11.03.2011

Review: Pumpkin Roll, by Josi S. Kilpac

Continuing the trend of Jessica Fletcher-like mysteries, I bring you Pumpkin Roll by Josi S. Kilpac, the sixth novel in the Sadie Hoffmiller series – a series whose novels are each singularly and increasingly mouth watering. The first of these was Lemon Tart, followed by English Trifle, Devil’s Food Cake, Key Lime Pie and Blackberry Crumble. After Pumpkin Roll comes Banana Split (2012) which, I should point out, takes place in Hawaii.

If you’re a food addict, this is not the series for you. Sure, the titles are enticing, but then every other chapter or so has recipes for things like Broccoli in Brown Butter, Cinnamon Twists and Whoopie Pies. Sugar addicts beware.

Pumpkin Roll follows accidental investigator Sadie Hoffmiller through the events of yet another mystery (from what I could gather in the exposition, Sadie stumbled upon this line of work when a neighbor of hers was found murdered). This one doesn’t feature a murder, but it’s certainly got the Halloween spirit. (Tee hee. Spirit.)

Sadie has come to Jamaica Plains (a suburb of Boston) to help her boyfriend Pete Cunningham babysit his three grandsons while their parents scout out a new home in Texas. Being so near Boston, there’s kind of an assumption of the historical and creepy, but it’s not until Sadie gets her first glimpse of their neighbor Mrs. Wapple—“The Witch of Browden Street”—that things begin to get weird – doors mysteriously unlocking, the lights going out, strange voices, faces at the window, etc. But when Mrs. Wapple is attacked and hospitalized, and the supernatural activity continues, Sadie and Pete have to wonder – is there really something paranormal at work?

The writing is decent and the plot development is relatively solid (while I appreciated the resolution, there were still some plot holes that drove me slightly nuts), and I should mention I’ve read the first chapter of Banana Split (in the back of Pumpkin Roll) and it’s obvious that Kilpac’s strength is in her dramatic set-up.

But there are definitely some missed opportunities. There’s comic gold just waiting to be dug up here. For instance, the end of Chapter Nineteen: there’s Sadie – she’s covered in paint from when she discovered the injured Mrs. Wapple, and the police want her to come in. Pete turns to her and says “If you start feeling like they’re painting you into a corner, stop answering their questions.” ………..Crickets. No acknowledgement of what could be a great moment of levity. Or how about the end of Chapter Thirty-three: Detective Lucille (last name, not first) shows up, walks through the door, turns to Sadie and says “I think you’ve got some explaining to do.” Shorten “explaining” to “ ‘splainin” and you’ve got yet another missed opportunity.

In a book with so much sweetness, a little salt could go a long way.

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