“Blackberry Crumble” – How Can a Murder Mystery Novel be Light?

Book Review : Blackberry Crumble by Josi S, Kilpack

Sadie Hoffmiller has been pegged as a “magnet for murder” as written by the self-serving Jane Seeley in an article for the Denver Post. Not able to stand the furitive looks and speculation of her neighbors Sadie jumps at the chance to go to Oregon to help May Sanderson who is afraid her father may have been murdered. Sadie is also anxious to run away from the confusion of her budding relationship with Pete Cunningham. Once Sadie arrives in Oregon she discovers layers of secrets and deceptions, she is quickly embroiled in May’s troubles.

Blackberry Crumble is the 5th novel in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery series. This is a series that has matured with each novel. I like how Kilpack stays true to her own values. For example, rather than use profanity Sadie says “Oh, Biscuits!” when upset and it is a viable solution with the character. There is also not graphic violence or sex.

I found the first quarter of the novel a little slow while Sadie questioned herself about her motives. Once she arrived in Oregon the action picked up and became more interesting.

I would consider this series to be a soft mystery and is lighthearted in nature because Sadie feels like a typical woman that I might know in church. The lighthearted nature is reinforced by the inclusion of recipes that Sadie is so very enthusiastic over. I love great food and so it is a fun angle. I can’t claim this series is deep, but it is charming and a fun light read. I am almost always behind in guessing “who dun it” which makes it more enjoyable.

3 out of 5 stars

– Michelle

Book Review : Pumpkin Roll by Josi S. Kilpack

Sadie Hoffmiller is expecting to have a lovely time with Pete Cunningham as they babysit his grandsons in Boston, Massachusetts. The boys believe that the old woman, Mrs. Wapple, who lives across the street is a witch. Inspite of Mrs. Wapple’s odd behavior, Saddie devises to befriend the lonely woman through her cooking. The cookies didn’t open Mrs. Wapple’s door, but the failed experiment opened Sadie’s curiosity. Events get even stranger, leaving Sadie questioning who is responsible for the para-normal activity and are they even safe to stay in the home. There are too many questions and not enough answers for Sadie’s liking, she knows she has to find those answers to help Mrs. Wapple.

Adult Point of View

I usually don’t review multiple books from a series in different posts, but aren’t rules made to be broken?

I was a bit lukewarm on the culinary mysteries by Kilpack at the beginning of the series. As often seems to happen, the author has grown in her writing style and the characters have grown making the series more enjoyable. The previous installment, Blackberry Crumble, has probably been my favorite in the series. I quite enjoyed Pumpkin Roll, probably in part because I was reading it over Halloween and thought the ghost was fun. I find I often can guess who the culprit is in a book though this time I was bamboozled. (My mother, however, told me she had early suspicions on who was responsible. The moral being that you can’t guess right everytime, but your mother will.)

I usually enjoy the character of Sadie, though I don’t know any women of her age that get into such predicaments or who have to use self-defense techniques so often. I didn’t need to hear Sadie telling us that she and Pete had rules around kissing. I figure they are adults and can kiss when they want without justifying it to me.

Pumpkin Roll is a cozy mystery that is fun to solve without the grit associated with many mysteries. I recommend it for light reading.

3 out of 5 stars

– Michelle

Book Review : Banana Split by Josi S. Kilpack

Spoiler Alert!

Sadie Hoffman has traveled to Kaua’i hoping to get her panic attacks under control. Sadie’s hoped for peace is pushed aside when she discovers a body. Trying not to get involved, Sadie has not pushed for details about the woman she found and continues to try to isolate herself. Her solitude is broken when an eleven-year-old boy, Charlie, confronts her about his mother’s death. With the need to help an innocent child, Sadie tries to set aside her own fears to help him through his grief by answering his list of questions. Unfortunately, there seem to be no easy answers for Charlie, but Sadie must try to help.

Adult Point of View

I had a hard time with this particular installment in this series.

1- Sadie was depressed, which seemed out of her character’s response and it was depressing to read. The solution to her panic attacks seemed a bit too easy to be believable.

2- I have visited Kaua’i  and found the setting disturbing for a murder mystery. When we visited we had been told that serious crime was very low and the whole community was still mourning the disappearance of a girl from a year ago. Kilpack’s characters didn’t seem to think it was too big of a deal that someone was dead on their island, and that does not fit with my experience.

3- The Hawai’ian people I have known have all been very gracious and kind. They have been discouraged and upset with those who do not have the Aloha spirit, but were never openly so antagonistic as the social worker in this book. (Not saying it couldn’t happen, but I found him to be rather disturbing.)

4- Loose ends and unused plot devices were a pet peeve for me in this book. Why did Kilpack introduce the Blue Muumuus and then not involve them more in the book? The actions of Jim and Mandy were never fully explained as to why he didn’t want people to investigate the death of Noelani. Mandy’s motivation to follow Jim was also never explained leaving a loose end. I also expected more out of having Gayle fly all the way to Hawai’i. Finally, why was Sadie so mortally afraid of water? Was it just another new phobia to go with the panic attacks and depression?

As a cosy mystery many fans will love Banana Split book because it is clean in content and upholds standards of morality. This novel is fairly straight forward in its problems, unlike Pumpkin Roll, that had an element of the supernatural.

I love to cook and am intrigued with the recipe for a pork in a slow cooker with a banana added. I might like it more than the murder mystery.

2.75 out of 5 stars

– Michelle

Book Review : Tres Leches Cupcakes by Josi S. Kilpack

Spoiler Alert!


Sadie Hoffman is still hiding from a psychopath who has threatened her life. While staying in Santa Fe, New Mexico with Pete Cunningham’s cousin, Caro and Rex, Sadie goes undercover as an informant for the Bureau of Land Management on an archeological site. When recent burials are discovered amongst the graves on an ancient site Sadie is caught in the middle of an unwanted investigation. Faster than she ever could have guessed, Sadie finds herself thrown into jail for starting a bar fight (which was not her fault). Sadie tries to balance staying out of trouble with her deep concern for her new archeologist friend who has gone missing under suspicious circumstances. With tensions rising at Caro’s house it seems like the perfect opportunity to spend time helping at the Balloon Festival. But you’re never safe when the black market antiquity trade believes you have their stolen goods.

Adult Point of View

Some of the Culinary Mystery series are better than others. Tres Leches Cupcakes is definitely one of the best in the series. The pace is quick and interesting, the bar scene was so funny I laughed imagining how uncomfortable and embarrassed Sadie would have been in the situation. I also liked this novel because of the ambiance which includes artifacts, the desert, photographic art, hot air balloons and delicious sounding food. I missed having Pete in the novel, but on the plus side Sadie has gotten over being so whiny (which is about the death of a character for me, I hear enough whining from my kids).  Finally, the question do the recipes really work? We tried making the Mexican hot chocolate, and we thought it was awful! It was so thick it was like drinking plain melted chocolate and the quantity of cinnamon was overpowering, leaving a slightly grainy texture. If I tried this again I would use mostly regular milk and about 1/4 of the cinnamon. I have not dared tried any of the other recipes after this experience. If you have tried any of the other recipes I would love to hear about your results!

3.5 out of 5 stars


– Michelle

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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2 Responses to “Blackberry Crumble” – How Can a Murder Mystery Novel be Light?

  1. Karen Nichols says:

    Hi – I enjoyed reading the perspectives of a mother and daughter who have read the same books. Your comments as the mom would help generate some interesting discussions with kids as they become more sophisticated in decoding what books are all about.

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