Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review: Rocky Road by Josi Kilpack (Whitney Finalist 2013)

Title: Rocky Road
Author: Josi Kilpack
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Digital Copy
This book would be rated: PG

In Rocky Road, the tenth of Josi Kilpack's culinary mysteries, Sadie Hoffmiller travels to St. George, Utah, for a bachelorette weekend before her upcoming marriage to Pete Cunningham. And while she was expecting a fun getaway with a girlfriend, she's quickly roped into solving the disappearance of a local doctor. Kilpack does a wonderful job with the southern Utah setting (I was in town a week after I read the novel and had fun picking out the places she mentioned) and also in showing how Sadie is changing as her work as a private investigator affects her. The mystery is a decent whodunit too. Some of the secondary characters are painted with fairly broad brushstrokes. And I finally know definitively that Sadie is not a Mormon without ever talking about the church (which is what I thought in the early days of the series), since she spends a lot of time with the Mormons in St. George.

I think it's fairly common for authors to have a great idea for a first novel, then string that story out into a series of sequels that get progressively less successful. I'm not sure if these authors rest on their laurels and get lazy, or if they find themselves less inspired as the stories wear on, but I get the sense that they're cashing in on early success. I've read six of the ten culinary mysteries "starring" Sadie Hoffmiller, and Kilpack is not resting on her laurels. Sadie has come into her own as a character over the course of the novels. She has developed and deepened and changed, and her motivations for solving crimes are more mature than they were ten books ago. Her relationship with Pete is also progressing in a satisfactory direction. And I feel that Kilpack has grown more self-assured and confident as a writer through this extended exploration of Sadie. Her writing keeps getting stronger and stronger, and I'm sad that this series is approaching its conclusion.

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