The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell

When Anne @ I’ve Read That recommended The Golden Spoon, a murder mystery that borrows muh from The Great British Baking Show, by Jessa Maxwell, I hesitated only for a moment. Anne isn’t known for reading cozy mysteries, so despite the baking + murder combo, I added the novel to my TBR. As final exam week at school approached, I found I was having trouble concentrating on books that were too hard or too easy. Fluff felt trite, but too conceptual felt like work. The Golden Spoon it was, then!

The novel is a delicious mix of familiar and new. Instead of the traditional twelve bakers from the Great British Baking Show, we have six Americans in Vermont. It’s the perfect number to throw suspicion on everyone, but still keep them straight in your mind. I was nearly giddy when I realized Maxwell pulled tropes from the TV show. There is the baker that focuses on science and measurements, the youngest person in the tent, the grandmother who has been baking for decades, the one who only started baking in the last year, etc. I was so happy to see those classic GBBS characters and watch the novel build from there.

Instead of your Mary Berry or Prue Leith, we have Besty. Her family owns an estate, on the lawn of which sits The Tent where the contest is performed. The contestants stay in the mansion during the one-week competition, so we get lots of roaming around at night and dinners for all the contestants with Betsy. There are enough changes from the famous TV show to make readers keep their eyes open, for surely the changes in the novel will make a difference when it comes to figuring out why Betsy discovers a dead body impaled on the tent during a late-night a rainstorm.

The novel opens with the discovery of the body and cuts back two weeks, which is before production, when Betsy is being told that her beloved show that she has hosted for ten years is getting a bit stale. To spice things up, the head of production hires Archie, a charming man with twinkly eyes (definitely picture Paul Hollywood here) to co-host. Betsy is angry but carries on with dignity. He seems to respect her legacy but adds something to the show. Once the contestants arrive, we meet them all individually (their chapters are in first-person POV). Then, the book is divided by the day’s baking theme, e.g., pie day, bread day, etc.

My worries that this would be a cozy mystery were unnecessary. Yes, there is baking, but it’s part of a competition:

Four cakes stand in front of her on the judging table. Betsy begins at the far left with Hannah’s. It’s a tall layer cake coated in a thick light pink buttercream that is expertly decorated with drips of white chocolate running down the sides. The frosting cannot conceal that the cake inside is lumpy and misshapen, the top layer bulges giving it away.

No dessert metaphors, no pastry-themed killing. Instead, all the character types Maxwell used from the GBBS were just the start, a way to remember everyone, and perhaps a way to endear readers to the novel by making a connection to something they already enjoy. From there, the characters become their own people through backstories and surprising motives for showing up to win the grand prize for best amatuer baker, the golden spoon. I found myself eager to get back to the story, for I couldn’t tell who the murder was, nor whose dead body was up on the tent, and I didn’t really suspect anyone, if I’m being honest, which made me more curious. It’s not that everyone had a motive, but that each person tried to uphold expectations for what they thought Betsy — and their families and viewers — would want them to be.

Although you may not enjoy The Golden Spoon as much if you haven’t seen The Great British Baking Show, this is a great first novel from Jessa Maxwell that I really enjoyed.


  1. Hooray! It’s on my list. Sounds right up my alley.

    Another mystery series that is cozy-adjacent but not vapid is the Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman. I adore them. It’s about a group of smart, witty British seniors who live together in a retirement complex – one of them is a former spy – and murders happen. They try to solve them. They make friends with the local police, who are also fun to get to know. These are wonderful, well-rounded characters! I can’t recommend them enough (three out so far.)


    • I really liked the Thursday Murder Club. I haven’t read the sequel yet. By this point there may be a third novel. It was Lou who got me interested in the first book. The author is a comedian, so she was pretty leery, but it turns out the man can write.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not only is there a third one, a fourth is coming in September! We’ve done books one and two together (Matthew does the audio book and I read the book-book) but I’m mean and am waiting to find book three cheap in paperback at the discount shop or in a charity shop!


  2. I love a murder mystery for when I want an entertaining read that won’t be too challenging, but will still engross me! This sounds like it was just the ticket. I’m very picky with contemporary mysteries (they tend to veer either too bleak or a bit cutesy), but this sounds like it doesn’t fall into either trap.


    • Absolutely: not bleak, not cutesy. Another blogger mentioned that my description reminded her of The Thursday Murder Club, which I know you read and liked because I read it based on your recommendation.

      I’m so glad to see you around, again, and hope the last stretch has been productive or restful, whichever you were going for.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this. I suppose I don’t read many cozy mysteries, but I’m such a big fan of Murder She Wrote this book just felt right to me. Also, I’ve never seen this baking show you speak of, so everything seemed brand new to me in this book haha


  4. This looks really fun. We did watch it for a few series in the middle and now we have a new presenter, Alison Hammond, who we love and is from our city, we’re going to start again. I read another novel based on the show which wasn’t a mystery but an ensemble cast, everyone-grows type of thing which was good, too, Sarah Vaughan’s “The Art of Baking Blind”


    • Oh, nice! Yes, and I’m surprised I just noticed a Great American Baking Show with the same judges but different hosts (whom I do not recognize). Once we’ve finished all the episodes of My Cat From Hell, we’ll start watching.


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