Cooking the Books: Murder at the Blueberry Festival by Darci Hannah

Baker and lighthouse owner Lindsey Bakewell is looking forward to participating in Beacon Harbor’s annual Blueberry Festival for the very first time. As a recent transplant from Wall Street, she feels like she’s finally settling into the small Michigan town, especially after being asked to join the festival’s organizing committee. In what seems like a natural fit, she’s put in charge of the blueberry pie-eating contest—a task she takes on with relish.

The first hint of trouble appears when a local real estate agent—the same one who sold Lindsey her defunct lighthouse—is pranked. Then, a parade float is pelted with water balloons. The committee tries to laugh it all off as the work of rambunctious teenagers, but the mischief keeps escalating. By the time Lindsey hears a goat bleating piteously from outside her bedroom window one night, she thinks she’s braced herself for anything. What she’s not prepared to find is the goat standing sentinel over the Viking-garbed corpse of one of her fellow townsfolk.

Lindsey’s boyfriend, Rory Campbell, takes the victim’s death especially hard, as they’d both been part of the same social circles. He believes that the other man might have surprised the prankster, with deadly consequences. But Lindsey had noticed the victim’s glee when each prank had gone off and thinks that Rory is looking at the murder from the wrong perspective. She strongly suspects that the dead man himself had been responsible for all the trouble and had an unfortunately violent confrontation with the angry target of one of his own practical jokes. 

With Rory unwilling to believe her theory, Lindsey must rely on her best friend, Kennedy Kapoor, and her loyal, intelligent Newfoundland, Wellington, to help her figure out what really happened. But what will she do with the heartbreaking truth when she finally uncovers it?

This was a surprisingly moving mystery novel—I nearly cried into my breakfast reading the final chapters—leavened with a light touch of the paranormal as well as a healthy dose of small-town shenanigans and fun festival frolics. Kennedy’s makeover of Lindsey’s foundling goat was especially hilarious and exactly what you’d expect from the carefree fashionista. It was also nice to see Rory figure out the next step in his life as a former military man, embracing an endeavor that will surely provide plenty of opportunity for Lindsey to keep flexing her investigative muscles.

There were seven blueberry-themed recipes included here, all from dishes described in the novel itself. I decided to bake up this quick bread:

Blueberry Lemon Bread

Ingredients

1 ½ cup fresh blueberries, rinsed

1 teaspoon lemon juice (for blueberries)

1 teaspoon sugar (for blueberries)

1 tablespoon flour (for blueberries)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

½ cup butter (1 stick, melted)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 teaspoon lemon extract (optional, but it does add a nice punch!)

½ cup whole milk

For the glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons (or more) lemon juice

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9×5 loaf pan by either greasing and flouring it, or lining it with parchment, whichever you prefer.

Put blueberries in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of each lemon juice, sugar, and flour. Give a good toss and set aside.

In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, whisk sugar and eggs until blended. Gradually whisk in melted butter, followed by the lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon extract.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix, alternating with the milk, until well blended.

Stir in half the blueberries to the batter and quickly pour into prepared loaf pan. Gently spread the rest of the blueberries on top of the batter (this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom) and place in oven.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until dinner. Remove from oven and cool for 30 minutes. 

Whisk together powdered sugar, melted butter, and lemon juice.

Pour glaze over cooled loaf and let it sit until the glaze is set. 

I didn’t have lemon zest, so I decided that adding a little extra lemon extract would be a more than adequate substitute. It sure is, but you’d probably want to use a lighter touch than I did. Darci Hannah isn’t kidding when she says it adds punch to your bread!

Of course, if you’re a lemon lover, then a little too much lemon probably won’t deter you from enjoying any iteration of this delicious blueberry lemon loaf. The blueberries also come out wonderfully juicy here, and the glaze really makes the whole thing taste like something professionally done instead of homemade. This recipe is a terrific, fruit-filled addition to the home cook’s repertoire of quick breads.

Next week, we travel southwest just a smidge to bake up another amazing treat while dealing with a tricky family situation that leads to murder. Do join me!

See alsoCooking the Books: Death a Sketch by Cheryl Hollon

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