Appetite for Mystery

by Marie B.

Here we are at the tail end of another year. I don’t know about you, but time seems to fly faster and faster as my own odometer ticks upward. Never mind, because this is one of my favorite times of year. I love the frosty mornings, the skeletal remains of the deciduous trees and shrubs, and feeling as though I’m wrapped in the embrace of two snow-capped mountain ranges.

The conditions are perfect for gathering with friends and family for parties and feasts. When I need to recuperate from my food coma, though, I usually opt to hunker down with a hot drink and a good book. What, you, too?

Well, put on your woolly socks, grab a fleece blanket, and get ready to cozy up to a foodie mystery.

My own reading diet consists largely of gritty, dark suspense and thrillers. During the colder months, it can be nice to take a break from that and read something more heartwarming.  I refuse to take murder off the menu entirely, though.  Enter the culinary mystery sub-genre, the reading equivalent of comfort food for fans of gentle mysteries.

Most of these follow a basic recipe, although sensitive readers might want to check the list of ingredients (er, the summary) to avoid any unnecessary unpleasantness. Foodie mysteries are gentle reads, leisurely in pace, cozy in tone, and filled with people you want to know better (except for the killer, of course). Murders happen well off the page, so you won’t be subjected to all the gory details.  Many readers consider them a “quick read.”

This sub-genre is a veritable cornucopia of options. There are food connections to please every palate:  coffee, tea, chocolate, donuts, restaurants, and catering. There are even some featuring chefs at such swanky locales as the White House and Kensington Palace! Many of these mysteries include recipes sprinkled throughout the story or at the end of the book.

Are you hungry yet? 

Katherine Hall Page has been serving up the gentle, atmospheric Faith Fairchild mysteries since 1990. Faith is a New Yorker who finds herself transplanted to a small town in Maine when she marries a clergyman.  She sets up as a caterer – and an amateur sleuth. With 24 entries in the series (#25 coming in 2019), even a glutton like me can find lasting satisfaction.

If you have a sweet tooth, try Joanne Fluke’s funny and suspenseful Hannah Swenson mysteries. Hannah is a modern woman making her way in a small town in Minnesota. Every book is titled after some sweet treat or other, so you might be tempted to preheat the oven before you finish the first chapter (or stop by the bakery on your way home).  The series has made the jump to the small screen in Murder, She Baked.  Give it the old taste test yourself!

Are you looking for a heartwarming mystery with a side of silliness? The Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries featuring Mennonite innkeeper Magdalena Yoder might be right for you. In them, author Tamar Myers mixes just-so mysteries with a dash of banter and a dollop of humor. And puns? Myers takes the cake for some of the best punny titles ever.

Bonus: In the midst of enjoying a light, cozy read, you might just find recipes you’ll want to use again and again. For instance, I use a biscotti recipe I got out of a book I read circa 1995. The book was an early entry in Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Bear series. When I lost the recipe a few years ago, I panicked just a little. What to do?  I decided to go straight to the source, contacting Davidson directly via her Facebook page. She responded to my message almost immediately, saying she could not recall in which book the recipe appeared either, but no worries, because “I’ll write it out for you here.” How deliciously charming!

These are but a few hors d’oeuvres to whet your appetite for culinary mysteries. What are some of your favorites?

Share them with us in the comments below.    Bon appetit!

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2 responses to “Appetite for Mystery”

  1. Julie S says:

    I don’t recall it being a mystery – more of a drama – but love the book Pomegranate Soup. Each chapter starts with a recipe. For years I’ve been saying I was going to buy it. Maybe Santa will help me out this year. 😉

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