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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Chili Con Carnage (Chili Cook-off Mystery #1)

Chili con Carnage - Kylie Logan

I want to say first that I'm a fan of Kylie Logan's work.  She currently writes two other cozy series.  One centres around a button shop and it's a lot of fun.  The other one is set on an island in Lake Michigan and centres on the "League of Literary Ladies" and it's first one was, hands down, my favourite cozy read this year.


So I had no reason to think I wouldn't love this one as well.  Talented author and interesting setting (I may have mentioned previously I like spices and I love growing chilli peppers) = great first in a new series.  Right?  Well.....


I strongly disliked the first few chapters of this book and only continued on the strength of my faith in Ms. Logan's talents.  The main character and her sister dislike each other.  A lot.  Both are hard to like, but the sister, Sylvia, is just a nasty bitch.  The MC, Maxie, is easier to find likeable, but she has a massive inferiority complex keeping her company at night and it's irritating.  I'm fine with my MC's being flawed, but I draw the line at my MC's actively needing therapy.  True, her recent history revolves around being royally screwed by a now-ex boyfriend, but who hasn't at one time or another?  I want Maxie to be strong enough not to let that one incident define her entire existence.


The book improves a bit about 25% of the way in, mainly because Sylvia is arrested for the murder.  I really don't like her at all.  She showed zero redeeming qualities and I'd have been happier seeing her put away for life so she's not around in future books.


Nick Falcone is the security officer in charge at the Showdown (a travelling chill-themed show of sorts where the mystery takes place).  He's not your average "security officer"; he's attractive, dresses nice, drives a nice car, obviously has a background with law enforcement, but reveals nothing about his past.  Which in book land makes him hot and sexy and hopefully the love interest in future books.  I don't know why this is true in book land, but I'm just as guilty of falling for it as the next person, so I don't judge.  His involvement in the story made the whole book more likeable to me and somewhat softened the chip on Maxie's shoulder (although just as often made her worse, but at least he called her on it each time and didn't let her get away with her bad attitude).


The plot of the mystery was really well done.  Kylie Logan can write a cozy murder plot.  This isn't a murder that's hard to solve because there are so many suspects, although the victim was properly despicable and thoroughly deserved what he got.  Rather, the reader learns more and more about the victim as Maxie's involvement progresses, revealing more suspects and possible motives as each new fact is learned.  The victim got around!  Each new fact built upon the previous ones until I was certain I knew who the killer was and I was wrong.


Running throughout this book, and presumably future books since there isn't any resolution, is the mysterious disappearance of Jack, Maxie and Sylvia's father and the owner of the spice stand they're running in his absence.  There's really no forward momentum in this mystery, save for a few mentions here and there that are meant to give hope, but not much else.  


I want to be clear that this was a very well written cozy.  My dislike - ok, hatred - of Sylvia and my distaste for parts of Maxie's (the MC) personality were the only reasons I didn't rate this book much higher.  In fact, I'll read the next one, just to see if the author tones down the characters a bit now that she no longer needs to establish their personalities.