In Til Death Do Us Tart by H.Y. Hanna, Gemma Rose heads to the local fete in Oxfordshire, as her mother has entered Gemma’s cat, Muesli, into the Cotswolds Cat Fancy Club Show. There she meets various cat snobs, each of whom thinks her breed of cat is the only worthwhile breed. Then, Gemma’s mother runs into her friend, Audrey, who is on the committee to organize the fete. Audrey introduces the Roses to her close friend from school days, Dame Claire Eckleston, a domineering woman who rides roughshod over everyone, especially her daughter, Mary, who, though 25, seems like a child. As Audrey takes up a collection of donations for the cakes and jams stall, Mary produces two delectable Victoria sponge cakes. However, Dame Claire demands that Mary donate only one cake because she intends to eat one herself. Mary pleads in vain with her mother not to eat the cake, since Dame Claire’s doctor has warned her against such foods because of her bad heart. So Mary serves the cake all around to those nearby. A few minutes later, Dame Claire has fallen over dead.
Fortunately (or, in some people’s opinions, unfortunately), Dame Claire’s doctor, a man long past his prime, is on the scene and signs the death certificate, citing a heart attack. But Gemma’s mother and the Old Biddies, four ladies who like to poke their noses into everything and seek crime everywhere, start to find little pieces of evidence of murder, which they add up to determine foul play. However, Gemma’s boyfriend, Detective Inspector Devlin O’Connor, refuses to consider the possibility of homicide, causing conflict between the couple, who have newly moved in together. And each new piece of evidence points to a different person.
This book is so far the best book in the Oxford Tea Room series. It sets up a creative mystery, especially in creating a plausible scenario for the civilians to get involved in the case. That is the challenge for writers of cozy mysteries, since detection should normally be left up to professionals, and it usually seems a stretch usually to show an inept professional. In this case, Devlin is still allowed to be a good detective, while Gemma and her mother, along with the Old Biddies, are able to poke around on their own. I really enjoyed the plot, which kept me guessing, with clues sending me guessing first one direction and then another. But the conclusion was also very satisfying.
I really love the narration of Pearl Hewitt. She adds so much energy and joy to her reading that the book takes on a lot of pleasure in listening to it. I especially love her voicing of Muesli and other cats Gemma encounters. She sounds so realistic, and we even get the sense of the attitude of the cats as they mew.
I really enjoyed Til Death Do Us Tart. This series is a real delight, and this book so far is my favorite. But I must issue a warning: After reading this book, I had to go out and buy some scones because the book got me salivating for pastries! I would have preferred the Victoria sponge cake, but since that was not an option, I selected the scones. I really recommend this book and give it five stars!
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