Welcome to Monday Murder Mystery where we gather each week to talk about mysteries.  Discussion of all mysteries is welcome, not just those involving murder; and all genres of mysteries are welcome, be they the coziest of the cozy style or the most cold blooded of the police procedurals.  

Diarists are invited to share any book, series, author or mystery genre.  If you would like to contribute, please include your subject and date in the comments, or send a private message to Susan from 29.

Because it is hard to discuss a mystery without revealing the ending, please use the comment section for that discussion, with the word "Spoiler" prominent in the topic line.  Those who don't want to know the ending can set their Comment Preference to SHRINK and individually expand those comments without the warning.

A Catered Thanksgiving, by Isis Crawford

In Crawford's sprightly seventh mystery with recipes featuring sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons (after 2009's A Catered Birthday Party), the proprietors of A Little Taste of Heaven, their Longely, N.Y., catering company, prepare a Thanksgiving feast for Scrooge-like fireworks manufacturer Monty Field and his family at the Field mansion.  When Monty comes into the kitchen to test the roasting turkey, Bernie and Libby watch in horror as Monty taps the pop-up button in the bird's breast and the turkey explodes, blowing off the top of his head. Libby fears their stuffing made the turkey explode, but they soon learn that there was plenty of rivalry among the assembled family members, any one of whom had reason to want Monty dead.  A heavy snowstorm ensures the suspects stay put as the sisters start to investigate. That their father, Sean, was on bad terms with the victim complicates their task. The action builds to more fireworks and a dramatic rescue.
---Publishers Weekly

I was attracted to what appeared to be a humorous romp of a cozy mystery that had both a holiday and a culinary theme.  Sorry to say, as in so many highly anticipated holidays, disappointment was my fare.

Although I did not expect to like the eight suspects in the murder of Monty, I was surprised that none were even remotely sympathetic.  I found myself disliking the two sisters as well. The dialogue seemed unrealistic and/or inane.  It took me a full third of the book before I could recognize either sister by her comments.  

Even worse was the voice of El Huron, the ferret. The author takes great pains to hide the sexual identity of the killer, refusing to use any personal pronouns.  So, at least once and sometimes, twice in every sentence told from the killer’s point of view, the name El Huron appears.  Incredibly tedious.  

This is the first time I have ever read the last chapter out of sequence, and it took a few days to get around to that because I really didn’t care who killed Monty.  And that is a sad commentary on any mystery.

But, this brief morsel of a culinary mystery, tasteless as it may have been, only whetted my appetite for a more savory read.

Culinary mysteries are a sub-set of the Cozy mystery genre which tend to keep the actual physical murder off stage.  The amateur sleuth in a culinary is usually, but not always, a woman (consider Nero Wolfe) who is somehow involved with food, either as a creator or consumer.  Some even include recipes as an extra special bonus.

Most seem to relish puns in their titles, and at a certain point in my research it became natural to think in puns, as if they were a second more flavorful language.

Diane Mott Davidson

Perhaps one of the best known series is by Diane Mott Davidson, who "has won the Anthony Award from Bouchercon, and has been nominated for the Agatha, another Anthony, and the Macavity Award. In 1993 she was named Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Writer of the Year."

From Infosoup, which provides brief synopsis and lists of culinary mysteries:

Meet the caterer who whipped up the multimillion-copy mystery series - as Goldy solves her first murder! Diane Mott Davidson's winning recipe of first-class suspense and five-star fare has won her and caterer Goldy critical raves and a regular place on major bestseller lists across the country. (summary from syndetics)

Catering to Nobody
Dying for Chocolate

Cereal Murders.
Last Suppers

Killer Pancake
Main Corpse
Grilling Season

Prime Cut
Tough Cookie

Sticks and Scones
Chopping Spree

Double Shot

Dark Tort.
Sweet Revenge

Fatally Flakey
Crunch Time                                                                                            

J.B. Stanley

A popular culinary series is the Supper Club Mysteries, starring a man, by J.B. Stanley.

A mystery series for those who love food & hate diets
Except for an extra fifty pounds, former English Lit professor James Henry hasn't got much left to lose. Recently divorced, he's left the university job he loved and returned to his hometown to care for his cranky widowed father. To improve his social life and his waistline, James joins a new supper club for dieters...Featuring tasty, healthy recipes!

Carbs & Cadavers
Fit to Die
Chili Con Corpses
Stiffs and Swine
The Battered Body
Black Beans & Vice

Susan Wittig Albert

Another writer with a penchant for punned titles is Susan Wittig Albert author of China Bayles mysteries.

Nominated for both an Agatha and an Anthony Award, Susan Wittig Albert's novels featuring ex-lawyer and herb shop proprietor China Bayles have won acclaim for their rich characterization and witty, suspenseful stories of crime and passion in small-town Texas. (from book jacket)

Thyme of Death
Witches’ Bane
Hangman’s Root
Rosemary Remembered
Rueful Death
Love Lies Bleeding
Chile Death
Lavender Lies
Mistletoe Man
Indigo Dying
Dilly of a Death
Dead Man’s Bones
Bleeding Hearts
Spanish Dagger
Holly Blues
Mourning Gloria

Joanne Fluke

Joanne Fluke, author of the Hannah Swenson series, makes do without punned titles, sticking to recipe names instead.  

When Hannah Swenson, amateur sleuth and owner of the Cookie Jar Bakery in Lake Eden, Minn., gets on the trail of a murder, watch out! Off the wall characters along with great recipes make these mysteries delicious.

Devil’s food cake murder
Chocolate chip cookie murder
Strawberry shortcake murder
Blueberry muffin murder
Lemon meringue pie murder
Fudge cupcake murder
Sugar cookie murder
Peach cobbler murder
Cherry cheesecake murder
Key Lime Pie murder
Carrot cake Murder
Cream puff murder
Plum pudding murder
Apple turnover murder

Tamar Meyers

My favorite pun titles come from Tamar Meyers who writes mysteries set in the Pennsylvania-Dutch country.

In Tamar Myers’ Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery with Recipes Series, narrator Magdalena Yoder, a mean-spirited innkeeper, exploits her Mennonite heritage to run the PennDutch Inn. Life is anything but dull at the PennDutch inn. You never know when murder and mayhem will be served with the evening meal. Magdalena finds herself playing amateur sleuth time and again in order to protect the reputation of her beloved inn.

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Crime
No Use Dying Over Spilled Milk
Between a Wok and a Hard Place
Eat, Drink, and Be Wary
Play it Again, Spam?
Hand that Rocks the Ladle
Crepes of Wrath
Gruel and Unusual Punishment

Custard’s Last Stand

Thou Shalt Not Grill

Assault and Pepper

Grape Expectations

Hell hath No Curry

As the World Churns

Batter Off Dead

Butter Safe Than Sorry

The titles so intrigued me (I mean, really, Crepes of Wrath?) that I went to her website and learned that she was raised by her Mennonite missionary parents in what was the Belgian Congo.  Her tales in the interview that is posted are fascinating and I am thinking of reading her book The Witch Doctor’s Wife.  Has anyone read any of her work, either the Pennsylvania Dutch or the Den of Antiquity series?  Or even better, either of the two set in the Congo?

G.A. McKevett

There are still more culinary series with punny titles, like G.A. McKevett's  Savannah Reid mysteries:

(pseudonym of Sonja Massie) Murder a la mode 2005. Savannah Reid, in her forties, is a private detective who heads the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency. She has an assistant, Tammy Hart, and a best friend, Detective Dick Coulter of the San Carmelita Police Department. Southern California is an area where it is not surprising to find tryouts for a TV show. Savannah's career as an investigator continues, in 2007, she is in Poisoned Tart.

Cooked Goose
Just Desserts
Killer Calories
Sugar and Spite
Sour Grapes

Peaches and Screams

Death By Chocolate

Cereal Killer

Murder a la mode

Corpse Suzette

Fate Free and Fatal

Poisoned Tarts

A Body to Die For

Wicked Craving

A Decadent Way to Die

Joanne Pence

Joanne Pence writes the Angie Amalfi Mysteries
Gourmet cook, sometime food  columnist, sometime restaurant critic, and generally "underemployed" person Angelina Amalfi burst upon the mystery scene in Something’s Cooking in which she met San Francisco Homicide Inspector Paavo Smith. Since that time she's wanted two things in life, a good job...and Paavo.

Something’s Cooking
Too Many Cooks
Cooking Up Trouble
Cooking Most Deadly
Cook’s Night Out
To Catch a Cook
Bell, Cook, and Candle
If Cooks Could Kill
Two Cooks A-Killing
Courting Disaster
Red Hot Murder
The Da Vinci Cook

Rex Stout

I have purposely not included Rex Stout for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I have somehow managed to miss reading a single Nero Wolfe mystery.  I don't know how this could have happened, but it did.  And I refuse to do a quick read of this series just for the sake of a Monday diary.  

Another reason is that I think Nero Wolfe deserves his own diary, written by someone with enough knowledge of the subject to guide us through the mysteries and perhaps even the cookbook.  

And finally, it is Nero Wolfe, for heavens' sakes.

Please share your favorites with us.  Who do you like best, and why?  Who gave you the most chuckles while holding the suspense high?  And who would you like to write about?

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 04:00 PM PST.

Also republished by DKOMA and Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

Your Email has been sent.