Blackberry Crumble earlier this year, and before that, I read and wrote short reviews of the four preceding books in the series. Since they're all just light mysteries with a lot of the same plot twists and I also always seem to hate the endings, I wondered if I would really have anything new to say about this one.
But then, the plot actually was different, and I actually didn't hate the ending, so I thought, Might as well.
When the story begins, Sadie and her boyfriend (Detective Pete Cunningham) are in Boston babysitting Pete's three grandsons for a week. (Sadie and Pete are both in their 50's, widowed, with grown children.) On their very first night, they look out the window and notice the neighbor across the street acting very strangely: digging in the dark, making odd hand gestures in the air, etc. When this woman thrusts her fist into the air and a light bulb in the room Sadie's in simultaneously explodes, Sadie is officially creeped out. But of course, being creeped out doesn't mean she'll ignore the disturbing happenings in the neighborhood. In fact, they spur her on to putting her nose where it doesn't belong, baking up a storm, and ultimately answering some pretty difficult questions.
I've read a lot of reviews from people who say this series gets better with each book. If you've read my reviews, you know I don't exactly agree with that. While I think the quality of writing sees some, but definitely not drastic, improvement over the course of the series, I've been disappointed with the final resolution/reveal at the end of almost all the books. In fact, I would have to say that up until this one, I probably enjoyed the first books in the series (Lemon Tart) the very most because even though the plot wasn't as creative as some of the others, the ending didn't leave me totally frustrated and dissatisfied.
So I was pleasantly surprised with Pumpkin Roll. It maintained all of the things I've liked about the other books (which is why I keep reading them): Sadie's crazy antics, an interesting plot, some funny dialogue, etc. But then, it also had an ending that I felt was completely plausible. I didn't guess who the perpetrator was, but when everything came out, I looked back and remembered the little hints that had pointed in that direction. The story had a great set-up, execution, and resolution. The ending was still a surprise (for me at least), but it wasn't an unbelievable shocker.
Also, this story actually did not involve a murder, which I found totally different and refreshing. Instead, there were dangerous psychopaths, seemingly supernatural occurrences, and a (maybe) witch. Added to the stunning backdrop of Boston in the fall (even if many of the descriptions were, in my opinion, rather superficial), all of these details combined to make this a really great read for Halloween. (At the risk of revealing my nerdier side, I'll tell you that for months I've been trying to time it just right so I'd be in the mood for a Sadie Hoffmiller book and be ready for this particular book in the series in October. It worked out almost exactly the way I wanted it to: I started reading this book on the day before Halloween.)
I also really liked the little bit of suspicion and distrust that surrounded Pete in this installment. He's usually such a stable, no-nonsense kind of character (a great counterpart to Sadie), so learning about some of the secrets from his past was a nice little twist (even though I'm pretty sure Josi Kilpack herself didn't realize Pete Cunningham had such intriguing secrets until this novel).
I am curious how long this series will be able to sustain itself (this is #6, and #10 came out a couple months ago). I only wonder this because with each book, Sadie's mental health (as well as her good standing in her small community) slip a little more (who can blame her when she keeps stumbling into dangerous, life-threatening situations?). This story especially involved more of a personal attack against Sadie herself, and I can tell from looking at the next book that she will suffer some psychological repercussions because of it. I'm interested to see if Kilpack can eventually restore some of Sadie's sanity because if it keeps trending the direction it's looking, Sadie will be a total nutcase in about one more book.
After I finished this book, I decided it was time for something a little more substantial, so I plunged back into A Mind at a Time. But I only read one more chapter of it before I decided I was ready for another break. Light, fun reads definitely have their place.