Book Review: Hard Dough Homicide by Olivia Matthews

  • Title: Hard Dough Homicide
  • Series: Spice Isle Bakery Mysteries #2
  • Author: Olivia Matthews
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Publication date: May 23, 2023
  • Would I recommend: Definitely! The characters, the setting, the mystery all combine to make this a tasty treat of a book!


Someone in Brooklyn’s Little Caribbean neighborhood has an appetite for murder in Olivia Matthews’ Hard Dough Homicide .

Spice Isle Bakery owner Lyndsay Murray is always looking for new ways to grow her family’s business. But she already regrets agreeing to host the retirement dinner for local high school principal Emily Smith. The tyrant used to be her mother’s boss and they did not get along. Six guests arrive for the celebration, but only five survive. Emily starts convulsing―right after eating the curry chicken―and dies soon after. It’s not long before the police are knocking on Spice Isle’s door, bringing the Murray family back into the heart of another murder investigation―driving away customers in the process. Lyndsay can’t help but wonder if this is the end of the bakery, even though it’s just begun. She must put aside her reservations about investigating another crime, because the Murrays refuse to go down without a fight.

My review:

Happy book birthday to Olivia Matthews!

Lyndsay Murray is fresh off solving a murder, at no small risk to herself. She’s ready to get back into the groove with her business, Spice Isle Bakery. She and other family members – her parents, her granny – are working hard to build their customer base. But when her mother’s former boss, principal Emily Smith, wants the bakery to host her retirement dinner, Lyndsay is prepared to tell her not no, but HAIL, no. To her surprise, her mother – whose relationship with Emily was tense, to put it mildly – is in favor of the bakery hosting the dinner.

There were only five other guests at the dinner. When Emily has convulsions shortly after the dinner began, they all appear to be shocked. Given their acrimonious past, the detectives on the case quickly zero in on Cendella (“Mommy” to Lyndsay) as a person of interest – and apparently their only suspect. And since Emily collapsed shortly after starting her meal, the presumption is that the food was somehow tainted and perhaps the bakery is to blame. Lyndsay realizes she’s going to have to get involved and do some investigating of her own, to save both her mother and the bakery.

This is my first venture into the world of Spice Isle Bakery, but it won’t be the last. I absolutely loved this book! Olivia Matthews creates a space that’s warm and inviting, like you would expect a bakery to be. I’ll own to having pretty much zero knowledge of Grenadian culture – Caribbean culture at all, I should say – but now I want to learn more.

The characters are fantastic. I loved the lovable ones and disliked the detestable ones. Turns out Emily Smith was a real piece of work, and she was mean to everybody, not just Cendella. Like, REALLY mean. But who had she upset so much that they wanted to kill her just when she was about to retire and be out of their hair?

I loved how the family pitched in with the bakery, with investigating, with everything. They pulled together to support each other and work through challenging times. I also liked that their faith was a visible part of the story without being the least bit preachy. And I was delighted by the fact that, after an initial shock, their faithful customers not only came back, but stood up for them when a local festival tried to remove the bakery as a vendor. That made me cheer!

The mystery was intricate enough to keep me guessing, and I really liked the method the killer used. It was one I’ve never seen in a book before. (Tiny spoiler: the food wasn’t poisoned! But y’all probably figured that out already.) There are little sparks of romance between Lyndsay and one of the detectives (he was her high school crush), but she’s determined not to give him the time of day as long as he seems determined to cast her mother in the role of a murder suspect. I’m curious to see where things go with them in future books!

And just for that final kiss of perfection, the book has recipes. Y’all know I love a book with recipes. I see hard dough bread and coconut drops in my future.

Hard Dough Homicide is a warm hug of a book that almost perfectly captures what I look for in a cozy mystery. (A bookstore or library is my preferred setting, but a bakery is a close second!) I’m eagerly anticipating more adventures with Lyndsay and her family!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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