Review: Mug Shot by Caroline Fardig

Review: Mug Shot by Caroline FardigMug Shot by Caroline Fardig
Formats available: ebook
Series: Java Jive #2
Pages: 292
Published by Alibi on April 19th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Former musician Juliet Langley has barely had a day off since taking over management of the coffeehouse owned by her best friend, Pete Bennett. But there's always more to be done—such as prepping for the annual Holiday 5K Race organized by Pete's snobby socialite girlfriend, Cecilia Hollingsworth. This year, Java Jive has a booth right at the finish line, and since Juliet and Cecilia don't always see eye to eye, everything has to be perfect. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing . . . like Juliet stumbling over Cecilia's dead body on the morning of the race.
When Pete is arrested for Cecilia's murder, Juliet sets out to clear his name. She'll do whatever it takes—even if it means standing up to the police, her ex-boyfriend, and the grande dames of Nashville. But there isn't enough espresso in the world for the greatest challenge in her path: infiltrating Nashville's high society to uncover the hidden hotbed of scandal without running afoul of the law herself. With her last dime staked on Pete's bail bond and her staff growing jittery, the last thing Juliet needs is for her trademark temper to land her behind bars. As time drips away, Juliet needs to crack this case before the killer comes back for another shot.

My Review:

If you crossed Goldy Schulz from Diana Mott Davidson’s Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, you’d get someone like Juliet Langley from Mug Shot. And that’s definitely a mixed blessing.

Like Goldy, Juliet seems to get involved in solving mysteries because someone near and dear to her (or her own self) gets accused of murder. And of course the police focus on someone that Juliet is just sure can’t be guilty. Also like Goldy, Juliet’s life and her mysteries revolve around a food establishment. In Juliet’s case, that establishment is the Java Jive, the cafe she manages for her best friend Pete Bennett.

Like Stephanie Plum, Juliet is more than a bit hapless as well as rather klutzy. However, unlike Stephanie, Juliet has no pretensions to being a profession crime solver, crime stopper, or investigator of any kind. Juliet gets caught in the middle trying to save a friend. Her involvement always begins as an accident. She’s not supposed to be any good at it, where Stephanie Plum, if she were as inept a bail bonds investigator as she appears, would be dead several times over by now.

Not that Juliet doesn’t put herself in more than enough danger to get herself killed, but it’s not her job. If she’s bad at it, it is less of a suspension of disbelief.

death before decaf by caroline fardigAlso, unfortunately like Stephanie, it looks like Juliet is caught in the midst of a romantic triangle. She’s falling for the cop who frequently rescues her, Ryder Hamilton, in spite of his having lied to her in the first book (Death Before Decaf) when he was undercover. It is a somewhat fraught relationship.

On that other hand, Jessica has always been more than a little in love with her best friend Pete, and definitely vice versa. But they have been friends so long, and their friendship is so much a part of their lives, that they are both afraid that if they try for more, they’ll end up ruining the most important relationship they have.

But their closeness doesn’t leave a lot of room for either of them to become seriously involved with a significant other.

So when Pete’s current attempt at a significant other ends up murdered, Pete is the prime suspect. His socialite fiance, Cecilia Hollingsworth, is, quite frankly, a bitch. But she is also pregnant with someone else’s child, and too many people heard Pete and Cecilia arguing just before she was killed and left in a crime scene that naturally has Pete’s fingerprints all over it, as well as his DNA in the victim.

The cops are almost sure it must be Pete. But Juliet is equally sure that Pete is incapable of murder. And there are an awful lot of awful people who benefit an awful lot from Cecilia’s oh-so-convenient death.

It’s up to Juliet to keep Pete out of jail and suss out the real killer before she becomes the next victim.

Escape Rating B: I have mixed feelings about this book. It was fun and fast, but at the same time, it felt too much like too many other books I’ve read. If you haven’t read one of the food-related mystery series like Goldy Bear, and haven’t read Stephanie Plum, or really, really enjoyed Stephanie Plum, you’ll probably find this book to be a treat.

For this reader, it was an okay read but didn’t shine in comparison to some of its antecedents. And I’ll confess, Juliet’s “torn between two lovers” thing reminded me way too much of Stephanie Plum’s indecision between Morelli and Ranger.

However, on the plus side, the author does a very good job of catching readers new to the series up to current events. I didn’t even realize that there was a previous book in the series, and didn’t feel the lack of context that one so often does in this situation. So if this is your cup of coffee, it will taste good even if you haven’t tasted the previous book.

As mysteries go, I didn’t figure out whodunnit until Juliet did. There were oodles of red herrings in this story, and they all dangled very enticingly. While the usual rule applies, “Who Benefits?” there were so many people that benefited from Cecilia’s death that it was amazing that she lived as long as she did. She was worth more dead than alive to a whole lot of people, and she was a nasty bitch into the bargain. She won’t be missed.

If you like your coffee, and your mysteries, with a lot of froth on top, Mug Shot might just tickle your taste buds.