The Diva Serves Forbidden Fruit
reviewed by Barbara Saffer
Event planner Sophie Winston lives in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, a cozy enclave that harbors an eclectic group of residents. A cadre of Old Town citizens just returned from a trip to Portugal, right in time for the DIY Festival organized by Sophie.
The festival venue will be comprised of a large tent for hourly DIY demonstrations, like re-finishing furniture and quilting, and small tents for vendors selling everything from wreaths and children’s rockers to golden Oreos, plants and fresh herbs.
On the first morning of the DIY Festival Sophie strolls over to see how things are going and stops at the home of socialite Lark Bickford, one of the visitors to Portugal. Lark’s daughter and son-in-law, Paisley and Frank Eames, are setting up their tent in front of Lark’s house while their six little boys are running around playing and fighting. Needing help, Paisley asks Sophie to please get Lark, but that turns out to be impossible…because Lark is lying dead beside a ladder in her backyard. Lark’s death is clearly meant to look accidental, but Sophie is certain Lark was murdered, and the police agree.
That night Sophie’s best friend Nina, who also went to Portugal, gets a fright when someone tries to break into her house. And the next day another member of the Portugal expedition is murdered. Unable to fathom what’s going on, and being concerned for Nina’s safety, Sophie, her ex-husband Mars, and their friend Bernie form a protection squad for Nina. When they’re not working, the threesome – plus two dogs and a cat – hang out together, share delicious meals, and look out for intruders.
Though Sophie is friendly with the police, she’s unable to finagle much information out of Officer Wong or Detective Wolf Fleishman. So Sophie looks for a connection between the Old Town deaths and the jaunt to Portugal. Nosing around Sophie hears something about crown jewels and gold coins, and comes to suspect one person after another of the murders.
The mystery at the center of the story is engaging, but much of the book’s fun lies in Sophie’s fashion sketches, culinary descriptions, and home improvement tips – which are scattered through the narrative. For instance, Sophie depicts people’s outfits (Lark was fully dressed in blue pedal pushers, a blue and white tunic top with three-quarter-length sleeves, a chunky white necklace, two bangle bracelets, one blue, one white, and lapis earrings); dinners (pork tenderloin with mango salsa and berry trifle for dessert); and home tips (to spruce up an old lamp, paint it to match your décor and put a pretty finial on it).
The novel has a rich array of interesting characters including Sophie’s dog Daisy and cat Mochie. The animals are cute and coddled, and when Sophie stops at Bean Time for a mocha latte, Daisy gets a Puppucini.
Eleven recipes are featured in the book, including bourbon chocolate chip blondies, oven roasted potatoes with bacon, and sugar snap peas.
This enjoyable cozy mystery is perfect for light reading.
Thanks to Netgalley, Krista Davis, and Kensington Publishers for a copy of the book.