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Charred (Whipped and Sipped, #3) by G.P. Gottlieb 

With a murder investigation edging close to home and all the balls Alene is juggling at once, CHARRED was an absolute page-turner. 

It’s the spring of 2020 in Chicago, and the COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing. Alene Baron’s Whipped and Sipped Café is getting by on pickup and delivery orders and reduced work hours for all employees. Alene’s three children are finishing the school year online with her father, Cal, supervising their daily activities while his own caretaker, Blanca, is fighting the virus in the hospital. Everyone is feeling the stress and other consequences of that time. 

A recent fire at a commercial, residential construction site belonging to her best friend and pastry chef, Ruthie, has Alene, her neighbor, Kasey, and Kasey’s artist boyfriend up at dawn and headed to the location. Kofi uses reclaimed and found materials in his art, and wooden pieces exposed to fire offer unusually creative opportunities. Alene drives them to the site in case Kofi finds a piece too big to carry home on foot and waits in the car while he sneaks in for a closer look. He’s not gone long before he’s back in the car, urging Alene to drive away. Kofi had uncovered a dead body among the rubble of the night’s fire! 

Charred is the third book in author G.P. Gottlieb’s’ culinary-themed cozy mystery series, Whipped and Sipped. With a plethora of engaging characters, enticing vegan dishes and desserts, and its replay of that iconic spring of fear, protests, and confusion, this latest story was unputdownable and sent me back in time as I tried to determine who the killer was. 

Alene is the owner of the successful restaurant and manages a large and varied staff of part-timers with a firm hand in a velvet glove. She must deal with so many personalities as she keeps everyone focused on their mutual goals. Ruthie is the yin to her yang, and together they are a great team. 

Besides the murder victims found on Ruthie’s husband’s projects, Alene struggles with withholding knowledge of the first crime scene, via the early morning foray with Kofi and Kasey, from her beau, Detective Frank Shaw. She finds herself in quite a dilemma, having promised Kasey and Kofi to stay mum while knowing from her own experiences with her ex-husband, Neal, that keeping secrets is hazardous to building and maintaining a trusting, loving relationship. 

Additionally, Alene’s Uncle Finn has contacted her father after an absence of over 22 years. Finn, a convicted bank robber, had spent his time in prison, returned home to his wife and child, and then mysteriously went missing. Alene’s father, Cal, his younger brother, is understandably conflicted over his actions and subsequent abandonment, so Finn has appealed to Alene to arrange their reconciliation. 

With a murder investigation edging closer and closer to home and all the balls Alene is juggling at once, the story was an absolute page-turner. The author also includes several great recipes at the end of the book for some of the dishes mentioned in the story. I recommend CHARRED to cozy mystery readers who enjoy culinary-themed stories, a Chicago setting, or a trip back to the summer of 2020. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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