Overall, Murder at Mile Marker 18 wasn’t a terribly complex mystery, but absolutely was fun with its share of twists and turns befitting a cozy. It was a fun push and pull between a dogged teenager and a cautious widow who is definitely not one of her late husband’s detective characters.

It was a bit easy to figure out who likely did it since the cast is relatively small. Characters were introduced, but the ones of no interest were quickly placed out of the limelight. But it was fun to read about all of them and learn about their motivations. I was so charmed by Mallory, Amber, and Alex the handsome cop that I didn’t even care it was a bit too easy.

I did enjoy the danger they got themselves into, and the tension was spot on in just the right places. There was a perfectly playing accordion of when to tighten and when to loosen the story, making it an almost unputdownable read. The pacing was perfect, the twists excellently well-timed, and the reveal breathtaking.

Wonderfully Complimentary

My favorite part of Murder at Mile Marker 18, other than the delicious recipes I’m itching to try, would be the characters. They were so much fun and so interesting. I loved their unique personalities, and, of course, adored the cat. Mallory and Amber were perfect compliments who really drove the story and kept it interesting.

Mallory Beck is new widow in her late twenties who is taking the death of her husband hard. She loves to cook, and it’s the perfect device to get this story going and make it believable. Amber is a spunky teenager who reminds me of a somewhat younger Nancy Drew. A little more reckless, and a bit desperate, she latches on to Mallory’s listening ear and seems to be running the show. But she and Mallory are perfect compliments. Where one is ready to jump headlong into danger, the other is the cautious voice of reason. They feed off of each other, though, to create a perfect partnership balancing action and caution. Alex sometimes felt like a bit of a third wheel, almost like he was the obligatory law enforcing character. But he quickly shows his worth and serves as a solid rock for Mallory and Amber. Together, they make an amazing trio and I can’t wait to read all the cases they’ll solve together.

And then there’s the cat. I love cats, so the inclusion of one in this book made reading and reviewing it a no-brainer. I especially liked the description of an antagonistic cat. Hunch was Mallory’s husband’s cat, and he and Mallory were far from best friends. Now, though, they’re stuck with each other, and Hunch knows he’s going to need Mallory from time to time. But I adored him! He just stole every scene he was in for me. An incredibly smart and incredibly stubborn cat, he made me think of a mystery writer in cat form. He has so much personality, feeling like both a cat and a human.

Just Big Enough, Just Small Enough

Most of the cozies I’ve enjoyed have taken place in less densely populated areas. Murder at Mile Marker 18 is one such. Set in a small large town in West Virginia, it was small enough that it didn’t feel like a crazy city and large enough that there were plenty of people who didn’t know each other. It felt like it had the best of both worlds, making it easy to travel around and easy to remain out of sight when necessary. Overall, it felt like the perfect location for this story and I look forward to exploring more of it in future books.

Note Perfect

As a cozy mystery, Murder at Mile Marker 18 does not disappoint. While I wish it had been a bit more complex and left me wondering until the end, I did enjoy the twists and turns. I especially loved the relationships between the main characters. They really drove the story and I felt like I was making revelations with them instead of pages or chapters before them. The mystery and the overall story unfolded perfectly and absolutely gave me that cozy mystery feel.

Great if you enjoy: small town mysteries, cozy mysteries, Nancy Drew, cats, great characters

Not great if you’re looking for: complex mysteries, hard boiled crime novels, a single sleuth

How many cups of tea will you need?

5 cups of tea

Get your copy (The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon affiliate)

Thank you to the author, Denise Jaden, for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

Head over to the Bookshelf to check out my reviews of books from the Big 5 and self-published, indie, and small press books.

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