Baking Bad (Beaufort Scales Mystery #1)

By Kim M. Watt

Rating: 3 stars

This self-described “cosy” mystery was suggested to me by a friend who knows my low tolerance for grimdark as an antidote to that. And she wasn’t wrong! The vicar has been murdered (poisoned by a cupcake, no less), and signs point to the local WI ladies as being the prime suspects. They have to clear their own names, while also hiding the fact that they’ve made friends with a group of nearby dragons. Dragons who, it turns out, like tea and cake as much as the WI does.

There is definitely a strong element of farce to this, to a degree that would even make PG Wodehouse mutter “steady on”. I struggled with this to start with, and with the degree of all-round bumbling by just about all concerned. From the RAF Wing Commander (retired) who leads the WI, to the local hippie, and the investigating police office, DI Adams.

The police didn’t seem to be hugely competent, as they ran around, accepting cake and sandwiches from possible suspects, not securing crime scenes and general ditziness. The Folly these guys ain’t. Mind you, Nightingale (or Peter, or even Abigail) would have clocked the chief dragon, Beaufort (who’s just trying to help out his human pals) on the first encounter and had a stern word. But DI Adams is just a normal police officer trying to do a job in trying circumstances, albeit with the obligatory Mysterious Past.

The dragons are almost the least interesting things about the book. They’re mostly invisible to people who don’t know they’re there and are mostly interested in tea and cake. Beaufort, after whom the series is named, is the chief of the tribe and is supposedly this ancient dragon, who remembers a time when knights would hunt and kill dragons. But he mostly just feels like a jolly uncle who encourages kids to get into mischief. There’s an interesting section part-way through when there’s hints that not all dragons like the idea of interacting with humans, and some would rather they just went away, but this, or indeed any other aspect of dragon society, isn’t really explored (something to hold back for later books?).

It’s a fun enough book, and the characters are likeable but you’re not given enough hints to solve the mystery yourself. You’re basically following along as both the police and the WI work things out. There’s a free collection of short stories in the universe that I’ll pick up, but I don’t know if I’ll pay for any more in the series.

Book details

Year of publication: 2018

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