"A Side of Murder" A Cape Cod Foodie Mystery By Amy Pershing

 Review by Cynthia Chow

Samantha Barnes left Cape Cod ten years ago for the Culinary Institute of America to pursue her dreams of becoming a head chef in New York City. Marrying a Bad Boy celebrity chef who would habitually cheat on her and have their very public confrontation go viral on YouTube was not in her plans, nor was her retreat back home to nurse her emotional wounds. Sam only planned to stay in Cape Harbor’s town of Fair Harbor until she could settle the inheritance of a ramshackle home left to her by her beloved Aunt Ida, but Sam quickly finds herself wrangled in by an old friend to do restaurant reviews on the side. Sam’s own father was the editor-in-chief of the Cape Cod Clarion before her parents left to retire in Florida, and with that attachment already in place Sam has little choice but to also corral in her old besties Jenny Snow Singleton and Miles Tanner in as mostly-helpful tasters. Sam’s plans for a short stay in town ends when she finds the floating body of the town drunk who tormented her as a teenager, a woman who also led to Sam’s experiencing her first heartbreak with Jason Captiva. History could be repeating itself when Sam discovers that Jason is back in town as well, although the former motorcycle-riding-bad-influence is now the much-admired harbormaster for the Barnstable Country Harbor Patrol.

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While the authorities are more than willing to write off Estelle Kobolt’s death as accidental, Sam becomes obsessed with discovering the truth. Coded notebooks from when Sam’s mother was a reporter provide a lead to an inordinate number of town scandals, with her own teen trauma included among them. As Sam returns to places she spent in her youth she realizes that Fair Harbor’s tastes have progressed considerably, with many restaurants rivaling those in the City. As Sam’s eyes are opened up to the opportunities lying in wait for her in her hometown, she continues to fulfill her dreams as a chef by cooking for her friends and sharing the gifts she loves to create.

I fell in love with this novel that is as much as an exploration a woman’s journey to find her home as it is the debut of a mystery series. The same spirit that had her proving the sharpness of her chef knives on her ex has her dedicated to finding the truth about Estelle’s death, a woman no one particularly liked or misses. It’s a mission that gives Sam a purpose for staying in town, for as much as she declares her intent to leave all signs indicate that she is exactly where she is supposed to be. A hugely rambunctious puppy willed upon her by her late aunt, a growing media presence unrelated to her heroic YouTube battle, and an assortment of suitors all fall in place as lures to keep her in anchored in Fair Harbor. Sam may have inherited her snarky humor from her father, but it’s her mother’s nose for investigation that has Sam shuffling through an assortment of clues. 

Tips for home cooks are sprinkled throughout, and in addition to helpful suggestions to use cast-iron pans for fried chicken, there are recipes that include her Aunt Ida’s Cape Cod Clam Chowder. From the first page readers will be drawn into the nuances of Sam’s restaurant reviewing, her cooking, and her hilarious interactions with neighbors and friends. A next-door librarian who proves to be far more than she seems is the icing on the cake for this new mystery that excels with its delicious machinations, clever dialogue, and completely unpredictable conclusion.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode goes up next week.

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Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).
 Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


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