THERE’S A MURDER AFOOT, the fifth book in the Sherlock Bookshop Mysteries by Vicki Delany, is another entertaining addition to one of my favorite series. Protagonist Gemma Doyle is part owner and the manager of the Sherlock Homes Bookshop and Emporium in West London, Massachusetts. Despite not being a huge fan of Sherlock, Gemma is quite knowledgeable and has a sharp sense of observation not unlike the famous detective. I’ve always enjoyed the setting of the bookshop but in this new release Gemma and her good friends head across the pond to London, England. It was a treat to be introduced to Gemma’s family which adds another layer of insight into her character. I especially enjoyed seeing her interact with her mysterious sister, Pippa. The set up makes it seem like the reader might be treated to future storylines featuring both sisters. One of the great strengths of Ms. Delany is her character development which makes the story come alive.
When Gemma’s father is accused of murdering his estranged and felonious brother-in-law, Gemma knows she has to get involved in finding the truth. Despite pointing out overlooked clues to the detective in charge, Gemma still can’t convince him of her father’s innocence. I loved how she teamed up with her friends to ask questions as the trail led her to the dark world of art forgery with her sister providing some background practical assistance. Again there are parallels to the original Sherlock books and this series for the sharp reader to pick out. With clues sprinkled throughout the quest, I was still surprised with the twists and turns the plot took. An exciting finish wrapped up the book and left me wanting the next in this series to be available sooner than later!
While there aren’t any recipes in the book, Ms. Delany has graciously shared her own yummy Hummingbird Cake creation for this post. Oh my goodness… so many delicious ingredients packed into one cake! Rich, thanks to loads of walnuts and coconut, and exceptionally moist thanks to a generous amount of pineapple and bananas. Hummingbird Cake is a bit reminiscent of carrot cake but imbibes a tropical flavor that is enhanced with the tangy cream cheese frosting. I greatly appreciated that the leftovers were just as delicious, if not more so, the next day after being refrigerated. I’ll be making this cake for special occasions especially since I know it will hold up to storing for a day or two.
Gemma Doyle and her friends travel to London for a Sherlock Holmes convention–but will Gemma’s father take the fall for a felonious forger’s fatality?
The 6th of January is Sherlock Holmes’s birthday, and lucky for Gemma Doyle, January is also the slowest time of the year at both the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, and Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room. It’s a good time for Gemma and her friends to travel to England for a Holmes Convention. For Gemma, the trip provides an opportunity to visit her parents, Jayne Wilson is excited about seeing all the sites London has to offer, and Ryan Ashburton just wants to spend some time with Gemma. But the trip is immediately derailed when Gemma’s father Henry recognizes his brother-in-law Randolph Denhaugh, who disappeared more than thirty years ago on the night he stole a valuable painting from his own parents.
Henry, a retired detective with Scotland Yard, has been keeping tabs on the man’s career as a forger of Old Masters and he warns Randy to stay away from his family. It’s up to Gemma, with the help of her friends, to plunge into the “lowest and vilest alleys” of London to save her father from prison.
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I once made this cake for a pot luck. The owner of Saylor’s House Café in Bloomfield, Ontario was there and she liked the cake so much she begged me for the recipe. It’s now featured on their regular menu!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large)
- 1 can (8-ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9 inch-by-2 inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of pans with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust pans with flour, tapping out any excess; set pans aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
Place oil, vanilla, and sugar in an electric mixer and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and pale yellow.
In a medium bowl, stir together banana, pineapple, walnuts, and coconut. Add to egg mixture, stir until well combined. Add flour mixture; blend well.
Divide mixture between prepared pans. Bake until golden brown, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.
Transfer pans to a baking rack to cool. Let pans cool 15 minutes before removing. Cool completely before icing.
Recommended icing: Your favorite cream cheese frosting
Cream together 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 4 ounces softened butter and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Beat in 2 cups confectioners' sugar. Once incorporated add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice. Beat in an additional 2 cups confectioners' sugar and whip for 3 minutes until light and creamy. If necessary, add an additional 1 - 2 teaspoons lemon juice if consistency is too stiff.
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I was provided an advance copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.