Flourless to Stop Him by Nancy J. Parra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gluten-free baker Toni Holmes is close to exhaustion, working too many hours to meet the demand for her GF treats, hoping the extra revenue over the holidays will keep her fledgling business afloat during the leaner post-Christmas months. The last thing she needs is to add "investigate homicide" to her To Do list, but that's exactly what happens when someone frames her brother Tim for the murder of his former best friend.
I liked this one better than the previous two books in the series, mostly because there was more character development. Grandma Ruth still drives me crazy with her irresponsible behavior, but at least she wasn't the focus of this story, and she did finally get Toni to see that she not only could but should ask her family for help with her bakery during her busiest times. That was a surprisingly difficult realization for Toni.
I am delighted that the character development with this one included Toni choosing between her two potential suitors. Hooray! For a while I was afraid Ms. Parra might write herself into a corner with that one, like Janet Evanovich did, so I'm thankful Toni did some soul-searching and made a choice.
One thing that freaked me out in this book was the part where Toni's cousin brings non-GF bread into her house and Toni says not only the toaster but also the dishes and utensils have to be isolated as permanently contaminated because the gluten can't be washed off. What?! Do I need to replace every dish in my kitchen and ban my family from eating gluten in my house?!
However, I got the chance to have an online conversation with the author shortly after reading this book, and I asked about the contradiction between that scene and the one where Toni eats fast food French fries and gets sick from the contamination. Ms. Parra explained that the French fry scene came from a weak-willpower moment in her own life--she has Celiac disease--and that although not everyone is so incredibly sensitive to gluten, she does know people who not only can't use dishes touched by gluten, they can't even walk down the flour aisle in a grocery store. Wow! That made me incredibly thankful to not be nearly that sensitive to cross-contamination. I can't eat most French fries, but at least I have no problems with freshly washed dishes or baking aisles.
Oh, and the mystery? It kept me guessing, although I did start suspecting the right person by the end.
For readers' advisors: character and story doorways. No sex or swearing that I can recall (or if there is any, it's very mild). A little bit of violence at the end, but not at all graphic.
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