Baking Bad—A Cozy Mystery (With Dragons)
By Kim M. Watt
Okay, first of all how on earth could I NOT snatch up a book which touted itself as a cozy mystery with dragons in? I’m a big fan of cozy mysteries, and a huge fan of dragons (hi Wyvrndell!), so it was a natural. So how did I fare?
In a word, wonderfully! Kim Watt has created a charming small English village, complete with a (murdered) vicar, the ubiquitous Women’s Institute, motives and suspects galore, and lots of tea and scones and cakes. And dragons, let us not forget about the dragons…
Engaging characters, a setting Miss Marple would feel right at home in, and a crackerjack mystery to solve. There is, of course, a dogged if somewhat beset Detective Inspector sent down from London to the hinterlands to investigate. All the elements are there, and Kim Watt does a marvelous job weaving them all together into one joyously fun package that Dame Agatha herself would have been proud to own, had she fancied dragons.
Kim’s dragons are…well, let’s just say “untraditional”. There’s Beaufort Scales (yes, I know, I know—but darn it, it’s fun!! Actually, it’s brilliant), who’s the High Lord of the local clan of dragons. Beaufort has dragged his dragons kicking and screaming into the 21st century and made friends with the ladies of the WI. I have to say (with no little relish) that he reminds me of Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham (cf PG Wodehouse, “Uncle Dynamite”). If you are not familiar with this mischievous and madcap peer, I highly recommend you hie yourself to the library (after you’ve finished Baking Bad, of course), and complete your education. There’s Mortimer (let me say here that I adore Mortimer, playing Pongo to Beaufort’s Uncle Fred), who gets unwillingly dragged in draconic investigatory work.
The human characters are equally enchanting. There’s Alice, retired RAF Wing Commander and now head of the Women’s Institute (and dealing with some very intriguing issues from her past). There’s Miriam, an herbalist (and hedge-witch?) who grows belladonna in her garden and provides tea and comestibles for the dragons. And there’s DI Adams, who’ rather be anywhere but the backwater of Toot Hansell, and who has a feeling things just aren’t quite right—and not just with the WI and the murder.
The dragons are chameleon-like, able to blend in to their surroundings so that only someone who knows they are there (or is thinking about dragons) can actually see them. Normally people’s vision just gets rather re-directed to something less, um, dragonish. This allows Beaufort and Mortimer to aid and abet the ladies of the WI to search for clues, interrogate witnesses, engage in general Keystone-Cops mayhem, and ultimately unmask the killer.
The story is told from multiple points of view, but Kim is adroit at handling this, avoiding any mindboggling head-hopping among them. There is a nice tension revealed among the dragon clan itself (isolationists vs expansionists, a topic of no little interest in these days of modern times). And Kim leaves unanswered a number of issues raised in this book (backstory for which I hoped I’d get resolution) that make me want more right now darn it! I’m hoping I’ll get these questions answered in Yule Be Sorry, the next installment of this series.
Overall, Wyvrndell and I concur: Baking Bad is a total romp that any dragon-lover not stuck in the smaug (see what I did there?) will love. Get your talons on this book now and enjoy.