Title: Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust (Deep Dish Mystery #2)
Author: Mindy Quigley
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Publication date: April 25, 2023
Genre: Cozy Mystery
One Sentence Summary: Pizzeria owner Delilah is hoping the upcoming “Taste of Wisconsin” culinary contest will help keep her restaurant afloat, but when a customer at the juice bar her ex’s girlfriend runs is poisoned, Delilah finds her life getting a lot of complicated, and the contest in jeopardy.
In this second Deep Dish Mystery novel, Delilah is preparing a very special deep dish pizza for an upcoming culinary contest at the local “Taste of Wisconsin” festival. She’s driving her crew nuts, but really needs to win in order to comfortably survive. But there’s a new juice bar in town, and her ex is finding a new love with the owner, whom Delilah meets when she drops off the cat she and her ex share joint custody of. At the same time, a customer in the juice bar is poisoned, but evidence suggests the customer wasn’t the intended target.
With the contest looming, Delilah finds her attention split between perfecting her recipe, figuring out what’s going on with her elderly Aunt Biz, dealing with her co-owner’s ex coming back in town (as well as said ex’s ex-husband), and finding someone with access to poison. Oh, and there seems to be some mafia-related activity going on, and it might directly impact Delilah.
I enjoyed the first book, Six Feet Deep Dish, even if it reminded me a little too much of my favorite culinary cozy mystery series, so I decided to keep reading this series. The mystery had some good twists and turns, and there’s a few things going on as well that weren’t necessarily related to the story, so there was plenty to hold my interest. Butterball the cat was also a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed his antics, even if I do have to agree with his dad about his diet. But Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust wasn’t as focused on Delilah’s restaurant crew, all of whom I adored in the first book, so it was a little hard to get over the disappointment. It was nice to meet new characters, but I just didn’t feel as invested in them.
The mystery kicks off when Delilah tries to figure out who poisoned a customer at the new juice bar, and why. But it appears the customer was unlikely to have been the intended target, which leads Delilah in all sorts of directions. Unfortunately, with a small suspect list, it isn’t really hard to figure out who did it. What was interesting, though, was getting some of the local history between some of the characters and seeing how that fed into the current events. Again, it wasn’t hard to put together, but I did appreciate how the story felt like it was digging deep into the history of the area. The larger history also plays a role, which I really enjoyed because it has mafia ties. There’s a second murder that Delilah gets to investigate, and it’s close to her heart since it affects her friend and co-owner Sonya. So this was also interesting because it goes a little more into Sonya’s complicated romantic history. And that also had ties to the mafia, which had ties to yet another plot. So, there’s clearly a lot going on in this book, but I liked how they tied together and appreciated how it wasn’t overly complicated.
It was great to see the characters again and get to know some of them a little better, but the people I most loved in the first book weren’t a focus in this one. I love Delilah’s restaurant crew. They’re a delightful bunch, but this book mostly focuses on the owner of the juice bar, who happens to be dating Delilah’s ex. The relationship between Delilah and her ex is sweet, and I especially adored her ex at the end of the book. But Delilah is looking to move on herself, with a certain detective with an unfortunate family history. Mostly, I love that both he and Delilah are a bit older, and he even has a grandkid. But I was disappointed that their relationship just felt like it took a huge step back. Then there’s Aunt Biz, Delilah’s elderly unmarried aunt. She’s still sharp as a tack, but things have gotten away from her. She doesn’t want to divulge it, though, so Delilah takes it upon herself to try to figure it out. I really loved Aunt Biz in the first book, but she seemed not quite herself in this one. I understood it by the end, but I was still disappointed that such a vibrant character suddenly felt a little diminished and mean, even. I kind of expected better of her.
But the stand out characters are Sonya and Jordan, the juice bar owner. These are the two characters that the reader really gets to know more about. Delilah is great; but, even if her character did have some growth, her role was mostly just to figure out what was going on. I did appreciate how she reacted to the different situations she found herself in, though. But Sonya’s and Jordan’s pasts get special attention in this book. After plenty of heavy hints about Sonya’s in the first book, the reader finally gets to know the whole story in the second book. It was a little heartbreaking, and I really felt for Sonya. She really is more than what she appears with a big heart and a huge need to be loved. I really enjoyed getting to know her and her heart a lot better. Then there’s Jordan, who is brand new in this book. She came off as overly perky when I first met her, and I even felt a little overwhelmed by her. But something just didn’t quite feel right with her. I’m not sure if it was her actions or how she was written, but I felt like she was giving herself away from the very beginning. There’s a lot that doesn’t quite match up with her story, so I found myself fascinated by her and her history. But I most appreciated that there were no tough feelings between her and Delilah considering she’s dating Delilah’s ex and is basically Butterball’s stepmom. It was delightfully mature.
My favorite part of this book, and the series so far, is the history of the area. Geneva Bay is a lakeside resort area that houses the wealthy during the on seasons. But those wealthy residents aren’t a focus and aren’t even really seen, unless you count Delilah’s very wealthy ex with a very gorgeous house. Instead, the focus turns to the mafia history. I like that this series focuses on the mafia ties, and I really liked how that was a big plot in this book. I especially liked how Butterball played a role in it; he’s really an adorable cat with quite an appetite. But I really like how I feel absolutely fascinated by the history, and this book really played it up.
Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust is a fun addition to the series. It delves further into the history of the area as well as the history of some of the characters. It keeps the world narrow, but gives more problems to some of the characters. I’m quite interested to see what happens next with the characters, especially with one of them moving on from Geneva Bay, and I hope the next book turns the light back onto the pizzeria crew. But I did like the mystery in this one. It was predictable, but I enjoyed being along for the ride. It was fun, but not complex. There’s also a good deal of food, which is also a plus for me.
How many cups of tea will you need?
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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