It’s that time again where I step outside of my favourite genre and read something a little different. I’ve always liked a good mystery, but the last time I read a mystery novel I wasn’t too impressed with the writing, and, as you know, bad writing kills a book for me.
I picked up Pies and Prejudice after it was recommended by a book blog I trust on tumblr. I love baking so I appreciated the fact that it included recipes, even if I don’t usually bake pies.
Ella Mae LeFaye, recently separated from her husband after catching him cheating on her, has returned to her hometown of Havenwood, Georgia, determined to get her life back on track, with assistance from her mother and quirky aunts, she opens the Charmed Pie Shoppe, but things quickly become interesting when her pies start having magical effects on people. Things start heating up when her longtime rival’s fiancé is found murdered using Ella Mae’s own rolling pin,it’ll take all her sweet magic to clear her name.
My first impression of this book was that it was well-written and heavy on the food porn. The book paints and idyllic picture of Havenwood, a small town where everyone knows everyone else and nothing much happens. Normally, I would be frustrated by the book’s slow pace and focus on “mundane” matters, but I found this book to be oddly relaxing.
Unfortunately, that favourable first impression didn’t last, as while the descriptive text is well-written, the dialogue lacks any sense of subtlety. Case in point, Ella Mae meets her longtime rival, Loralyn Gaynor, who is every bit the Alpha Bitch trope, who promptly boasts that she’s hired sex workers and cheerleaders to ruin the reputations of her previous husbands so she can line her pockets with cash. Yeah that’s a really smart thing to do.
Since Ella Mae isn’t a detective and really shouldn’t be poking around crime scenes (common in cozy mysteries), it’s important to find other ways of investigating crimes. In urban fantasy, typically characters either consult for the police or have supernatural powers that somehow enable them to track the criminal. In Ella Mae’s case, her investigative method involves baking pies and pestering people. It’s to be expected that a book focused around pies would use pies some way in the plot, but after awhile it seemed gimmicky, and I found myself wondering what would happen if Ella Mae encountered anyone who couldn’t have gluten, dairy, or eggs because the narrative is utterly dependent on the characters having a thing for pie.
If you’re looking to pick up this book because the back cover promises magical mayhem, I’d say don’t bother. Ella Mae only gets an inkling that something might be up with her pies about halfway through the book, and the mystery surrounding her family is literally solved in the last few pages. I did like the more subtle approach to magic but not how it felt like the author forgot about that element until the very end.
Sometimes books have a definite culture to them, and this book definitely feels very “Southern US” though I can’t say how applicable it is to Georgia in particular. Characters drink sweet tea a lot, old money families are racist as fuck, and family feuds that have gone on for ages are the norm. It’s so stereotypical it’s almost funny. There’s not much I can say about this except that at times it struck me as charming and other times as cliche.
I also felt that the central mystery of the book was pretty cliche as well in that I figured out what was going on as soon as the victim’s profession was mentioned and the protagonist makes an assumption that a murder victim drowned in custard that I found too ridiculous to even contemplate. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from a first novel in a series but this struck me as particularly cliche.
Pies and Prejudice was an experiment, and unfortunately my good first impression of the book didn’t last. I probably won’t be picking up the other books in the series, but I haven’t given up on the mystery genre yet. I’m just not sure cozies are for me.