Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery by G.P. Gottlieb is a rather contemporary mystery. It takes place when COVID reigned, and people had to deal with lockdowns and more. Kids were being schooled by computer screens, and the Whipped and Sipped Café couldn't let customers inside to eat. Food and drinks had to be ordered online or by phone and delivered to their customers waiting outside the door.
Aline, the cafe's owner, manages a lot more socializing than most during the lockdown. Besides working with the café staff and customers, she has her children and father to take care of. In addition to that she's also in a serious relationship with Frank, a homicide detective and is also very involved in the lives of a few of her neighbors. There is one very Jewish character in Charred, Aline's best friend and Whipped and Sipped Café pastry chef Ruthie Blum Rosen, who is a Sabbath observer and vegan, too. All of the pastry she makes is vegan.
Charred is the third in a series of murder mysteries by G.P. Gottlieb featuring the same characters, and I'd love to read the others, too. An added bonus to the series is the inclusion of recipes prepared in the Whipped and Sipped Café.
As the story begins, Aline starts her day by doing her neighbors Kacey and Kofi a favor by driving them to the site of a burnt building, so Kofi could find interesting charred wood for his artwork. But instead of some wood, he brought back a mystery. He quickly returned panicked and empty-handed back to her car. It took awhile until Aline discovered what was bothering him; he saw a dead body. Then she was forced to promise that she wouldn't tell anyone, including Frank.
The police are suspicious of a possible connection between the body and Ruthie Blum Rosen, because the dead person is found wearing a jacket with the Rosen's nametag which has things from the café in its pocket. It has never occurred to Ruthie to remove the nametags of clothing before donating to charity.
G.P. Gottlieb has created a wonderful group of characters, each with a distinct personality. We quickly find ourselves involved in the community of the Whipped and Sipped Café, the staff, customers and local eccentrics who hang out by its door. We also discover that Aline's father has recently been hearing from his brother who had been jailed for many years and wants to see him.
To be honest, when I was a good three quarters finished with the book, I began to think that there were too many threads and wondered if G.P. Gottlieb would tie them all together. And then suddenly, rather miraculously the author very neatly crocheted them all into a wonderful conclusion.
I highly recommend Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery, and as I said earlier, I'd love to read the earlier books in the series. The book does stand well on its own; I'd like to read the others, because no doubt I'd enjoy them.
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