Cooking the Books: Easter Basket Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis & Barbara Ross

Kensington Books brings us another delightful seasonal trio of novellas perfect for the upcoming Easter holiday–this time featuring three of my favorite cozy mystery authors!

Leslie Meier opens the collection with the title story. Intrepid reporter Lucy Stone is covering the latest initiative by the Tinker’s Cove Chamber of Commerce to drum up foot traffic for local retailers. Participating stores will be handing out Easter egg stickers for every in-person purchase of at least 10 dollars. These stickers can be affixed to cards, with complete cards of 10 stickers eligible to enter a raffle for an Easter basket prize. The basket contains the usual chocolates and gift certificates but also features a contribution from famous and eccentric local sculptor Karl Klaus: a gilded egg potentially worth thousands of dollars.

When the egg unexpectedly goes missing from where it’s being displayed, Lucy gets on the case. There are several retailers whose fondness for this latest initiative has been decidedly lackluster–could one of them have stolen the egg in an effort to humiliate the organizers? As scandal rears its ugly head in Tinker’s Cove, Lucy must race to stop a thief from perpetrating the ultimate crime.

The second novella, Lee Hollis’s Death By Easter Egg, has chaos descending on Hayley Powell’s already busy life when she hosts her son, Dustin; his girlfriend, MacKenzie; and their two year-old, Eli, for Easter. Eli is a terror, but Hayley hopes to channel some of his energies into an Easter Egg hunt at the local school. When she finds that he’s absconded with an Easter Basket full of candy that doesn’t belong to him, she isn’t too worried initially–until she finds an Epipen in the bottom.

Knowing that this basket likely belongs to Raymond Dobbs, the town’s long-standing Easter Bunny with a well known fatal allergy to peanuts, she hurries to return it to him. Alas, she’s too late. Ray has fallen victim to anaphylactic shock from unknowingly eating peanut butter-filled chocolates from the wrong basket. Someone has clearly gone to a lot of trouble to switch out his basket for a fatal one, and Hayley is going to find out who, if only to assuage Dustin and MacKenzie’s conscience at not better disciplining their tearaway child.

The final story here is Hopped Along by Barbara Ross. Julia Snowden is thrilled at the progress being made on restoring her family’s Windsholme Island, just off the coast of Maine and a short boat ride away from their mainland home in Busman’s Harbor. Her family is eager to celebrate the island’s imminent inhabitability with a small Easter celebration for their nearest and dearest. When Julia finds a dead body in the garden, however, the festivities come to a screeching halt. Things only get weirder when the body disappears after she runs for help. Is a killer playing a twisted game with the Snowden family, or is something far stranger afoot?

All of these novellas felt like seamless continuations of the series they come from, and I thoroughly enjoyed each of them as a brief visit to fictional settings I already know and love. If you’re not yet familiar with these authors and their excellent series, however, I strongly urge you to pick up this volume to get a small sampling of their highly entertaining works.

There were seven food and drink recipes included here, and since there’s rarely a time I’m not craving potatoes, I decided to try out this one from Death By Easter Egg:

French Onion Potato Casserole


3 pounds potatoes

1 cup sour cream

1 cup half and half

1 whole package Lipton French Onion Soup mix

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)


Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice your potatoes into ¼-inch slices (I use a food processor). You want them all to be pretty much the same size.

In a large bowl, whisk the sour cream, half and half, and soup mix. Add the sliced potato and one cup of the cheddar cheese and mix until well combined.

Pour into a three quart casserole dish or 13×9 pan and spread to fit pan.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50 to 55 minutes.

Remove from oven and check to see if potatoes are soft. If not, cover and place back in oven until soft.

When done, remove from oven and add the rest of the shredded cheese and place back in the oven for 10 to 15 more minutes until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.

Remove from oven, then let sit for 15 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

This is such a delicious variation on scalloped potatoes, especially if you love the taste of sour cream and onions, as my family does. And while you can eat this on its own, it makes an excellent side dish with just about any protein and vegetable. As with any casserole, the hardest part is the preparation: I just slice my potatoes thinly and consider most of the effort done. The finished dish also keeps quite well in the refrigerator for leftovers.

Next week, we head to the Midwest to bake up another scrumptious treat while trying to figure out who would want to frame our heroine for murder. Do join me!

See also: Cooking the Books: Murder at the Blarney Bash by Darci Hannah

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