Penne Dreadful Is Anything But Dreadful

Mystery Book Review | Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns

Poisoned Pen Press ▪️ July 30, 2019 ▪️ 416 pages

In stores today!

Penne Dreadful, a new mystery series by Catherine Bruns, is a full-bodied novel with a spicy finish that leaves you excited for more.  In this emotional opener, the reader meets Theresa Esposito, Tess or Tessa for short — just like yours truly.  Her husband recently passed away in a car accident, and Tessa is determined to find out who killed him no matter the cost.  The answers aren’t always what she expects, but it all comes together into a story that is as satisfying to the reader as the right wine is to an Italian meal.

There is an emotional journey story that exists over and above the who-done-it tale. I loved that the reader can experience Tessa in such a vulnerable place. She is a woman recently widowed and going through a mixed bag of emotions while trying to process the death of her husband and get to a place where she can move forward.  In cozy mysteries, it is typical for the characters, including the main character, to be rather 2-dimensional.  The characters don’t experience deep emotions. When you read Penne Dreadful, you go on that turbulent roller coaster of emotions that only grief can cause and get to know Tessa on a much deeper level.

Tessa Esposito has a lot of moxie.  Even through the grief, the reader can tell that Tessa is spunky and that she has the potential to turn into a fun amateur detective.  I look forward to book after book as she moves away from her grief and shows her full personality.

The recipes and Tessa’s cooking only play a minor role and does not take over the book as I have seen in other series.  Tessa is a chef, and she makes a prize-winning tomato sauce, so the reader expects there to be cooking, and if we are lucky —recipes —though this never takes over the story and that is appreciated.  I loved this story and would have been disappointed if my attention had been split between the story and cookbook qualities.

I would love to see the series continue and develop the other characters as profoundly as Tessa’s character is. Gabby, Gino, and Justin have stories that need sharing, and I am looking forward to seeing their stories play out as the series continues.

I would also love to see a character introduced in future books that adds a touch of humor to the stories.  Gabby has the potential of being that comic relief, but she needs more development.  The comedy wouldn’t have fit into this story since grief plays such a central role, but I look forward to it as the series progresses.

Penne Dreadful is a must-read, no matter what genres you prefer!  There is something in it for all readers.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

9 Comments

  1. I’ve been starting to appreciate cozies more. I’ve always stuck mostly to thriller and suspense, but lately I’ve read several cozies that make me think I need to spend more time in the genre. This sounds like the start of a series with excellent potential. Love the title, too.
    Thanks for sharing your review!

    1. Cozies are fun especially if you like puzzles because the author is supposed to provide true clues along with red herrings. Some do this better than others, of course, but I never tire of the puzzle 🙂

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