Book Review: GLUTEN FOR PUNISHMENT by Nancy J. Parra



Series: A Baker’s Treat Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Released: May 7, 2013
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Even though Toni is used to going against the grain by preparing allergy-safe, gluten-free products for her online bakery, Baker’s Treat, opening a storefront in the middle of wheat country Kansas might be biting off more than she can chew. The town is already skeptical of her flour-free ways, but when a local wheat farmer is murdered outside her patisserie, skepticism turns into outright suspicion.

With the help of her eccentric grandmother, her handsome lawyer, and the sexy new widower in town, Toni is determined to find the real criminal before bad publicity and increasingly personal acts of vandalism shut her down. But when another suspect winds up dead, Toni realizes that this half-baked killer isn’t just trying to get her to close shop—he’s trying to make sure that she’s made her last gluten-free cookie…forever.


Who would think opening a gluten-free bakery in the middle of wheat country is a good idea? Someone who’s a “gluten” for punishment, that’s who – I’m looking at you, Toni Ryder.

So, the recently divorced Toni Ryder inherits her mother’s huge Victorian home in Oiltop, Kansas. She decides to move her specialty bakery, serving gluten-free, allergy-free treats, from Chicago to her tiny hometown. The reactions from locals go from curious, to skeptical, to downright angry.

In the midst of her grand opening, Toni becomes the victim of cruel pranks and vandalism. Then things get really bad. A wheat farmer is found murdered right outside her shop, and the police have put the new gluten-free baker at the top of the suspects list. And if that’s not bad enough, all that pesky yellow crime scene tape is keeping Toni’s customers away. So, in order to keep her business afloat and to keep herself out of jail, Toni does her own investigation to find the real killer.

The mystery itself was a good one with a couple of surprises along the way. Toni was a smart and clever amateur sleuth who handled her part of the investigation realistically. The supporting cast added extra flavor to the story, especially Toni’s 90-something, chain-smoking, ex-journalist grandmother, Ruth. She’s a handful. There are also a couple of eligible men vying for Toni’s attention, but at this point she’s not ready to commit to either (though I think one of them is clearly her favorite, or maybe he’s just my favorite). I suppose only time will tell if this situation turns into a full-blown love triangle.

What made this cozy mystery unique was how gluten-free baking and Toni’s celiac disease were woven into the story. I didn’t know much about either, so reading this book was an enlightening experience. I’ve never tried gluten-free sweet treats or breads, but the author made Toni’s bakery menu sound delish! The book wraps up with a small collection of recipes that I’m hoping to try soon.

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.