A Dash of Death is a solid cozy mystery. It starts at a party where reporter Samantha Warren, reeling over a bad breakup, is serving up the homemade bitters she’d made as party favours for her (now-cancelled) wedding. Unfortunately, one of the guests dies after ingesting oleander from one of the cocktails, and his estranged wife, Gabby, sues Samantha for damages.
It’s a classic set up for a cozy mystery, and I liked Samantha as a character. Much of her character arc focuses on her learning to become more confident in trusting her instincts, and I love how her love life, her career, and the current mystery, all play into that growth. I also like how she figures out how to turn her personal and professional disasters into viable next steps for her career, and I thought her journey into embracing her interest in mixology felt relatable.
The mystery itself felt a bit of a stretch at times, not so much because of the suspects or the reveal, but because I couldn’t quite understand why Samantha was so emotionally involved in the case. While she did start out as a prime suspect, the police switched their suspicions to Gabby fairly early on, and much of Samantha’s investigation is because she wants to prove Gabby’s innocence. Partly, she feels sorry for Gabby’s teenage daughter, and partly, she also gets a good vibe from Gabby and doesn’t think she could be a killer. The thing is, they initially met when Gabby tried to sue Samantha, so Gabby’s a major reason that Samantha’s involved in this mess in the first place. So while I can understand that Samantha believes Gabby is innocent, I don’t get why she’s so determined to prove it, even when it means risking her own neck.
Apart from that, the author did a good job of providing us with multiple red herrings and viable other suspects. The big reveal felt a bit anti-climactic, mostly because I thought some of the other suspects had more compelling backstories, but I didn’t guess the bad guy’s identity or motive at all, which was good.
The romantic subplot is cute, and I thought the love interest seemed sweet. That part of the story didn’t quite hook me as strongly as it could have, though, mostly because so much of this novel seems to set up a love triangle between Samantha, her ex, and the new guy, and while I appreciate the author delving into Samantha’s complex and unresolved feelings about her ex, the love triangle itself never quite felt believable. So I look forward to see how the romance subplot expands in later books.
Thank you to Crooked Lane Books for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.