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Book review: 'Baked Alaska' cruises through mysteries

"BAKED ALASKA," by Josi S. Kilpack, Shadow Mountain, $18.99, 340 pages (f)

Sadie Hoffmiller is no stranger to danger.

Well-meaning but unable to resist solving a mystery or righting a wrong, the middle-aged, self-appointed amateur sleuth consistently finds herself in the middle of troublesome situations.

In "Baked Alaska," Hoffmiller, her policeman boyfriend Pete, her son Shawn and daughter Breanna try to simply take a vacation cruise to Alaska. But trouble pops up right away.

Hoffmiller sees her son try to brush off a woman with pink and black braids who later turns up gravely ill.

When the police want to question Shawn, Sadie's mother bear instincts kick in but Shawn won't talk about her or the young woman who apparently boarded the ship with the mystery woman.

Hoffmiller has to try to deal with the stress of being a mother, her curiosity and suspicions as well as hurt feelings when her children shut her out and refuse to tell her what's going on.

She has to let Pete take the lead, and she's supposed to stay out of the investigation (which, of course, she doesn't).

As the mystery deepens and other lives on the ship are affected, Hoffmiller can't help trying to determine who's at fault and what's going on.

Her questions lead her to poker games, syringes and poison.

Author Josi S. Kilpack has matured a bit in "Baked Alaska," which is the ninth in a series of culinary mysteries. The story is nicely paced. Hoffmiller's reactions to her son's and daughter's rebuffs feel honest and real.

The relationship between Pete and Sadie, though, still feels just a little odd. These are mature people who recognize they are in love, have both been married before and need each other in their lives, so it feels kind of contrived to have them wait and wait some more to get engaged and married.

Their relationship does make some movement, which helps, but it feels like a contrivance to keep Sadie single for future stories.

Breanna's wedding, however, is a substory that moves forward in a fairly simple way after some early in-law complications that would probably derail most wedding plans.

That said, the story is very readable and interesting.

The details about the cruise ship experience are informative and obviously drawn from personal experience on the part of the author.

The feelings Sadie has when she finds out both her children are trying to find their birth parents (without her help) reflect those of probably a lot of adoptive parents.

The characters she interacts with along the way are flawed human beings with issues of their own. And because Sadie tends to rush ahead on her own to get information, she gets into jams that certainly create tension in the story.

It makes for a fairly intriguing book that is clean, free of any sexual innuendo or untoward violence.

Take it along on your next cruise just for fun.

And, as always, the recipes alone at the end of each chapter are worth the price of the book.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at