Kate McKay had doubts about swapping her high-powered life in Manhattan for Wolfert’s Roost, the quaint Hudson Valley village where she grew up. But when she moves back to care for her ailing grandmother, Kate decides to start fresh and indulge her dream of running an ice cream shop. All goes smoothly—until she’s reunited with old acquaintances nuttier than a vat of rocky road . . .
Kate should be thrilled about opening Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe in the heart of town. Instead her spirits melt like soft serve in the summer when she learns that her childhood frenemy, Ashley Winthrop, has started selling frozen treats in the bakery across the street. Turns out, Ashley hasn’t sweetened since high school. And, once again, she’s game for some very unfriendly competition . . .
But before Ashley can kill Kate’s new business, someone kills Ashley—stabbing her to death inside the bakery. Worse, the murder occurs right after the two rivals drew crowds with a heated argument, leaving half of Wolfert’s Roost speculating that Kate was finally pushed over the edge . . .
With rumors swirling and her reputation in serious trouble, Kate is determined to get the real scoop on the crime—even if it means joining forces with a former flame. As she pieces together clues to a chilling scandal, Kate soon realizes that she’ll need way more than a sprinkle of wit if she wants to expose the killer and live to see another sundae . . .
Includes mouthwatering ice cream recipes from the Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe!
About the Author
CYNTHIA BAXTER is the author of fifty-three novels. Her books have been translated into German, Swedish, and Danish. Born and raised on Long Island, she currently resides on Long Island, New York. Her favorite ice cream flavors are Peach, Coconut, and Chocolate Hazelnut. Readers can visit her website at www.cynthiabaxter.com.
Read an Excerpt
87% of Americans have ice cream in their freezer at any given time.
"I don't believe it! I do not be-lieve what I am seeing with my very own eyes!"
I blinked, then blinked again, hoping I was simply imagining it. Yet there it was, staring at me as boldly as the bright red cherry on top of a hot fudge sundae.
I stood frozen to the spot, poised like a mannequin over the real-life hot fudge creation I was concocting with all the passion that Michelangelo must have felt as he painted the Sistine Chapel.
For this ingenious creation, I'd lovingly arranged baseball-size scoops of three delectable flavors of ice cream into an old-fashioned tulip-shaped ice cream sundae dish: a scoop of creamy Classic Tahitian Vanilla, a scoop of sinfully rich Chocolate Almond Fudge, and a scoop of an invention of my own, Berry Blizzard, a tangy strawberry ice cream dotted with bits of fresh strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry and delicately spiced with just a hint of cardamom and cinnamon.
Over it I'd dripped about a quart of wonderfully gooey chocolate syrup, handmade by me just a few hours earlier. It was a specialty of the house, a recipe I'd created myself: a rich chocolate syrup dotted with pieces of bacon that had been glazed with brown sugar. I called it Salty 'n Sweet Chocolate Syrup with Bacon. I expected my customers at Lickety Splits, my brand new ice cream shop, to call it Heaven on Earth.
Next came the generous dollop of whipped cream, also hand whipped by moi, followed by an avalanche of chopped almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans.
In fact, I was just about to add the perfect finishing touch, a plump red maraschino cherry, when the bright, hot pink sign about thirty feet away from where I was standing caught my eye.
The sign, taped in the window of the shop directly across the street from Lickety Splits, had been neatly hand lettered with a black Sharpie. The sign was right below the pink-and-white striped awning that was edged with swirly letters, spelling out SWEET THINGS PASTRY PALACE. Directly below, in letters that were smaller but even swirlier, were the words HOME OF THE MILE-HIGH CUPCAKE.
The new sign in the bakery's window read: NOW SELLING HOMEMADE ICE CREAM!
"How dare she?" I sputtered, barely glancing at my best friend, Willow Baines, who was helping me out in the shop for the afternoon. "This is absolutely the last straw! It's bad enough that Ashley Winthrop practically destroyed my entire childhood! That she turned my middle school and high school years into the sequel of Mean Girls! But now that we're grown up and she still thinks she can just go ahead and ruin my life —"
"Calm down!" Willow said, sounding annoyingly calm herself. "Take deep, cleansing breaths, Kate. In, out. In, out ... Somehow we'll figure out what to do about this."
"I know exactly what to do about this," I shot back. "And it involves a heavy, blunt object. Something along the lines of a ... a three-gallon tub of Cappuccino Crunch!"
It wasn't surprising that Ashley Winthrop's sudden foray into the world of ice cream had me so upset. Not only had the two of us been enemies practically our whole lives. But fifteen years after graduation — after I'd gone to college, moved to New York City, developed a successful career in public relations, and just three months ago, come back to my hometown to start a new chapter in my life — she threatened to start up our rivalry all over again.
I'd just become the proud owner, operator, chef, sales force, marketing director, and janitor of the Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, opening my own business truly was nothing less than the realization of a lifelong dream. And the fact that my brand new shop featured my absolute favorite food in the entire universe made the whole experience even sweeter.
Thanks to the randomness of real estate markets, it just happened that my store was located right across the street from the bakery that Ashley had been operating for a little over five years. I learned that because right after I'd moved back, the local paper, the Daily Roost, had run a big article about Sweet Things celebrating its five-year anniversary, complete with photos. Still, the shop I'd rented had a great location — and everyone knows the number one rule of real estate is Location, Location, Location. It was on Wolfert's Roost's main thoroughfare, Hudson Street. And it was less than a hundred feet away from the charming town's busiest intersection.
The front of my building was incredibly cute. It had a Victorian look, with ornate wooden columns framing the door and window boxes along the display window. Inside, it had a shiny tin ceiling and a black-and-white tiled floor. It even had an exposed brick wall that gave the place a touch of old-world charm.
The space also happened to be the perfect size. In the front section, there was enough room for two glass freezer cases displaying the eighteen flavors of ice cream that I intended to change from day to day, as well as the line of eager customers I'd hoped to regularly attract. But there was also room for six small, marble-topped tables, three along each wall. Each table accommodated two black wrought-iron chairs with pink vinyl seats.
And in back, there was plenty of space for the two industrial-size ice cream makers I'd installed, along with a gigantic ice cream freezer, six feet wide and six feet high, that provided enough storage space for at least two dozen giant tubs of ice cream. I'd also squeezed in a big counter for chopping chocolate and shredding coconut.
The moment the real estate agent took me inside the empty storefront, I'd seen its potential. And as soon as I'd signed the lease, I jumped into realizing that potential. I'd had the exterior of the shop painted a soft shade of pink, then personally painted the wooden columns and the window boxes lime green. Next I'd put a wooden bench in underneath the big display window, painting the slats pink and green. As a finishing touch, I'd filled the window boxes with pink and white petunias that spilled over the front and sides, the green of the leaves picking up the building's lime-colored accents.
Inside, I'd hung paintings of ice cream concoctions along the brick wall. My BFF, Willow, had made them, since in addition to being the most phenomenal yoga instructor in the Hudson Valley, she also happened to be an amazingly talented artist. On one, Willow had painted a gigantic ice cream cone; on the second, a banana split; and on the third, a huge ice cream sandwich.
The colorful, almost cartoonish artwork was the perfect accompaniment to the glass display counters, technically called dipping cabinets, that ran across the opposite wall, showing off the vats of ice cream I whipped up in back. To me, Willow's paintings were a symbol of her confidence in me to succeed at creating a business based on one of the things I loved most in the world.
But even better than the paintings of ice cream on Lickety Splits' walls was the real ice cream. That, of course, was what it was all about.
I planned to offer three basic types of ice cream flavors. The first type was the classics, like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and coffee, but I was going to make them so rich and so flavorful that they were guaranteed to be the best version anyone had ever tasted. My Classic Tahitian Vanilla served as the perfect example, since it truly was made with vanilla that had come all the way from Polynesia.
The second type reflected my own take on the slightly more adventuresome flavors that were popping up everywhere. Hawaiian Coconut that was made with actual strands of fresh coconut and big chunks of macadamia nut. Caramel Sea Salt that had ribbons of luscious caramel running through. Peanut Butter on the Playground, consisting of peanut butter ice cream made with freshly ground peanuts and sweetened with generous globs of grape jelly.
The third type, which I was most excited about, consisted of my very own creations. The idea of being able to express my love of ice cream in unique ways was what made my heart pound and my head spin as I lay awake nights, thinking up fun and delicious new flavors. Strawberry Rhubarb? I couldn't wait to make it, especially since I intended to add bits of piecrust pastry to make it just like the ever-popular pie. S'mores? Chocolate ice cream dotted with chocolate chips, little chocolate marshmallows, and broken-up pieces of graham cracker. Cashew ice cream? Kahlua and Chocolate? Cheddar cheese? Goat cheese?
The shop I was lucky enough to rent was ideal, with every feature I could possibly want. The place was so perfect, in fact, that I figured I could learn to live with having the despicable Ashley Winthrop and her bakery right across the street.
In a flash, all that had changed. The fact that once again, Ashley had found a way to wedge herself between me and my latest dream was making my head feel as if it were about to explode.
I was still staring at that sign, thinking that there was probably so much steam coming out of my ears that it was going to melt all the ice cream, when the customer who'd ordered the Hudson's Hottest Hot Fudge Sundae I'd been in the midst of concocting cleared his throat. Loudly.
"Uh, excuse me?" he said. "Is that sundae about ready?"
"I'm so, so sorry," I said, snapping back into the moment. I glanced over at the young man standing on the other side of the counter, wearing a loud tie-dye T-shirt and sporting a long ponytail. He looked as if he was on the verge of experiencing severe chocolate withdrawal.
"Let me just add the cherry," I told him, then proceeded to do exactly that.
At the moment, there were no other customers in line. Not that the place wasn't buzzing. Five out of my six tables had customers at them, making a total of ten customers. Six were devouring ice cream cones, sampling a variety of flavors that ranged from simple Divine Chocolate to one of my more exotic offerings for the day, Honey Lavender.
Three of the customers had gone for more complex ice cream treats. A teenage girl with very cool purple eyeglasses was wolfing down a Bananafana Split, made with slices of frozen chocolate-covered bananas piled up on top. Her friend, sitting across the table from her, was alternating between slowly sipping the ice-cold soda in her Rootin'-Tootin' Root Beer Float and sucking up small spoonfuls of the baseball-size chunk of Classic Tahitian Vanilla ice cream floating in it. From the looks of things, she was savoring every mouthful with such deliberation that she was going to make it last for at least another half hour. And number ten, well, he was the happy recipient of the hot fudge sundae I'd just concocted, now sitting at a table by himself. From what I could see, he'd already snarfed down a good third of it, dribbling just a tiny bit of Salty 'n Sweet Chocolate Syrup with Bacon onto his tie-dye shirt. Fortunately, it blended right in.
The fact that there were no other customers for me to serve at the moment gave me a chance to concentrate on my hatred of Ashley Winthrop.
"Do you know what I'm going to do?" I said, turning to Willow. "I'm going to march right over there and tell that stupid Ashley that —"
"Don't do it," Willow said, grabbing my arm as if to demonstrate that she was prepared to use physical force to stop me if necessary. And trust me, yoga instructors have a surprising amount of upper body strength. "Kate, this is not the time to confront Ashley. You'd be better off waiting until you've had a chance to put all this into perspective."
"Perspective?" I repeated. "Perspective? Honestly, Willow, when is it going to end?"
Surely nearly three decades of enduring Ashley Winthrop was enough. And she really had been tormenting me for that long.
It had all started back in kindergarten. It was probably early October when my teacher, Ms. Trautman, invited us five-year-olds to delve into the exciting new world of finger paints. Even then I was a sucker for bright colors, and I could hardly wait to get my hands on those big plastic jars of paint — in particular, the yellow.
So as soon as we donned our smocks, I made a beeline for the jar that was the color of daffodils. But Ashley, barely out of Huggies, beat me to it. She appeared from out of nowhere, her pale blond ponytail bobbing behind her as she darted in front of me and grabbed the last jar of yellow before I'd even reached the art supplies table.
That was just the beginning. In second grade, she stole away my very first boyfriend ever, Skippy Nolan, an impressive young gentleman who'd risen to instant popularity the moment he'd demonstrated his ability to turn his eyelids inside out. Ashley had beaten me in our fifth grade's annual Spelling Bee Extravaganza, looking infuriatingly smug as she stepped up to the podium to correctly spell the word "ignominious" right after I'd foolishly misspelled "enemy," a word I could spell in my sleep but that for some ridiculous reason I'd begun by saying "E-M ..." and sealing my fate.
By high school, Ashley had graduated to Most Popular. She was homecoming queen, captain of the cheerleading squad, class president both our junior and senior years ... you get the picture. And she never passed up a single opportunity to use the power she got from being queen bee to make my life more difficult. She would make a cutting joke about my outfit in front of a group of giggling girls, go out of her way to flirt with a boy I had a crush on, and snatch away anything I wanted, from the best seat at the Class Talent Show to the highly coveted position of chair of the junior prom decorating committee.
None of those gotchas compared to this.
"But I have to do something," I insisted. "This is a new low, even for Ashley."
"That's certainly true," Willow agreed. "She's been jealous of you since day one, since she knows as well as any of us that the one thing she's always lacked was a brain that's half as good as yours." She ran her hand through her pale blond hair in a short pixie cut, a style that was as practical as her outfit: a loose white T-shirt and stretchy black yoga pants. "But I have to admit that good old Ashcan has really outdone herself this time."
I appreciated my best friend's use of our middle school nickname for my nemesis. But even that didn't do much to improve my mood.
"I mean, this goes beyond unethical," I continued. "Not that it's the first business decision she's made that shows her true character. Look at her claim about the Mile-High Cupcake! The woman is guilty of false advertising! How can a cupcake be a mile high? It wouldn't even be a cupcake anymore! It would be a — a tower cake! A spindly cake! A cupcake out of Ripley's Believe It or Not! A monstrosity that would require cranes to build, and some kind of major support system to hold up —"
"Deep, cleansing breaths," Willow said in a soft, calming voice. "In, out ..."
But my breaths were coming too fast and furiously for me to control. In fact, they were more like snorts. And that steam was coming out of my ears again.
"I don't care what you say," I announced to Willow. "I'm going over there right now." As if to show how serious I was, I yanked out the ponytail band I'd been wearing to hold back my shoulder-length straight brown hair and tore off my black-and-white checked apron emblazoned in pink letters with "Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe."
"Kate, she's probably not even there," Willow said, her tone pleading. "On a beautiful May afternoon like this one, she's probably off ... I don't know, getting her nails done or something. At some fancy spa. In a gorgeous pastoral setting."
Just then, as if on cue, a sleek red Corvette pulled up in front of Sweet Things Pastry Palace and slid into the big parking space that happened to be free. The door opened, and who climbed out but Ashley Winthrop, Princess of the Pastry Palace, herself.
I hurried over to the shop window to get a better look. Willow was a few feet behind me.
While I hadn't seen Ashley since high school — graduation day, in fact — I immediately saw that she'd barely changed in the past fifteen years. She was still tall, slim, and graceful, although the easy way she moved had always had as much to do with her extreme level of self-confidence as it did with any innate quality that a ballerina would envy. And she still had long blond hair. But she wasn't wearing it the way she used to — in a long ponytail that she annoyingly let swing from side to side whenever she walked. Instead, it now hung down her back, straight but with just a hint of curl at the end. The woman was clearly no stranger to a curling iron.
Excerpted from "Murder with a Cherry on Top"
Copyright © 2018 Cynthia Baxter.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In this book we meet Kate who has decided to make a huge change in her life and open an ice cream shop. She was working a very stressed filled job but took time away to help care for her ailing grandmother in the town where she grew up. Things are going well until Kate's rival from school, who owns a bakery across from her shop, decides she is going to sell ice cream too. When her rival, Ashley, is murdered Kate decides she must find out who the culprit is before she herself ends up behind bars. During a trip to a local dairy farm Kate runs into her ex from high school and is shocked to find him living back in their home town. Follow along as she stealthy investigates while also drumming up new business and selling her awesome flavored sweets. Find out what happened between her ex and herself and will they be able to move forward as friends or forever be stuck in the past. This new book was an amusing treat, it had me craving ice cream the whole way through, and I'm not much of an ice cream person. The author really knows how to tantalize the taste buds with a variety of tasty delightful treats. I can't wait to find some of the flavors mentioned and try them for myself!!!
Murder with a Cherry on Top by Cynthia Baxter is a cozy mystery that will keep you in suspense until the very end. Kate opens an ice cream shop in her old hometown across the street from a bakery shop run by Ashley, who has taunted Kate every since Kindergarten. Ashley is murdered after an argument with Kate and Kate becomes a suspect. Kate is determined to find out who killed Ashley and in doing so, finds out that there is more than meets the eye with Ashley. This is an entertaining mystery with some romance on the side. The plot and characters are well developed and the story will keep you trying to solve the murder along with Kate. In addition, there are recipes for ice cream! I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway and I always review every book that I read. I highly recommend this book especially if you like cozy mysteries.
I loved this book. A great start to a new series. After working in Manhatten in the corporate world Kate decides to open an ice cream shoppe in the small town of Wikfert's Roost where her grandmother lives. Everything is going great until she realizes that her childhood 'friend' Ashley Winthrop has started selling frozen treats in her bakery across the street. But before things can get bad Ashley is killed and Kate is the prime suspect. Determine to clear her name she starts looking into Ashley's business and finds some very interesting facts. I loved Cynthia's writing style. The book just moved along so smoothly and everything just flowed including a great mystery. I loved almost all of the characters especially the main ones. It has a great suprise ending which I love in a mystery. Kept me guessing. This was a cozy mystery that you didn't want to stop so I can't wait until the next in this series comes out. I notice that Cynthia has another series so I may have to check it out. This is a great book and I highly recommend it.
Kate McKay has returned to her hometown of Wolfet’s Roost in the Hudson River Valley of New York, and she has opened her own ice cream shop. Her only possibly concern is that it is across the street from the bakery owned by Ashley Winthrop. The two have known each other all their lives, and they have never gotten along. Sadly, Kate hasn’t even been opened a week before she gets proof that Ashley intends to continue their feud. But when Ashley is murdered the day after the two have a very public fight, Kate finds herself questioned by the police. Can she figure out what really happened before she is arrested for a crime she didn’t commit? First books in series walk a fine line between introducing us to characters and giving us a good mystery. This one errs on the side of character backstory, which makes the first quarter very slow plot wise. Things do pick up as we go along, and by the second half the mystery is in full swing. Once it got going, I found the mystery good with an ending I didn’t suspect yet one that made sense. Kate, her Gran, and her niece are all solid characters and I enjoyed spending time with them. I am curious where Kate’s love life will go after what we learned and the characters we met here. The suspects don’t get much page time, but they seem real from the little bit of time we did get to spend with them. And there is plenty of talk about ice cream, which made me crave one of my favorite desserts. There are four delicious sounding recipes at the end, so you can bring a bit of Kate’s shop home with you. If you are looking for a new series to help you cool off as the summer heats up, this debut is for you.
Dollycas’s Thoughts I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream and Cynthia Baxter has scooped up a tasty mystery for us readers to enjoy!! Kate McKay has returned to Wolfert’s Roost to take care of her grandmother and to follow her dream of opening an ice cream shoppe. Lickety Splits has a prime location but it is directly across the street from a bakery owned by Ashley Winthrop, a woman Kate knew in school and wishes she could just avoid. When Ashley becomes her competition by selling ice cream Kate has no choice but to confront her. Their argument was loud and very public with no clear resolution until Ashley is found stabbed to death in her bakery. Katy wishes she could have frozen time, back before the war of words. Things really start to melt she becomes the prime suspect. To make things even chillier, her old high school boyfriend comes to her rescue. Maybe together they can clear her name before her dream is crushed and her ice cream shoppe is just a memory. This series is off to a delicious start! Kate McKay is so dedicated to getting her business up and running. She has created unique ice cream combinations that will keep her customers coming back for more. I wish the book came with free samples. Her friend Willow has been helping out but she really needs a full-time person. Her niece, Emma, arrives looking for a job at the perfect time. Plus she can move in to help with grams. We also meet others from Kate’s past including her high school boyfriend, Jake Pratt. They haven’t seen each other since he failed to pick her up on prom night. Their reunion is pretty icy. These characters are all very interesting and we are just getting to know them. The author’s descriptive writing style really drew me into the store. Descriptions of Grams Victorian home and Kate shop made me feel like I was right on the scene. The descriptions of the ice cream flavors, sundaes, and other treats had me practically drooling. It also lent well as Kate went around asking questions, trying to find the real killer. It was very easy to visualize everyone she talked to and where they were. The mystery portion of the story wrapped up in a way I was not expecting and was surprised by who the real criminal turned out to be. I love ice cream so this theme is one I am excited about. Cynthia Baxter has peaked my curiosity with this first installment. I can’t wait for the next Lickety Splits Mystery!
Murder with a Cherry on Top by Cynthia Baxter is the first installment in A Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mystery series. Katherine “Kate” McKay has opened Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe in Wolfert’s Roost, New York. It is a dream come true for Kate and the start of a new chapter in her life. Then she notices Ashley Winthrop of Sweet Things Pastry Palace posting a sign in her window stating that they are now selling homemade ice cream. It seems Ashley is continuing the rivalry that began in kindergarten. After having a public argument with Ashley in front of the store, Kate heads out to Juniper Hill Organic Dairy where she encounters her old high school boyfriend, Jake Pratt. The sight of him still makes her heart skip a beat. The next day Kate is awakened to pounding on her door and Officer Pete Bonano on her doorstep. Ashley was killed in her bakery the night before, and Kate is at the top of the suspect list courtesy of her vocal disagreement with the victim. With gossip causing a decline in business, Kate sets out to find Ashley’s killer before her dream melts away. I liked the premise for A Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mystery series. Ice cream and mystery in one book (I love ice cream and have a bowl every day). The author created an adorable shop for Kate McKay to sell her homemade ice cream treats as well as a charming small town. Readers are entertained with delectable descriptions of ice cream throughout the book (the Tahitian Vanilla sounds scrumptious). Every ice cream that Kate sells to a customer is described in detail. The book is nicely written and has a steady pace. The author has an easy, breezy writing style. There are some quirky characters like Willow Baines, Kate’s best friend. I liked Grams and Kate’s niece, Emma. I fell in love with Gram’s beautiful Victorian home (I want it). The mystery, though, was lacking and it was not the primary focus of the book. The investigation consists of Kate asking questions and speculating on the identity of the guilty party (no action or suspense). Instead of Kate identifying the killer, she stumbles upon the solution. I wish the author had put as much effort into the mystery as she did into coming up with the ice cream flavors. Of course, there is are requisite cliché nasty detective (thankfully we do not see much of him). My rating for Murder with a Cherry on Top is 3 out of 5 stars. Murder with a Cherry on Top is a cute and entertaining cozy mystery that will have readers pulling their favorite frozen treat from their freezers.
I was a First Read Winner of this book and it was a lovely cozy mystery. Not much action, some mystery and the characters where likable and the storyline moved along nicely, there was also the possibility of a rekindled romance, got my fingers crossed for that one. However there is a problem with the book, it made me crave ice cream like crazy. Forget your diet while reading this charming book. It also includes some recipes at the end of the book, which I think I might just try out. Overall a very entertaining read.
This is a new series and a new to me author. First books in a new series are always a challenge. The author has to pack a lot knowledge into a first book and making it flow smoothly is an amazing talent. Murder with a Cherry on Top has the potential to become a great new series. The story did hit a few bumps where the mystery fell a little flat, but the strong characters kept it interesting. High school rivalry flows into adulthood, leading to murder and mayhem. I think mystery fans will enthuse story. I'm looking forward to seeing how this story grows. I voluntarily read an ARC of this book provided by the publisher and NetGalley.