This is the second instalment of Arya Winters (the first was Arya Winters and the Tiramisu of Death). The series is shelved as a cosy, but I’m never sure it is really a cosy.
It’s a murder mystery, and yes, as the Booklist review suggests, it is deliberately irreverent. The trope of the ‘nice’ woman is an old and tired one. I have no time for it. Arya let’s me explore all the sides of myself – dysfunctional, neurotic, high anxiety, very blunt, intense – that it’s sometimes hard for women to explore in real life.
Do I push the bar a bit with how irreverent it gets? Yep, for sure. There’s no point pushing the bar a tiny little safe amount. So there is a little bit of sex, there is a some swearing, and yes, ribald humour, there is some of that. But there is also an exploration of vulnerability. Emotional dysfunction. How we hide or reveal our true selves. How desperately we want to connect with others and how we get in our own way.
Arya is invited to bake for a residential art retreat not far from Trucklewood. All Arya wants is to get away from her nosy neighbours and get some time off from feeling terrible about her break up with Branwell. So, off she goes to the retreat. And of course who should arrive there but Branwell. (You didn’t really think this would be a Bran-free book, did you?)
Murdery things happen. Arya has to grapple with her demons. She is excruciatingly blunt. She doesn’t like to hold on to secrets, her own or others’. And this house is a buzzing hive of secrets and it’s all Arya can do to not put her foot in her mouth all the time. Oh, and Bran has a perky girlfriend with a perky ponytail, and that isn’t helping anything either.
This book comes out just in time for Christmas 2022.