Book Review: A Game of Cones by Abby Collette
By Doreen SheridanMarch 3, 2021
The second novel of the #OwnVoices Ice Cream Parlor mystery series is a delightful confection as appealing as its predecessor! Bronwyn Crewse quit big city life in order to come home to the Cleveland suburb of Chagrin Falls and take over running her family’s ice cream store. Several months since its near-disastrous re-opening, when unexpected snowfall and an even less anticipated murder nearly derailed what was supposed to be a happy occasion, the Crewse Creamery is doing well enough that Win, as she’s known to family and friends, is thinking of expanding operations to include a food truck.
But a local shopkeepers’ meeting has her village’s business owners in a tizzy, as representative Zeke Robertson explains his development company’s proposal to buy out several buildings in order to construct a mall in Chagrin Falls’ central triangle. Some shopkeepers are vehemently opposed to the idea, even as others are only too happy to take the money and run. While Win isn’t thrilled at the prospect of a mall changing the tenor of a small town that leans heavily into its reputation for quaintness, she’s willing to adopt a wait-and-see policy, especially since the creamery won’t be directly affected by the building plans. So it comes as a shock when Chagrin Falls’ only homicide detective comes knocking on her door early the next morning to ask if she’s seen anything that could shed light on the shooting death of poor Zeke.
Win is cooperative but ultimately knows very little, to the disappointment of her crime-solver-wannabe best friend, Maisie Solomon. While Maisie is eager to throw herself back into amateur sleuthing, Win has more important things to worry about. The arrival of her friend and former co-worker Rory Hunter is a pleasant surprise, even though Rory is trying to tempt her back to her old job in New York City with promises of a raise and additional perks. It’s the sudden reappearance of Crewse Creamery’s combative former manager, Win’s own Aunt Jack, however, that has Win reconsidering her place in Chagrin Falls:
I needed to calm my nerves after Aunt Jack blew in and started a commotion. She hadn’t stayed ten minutes and already she’d made my mouth turn dry and my stomach cramp up. My mother left soon after her, I was sure she was having a parking lot moment. Whenever she was stressed or depressed, she’d pull over into a parking lot and sit. Sometimes for hours. It didn’t matter where the parking lot was, just whatever was close when those feelings took over. My father said it was probably a good thing to have her off the road.
Win, however, isn’t so distracted by Aunt Jack’s shenanigans as not to notice how weirdly Rory is behaving, even for a New Yorker unused to life in small-town Ohio. When Rory is implicated in Zeke’s death, Win immediately leaps to her defense, to Maisie’s glee. With the help of their other best friend Riya Amacarelli, the women begin to systematically look into the people who might have wanted Zeke dead.
This was a well-plotted culinary cozy that features some of the cutest character interactions in the genre today. Scatterbrained Maisie and aggressive Riya are always a hoot, and it was so much fun to have city slicker Rory join them and our more level-headed heroine as they followed suspects in an effort to clear Rory’s name:
“What if she sees us?” Rory asked.
“Who cares,” Maisie said. “We’re not breaking any laws, we can do what we want.”
“Stalking,” Rory said. “We’re breaking the law against stalking.”
“We’re trying to apprehend a murderer,” Maisie said. “I think if we get caught they’ll be lenient with us.”
Rory looked at me. “When you’re hanging out with her, do you ever feel like you might end up in jail?”
In addition to the entertaining story, Abby Collette includes three ice cream recipes at the end of the book that will surely have you craving some variation of the frozen treat (the mango sorbet she includes will get me every time.) Ordinarily, I like to cover mysteries with recipes over at my Cooking The Books column on this site but ice cream is just that length too far out of my capabilities that I’ll have to enjoy the recipes vicariously through the charming writing of this murder mystery.