*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: What if your nemesis challenged you on your home turf?
A sense of community. Quaint surroundings. Deadly rivalries. Welcome to Whispering Pines.
As the weather turns crisp, Jayne O’Shea and the other villagers prepare for the last big tourist draw of the season: the autumn equinox festival. It’s a time to enjoy a bounty of food, the company of others, and the ever-popular cooking competition. Events in the baking division, however, turn from friendly to fatal when one of the contestants, a beloved nationally known chef, is found dead in the woods.
As all eyes turn to one of the villagers as the killer, Jayne knows that what’s seen on the surface isn’t always the truth, especially in Whispering Pines, and digs deep to clear the name of one of their own.
Ok, so last time round I said Hidden Secrets was my favourite Whispering Pines book so far, and now I need to revise that opinion as I enjoyed Rival Secrets even more!
The series style is a cross between cosy mystery and police procedural, as Jayne is a professional investigator but the community setup and paranormal aspects (fortune tellers and witches of various designations) are classic cosy all the way.
Whilst this plot could perhaps stand alone more than some of the previous, as it had fewer links to the history of the local community than earlier instalments, I would still definitely recommend reading the series in order as there is far less scene and character setting by this fifth book and therefore you would miss out on the finer nuances of ‘Pine Time’ and Jayne’s place in events.
Jayne’s character develops further with every book and I confess to preferring the more settled and confident Jayne that we are seeing in more recent books. I feel the security in her personal and professional life gives her a firm base for investigation, as her history and position in the wider community is more shaky and provides ongoing underlying tension.
What I particularly liked about Rival Secrets is the mixture of local and ‘outsider’ in both the suspect pool and murder motives, which I felt was well-balanced and crafted as skilfully as a towering croquembouch (a kind of tower of sweet pastry balls). Clearly a lot of research also went into many of the areas of expertise explored over the course of the plot, which I found mouth-watering and fascinating by turns.
In summary, another great cosy mystery from one of the most interesting settings and character cast around. I’m already waiting in eager anticipation for the next in the series, with my eye on a certain garden witch, as I may have a little premonition of my own…!
That was one complication out of the way. There was one big question before me now. Had a friendly baking competition really ended in murder? A possible killer came to mind immediately. It couldn’t be her, though. Sugar wasn’t a killer. Was she?
– Shawn McGuire, Rival Secrets
Rival Secrets releases on Amazon tomorrow (24th September), but is available to preorder right now!