Yes, I know there is/was a television series called Murder She Wrote. I secretly (not so secretly) believe titles are not covered by copyright. I hope I am right. And, the reality is not that murder was written -- well, it was by the authors discussed here, but that I, bibliochef have been reading again -- and even worse, reading with insomnia and reading murder mysteries with food as their overarching connector. Surprising, I know. And, definitely not about Jessica Fletcher. (By the way, did you know there is a Murder She Wrote wiki. Neither did I!)
Here's the deal. So, one day I went off to the Newberry Library Book Sale. And yes, I saw some cool stuff including a $3000 set of first edition Lord of the Rings and a $1000 piece in German by Heidegger and, more importantly, signed by him, Totally cool. I saw, hesitated, and lost to someone else, an author's review copy of the Bantam edition of Ruby Fruit Jungle -- signed by Rita Mae Brown. (What is wrong with me that I did not buy that? Why did I try to figure out via google whether it was worth its $20 price tag?) No, I bought absolutely nothing that I have written about so far. I did buy a signed Mortimer Adler because I . . . well, lost it. And, it was a mere $1. And, I bought an odd bit of 1950s writing for my partner.
But none of that is relevant here, right? Not one of these things is even vaguely (well, ok, vaguely if you mean by that tangentially) related to the title of this piece: Murder She Wrote -- Or Read?
What is? Well, not surprisingly, there were murder mysteries for sale that day at the Newberry. And, I bought a few, on a whim, within about 10 minutes and with very little perusal. They include murder (obviously) and food. Hence, the title of this bit of blogging.
Funeral Food is a "Tory Bauer mystery" authored by Kathleen Taylor.Oddly, this is her blog, I think. Why does it seem odd to me? Not the dakota part, as that is obvious from the book. And, not the fact that there is undue attention to nail polish. It is just the terrifically not-so-caring about marketing the books characteristics of this blog! It may in fact be wonderful, but right now it seems odd. Anyway, the point: Taylor's book.
Set in a town called Delphi (and yes, there is a comment about its referent), the mystery involves a body (which is Mormon, allowing thereby a bit of commentary about religion in the region), in what I would imagine to be a greasy spoon where ourt amateur detective type works (thereby allowing for lots of food talk), and female friendships, crushes -- both returned and not, and most of the stereotypes about heterosexuals you can imagine. And, the cover -- like the book itself -- does take a cliche and run with it; well, the cover actually does this much more than the story line, and thus serves the story line poorly Really: murder can kill the appetite? Yes, the main character is a widow. And, shockingly she is worried about her weight. Must we discuss the weight of every single character in novels featuring women? My answer: no. Alas, too many authors in this genre feel a need to chat about calories or body weight or . . .
Having made all these dismissive points, I have to say this: I liked this book. It had twists and turns I did not expect, it skewered some types that deserve to be skewered, and there are actually some bittersweet bits to the ending, where justice is, well, not exactly served. Or is it? And, since it is a 1998 book, maybe the cliches were not already as well known when this was penned?
Here's what goodreads has to say.
And, on a tangential point: the topic of funeral food itself is worth pondering. Why do we think eating is so crucial when it comes to death? And why, oh why, do we eat those odd things that we eat when people die?
Death of a Kitchen Diva, the second of the mysteries I purchased at the Newberry, was actually an illegal purchase, something I just noticed tonight as I typed. What I purchased ought not to have been sold to me, for it is (gasp) an advanced uncorrected proof that says not for sale on the front, if in typeface that is pretty darn tiny). If I can be forgiven for only noticing this long after I read the darn thing, Lee Hollis, its author, will get a review here too. Unlike Funeral Food which is a 1998 book, this is a 2012 volume. And, it reads like someone who is trying just a bit too hard to cash in on the trend for food-related murder mysteries. LIke many these days, it has recipes. And like many, there are cliches on nearly every page. Within the first few pages, we have a woman worried about her appearance, cooking and making a mess, and, you guessed it, awaiting a new hunky possible beau. Ok, enough of that. On the mystery itself: The main character is a novice food writer, thrust into that by the retirement of an elderly person. She lands the job because she asks for a raise (and in order to get it, has to do more work), and because she likes to cook. Of course, her column becomes the plot device upon which the mystery hangs, including a feud between the author and another food writer in her small town. And, of course, the tale involves unearthing loads and loads of secrets in a tiny town. (The town, by the way, is Bar Harbor and yes, College of the Atlantic gets a mention.)
I do have one other bone to pick with this piece of fiction: the third person writing is awkward. In fact, the columns for the town's newspaper which are purportedly written by our main character seem, on the one hand, way to easy to write and, at least in my view, virtually unpublishable. But then, perhaps this blog is as well.
Hollis is a husband/wife team writing with a pseudonym. While I would not necessarily ever pay full price for one of their books, I certainly read this one quickly and with a smile. It made me wish I was in Bar Harbor, without the drama.
For a related youtube, click here.