Bayou Book Thief
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Ellen Byron’s new cozy mystery resonated with me. Bayou Book Thief is the first book in the Vintage Cookbook mystery series that features twenty-eight-year-old widow Ricki James. Her husband died doing a stunt and her boss was a criminal (unbeknownst to her) so she decides to move from Los Angeles to New Orleans, the city of her birth.
Ricki turns her avocation of collecting vintage cookbooks into a job by establishing a gift shop in the late home turned museum of Genevieve (Vee) Charbonnet, who ran one of the city’s finest restaurants before she died. Her gift shop will feature vintage cookbooks and kitchenware. Finding the body of a museum employee who had been exposed as a book thief, Ricki decides to investigate.
Ricki is a likeable person that makes friends easily, but she has trust issues due to her backstory. That backstory also gives readers insight into Ricki’s thoughts, behaviors, and actions towards others. There are a large number of characters, but there is a character list at the front of the book for reference. With quirky characters intermixed with dangerous characters, who is which?
Diverse characterization, great world-building details, and the internal dialogues deepened the conflict and pulled this reader into the inner world of the characters. The author captures the characters, as well as the cultural lifestyles and traditions of New Orleans and brings them to life. There are unpredictable moments in the story and some red herrings. I enjoyed how the author twists the plot points.
The well-plotted and beautifully executed story gradually builds momentum until it reaches the astonishing conclusion. The slower pace and background allow readers to become familiar with the characters and to have a good foundation for the rest of the series. I enjoyed the humor that was interspersed within the novel and admired how multiple threads were brought together effortlessly. However, the very ending was a little too much “tell” versus “show” for me. The Epilogue sets up a thread for the next novel in the series. At the end of the book are some recipes from a variety of vintage cookbooks. Themes include murder, theft, family, friendship, starting over, and much more.
Overall, this was an engaging novel with humor, suspense, action, and the possibility of romance. If you enjoy sleuth mysteries, then I recommend that you check out this one. I am looking forward to finding out what happens next in New Orleans and I want to check out this author’s other series.
Berkley Publishing Group and Ellen Byron provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for June 7, 2022.