“Troubles Wedding Caper,” by Jen Talty and “The Truffle with Weddings,” by Laura Durham

Reviewed by Claire Hamner Matturro 

Isn’t there something about a cozy mystery and a wedding that makes for a natural nexus between the two? A cozy mystery—a subgenre of crime fiction—is charming, but not without its drama, tension, and suspense, which, it so happens, are also elements of a typical wedding. Thus, within the ever-popular genre of cozy mystery, two new excellent additions appeared this February, each with a story line tangled up with weddings. Jen Talty’s Trouble’s Wedding Caper and Laura Durham’s The Truffle with Weddings debuted on the same day; both are witty and clever mysteries with appealing protagonists (named Annabelle/Annabel), and both are the latest installments in an established series. Despite these similarities, each book is unique; fans of the mystery genre can gobble up both with no sense of repetition or redundancy.

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Trouble’s Wedding Caper is the eighth book in a series features Trouble, the black cat detective. Trouble, for those not familiar with him, is an arrogant but astute cat who can sniff out clues that humans miss. His main problem, though, is how to communicate what he has discovered to the seemingly dense humans.

The Trouble series is the brainchild of award-winning and best-selling author Carolyn Haines. Each book in the series, however, is the creation of a different author and, therefore, reflects different styles and involves different locales.

In Jen Talty’s Trouble’s Wedding Caper, Annabel Wilder leaves New York City after her fiancé cheats on her during her best friend’s wedding. Brokenhearted and humbled, Annabel returns home to Jupiter, Florida, to seek a new life. She grew up in Jupiter, her best friend (who is happily married and pregnant) still lives there, and the young man she’s secretly had a crush on since high school is a police officer in the city. She agrees to cat-sit for Trouble when his person, Tammy Lynn, takes a trip. Trouble settles in, relishing the setting and the fresh local seafood, but treacherous events soon derail his plans for a relaxing vacation.

A realtor by trade, Annabel is short on funds after buying a condo. She’s studying for the Florida realtor’s exam and working part-time for a man who might—or might not—be a villain. As both a potential way to increase her financial situation, and a way to seek new adventure, Annabel bids on an abandoned storage unit. She hopes to find hidden treasures she can profit from inside the unit and with Trouble’s help, she wins her bid. That’s when the problems and the danger start.

The storage unit contains treasures, including expensive wedding gowns, veils, and other trappings from weddings, plus a gigantic diamond ring and other jewelry. Yet a crushed wedding band and a torn veil presage the coming threats to Annabel. A mysterious man in a baseball cap hovers during the bidding, watching and conspicuously angry. Trouble is suspicious—especially after he spots this man spying on Annabel at her condo.

Jen Talty

Ethan, the local police officer that Annabel has been crushing on for ages, begins a careful courtship with her. He’s tentative despite his attraction. After all, his heart was damaged by his fiancée’s betrayal. He and Annabel try to forge a personal bond, but someone deliberately crashes into Annabel’s car, driving her off the road, and Ethan and Annabel begin to focus on danger, not their relationship. The big diamond ring turns out to be stolen; suddenly Annabel is the focus of not only the angry man in the cap but also the local sheriff.

From there, Talty—a talented, best-selling author of romance books—weaves a complicated tale of deceptions, betrayals, broken hearts, thefts, and suspense. Seemingly unrelated characters and events all come together as Talty ties up the not-so-loose ends.

One joy of this book is the absence of any graphic violence, which is, of course, a mark of cozy mysteries. But Talty takes that a step further because no one is even murdered—off stage or otherwise—in Trouble’s Wedding Caper. Which isn’t to say there isn’t suspense and mystery because there is plenty of both.

Trouble’s voice is delightful. His struggles to make humans understand what he knows or suspects provide endless and amusing appeal. Talty shows a remarkably deft hand with her descriptive details, and her writing is crisp, clean and well-paced. A clever, charming addition to the series, Trouble’s Wedding Caper hits all the spots that make cozy mystery fans love their genre.

In Durham’s The Truffle with Weddings, Annabelle Archer, wedding planning extraordinaire, returns with her entourage in yet another delightful romp through the social scene of Washington, D.C.  Annabelle, who has a “compulsion to solve things,” is the owner of one of D.C.’s top wedding planning companies. In both her wedding preparation and her crime solving, Annabelle is aided by her assistant, Kate; the flirty master of malaprops, Fern; the talented, tart-tongued, and only slightly alcoholic hair dresser, Buster; Mack, the born-again Christian biker florist; and her eccentric neighbor, the octogenarian, spry Leatrice.

Annabelle’s best friend is a bold, snappy dresser named Richard, who is arguably the best caterer in D.C. and a person for whom the adjective high-strung is an understatement. And don’t count out Hermes, his brown-and-black Yorkie. Annabelle is often a kind of straight man for Richard and her ensemble cast of diverse and definitely quirky colleagues as she herself is relatively normal—at least in contrast to her friends and co-workers.

Laura Durham

Annabelle’s live-in boyfriend, Detective Mike Reese, wishes Annabelle would stay out of trouble and stop meddling in his job. He acts as a stabilizing force and a control to Annabelle and her zany gang, though they usually manage to escape his protective hold and get themselves into and out of danger quite well by their collective selves.

Richard the excitable caterer finds himself a suspect in a murder-by-poison-chocolate case. Richard, in a bid to bribe his way back onto a “Best of D.C. Caterers” list in an influential magazine, Capital Weddings, delivers a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates to Marcie, the editor of the publication. Marcie, who’s on a diet, gives the box of candies to her assistant Marcus, who eats a poisoned cherry-filled truffle and dies from toxic nicotine in the candy.

Of course everyone knows Richard didn’t kill Marcus—that is, everyone except one detective and a reporter who claims that past clients of Richard had died from poisoning. Richard had a bad history with the victim, moreover, and did threaten to kill him. But, as Annabelle points out, a decidedly high-strung Richard often threatens people and, despite his histrionics, is capable and tender-hearted. In fact, he saves the life of the elderly Leatrice in a tense moment.

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Since Richard is her best friend, naturally Annabelle must jump in and try to solve the case to protect him. While Marcus is the dead victim, it appears his boss, Marcie, was the intended victim. The list of people with motives for killing Marcie is predictably long—an ex-husband, a conniving associate editor who covets Marcie’s job, and a host of vengeful wedding vendors who did not make the magazine’s “Best Of” list.

All the time that Annabelle and crew are sleuthing around D.C. seeking the real killer, they also try to stage a Valentine’s Day themed wedding for a Valentine’s Day-obsessed and overly neurotic bride. Naturally, there are conflicts and chaos. Durham is a wedding planner as well as an author, so her descriptions are authentic.

Quirky characters dominate The Truffle with Weddings. The zany sidekicks, often hilarious pranks and adventures, sexy cop, snappy dialogue, and quick pacing remind one of a Janet Evanovich novel, but Durham knows how to spin a tale and plot a course of action after her own fashion.

In a literary world full of graphic violence and dark stories, a well written cozy mystery is quite welcome. An emphasis on characters, relationships, and puzzles—not on blood and gore—places Trouble’s Wedding Caper and The Truffle with Weddings squarely within the genre.


  1. What an enjoyable review. And Trouble is bad news for brides!

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