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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Murder in the Vineyard by Denise Jaden is the fourth book in the Mallory Beck Cozy Culinary Capers series. Mallory is facing a scary next step in her life – and it isn't another murder. She's going on an unofficial date with Alex, her childhood friend. Taking a step back into the dating world since the loss of her husband, she tells herself that the Bible Study they're attending makes it not a real date. Their not-a-real-date quickly turns deadly when one of the others attending the study is later found dead. This sets Mallory on the path of another murder mystery and, with the help of her friend Amber, they soon find themselves on the trail of a killer.
The tone and style that Denise Jaden employs in her writing are always enjoyable and blend the clever use of humor with the details. An example of this is seen with Mallory talking to her late husband's cat to reassure him that she hasn't forgotten her husband and to justify her not-a-date. The series has consistently maintained a lighthearted tone though Jaden has woven in serious elements such as the grieving and healing that comes after a loss. The different characters add so much to the world that Jaden has created and provide a balance to Mallory's quirky headstrong personality. Her feelings for Alex have been explored since the start of the series, which has given a subtle romantic comedy element to the mysteries while giving her a way into the investigations through his role as a detective. Stepping back into dating is a huge step for Mallory after losing her husband which Jaden explores with a gentleness that shows the nervousness of starting over while also using it to add humor.
Another important relationship in her life is with Amber who she bonded with over their shared experiences with grief and have formed a kinship. Family tension continues to be a subtle thread in this series, previously mentioned with Amber's family, and in this, Mallory's relationship with her father continues to be explored. No Mallory Beck mystery would be complete without the adorable Hunch and his sixth sense. With his vivid personality, he helps with the cases. Jaden succeeds in capturing the quirkiness of a cat's attitude and it's always a delight when Hunch is in a scene. Murder in the Vineyard is a win for the series with another hard-to-put-down mystery.