There are a variety of murder mystery genres to fit just about any taste. Selections range from historical-based mysteries for just about every time period, mysteries featuring authors and/or historical figures (such as Jane Austen solving crimes), hard-boiled detectives and little old ladies sipping tea while solving crimes, forensic-based mysteries, and even mysteries featuring animals. One of the more popular genres now seems to be the food-based mysteries featuring recipes. The Joplin Public Library carries a good selection of choices for those interested in one of these tasty books.
Isis Crawford has just had her tenth book come out in the “Catered” series, A Catered Fourth of July. Sisters Bernie and Libby are busy running their shop, A Little Taste of Heaven, but in between making lemon meringue pies and gingersnap cookies, they still have time to stumble across bodies and find killers. Each book features recipes at the end, but even if you don’t want to whip up a treat in the kitchen, these books are a fun read for mystery fans.
Continuing the cooking theme, Diane Mott Davidson is another writer who has mixed muffins with murder in her books. Goldy Bear is a caterer who is starting a new life for her teenage son and herself after a nasty divorce, but her tendency to stumble across dead bodies doesn’t help. Goldy also turns to cooking whenever she’s stressed, so food plays an integral role in the novels. These books tend to feature recipes with complicated instructions and expensive ingredients, so while I won’t fix any of the desserts myself, it’s still fun to read about them. Diane Mott Davidson’s first book in this series is Catering to Nobody, and while you don’t have to read them in order it does make it easier to follow the later books.
Another author who likes to feature more labor-intensive recipes in her mysteries is Katherine Hall Page. Faith Fairchild runs a catering business, and also enjoys cooking for her pastor husband and their two children. Unfortunately, Faith seems to stumble across a high number of bodies (which nobody seems to find amiss) and always manages to suss out the killer before the police can. Her newest book, The Body in the Piazza, has Faith and her husband traveling to Italy, so the recipes include Biscotti and Spaghetti alla Foriana.
If you want a mystery with more plain cooking instead of hoity-toity recipes, Joanne Fluke’s series featuring Hannah Swensen is a sweet treat. Hannah runs a cookie shop, and, again, she seems to find a lot of dead bodies. (At some point, I’m thinking the cops just need to follow these ladies around instead of waiting for the phone call.) Fluke’s series is lighter and less serious than the previous two, and the recipes reflect it as well. One of her books feature a recipe that calls for a pound of meat, a pound of frozen potatoes and a can of cream of “your choice” soup to make what is called a Minnesota Hot Dish. I’ve actually made some of the cookie recipes from these books, and the Chocolate Highlander Cookies have become a family favorite at Christmas. My mother-in-law even asked for the recipe! While Blackberry Pie Murder is the newest book, I recommend reading this series in order from the beginning.
Finally, we have the Magdalena Yoder series by Tamar Myers. Magdalena is a Mennonite who runs an inn in Hernia, Pennsylvania. Due to the ineptitude of the police chief who is a cousin (and everyone in the town seems to be a cousin of some sort), Magdalena ends up investigating a lot of murders. This has got to be one of the funniest mystery series, and Magdalena is not your normal heroine. These books feature some of the oddest characters, including a sister who carries a small dog in her bra. These Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries feature lots of home cooking recipes mixed with lots of humor. While the earlier books in the series would have to be requested via inter-library loan through our Reference desk, we do have 10 different ones in the series. Gruel and Unusual Punishment is the oldest one in the series in our collection.
While I would hesitate to have any of these women cook for me because they would most likely find a dead body (probably mine), I have no problem picking up their books. Murder and food seems to go well together when picking out an entertaining mystery to read, and these authors are some of the more popular in this genre.