The 2nd book in Kristi Abbott’s A Popcorn Shop Mystery series is a sassy delight. Set in Grand Lake—a resort town on the banks of Lake Erie, Ohio—Pop Goes the Murder features our heroine, Rebecca Anderson, and her poodle, Sprocket. Grand Lake was where Rebecca grew up, but she fled small-town life as soon as she could and married celebrity chef Antoine Belanger. Alas, the marriage was not to last.
So Rebecca came home to open POPS, a gourmet popcorn shop and cafe that serves the only decent coffee in town. Her sister, Haley, married Rebecca’s best friend while she was away and gave birth to Rebecca’s first nephew, and Rebecca is getting to know her family, old and new, all over again. Add to this a budding romance with the town’s only good lawyer, Garrett, and Rebecca is beginning to relish small-town life.
But then Antoine blazes back into her life to offer her a segment highlighting POPS on his wildly successful cooking show. Business is decent, but the exposure could really help, so Rebecca says yes. She starts to regret it even before she finds his assistant and executive producer, Melanie, dead in a hotel room bathtub.
At first glance, it looks like death by misadventure, but Rebecca is sure it was murder. She persuades her brother-in-law, Sheriff Dan Cooper, to keep investigating—a move that backfires when he arrests Antoine. Antoine is a lot of things, but Rebecca knows he isn’t a murderer. Now she has to risk sacrificing her burgeoning relationships—and perhaps more—in order to save the man she left behind.
Witty and well-written, Pop Goes the Murder revels in clever misdirection. I thought I had figured out the killer early on, but the novel had me doubting myself, even as I got swept up in how complicated, and ultimately sweet, the relationships were. Which are also terms I’d use to describe the flavors of the popcorn recipe I decided to try of the two included in the back of the book:
Low-Calorie Mexican Chocolate Popcorn
4 cups popped popcorn (Pop ⅓ cup kernels in ⅛ cup oil)
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Combine everything but popcorn in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until butter is melted. Pour over popcorn and stir. Pour popcorn mixture into a shallow parchment-lined pan and put in oven. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Continuing my streak of trying new things for this column was my first attempt to stove-pop popcorn, which I was a bit leery of given my history of burning popcorn in microwaves. I was actually quite proud of how the popcorn turned out, with very few unpopped kernels left and no scorching whatsoever. The rest of the recipe was easy-peasy, and the result: extraordinary!
First off, this does not taste like a low-calorie treat at all. It is bursting with sweet, salty, and spicy flavor. Even my lovely assistant Karin, who has very little tolerance for spicy foods, was willing to brave the heat for multiple handfuls. I am definitely going to be making it for parties in the future, as it is a terrific finger food that does not require a lot of work or time to put together.
Next week, we travel back to the East Coast to check out recipes for both people and pets. Spoiler-alert: I only make the recipes for people, whomp whomp. Do join me!
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.