Book Review

Against The Currant

Against the Currant: A Spice Isle Bakery Mystery

  • Author: Olivia Matthews
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Publication Date: January 24, 2023
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
  • Series: Spice Isle Bakery Mystery #1

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Paperbacks for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: mention of past bullying, mention of cancer, murder

In Olivia Matthews’s Against the Currant, the first Spice Isle Bakery Mystery, investigating a murder was never supposed to be on the menu…

Little Caribbean, Brooklyn, New York: Lyndsay Murray is opening Spice Isle Bakery with her family, and it’s everything she’s ever wanted. The West Indian bakery is her way to give back to the community she loves, stay connected to her Grenadian roots, and work side-by-side with her family. The only thing getting a rise out of Lyndsay is Claudio Fabrizi, a disgruntled fellow bakery owner who does not want any competition.

On opening day, he comes into the bakery threatening to shut them down. Fed up, Lyndsay takes him to task in front of what seems to be the whole neighborhood. So when Claudio turns up dead a day later—murdered—Lyndsay is unfortunately the prime suspect. To get the scent of suspicion off her and her bakery, Lyndsay has to prove she’s innocent—under the watchful eyes of her overprotective brother, anxious parents, and meddlesome extended family—what could go wrong?

I love a good cozy mystery, and while some of them have started incorporating diversity, I’ve only seen one other series actually written by a person of color (A Noodle Shop Mystery series by Vivienne Chien). So I was excited to read this one, especially one set so close to home.

Matthews manages to take a huge, busy borough like Brooklyn and imbue it with that small-town vibe that’s commonly found in cozy mysteries. Many parts of the boroughs are broken into sections by ethnicity, so you’ll find areas like Chinatown, Spanish Harlem, Little Italy, or in this case, Little Caribbean. I’m not familiar with the area, but it was wonderful to see an area that’s dominated by Caribbean immigrants and their descendants, who stay true to their cultural traditions and values, opening local businesses and staying involved in the community. It allows Lyndsay and her family to know everyone within their neighborhood, greeting customers by name, but also allowing everyone to know everyone else’s business.

However, this book wasn’t what I was hoping. The writing was repetitive, often spending far too much time on descriptions that weren’t necessary to furthering the plot. There were a ton of customer interactions detailed, and they didn’t have much bearing on the story other than demonstrating that Lyndsay and her family are heavily invested in the community and offer fantastic customer service. 

Possibly due to the amount of descriptive and redundant writing, the story itself is incredibly slow-moving. Rather than following the typical formula for a cozy, Lyndsay spends nearly a quarter of the book justifying her decision to start investigating on her own, and only takes action halfway through the book. The police officers are basically incompetent, and don’t really take any investigative action at all, even when provided with a plethora of information, only focusing their efforts on Lyndsay. They ignore any evidence that contradicts their theories. 

By the time the action happens, I was already kind of bored by the story. The big reveal turned out to be anticlimactic, and I struggled to stay in the story. Everything felt so repetitive that it got a little boring, and I wasn’t fully invested in the characters, especially Lyndsay. She came across as a pushover for so much of the story, then swung to the other extreme and became very assertive. It was difficult to fully empathize with her. Overall, this was a slow-moving story that I didn’t completely love, and wouldn’t continue reading in the future.

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