Not everything is paranormal or romance or paranormal romance in my reading life, despite what most of my recent reviews would hint. I am also extremely partial to thrillers and mysteries, with their various sub-genres.
Which is why I had pre-ordered Blind Bake, the first of Denise Grover Swank’s new series. For those who don’t know, Denise is mostly known for her mystery series, Rose Gardner and Carly Moore in particular. I confess that I found out about her when the first Paranormal Women’s Fiction books were announced, as she is part of the Fab 13, and among the promotions was the first of the Piper Lancaster series, which I devoured, then proceeded to buy the other two books of the series and devoured them as well.
Knowing how versatile and great an author she is, it went without saying that I would get this new series of hers, especially since I have most of the Carly and Rose books but have been lacking in time to actually get to reading either (and knowing myself, I know that the moment I will start one of the series, I will be forgetting everything else that I have to read and binge because that’s how good Denise is). Consequently, I am happy to read the Maddie Baker Mysteries the moment they come out, as it keeps me from an actual binge read (but wait until summer comes).
What the book is about
Series: Maddie Baker Mysteries, book 1
Authors: Denise Grover Swank
Date published: 22 February, 2022
In the last few months, my life has gone to crap. My uncle died. I gave up my life to move back to my hometown to take care of my ailing aunt. And oh…I unwittingly drove a guy to his murder. Not exactly a stellar restart.
But things just keep getting worse, because the sexy-as-hell, yet stick-up-his-butt homicide detective in charge of solving the case thinks I had something to do with it, and he won’t leave me alone.
Even more concerning? It turns out the victim was one of the last people to see my mother alive before her unsolved murder eighteen years ago.
I left a big city police department for a fresh start in a smaller town. Less crime. Less murder. But three months later, I’ve been handed the murder investigation of the most hated man in town. The list of potential suspects is as long as Santa’s naughty list, but one name keeps popping up.
She’s infuriating as hell, but is she a cold-blooded murderer? My instincts tell me no, yet I can’t exactly trust those. The last time I let myself presume someone was innocent, I ended up with a bullet wound and a broken heart.
One victim, many potential suspects
When she picked up this older man with the extremely smelly paper bag in Cockamamie’s industrial district, little did Maddie Baker know that she would Uber him to his death. Yet, there she was, former school librarian, back in her hometown to take care of her aunt after the passing of the latter’s husband, combining Uber driving and working part-time at the local coffee shop to make ends meet (because a girl has bills to pay).
And little did she know that the rude passenger who was offed was one of her former teachers, one of the last people to see her mother alive before she was murdered. After all, Maddie did everything she could to forget most of Cockamamie after she left it when she finished high school, because the memories attached to the town were too painful.
Once she found out, she also found herself a person of interest in the murder investigation, and remembered Martin Schroeder, but also how despised he was by one and all.
She might have been innocent in his demise, in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that does not mean that the list of potential suspects could not include most of the town, including Schroeder’s own son.
Because the man was really, really despised.
The investigation is one of the most gripping for that reason. Because we simply don’t know. To be frank, I was taken by surprise, and that’s all I will say about the matter.
Ghosts of the past, ghosts of the heart
No, Blind Bake is not a cozy mystery. It is the start of a romantic suspense series, which means that there is Maddie, but there is also Noah Langley, a former Memphis detective who moved to Cockamamie to get back on his feet after he nearly got killed by a suspect in his last case, a case that completely broke him and from which he is still recovering.
This case brings them both together in less than ideal circumstances, yet despite their animosity towards each other, there is no denying the attraction that grows between them.
The problem is that if Noah’s past is full of ghosts, so is Maddie’s, and it does not help them in the least that he is the detective and she is a potential suspect. Or that Noah still does not know if he should trust his gut or not when it comes to her. Yet, the chemistry and attraction between them is unmistakable, ghosts or no ghosts.
Confession: I cried my eyes out more than once reading Blind Bake, which is all to the author’s credit and testimony of how great a writer she is.
And of how heartbreaking Deirdre’s condition is.
Deirdre is Maddie Baker’s aunt, whom she moved in with following her uncle Albert’s passing because Deirdre is suffering from dementia. At times, she is the Deirdre of old, but most of the time, she is slipping inexorably inside the disease.
For Maddie, it is excruciating, because her aunt is the only family she has left. For reader me, it hit very close to home, and I know it will be the same for many readers. So have tissues nearby.
No cliffhanger, but a massive hook
The book might not leave us with a cliffhanger, since the investigation on Martin Schroeder’s murder is complete, but it does leave us with a massive hook, one that makes me hope that September and Bake Off, the second of the series, come fast.
It also helps that the characters are all absolutely fabulous, especially Deirdre’s neighbour, Margarete (a total badass!) and Officer Lance Forrester.
Had I had more time on my hands, I would’ve read that book much faster than I did. That’s how riveting it is. Two fantastic main characters, a gripping investigation, the small town feeling. Everything in this book combines to make it a totally awesome read, very worthy of
Five gripping stars!