Cooking the Books: Cinnamon Twisted by Ginger Bolton

Donut shop owner Emily Westhill is looking forward to participating in the June wedding of two of her best friends, even as their Wisconsin town of Fallingbrook’s tourist season is getting well underway. This, of course, brings lots of unfamiliar faces to her Deputy Donut cafe, including one unhappy woman who seems content enough to sit alone at a table there for two afternoons in a row, doing little but slowly sipping a coffee and enjoying the bakery’s specialty treats as closing time approaches.

So, it’s a surprise to Emily when the woman abruptly asks to make the acquaintance of Emily’s cat and the cafe’s namesake, Dep. Emily is happy enough to oblige, allowing the woman to access the office area where Dep is confined, but she’s further surprised when the woman asks to use the back exit after giving Dep a catnip-filled toy. Emily suspects that the woman is trying to elude the attention of one of the people passing by the cafe’s glass front, but whom? In her hurry to leave, the stranger drops an earring and flees before Emily can return it.

As Emily is heading to her parents’ summer campsite later that afternoon, she passes the road where the woman mentioned staying for the summer. Impulsively, she decides to take the turn-off in order to return the earring. Although no one answers her knock on the cabin door, the sudden blare of a fire alarm spurs her to enter the unlocked building. She finds a burger patty burning to a crisp on the stovetop and quickly puts out the incipient fire before deciding to search the premises for the other woman. She is both horrified and not altogether surprised to find the poor woman dead in an upstairs bedroom.

She quickly calls in local law enforcement, many of whom are friends or family-related connections. Her boyfriend, Detective Brent Fyne, is first on the scene but swiftly followed by Police Chief Agnew, who doesn’t take kindly to Brent and Emily’s coziness. Instead of taking Emily’s statement or asking her to wait to give one to the next available officer, he shoos her away, telling her to show up at the police station first thing the next morning. Being extremely familiar with the proper protocol from her years both as a 9-1-1 dispatcher and as the wife of a now-deceased officer, Emily is put off by this break from convention. Worse, it soon becomes clear that Chief Agnew thinks she’s somehow involved in the woman’s murder—and that he doesn’t necessarily believe in playing by the book.

As the new chief wastes time trying to make the evidence fit his theory of Emily’s guilt, Emily herself must grapple with suspicious figures lurking around her home renovations. Could they have something to do with the strange woman’s death? Could Chief Agnew somehow prevail in his strange vendetta against Emily? What lengths will our heroine have to go to in order to clear her name and find the real killer?

It was a nice departure from the series’ usually idyllic view of law enforcement to see a realistic depiction of a cop who’s neither competent nor kind. The plot also does an impressive job of wrapping around itself before revealing the answers to its many conundrums. I was highly entertained both by the central mystery and by the continuing developments in Emily’s romantic life. Series fans especially won’t want to miss what happens in this installment!

There were five recipes included here, four for food and one for drink, all mentioned in the text. I decided to try out this savory treat:

Quick Pesto and Mozzarella Twists


1 sheet of store-bought puff pastry. If frozen, thaw in fridge overnight.

approximately 3 tablespoons prepared pesto

approximately ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

fresh basil leaves (optional)


With a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry to smooth and uncurl it.

Cut pastry into 9 equal rectangles.

Spread approximately 1 teaspoon pesto in the center of each rectangle of pastry, leaving edges uncovered.

Sprinkle approximately 1 teaspoon shredded mozzarella over the pesto.

Fold the long edges of each rectangle to the middle and pinch them together to form filled cylinders.

While gently stretching, twist each filled cylinder. Some of the filling will end up on the outside. This is fine.

Form each cylinder into a circle and punch the ends together.

Arrange the circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet with an inch separating them to allow for rising.

Refrigerate the sheet of twists for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Bake 15 minutes.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle approximately 1 teaspoon shredded mozzarella cheese on each twist.

Return to oven for 1-2 minutes until mozzarella cheese melts.

Cool slightly, garnish with fresh basil leaves, and serve. Makes 9.

I had enough ingredients to make a double batch and am so glad I did! I can never get enough portable, savory snacks, and these fit that description to a tee. They were also incredibly delicious and tasted far more complicated to make than they actually were. They weren’t too messy either, despite the description, and were a relatively quick treat to whip up. I love how fancy these twists look and taste given that they’re made up of basically four, store-bought ingredients. Of course, if you’re feeling super industrious, you can make some of these components from scratch, but this recipe is perfect as is for busy people like me.

Next week, we travel to New York City to bake up a specialty loaf while trying to save a family business from going under in the wake of murder. Do join me!

See alsoCooking the Books: A Flicker of a Doubt by Daryl Wood Gerber

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