Review – To Brew or Not to Brew by Joyce Tremel

Posted January 19, 2016 by smutmatters in Cozy, Reviews / 2 Comments

Review – To Brew or Not to Brew by Joyce TremelTo Brew or Not to Brew (Brewing Trouble, #1) by Joyce Tremel
Series: Brewing Trouble
Series Rating: three-stars
Published by Berkley on December 1st 2015
Genres: Cozy, Mystery
Pages: 281
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Barnes & Noble

An all-new mystery series set in a Pittsburgh craft brew pub, featuring a brewmaster with a head for sleuthing.
The Allegheny Brew House is a dream come true for Maxine “Max” O’Hara, who went all the way to Germany for her brewmaster certification, and is now preparing to open her own craft brew pub in a newly revitalized section of Pittsburgh. But before she can start pouring stouts and lagers to thirsty throngs, there’s trouble on tap. Suspicious acts of sabotage culminate in Max finding her assistant brewmaster and chef Kurt Schmidt strangled in one of the vats.
Between rescuing a stray gray tabby she names Hops and considering a handsome ex-hockey player as her new chef, Max doesn’t have a lot of time to solve a murder. But with a homicide detective for a dad, she comes to criminal investigation naturally. And if someone is desperate enough to kill to stop her from opening, Max needs to act fast—before her brand-new brew biz totally tanks...

This was a solid start to a new cozy series. I don’t really drink beer, and I certainly don’t brew it, so I can’t really speak to the brewing component of this book, but I thought the story was pretty close to what I expect from cozy mysteries. The mystery itself isn’t what I read these books for; they’re usually fairly simplistic. But I like the relationships between the characters, and I really love a well-done setting. I’ve been to Pittsburgh a few times, but I’m certainly not an expert on the city. However, I thought Tremel did a good job capturing the feel of the city, or at least this little corner of it. (Which makes sense since she is from Pittsburgh) She says in the author’s note that most of the actual shops and cafes are her own invention, but I’d love to be able to go to some of them. Pittsburgh has some really great restaurants and these places would fit right in.

Max’s involvement in this mystery made more sense to me than in a lot of other cozies. Not only are the crimes being committed right in her new brew house/pub, but her father is a homicide detective, so she’s grown up around investigation and seems to have a natural curiosity and inclination toward figuring things out. I felt like it was well-balanced. I never got the sense that she was doing anything deliberately stupid or dangerous, or blindly stumbling into messes. She wanted to find out what was going on and who was trying to keep her from opening, but she had no problem calling for help when it was time to do so. She talked to her dad about what she thought was going on and tried to get him to buy into her theories, but he was pretty convinced the first murder was actually an accident, so he wasn’t much help which is why she ended up trying to solve this herself. Most of the time when she confronted people, she did it in broad daylight in front of others, not in private moments in dark alleys like I’ve seen other cozy sleuths attempt. She was a little too comfortable accusing pretty much anyone outside her own circle of the murders, but that’s probably my only real quibble with Max.

Overall, I liked this, I didn’t love it. I’m more than happy to read the next in the series, but I wouldn’t say I’m eagerly anticipating it.

About Joyce Tremel

Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. Her flash fiction has appeared in Mysterical-e, and her non-fiction has been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police magazine. Her debut novel, TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW has been nominated for a 2015 Reviewers’ Choice Award for best amateur sleuth by Romantic Times. The second book in the series TANGLED UP IN BREW, is scheduled for release 10.4.2016.

Joyce is a native Pittsburgher, has two grown sons, and lives in a suburb of the city with her husband and a spoiled cat. When coming up with the idea for this series, she thought her big city with the small town feel would be the perfect setting for Max’s brew pub. She hopes “yinz” guys agree! 

2 responses to “Review – To Brew or Not to Brew by Joyce Tremel

  1. Interesting. I haven’t seen a cozy mystery that features brewing beer. Oregon would make an excellent back drop for the story since we are known for all or our microbreweries and home brewers. I sounds like the MC is also likable, I struggle with the ones who stick their noses in and get into dangerous situations.

    • smutmatters

      I struggle with cozies sometimes because of how ridiculous the main characters can act. It usually makes no sense to me that a baker/knitter/librarian/whatever would decide they’re better equipped to deal with murders than the local police. But this one made more sense. I don’t know how many books I can buy Max investigating, but I’d read at least the next few.