Audiobook Review: A Half-Baked Murder (Cannabis Café #1) (ARC)

Expected publication February 28, 2023

Author: Emily George

Narrator: Chelsea Stephens

Audiobook Length: 9 hours 12 minutes

Emily George launches a groundbreaking, irresistible new series unlike anything else out there, as twenty-eight-year-old California pastry chef Chloe Barnes takes her career higher, opening a cannabis café where she can use her Michelin-star skills to transform dry, bland pot brownies into gourmet treats. With a unique and culturally relevant hook, authentic fresh voice, and the classic tropes of the genre that all cozy fans love, everyone’s buzzing about the Cannabis Café Mysteries!

Formally trained pastry chef Chloe Barnes is opening a cannabis bakery. That’s not at all what the twenty-eight-year-old envisioned while living the dream in Paris with a hot fiancé and a Michelin star restaurant gig around the corner. But the rising “it girl” of choux puffs rethinks everything after a scathing food review and humiliating breakup make her long for home in sunny California. When her beloved grandmother falls ill, Chloe returns to quaint Azalea Bay to start over in the most satisfying way possible—concocting delicious edibles with her quirky Aunt Dawn.

Combining French luxury and THC, Baked by Chloe will take pot brownies to another level. That is, until a creepy past acquaintance rehashes old drama and shockingly turns up dead—landing Aunt Dawn as the number one murder suspect. Now, alongside her closest confidants, a stunned Chloe must alternate between budding entrepreneur and amateur sleuth to clear her aunt’s name, open the best bakery in town, and weed out the real culprit from a list of unsettling suspects!

A Half-Baked Murder is the first novel in the Cannabis Café Mysteries series set in Azalea Bay, California. It follows pastry chef Chloe Barnes who has been studying in Paris for the past few years. She moved back there after her Grandma Rose began undergoing chemo for her breast cancer. As Chloe decides what to do now that she is back home, she gets help from her Aunt Dawn who encourages her to open a cannabis café in town. Once things get going for Chloe’s business, a murder of an old acquaintance, Brendan Chalmers, occurs and Dawn is suspected. Chloe begins investigating to clear Dawn’s name.

The cannabis angle for this novel was interesting as it showcased the aid it can provide to chronic pain sufferers. There were even some fun recipes at the end of the novel for the reader to try, if they wish. It was a fun and unique concept for a cozy mystery and the café provided a nice backdrop for the story. If you’re not for cannabis use, I think you can still enjoy the novel as it is mainly used in the background as part of the café. As this is the first book in the series, I can see the potential for expansion for the town and other characters. The town of Azalea Bay was lovely, and I cannot wait to see it expand in future novels. There are a lot of characters introduced in this novel, which can be a bit overwhelming at first; however, I think it will work itself out as the series moves forward.

The narrator for this audiobook did an excellent job as she kept me engaged from start to finish. The story itself is lighter than I expected, but the added fluff made it fun. There is a love story that progresses in this novel that is a slow-burn as Chloe is recovering from a recent break-up. The love interest, Jake, was interesting, although I still want to know more about him. Since all the characters were being introduced, I feel there is still a lot more to explore with them, especially Chloe. Since she is setting up her new business, adjusting to moving back home, and recovering for a break-up, the author had a lot to set up for the main character. While this was well-done, the story did not truly suck me in until the murder investigation began. It was still interesting, and I liked the pacing until the killer is revealed. For me, the murderer was easy enough to guess, but I love that it was not obvious right away. Overall, there is a lot of potential with this series, and I look forward to reading the next mystery adventure for Chloe!

**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and Tantor Audio for the opportunity to read this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed are completely my own.**

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