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Death Al Dente: 08/27/21
Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz is the start of the Food Lovers' Village mystery series. Erin Murphy has returned home to Jewel Bay, Montana to help run the Merc. She's also the spearhead of the Festa di Pasta. On the first night a woman is murdered and Erin's mother is the prime suspect.
I usually don't let a mystery series' location distract me but I just couldn't help myself with this one. Montana is a landlocked state with very few lakes — so few I can count them on one hand. A place with Bay in the name implies a large body of water. Erin describes in one bucolic scene how she's lucky enough to live near the "largest lake west of the Mississippi."
If you're looking at freshwater lakes, yes, Montana does have that honor but this fictional lake. But this fictional lake is apparently even larger than the real one. Fictional lake is given the patriotic name, Eagle Lake, and it's given features of the much smaller neighboring Swan Lake. My point here is, there aren't enough lakes, nor enough landscape in Montana to believable fit in a fictional massive lake. Why not just fit a fictional bay onto Flathead Lake or even Swan Lake and call it a day?
As the murder was near the Merc and during a food festival, one would expect that the store and the festival, or more generally, cooking and eating Italian food, would be the focus of the non-sleuthing pieces of the novel. The best cozies parlay the particular skills of the main character into a unique advantage for solving the mystery. Here, though, the plot comes to numerous screeching halts for Erin to expound on how much she loves living in her particular corner of Montana.
The second book in the series is Crime Rib (2014).