Book Review: MURDER GONE A-RYE by Nancy J. Parra

Series: A Baker’s Treat Mystery, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: ★★★★

Toni Holmes is the best gluten-free baker in Oiltop, Kansas—okay, she’s the only one—but when her grandmother becomes a murder suspect, she’s more concerned with keeping Grandma free…

When Toni’s beloved—and eccentric—grandma Ruth is arrested for the murder of her archenemy, Lois Striker, it’s time for a senior moment of truth. Telltale tracks from a scooter like the one Grandma Ruth rides lead the police to suspect the outspoken oldster, but Toni knows her grandmother wouldn’t burn a cookie, let alone extinguish a life.

In fact, the case has Grandma more revved up than her infamous scooter. A former investigative journalist, she decides to solve the murder herself—with help from Toni—by digging up long-buried town secrets. But as Grandma scoots in where others fear to tread, Toni needs to make sure she not only stays out of jail but out of harm’s way…

It was fun getting back to Oiltop, Kansas’ new gluten-free bakery in MURDER GONE A-RYE. This time around, Toni Holmes has to split time running her shop during Thanksgiving rush and keeping her ornery Grandma Ruth out of trouble. Ruth is a suspect in the murder of Lois Striker, who was the secretary of Oiltop’s mayor decades earlier. The mystery was intriguing and well-crafted, blending the Lois Striker case with a cold case murder from 1959. This town has been hiding some juicy secrets over the years, and someone in particular wants them to stay buried at any cost.

The residents of Oiltop are a delightful bunch, and their antics had me giggling several times. We’re introduced to Aunt Phyllis who’s as quirky as Grandma Ruth. When those two get together, plenty of mischief-making ensues. Toni is her likable, down-to-earth, and patient self, running a successful gluten-free bakery in the middle of wheat country. Getting divorced has made Toni leery about love, but she’s got a couple of local men with eyes on her when she’s ready to date again.

A highlight of this book was getting to experience the workings of Toni’s bakery as she prepared for Thanksgiving sales. I could smell the fresh coffee and sweet treats. Yum! Also included in the book are several gluten-free recipes to try.

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

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.