Bronwyn Crewse is delighted that Crewse Creamery, the ice cream shop her family has owned for decades, is restored to its former glory and serving sweet frozen treats to happy customers in the picturesque small town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. But when a big city developer comes to town intent on building a mall, a killer with a frozen heart takes him out.
After literally stumbling across the body, one of Win’s closest friends becomes the prime suspect, and to make things worse, Win’s aunt has come to town with the intention of taking command of Crewse Creamery. Even though Win has a rocky road ahead to help her friend and keep her ice cream shop, it’ll take more than a sprinkle of murder to stop her from solving the crime and saving the day.
Title: A Game of Cones | Series: An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery #2 | Author: Abby Collette | Genre: Mystery | Language: English | Pages: 347 | ISBN: 0593099680 | Publisher: Berkley | Pub. Date: March 2, 2021 | Source: Library | Unstarred Review
It feels a little strange to review the second entry in a series having not reviewed the first, but I’ll do my best to tiptoe around spoilers for both books. Here’s what you need to know about my thoughts on the first Ice Cream Parlor Mystery book (A Deadly Inside Scoop) – it was fine. It was a perfectly enjoyable three star read that I liked just enough to want to read the next one. After finishing A Game of Cones though, I’m not sure I would be up for a third entry (which I see is set to release early next year).
The series centers around Bronwyn Crewse, who leaves a job in New York City to return to the small town of Chagrin Falls to run her family’s ice cream parlor. The first book focuses on her struggle to re-open the shop in the middle of winter, while also trying to clear her dad’s name after a visitor to the town is found dead behind her store. The central mystery was fine, but I was more invested in the day-to-day operations of the parlor. It was a simple story with low stakes that fit the description of being a “cozy mystery.”
When we pick up in the second book, the store is doing well but things are once again complicated when someone from out of town is murdered (I hope the third book addresses a dip in local tourism on account of the high chance of murder). This time it’s a developer who had come to town to propose the building of a mall. The idea is not well received which creates a large (almost too large) list of suspects. Bronwyn and her best friend Maisie once again take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and good thing because the police don’t seem to give a fuck about any of it this time.
While the mystery of the first book wasn’t amazing, it was interesting enough to make me want to see the resolution. I did not care about the mystery in this book and a big reason is that the investigation is not engaging. Bronwyn and Maisie are shit investigators. They don’t have to put together a series of clues or come up with any logical reasoning. Any time they get information it’s because they stumble into it or are blatantly told it by someone else. They never have to be clever or outsmart anyone. Things just happen through exposition, which doesn’t make for an interesting mystery.
I wasn’t a big Maisie fan in the first book, but she was tolerable. I cannot say the same for her in book two. Her character has become way, WAY, too much to deal with here. The book makes sure to continuously mention that Maisie is huge into true crime podcasts, which means she is supposed to be good at this stuff but she is the worst of all. There’s no list of suspects that is whittled down over time. She jumps from suspect to suspect and often refuses to give up on one even when new information comes to light that makes it impossible for them to be the murderer. Her interrogation style is basically this:
“So why did you murder that guy you murderer?!”
“I…didn’t murder anyone, what are you talking about?”
“They don’t seem very cooperative. It’s probably because they’re the murderer.”
That’s it. That’s all she does in every situation and nobody calls her out on it or tries to reign her in. It pisses everyone off and in some cases, actively causes the parlor to lose customers. Even still, not only do they continue with this approach, but they all seem confused that their methods aren’t working.
Though at least Maisie has a personality, as grating as it is. The story is stuffed with characters but I can hardly tell you anything about any of them. I often forgot who some of them were. It’s ok though because most of them hardly play a role in the story except to be interrogated as a suspect. There’s an intriguing subplot set-up with Bronwyn’s Aunt Jack. She was the previous owner of the ice cream parlor and had a lot of unique ideas (selling lottery tickets and other non-ice cream related endeavors) that did not go over well. She arrives back in town and seems intent on taking the business back. Her character is immediately worthy of being a villain but this whole story goes nowhere. I often forget the Aunt was even around until the book threw me a quick reminder. It doesn’t feel like set-up for future series’ installments either. It feels forgotten about which is unfortunate because it’s the one element I was eager to see more of.
I doubt it would surprise you to hear that I didn’t find the resolution of the mystery to be satisfying either. This could be considered mild spoiler territory so fair warning. The ending feels completely rushed which is an odd choice for a story that, prior to that, had not been concerned about taking its time to get anywhere. It turns into a full on James Bond villain monologue where the culprit reveals far more than is necessary about their motivations. It’s a fittingly unsatisfying ending to an unsatisfying investigation.
The biggest compliment I can pay A Game of Cones is that I saw it through to the end. I was just interested enough in the saga of the ice cream parlor and the murder mystery that I wanted to see it all to its conclusion. I still like the general idea of following the citizens of a charming small town as they investigate low stakes murders, but going forward I think I will try and get my fill of that elsewhere.
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Sci-fi & Cozy?
If you want more small town (island, even) ice-cream related cosies, I recommend Death by Ice-cream, the first in the Pismawallops PTA series. I love them. Rebecca M. Douglass is the author.
Loved your review of this; you picked out all the holes I’d probably get irritated by without putting my finger on why. Kudos!