I really wanted to love this book. I love ice cream! I love cozy mysteries! I especially love cozy mysteries with a cast that isn’t all white women!
But alas, I found this book to be more low-fat frozen yogurt than homemade ice cream – close, but not what I was craving.
The story follows Bronwyn “Win” Crewse as she takes over her family’s ice cream parlor in the dead of winter in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The town, a suburb of Cleveland, is built around picturesque waterfalls where Win literally trips over a dead man late one night. Since the deceased had a contentious history with her family, Win’s father quickly becomes the police’s primary suspect, so Win and her best friend Maisie decide to investigate and clear her dad’s name.
I loved the main character and her tight knit family, and I really appreciated the paragraphs-long ice cream descriptions – the author obviously takes her ice cream very seriously! There are even ice cream recipes in the back of the book, though they require an ice cream maker, so sadly (or perhaps luckily for my waistline) I can’t attempt them.
But I didn’t love the pacing of the book. It took waaaaay too long for Maisie to convince Win to start investigating, so almost all of the action was jammed into the last quarter or so. I was also really turned off by the portrayal of Maisie’s boss Ari Terrain. The character is poorly defined and inconsistently portrayed, and Maisie accuses him of being the murderer with scant reasoning, which, coupled with his description (“of Middle Eastern or North African descent”) and the mocking of his name (“the man with the last name that means dirt”) read to me as Islamophobic.
It was also difficult for me to keep track of the large cast of characters. More than once, characters were briefly introduced early in the book only to disappear for the bulk of the pages and then reappear later in crucial moments that hinge on the reader remembering them. I found the multiple names used for the dead guy (including “Dead Guy”) rather confusing as well. I think the author meant it to be part of the mystery – are the characters talking about the same person? Are there multiple murders and multiple grifters in this small city? – but to me it just disrupted the flow of the story.
I bet a good editor could have whipped this book into better shape – the ingredients are there, but the recipe definitely needs tweaking. Based on this first taste, I don’t think I’ll be sampling the other offerings from the Ice Cream Parlor Mystery Series – a sad statement indeed from this ice cream and cozy mystery connoisseur!