Claudia and the Recipe for Danger (Baby-Sitters Club Mystery, #21) [ePub]

by Ann M. Martin

mrs. goode's cookware is sponsoring a baking contest. there is an under-16 division & a 16-&-up division. people can enter individually or as teams. claudia's sweet tooth inspires her to enter the contest. she forms a team with mary anne (who is generally portrayed as a big fan of the domestic arts in all books except for that one where she almost failed home ec until she invented jello jigglers) & shea rodowsky (who is dyslexic, but good with numbers). claudia isn't necessarily much of a baker (& i call bullshit on that—as someone with a formidable sweet tooth, i can attest to the importance of being able to make your own snacks), but the baked goods in the contest will be judged on their beauty as well, & claudia is very interested in creating a beautiful cake.

other teams include logan, kerry, & some other random tertiary character; cokie mason, grace blume, & their secret weapon mari drabek (her dad owns maurice's, & mari has been baking since she was a little kid—which is actually a pretty cool back story); pete black & some other randos; mr. johanssen; & a bunch of people from out of town. because so many out-of-towners, including parents, are coming in to compete, the baking contest has decided to offer child care. they call the babysitters club to provide this child care, & they ask that one of the sitters volunteer for the position of "cake cop," to help patrol the contest & make sure no one is cheating or sabotaging anyone. naturally, kristy is all over that job.

you may recall that when kristy worked as a security guard at the washington mall, she totally sucked at it & the mall kept getting robbed left & right. (yeah, i'm just gonna blame kristy.) well, kristy also sucks at being a cake cop. she only has to keep an eye on ten baking stations, & yet, all kinds of shenanigans ensue. someone fiddles with the oven controls in logan's statue, & his cake burns. someone swaps baking soda for baking powder at mari's station & her recipe boils out its pan & starts a small flour. someone swaps out claudia's bag of sugar for a bag of salt, almost wrecking her recipe. such forth & so on. claudia knows a mystery is afoot & starts keeping tabs on suspects.

meanwhile, in the child care area, a little girl named megan is wreaking all kinds of havoc. she breaks a terrarium & tries to stash the evidence. she steals something (i forget what). she does some other bad stuff. her little brother, kyle, rats her out every time, but is always like, "don't get mad. she's having a hard time since our parents split up." the babysitters notice that megan is completely blank & expressionless every time she admits to one of these crimes, & always accepts whatever punishments they dole out. i'm just going to cut to the chase because this subplot is weird: kyle is the one that was doing all the bad stuff. he's the one who has been acting out since their parents split up, & megan has been accepting the blame in some weird effort to protect him. at the end of the book, the babysitters make some comment about how kyle is a basically good kid who made some well-intentioned mistakes. um...what? how about he's a potentially good kid who is struggling a lot with the psychological impact of his parents splitting up, & he could really use some professional help? how about also there was nothing well-intentioned about anything he did, & none of it was a "mistake"? he knew that everything he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway because he wanted to do bad things? what the fuck?

anyway, back to the baking contest sabotage story. claudia keeps inventing her own recipes (why she can't just find something that looks intriguing in a cookbook, i do not know) & of course they always look gorgeous & taste terrible. mary anne is all, "if only i knew my dead mother's top secret cheery chocolate cake recipe, we'd win the shit out of this contest." yuck. cherries? i guess some people like them. claudia helps mary anne dig through the attic in pursuit of the recipe, & there's this long extended scene of exposition in which they recap the plot points of mary anne & the secret in the attic. talking about how mary anne's dad gave her away when she was a baby inspires mary anne to call her grandmother & see if she knows the recipe. but she is worried that her grandma won't call back in time for the contest semi-finals. are you on the edge of your seat? do you really think they would spend thirteen chapters hyping up this recipe, only to have mary anne fail to access it & therefore lose the contest? then you, my friend, don't know much about clunky foreshadowing!

the babysitters make a list of suspects that may be involved in the sabotage. at first, they think it's grace, just because grace is friends with cokie & cokie sucks. but then grace confronts claudia & accuses HER of the sabotage. so they rule each other out as suspects & instead join forces to find the real culprit. the book makes grace seem really likeable, actually. it also continues the myth that grace is a potentially decent person with a crappy friend in cokie, & that cokie has always wanted logan for herself. am i the only one that remembers that cokie tried to embarrass mary anne in mary anne & the bad luck mystery because GRACE had a crush on a logan? sheesh.

anyway, they also suspect some of the helicopter parents of other contestants. one contestant, julie, seems to have especially overbearing parents. apparently they own a bakery & will be shamed if julie doesn't win the contest. on the day of the finals, the babysitters happen to be standing around in the parking lot when julie drives up with marty, the contest emcee, in her passenger seat. they emerge from the car & share a romantic kiss before going their separate ways. the babysitters wonder if maybe marty is behind the sabotage, trying to ensure that julie wins the contest.

they arrange an elaborate trap. mary anne's grandma does indeed come through with the cherry chocolate cake recipe. they whip it up & bake it in grace & mari's oven. they then cover their own station in a fine coating of flour & arrange to leave the station at the same time, leaving themselves open to potential sabotage. they balance a mirror on top of grace's oven so they can watch their own station with their backs turned to it. sure enough, they see marty creeping into their station & messing with the controls on their oven. he then looks down & sees that he is covered in flour. claudia has arranged for a contest judge to join her in the stake-out, so marty is swiftly confronted & fesses up to all the sabotage. he explains that he is dating julie (who is actually older than 16—marty is like college-aged) & wanted her to win so her parents would back off & let her spend more time with him. which makes pretty much no sense as a motive, but...whatever.

once marty is escorted from the premises, the judges try all the baked goods & declare claudia's team the winners.

i think the only reason i gave this book three stars is because i like claudia so much. her narration always cracks me up. while she is explaining the first instance of sabotage against her team, she details why everyone was away from the work station. she's like, "mary anne was washing a bowl, shea was getting some water, & i...was flirting with these cute boys at the next station." hilarious.



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