First-Degree Fudge, by Christine DeSmet (Obsidian; paperback, $7.99), will tingle your sweet tooth at the first mention of Cinderella Pink Fudge, even if this pastel treat may be a murder weapon. Ava Oosterling, sharing counter space in her grandfather’s live-bait store, envisions her confection in Hollywood swag bags if a visiting former movie star gives it her blessing at a local gala. Instead, Rainetta Johnson becomes “a fudge fatality.” Suspects: Ava, her former fiance and a young assistant. But Ava is baffled by an ingredient added to that fatal bite: a stolen diamond. Another victim surfaces, along with Ava’s pink candy garnished by another hot rock. Is this a flavor to die for? DeSmet includes the recipe for Ava’s creation, but go easy on the edible glitter.
Just as Halloween merchandise starts nudging aside back-to-school bargains, along comes Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones (Kensington, $24). Liss MacCrimmon returns in this seventh of Kaitlyn Dunnett’s Scottish mysteries, this time spearheading the transformation of an abandoned mansion into a spooky attraction for All Hallow’s Eve. The house in Moosetookalook, Maine, last owned by a long-gone Boston mobster, is complete with hidden rooms and rumors of Blackie O’Hare’s missing treasure. It should make an ideal haunted house, although Liss frets when random items start disappearing, then showing up in different spots. Is this Blackie’s ghost, or are the sullen teens on Liss’s committee punking her? Then a fake skeleton is replaced by a real body — which Liss recognizes.
In Cloche and Dagger, by Jenn McKinlay (Berkley Prime Crime; paperback, $7.99), Scarlett Parker needs a fresh start after pelting her ex-boyfriend with a $5,000 cake makes her a viral sensation. Why not visit London, where she and cousin Viv have inherited their grandmother’s millinery shop, Mim’s Whims? Viv says she can’t wait to see her, but when Scarlett arrives, impulsive Viv has vanished. No one, not even Viv’s mother, seems concerned. Scarlett, meanwhile, isn’t sure she’s meant for the hat trade, especially when she meets an exacting customer, Lady Ellis. The posh lady is thrilled by a teal cloche accented by crystals and satin. Designed by the still-missing Viv, that topper is the only accessory adorning Lady Ellis’s naked self when she turns up dead.
A toddler, a preteen and five standard poodles keep dog handler and amateur sleuth Melanie Travis busy in Gone With the Woof, by Laurien Berenson (Kensington, $24). Yet her buttinsky aunt wheedles her into co-writing the memoir of Edward March, a big-name dog breeder. Her aunt is undeterred by Melanie’s lack of writing experience: “Just grammar and stringing sentences together in a way that makes sense. How hard can that be?” Melanie pictures harmless dog-show dish. March sees a chronicle of his conquests, many still bitter after all these years. Even March’s son, Andrew, warns Melanie off the project. When Edward is suspected in Andrew’s hit-and-run death, he demands that Melanie help clear his name, though she’s more interested in who wants his memoir muzzled.
As far from the show ring as a pet can get, Seedy, an unadoptable mutt, could be a clue to a homicide. Seed No Evil , by Kate Collins (Obsidian; paperback, $7.99) finds Abby Knight, the proud owner of Bloomers Flower Shop, ready for her wedding when her mom becomes a murder suspect. Seems that Bev Powers, the director of Protecting Animal Rights was resisting any change in the shelter’s no-kill policy before she was subjected to death by German shepherd. But as Abby discovers, Bev had more two-legged enemies than Bloomers has blossoms: her sister, an angry former brother-in-law, a powerful businesswoman, members of the shelter’s board. Aided by her P.I. fiance and her animal-crazed niece, Abby must solve the crime before her walk down the aisle. Collins’s story subtly remind readers that animal shelters need resources beyond compassion for unloved pets.
Blumenstock is a Washington writer.