cover image Gone with a Handsomer Man

Gone with a Handsomer Man

Michael Lee West, Minotaur, $24.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-57122-1

West's diverting debut plays nice variations on several mystery subgenres—Southern, romantic, screwball, culinary. Teeny Templeton, aspiring Charleston, S.C., pastry chef, is looking forward to her marriage to Bing Jackson, until she catches him playing nude badminton with a pair of lovely ladies. Teeny's throwing unripe peaches at the three results in an assault charge, probation, and a restraining order—problems that pale after Teeny finds Bing dead a few days later and she becomes the prime murder suspect. Distinctive characters include hunky lawyer Cooper O'Malley, who's attracted to Teeny; Bing's eccentric stepmother, Dora Jackson, who befriends Teeny; schemer Natalie Lockhart, one of Bing's badminton partners; and crass private detective Red Butler Hill. One of the book's best touches is the "Templeton tradition" of concocting delicious recipes with lethal ingredients—a tradition that Teeny carries on with creations like "You'll Get Yours Peach Icing." Readers will look forward to more helpings of Teeny Templeton. Author tour. (Apr.)