Narrator: Hannah Cabell
Series: Literary Pub Mystery #2
Published by Kensington on November 26, 2019
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Christmas
Length: 6 hrs 54 mins
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The Winter Carnival always brings holiday cheer, Christmas joy—and tourists with cash—to picturesque Shady Creek, Vermont. At the center of the glittering decorations and twinkling lights is booklover and pub owner Sadie Coleman, creating original cocktails, hosting a literary trivia evening, and cheering on her loyal employee Melanie “Mel” Costas as she competes in the ice carving competition.
But holiday cheer can’t compete with former resident and renowned chef Freddy Mancini, who arrives with his nose in the air, showing off his ice-sculpting skills like a modern-day Michelangelo. During the artists’ break in the night-long contest, Mel’s tools disappear . . . and Freddy is found dead with her missing pick in his chest.
Although the police turn their attention to Mel, it seems everyone in town had a grudge against Freddy, including his assistant, his mentor, his former flame, and even his half-brother.
Faster than she can fling a Huckleberry Gin, Sadie finds herself racing to make sure the police don’t arrest the wrong suspect—all while sharing a flirtation with local brewery owner Grayson Blake. Their chemistry leads to a heated rivalry at the hockey rink—and to the hot pursuit of a killer.
I picked up An Ale of Two Cities thanks to Kensington’s November Mystery launch party on Facebook. I had not heard of the Literary Pub series before, but it sounded like a fun idea. Sadie, our amateur sleuth runs a bar, the Inkwell, that serves food and drink with book pun names and the shelves are full of her book collection. I wish we had a place like that in our town. This is the second in the series, but it worked fine as a stand-alone for me. I skipped to #2 because it’s set around Christmas, which was the second draw for me.
It’s Winter Carnival Time in Shady Creek, Vermont. One of the highlights is the ice sculpture contest and one of Sadie’s employees, Mel, has entered. One of the other contestants is a local man who made it big in Boston and is now a famous chef. He’s a jerk and treats everyone in town like garbage. Now he’s dead – an icepick in his chest. Many people had reasons to despise the chef, including his ex, his mentor, his half-brother, but Mel is the one who most suspicion falls on.
Sadie is a strong and intelligent protagonist. She wants to help support the town and her friends and employees. She’s nosy, but her heart is in a good place. She ends up in a couple of dangerous situations, but it wasn’t due to stupidity. She acted reasonably and didn’t really take any unnecessary risks. And at the same time she’s trying to figure out who the killer is, the winter carnival goes on. Her pub puts together an impromptu team for the hockey competition, she is training for the snowshoe race, there are book club meetings and trivia night.
This was a fun read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The mystery itself was well-done, plenty of suspects and red herrings, but I knew who the murderer was before Sadie. There’s also a romance brewing between Sadie and Grayson, the owner of the local craft brewery, but it didn’t overshadow the mystery. The two of them made a good team in the midst of their bickering/flirting.
I would say I’d love to hang out with Sadie and her friends at the Inkwell, but the author also did a great job of setting the place, and it was really, really cold.