Tristi's Reviews > Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart by Josi S. Kilpack
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's review
Feb 06, 2009

really liked it
Read in February, 2009

I love cozy mysteries, and a culinary cozy mystery is especially delicious—except when they get so bogged down in the description of just how the egg whites were folded into the melted chocolate, you lose the thread of the story. “Lemon Tart” by Josi Kilpack takes all the things I love about a culinary cozy: the mystery, the quirky characters, the clean storyline, and the recipes—and keeps it in balance, without overwhelming us with the dicing of carrots or the selection of the perfect pork roast.

Sadie Hoffmiller was left a young widow and raised her children on her own. Now that they’re grown, she has plenty of time to devote to her other love—the culinary arts. In fact, she’s even been teaching another lady in her cul-de-sac how to cook. Imagine her surprise to learn that the student in question, a young woman named Anne Lemmon, was killed while a lemon tart was baking in the oven. If murder wasn’t bad enough, tampering with the sanctity of food just makes it all the worse.

But then to add insult to injury, the police think Sadie knows more than she does. It doesn’t help that she’s asking questions, carrying out her own investigation, but there’s a lot at stake. Anne had a two-year-old son who has disappeared, and Sadie desperately wants to find that little boy. Knowing her neighbors better than almost anyone else, Sadie feels she’s in the unique position of being able to solve the case. Now, if she can just get the police to see it her way before they arrest her for interfering with the investigation!

This story is delightful. Sadie is a character you can identify with, and I wish I had her as a neighbor. Not only would she be fun to know, but she’d trot around regularly with baked goods. I could use more neighbors like that!

(This book was published by Deseret Book in 2009.)

I had the opportunity to ask Josi some questions about her new series, and here’s what she said:

Q. "Lemon Tart" is different from your other novels. What gave you the idea for this story?

A. The story was inspired by a contest Jeff Savage did a few years ago. He'd been very successful with his Shandra Covington mysteries, and sponsored a contest for a first chapter that involved food. I took on the challenge, and though I didn't win first place (I did get second though) I had a lot of fun with this opening chapter. I tinkered with it here and there while still publishing my LDS fiction over the next couple of years when I was between projects or just needed a break. Last spring I pitched the idea to Lisa Mangum at the LDStorymakers conference, saying that it could easily become a series. I wasn't sure it was something they would be interested in, since it was not LDS, but she said the idea was intriguing and that I ought to send it in. I did a revision on it and sent it in May—in July I heard back that they really liked it. I suggested putting in the recipes mentioned in the story, and voila, we had a culinary mystery on our hands.

Q. In the back of "Lemon Tart," we get an excerpt from the next book in the series, "English Trifle." When will it be released?

A. “English Trifle” will be out in August 2009. It takes place in Devonshire, where Sadie and her daughter have traveled to learn about the other side of Breanna's boyfriend’s life—he’s the heir to an Earldom. The feel we've been kind of going for is Paula Deen (cooking show host) meets Angela Lansbury.

Q. How many books are planned for the series?

A. Right now we're planning on three for sure, but hope to do several—I have preliminary ideas for at least six. The third book, “Devil's Food Cake,” will hopefully be out spring of 2010.

Q. Was your writing or research technique different for this series than it has been from the novels you've written in the past?

A. Not really. I made up a fictional city, which I'd never done before, and so I had to figure out what it would look like and how to pattern it, and I had to look into some police procedural, but I don't think I did any more or less research than other books. The writing was about the same—jumping here and there and all over until it eventually came together.

One thing that made me a little nervous is that I don't generally like mystery novels. I like suspense, and romantic suspense, and things like that, but the true-blue-mystery novel isn't something I've ever really loved. So, writing one seemed a little off base, but then I added things I like about other genres and ended up quite happy with the result. Another thing I probably shouldn't admit is that I've never actually read a culinary mystery all the way through. I've picked up several but got bored before I ever finished it—which inspired me to hopefully write one that people wouldn't be able to put down. People always say read what you write, but for me it didn't work out that way. I wrote what I wanted to read, and yet I did learn about and understand the expectations of the genre enough to know what rules I could break, and what rules were carved in stone.

Q. What has been the most enjoyable thing about writing "Lemon Tart?"

A. Sadie. I just absolutely love that woman. She's spunky, domestic, accepting, and just clever enough to keep things interesting. I love that she's not a professional, but she's smart and loving and just plain good. I really enjoy being domestic—I looooove to cook, I love trying new recipes, I love feeding the people around me, and I don't even mind cleaning most of the time. It was fun to write about someone that embraces those same things. I also love writing about strong female protagonists, and I hope she's the kind of woman that readers read and say "Yeah, that's who I want to be." I know that's how she made me feel.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, Josi!

If you’d like to read the first chapter of “Lemon Tart” before dashing out the door to buy it, you can read it at

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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Kathleen (new) - added it

Kathleen Tristi, I really wish you would let AML put your reviews of LDS books in the AML Review Archive.

I've got it up-to-date now and reviews of your STRENGTH TO ENDURE and SEASONS OF SACRIFICE are there now.

Too many of the books that come in for review for AML are the scholarly ones or the religious ones, and we need more on books like this one.

Please consider it?

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