I recently received an ARC of the latest PJ Peterson novel and found myself excited, yet unsure what I ought to expect. I usually look for the complex, hearty crime thriller or mystery, though I have had some success when turning off my brain and letting a ‘cozy mystery’ entertain me. I took the risk, but stuck to my guns and found the other novels in the series, which I could try first. It helps with context and a little momentum building. Peterson won me over early in the first novel and here I am, having read the first three in short order. I made it through to this, a story set in Paris, where young doctor, Julia Fairchild, and her sister are spending a week, alongside a friend of Julia’s. While there, the ladies attend a cooking school, while Josh attends to some business. When a man turns up poisoned in the hotel and eventually dies, Julia’s amateur sleuthing skills come in handy. Who would have wanted him dead and for what reason? This is only the tip of the mystery, as a week in Paris turns into a major investigative event. Peterson pulls out all the stops here and dazzles repeatedly.
Dr. Julia Fairchild knows how to balance her professional and personal lives quite well. After making arrangements to meet an old friend in Paris, she heads over the Atlantic with her sister, Carly. They are to meet Josh, a businessman, who may have caught Julia’s eye a while back, especially since they reconnected in Amsterdam the previous year.
While Paris has all the excitement that Julia looks for in a city, it is not only the art and nightlife that have pulled her in. She and Carly agree to attend some cooking classes at a Cordon Bleu school, honing their skills and seeking to impress the people back home. While they meet a small group of English-speaking students, it is their instructor, Francesca, who makes a real mark. She agrees to help them create some dazzling items for a small party Josh is hosting back at the hotel.
After a successful cocktail party, one of Josh’s partners goes missing, only to be found, collapsed, in the hotel bathroom hours later. Rushed to the hospital, all he can utter is ‘mushroom’, one of the items at the party, but not something Julia or Carly created. It would seem that Francesca brought a tray of stuffed mushrooms, though no one else got sick. A mystery begins to develop, which is only heightened when the victim dies from acute poisoning.
As Josh tries to salvage a business deal, Julia and Carly begin to poke around to discover what’s taken place, only finding themselves more tied up in knots. Someone was trying to kill the businessman and Josh seems to be a primary suspect. How do mushrooms tie into it all and where does Francesca connect the dots, especially when her name and number appear on a piece of paper in the victim’s pocket? It will take all their energy and remaining time to piece it together, but Dr. Julia Fairchild loves a good mystery. Peterson does it again and held my attention throughout this piece!
I was yet again dazzled by PJ Peterson, without needing a complex storyline. The plot sustained itself as the narrative gained momentum and the reader found themselves in the middle of the story without needing to stretch their imaginations too much. Peterson appears to coax the reader into something effortlessly, which makes for a smoother delivery and more exciting piece of writing. These cozy mysteries surely have pulled me in and left me wanting more!
Dr. Julia Fairchild is a wonderful protagonist, using some of her past life experiences to shape the novel effectively. Series fans will have known a bit about her personal life, though it is still not really revealed here. References to the past novels and ‘holiday mysteries’ occur, adding some depth to the character, though a great deal is spent on development within this piece. Peterson focuses some of the attention on the Julia-Josh connection, though it does not get overly saccharine, helped along by Carly, who is not there for romance and gushiness. Julia’s sleuthing skills continue to impress and her ability to get information from people helps to keep the story moving. One might call her a modern Jessica Fletcher though, as death seems too follow wherever she might be.
PJ Peterson offers up another stellar cozy mystery, which offsets some of the heartier mysteries on the market today. It’s fun and intriguing without being too silly or sugary. There is a nice depth to it, though the story is compact, therefore it can be read in a day or two. The narrative flows well from the opening pages, setting the scene and getting right to the point. The reader can use this early momentum to pace their progress. The plot offers a few twists to keep from being overly predictable and yet does not become too far-fetched. Strong characters that are highly relatable make for an enjoyable read. Peterson can write and keep the reader’s attention, which is an added bonus. It makes reading these pieces in short order all the more enjoyable and has grabbing for the next one a foregone conclusion.
Kudos, Madam Peterson, for a story I thoroughly enjoyed. I made it to the ARC and am prepared to dive in, hoping it is as impressive as these past three novels!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons