Robbie Jordan’s restaurant/country store, ‘Pans ‘N Pancakes’ has been open for six weeks in Maddie Day’s “Grilled for Murder.” Robbie specializes in selling vintage and unusual pans which double as decorations on the walls, but it’s her food that really packs in the locals for breakfast and lunch.
Robbie (short for Roberta) has agreed to cater a welcome-home party for Erica, apparently not well-liked by anyone except her own family. Even they’re not crazy about her. The party goes off almost as planned, complete with tasty food and more than a little drama between Erica and nearly everyone else.
Robbie lives in an apartment in back of the store and comes out to set up in the morning, only to find the guest of honor from the night before, dead on the floor. Next to the pickle barrel. When the barrel is emptied in order to look for evidence, I knew that I would never look at a pickle the same way again. Who killed Erica and why? Considering said drama at the welcome-home party, there is certainly no shortage of motivated people.
“Grilled for Murder” flows nicely between the mystery, the country store, the romance in Robbie’s life and the wonderful people that form the core ensemble. Her aunt Adele is the former Mayor, Buck is second in command at the police department and probably eats more than all her other customers, Phil is her dessert maker and close friend, Abe and his son Sean are new in Robbie’s life and will probably stay around a while. With their small-town friendliness and genuine support for each other, these are people with whom you’d like to spend a lot of time.
As the lead character in a cozy series, Robbie Jordan is a great one. Robbie is an athletic young woman, prefers to walk or bike if she can, wears colorful comfortable clothes, and has worked hard to live her dream. It’s her nature to listen and pay attention during conversations and she loves solving puzzles, so she’s a natural for amateur sleuthing. Her skills also include carpentry – she did most of the renovation work herself to get the place exactly the way she wanted it. Robbie’s knowledge and curiosity about vintage tools play an important role in identifying the killer and despite her petite size, she is no timid soul.
Maddie Day transfers her own love of cooking to Robbie’s character and we are treated to her techniques throughout the book, whether Robbie is in the restaurant or cooking for herself. I kept getting up to have a snack while reading “Grilled for Murder.” Cheese bubbling, fresh crust aroma, curried potato puffs with apple chutney, colorful coleslaw, cheesy biscuits made with eggs – yum. When reading Day’s step-by-step biscuit making, including the use of vintage tools, I ‘made’ the biscuits along with Robbie in my mind. All that is missing is the list of exact amounts and it is a recipe unfolding on the page.
In “Grilled for Murder,” book #2 in the Country Store Mysteries, there is more than one secret to be uncovered, more than one mystery to be solved. A jaw dropping discovery about one of the local business owners reveals the lengths some people will go to in order to protect/save those they love. With life behind the scenes in a small restaurant, and a budding relationship thrown in, “Grilled for Murder” has the right combos for an entertaining read.
“When the Grits Hit the Fan,” book #3 in the Country Store Mysteries, was published in March, 2017. Maddie Day is Edith Maxwell. Please visit www.edithmaxwell.com for more information about the Country Store Mysteries as well as Maxwell’s other series.
What cook can resist a great new cookbook?
Even better, what foodie/avid reader can resist a cookbook created by his/her favorite author?
The following twelve cookbooks have been recommended by the readers of Nightstand Book Reviews as part of their literary and/or cookbook collections. The cookbooks would definitely make a fun gift to a fan of any of the authors. There are some pretty famous writers in the mix and many of the cookbooks have been nominated for awards. If you have tried any of the recipes, please let us know in the comments.
Click on the book title to learn more about the featured recipes.
"Cooking with Jane Austen" – Kirstin Olsen
"Food to Die For" – Patricia Cornwell, Marlene Brown
"Goldy’s Kitchen Cookbook" – Diane Mott Davidson
"KP Authors Cook Their Books" – 11 Kindle Press authors
"Mystery Writers of America Cookbook" – Kate White, editor; famous mystery writer contributors
"The Cat Who Cookbook" – Lilian Jackson Braun
"The Cozy Cookbook" – Laura Childs & other bestselling cozy writers
"The Hemingway Cookbook" – Craig Boreth
"The Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook" – Theresa Carle-Sanders
"Winnie the Pooh’s Teatime Cookbook" – A.A. Milne
In “The Coincidence of Coconut Cake,” Chef Lou Johnson is living her dream at her restaurant, Luella’s, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She’s making plans for the future and is engaged to Devlin, a prominent attorney. Life is good and getting better.
When Lou bakes a coconut cake for Devlin’s birthday and takes it to his apartment, his intern is there, barely dressed. It appears that Devlin is cheating on her. Devlin is a man who has disapproved of the crocs and casual clothes Lou wears in her everyday chef’s life and buys her expensive dresses because he thinks she doesn’t look after herself. He never understood her need to work/own a restaurant. She has brushed that aside and thought they could work it out, that eventually he would see how important her career is to her. Well, maybe not after the scantily clad gal has made her appearance.
Transplanted Brit and food critic, Al Waters, is looking for a way to leave town as quickly as possible, to get away from Milwaukee, Wisconsin – what he considers to be a Podunk region of the world. The restaurant reviews he writes under a pseudonym can ruin an eatery’s reputation, but all Waters wants to do is make a name for himself. His columns are selling newspapers and getting attention from employers, but sometimes play fast and loose with the facts – almost written before he actually eats at the places.
Al does a scathing review of Lou’s restaurant on the very night of the intern sighting. Groan. Business drops waaaaay off as a result. Double Groan. Suddenly, life can’t get any worse for Lou. The time is ripe for Lou to completely redo her life. What follows is a series of meetings with both Al and Lou keeping their real identities secret. Deception? Evasion? Attraction? What could go wrong in this tale of love’s beginnings and endings and new beginnings?
Amy E. Reichert has written a delightful novel about the way that fate can intervene when life falls off the rails and we are blindsided by events that run contrary to our Grand Plan. The reader is in on the secrets early on, but Reichert’s clever plot keeps us laughing as the main players stay in the dark. Supporting characters are far from cookie-cutter and have love stories of their own, with the result that “The Coincidence of Coconut Cake” serves up a rich selection from the love menu.
Having worked in several restaurants in order to work my way through college and/or learn the business for my own Grand Plan, I read the behind-the-scenes workings of Luella’s with special interest. Reichert reveals the dynamics of running a restaurant with just enough info to provide authenticity. Details such as the number of ‘covers’ and the division of labor in a kitchen, the attention paid to the ‘regulars’, the scars on the chef’s hands, and commitment to a career with long hours, supply the perfect flavor to “The Coincidence of Coconut Cake.”
While there are no actual recipes in the book, the food descriptions are mouthwatering. Cooks will find a lot to like and may even pick up some tips for food prep. It’s obvious that Al and Lou both love great food as they wander through the Milwaukee eateries and eventually cook for each other. They chat about their families’ influences on their professions, food adventures, and the best way to prepare a dish, with warm and often funny scenes. Their interactions are completely natural and we root for their relationship, despite the complications.
“The Coincidence of Coconut Cake” can be enjoyed as a book about second chances in love and life, but also as a surprising celebration of Milwaukee’s eateries. The book has all the elements for an endearing romantic comedy movie, but I’d love to have a piece of that coconut cake.
Please visit www.amyereichert.com for more information about Amy E. Reichert and her work.
Julia Snowden is back in “Musseled Out,” the third installment of Barbara Ross’ great Maine Clambake Mystery series.
The Maine summer tourist season is winding down and it’s time for Julia to make a decision. Should she stay around until the next season to help the family with the Snowden Clambake business or go back to her venture capital job in New York City? Her boss will only hold her spot open for so long – just until the end of the week. She’s got five days to choose between two jobs and lifestyles that could not be more different.
Now that the family livelihood has been saved, about the only thing that really holds Julia to Busman’s Harbor is her boyfriend, Chris. But, is that relationship really just a summer fling? Can she count on him to hang around? Is his constant disappearing act over? In a half-hearted attempt to force herself into making a decision, she looks at places to live in town. She doesn’t like the apartments she’s seen, and her boyfriend’s cabin is a little rough (translation – gutted while being rehabbed) for her taste. Plus, she has to find work in the off-season. Is that a sign?
The thing is, as in any good series, there has to be motivation for the out-of-town main character to hang around. We don’t want Julia to go anywhere, so Ross has to give this smart, savvy gal in “Musseled Out” an authentic reason. How about the body of a potential competitor, David Thwing, tangled up in the lines of a lobster boat she sees drifting off her beach? Julia has helped the local police successfully before, so they trust her not to be involved in Thwing’s death, but there are plenty of people (including her brother-in-law) in her circle that could have done the deed.
What follows is a beautifully crafted plot, with surprising twists and turns, and impeccably placed events that foil the bad guys’ plans. There is even a page-turning rescue scene that left me stunned, with the life and death struggles reading like an actual Coast Guard response.
Ross has developed the core characters of the series even further in “Musseled Out,” giving Gus and Mrs. Gus a storyline of their own that affects Julia and Chris in a profound way. The book not only explores what happens when key personnel in a family business are sidelined, and the serious decisions that must be made, but also how bad decisions can wreck havoc on the lives of everyone involved.
The motivations for everything that happens are as current as the latest news cycle, but if that’s not enough, there are some serious cooks in this series. Techniques are shared as part of the storyline, and I plan to try the one for fried eggs. Recipes for main dishes and desserts are included at the end of the book. I made lobster mac & cheese from “Clammed Up,” (delicious) and I can’t wait to try the pumpkin whoopee pies from “Musseled Out.”
Read the review of “Clammed Up,” the first in the series, here.
For more information about Barbara Ross and her next book, “Fogged Inn,” please visit www.maineclambakemysteries.com
Goldy Schulz’s catering business is short of cash in “The Main Corpse,” so when a lucrative gig comes along, she is more than happy to serve up her tastiest dishes, despite the fact that the event will be held at a mining site. Yup, you read that correctly. Well, not inside the mine – in a tent outside the entrance, but still. When was the last time you attended a catered event at a mine? With that unusual setting for the party that will pull Goldy out of near catering oblivion, we wonder…what will go wrong first? 😉
The company backing the re-opening of the Eurydice Gold Mine has lots of wealthy investors. Goldy is eager to showcase the food, and maybe get a few new clients, but when the party goes south – yelling, insults, hail, rain, and mud – she doubts that anybody will remember how good the menu was. Her best friend, Marla, is a primary investor and makes accusations about the veracity of the mine, and becomes a prime suspect when missing persons, multiple murders, and more mayhem enter the story.
There are complications galore, an assistant that accidentally does the right thing every once in a while, characters slithery enough to join ranks of the reptile kingdom, as well as a great relationship between Goldy and her cop husband, Tom, in the “The Main Corpse.” We learn about the ins and outs of the catering business, the last minute catastrophes that can and do spell disaster for an event, and what a talented cook does to avert those disasters. Mix in the yummy looking recipes scattered throughout the book, and you can see why this series is 17 books strong.
The catering business can be murder. At least that is what many of the foodie cozies lead us to believe. But if you are a foodie as well as a mystery lover, they can deliver a smorgasbord of wicked fun. “The Main Corpse” is indeed a delicious addition to the genre.
“The Main Corpse” is the sixth book in Diane Mott Davidson's Culinary Mystery series starring Goldy Schulz. Please visit http://dianemottdavidsonbooklist.com/ to see the rest of the list as well as the other books Davidson has written.
I am happy to say that I know quite a few really good cooks and bakers. They use fresh ingredients, cook/bake from scratch and (deservedly so) take pride in the results. These gals and guys know their way around a saucepan and have discovered go-to cookbooks to use as reliable references when checking on a new technique or when working with an unfamiliar food. Sometimes, they use the cookbooks to expand their repertoire of tasty entrees and/or desserts.
The Nightstand Book Reviews subscribers were invited to contribute their choices for favorite cookbooks (suitable for holiday gift-giving). Take a look at the list and their comments.
Pat Bee uses:
The New Doubleday Cookbook! My husband found this cookbook years ago and it is a great one! Lots of information regarding cooking – not just recipes.
My other favorite is Baking by Dorie Greenspan. Haven’t had a failure with any of the recipes and the final product is delicious, especially the biscotti. (Note from Patti: I’ve had the biscotti. Yummy!)
Rony G Cambell suggests:
My son found a cookbook The Country Farmhouse Cookbook by Sarah Banbery. I’ve never come across a cookbook with so much love, detail and absolutely outstanding recipes, all with brilliant photography to accompany them.
It covers everything from growing, to final preparation. Soups, snacks, egg & cheese dishes, fish & shellfish – the list goes on until the final Homemade Drinks & Sweets.
It gets used at least once a week in our house.
Toni DeLuca praises:
My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. It made the Goodreads list for top cookbooks. It includes recipes as well as stories of Paris.
Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Fast. There are over 900 pages but it really is a helpful book. He is very health conscious and gives clear directions. He writes for the NYTimes and is on PBS.
From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart:
Meatless: Vegetarian recipes. Not complicated and even meat eaters would enjoy the recipes. I made several of the recipes – Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Gratin & Roasted Tomato Tabbouleh are two.
One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals From Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot and More.
Edith Maxwell has contributed to:
Cozy Food: 128 Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes! Nancy Lynn Jarvis compiled this. It includes many delicious recipes from many well-known (and some not so well-known) mystery authors. I have recipes in there for Baba Ganoush, and Tomato-Bean Salad with Eggs.
Check out www.edithmaxwell.com for links/info about Edith’s books, featuring amateur sleuths that are also talented cooks.
Liz Mugavero loves:
Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr and Chad Samo. Kris is a wellness advocate who has been living with cancer for eleven years and has improved her health and lifestyle with her food choices. The recipes in this book are vegan and many have gluten free options. All are plant based. It's definitely my go-to cookbook!
Check out www.lizmugavero.com for links/info about Liz’s fun, pet friendly murder mysteries that include recipes for pet treats.
Brian Stewart suggests:
For curry fans (like me) you can’t look past Atul Kochhar’s Atul’s Curries of the World. Tried many of them, and all are fantastic (top favourite is the prawn and mango one!!)
Lynn C. Willis recommends:
My favorite cookbook is my Hershey's Recipes. Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate! It's only 30 pages but every page is filled with some kind of goodie made with Hershey chocolate. Chocolate Raspberry Dessert is nearly truly zen-worthy. I found this book in the dollar bin at Target and consider it the best dollar I've ever spent. (Note from Patti: Hershey now has multiple titles for chocolate recipe cookbooks. The link takes you to one of the many.)
My second favorite cookbook is The Chandler Family Recipes – a book my cousin put together a few years ago and distributed at our family reunion. She spent years gathering the recipes of our grandmothers, mothers, great aunts, aunts and fellow cousins and compiled them in spiral-bound books she photocopied herself. I gave one to my own daughter and one to my daughter-in-law as something to pass on to their own daughters. (Note from Patti: You can’t purchase the Chandler collection of recipes, but isn’t it a great idea for a future gift?)
Check out www.lynnchandlerwillis.com for info/links to Lynn’s award-winning mysteries.
I have some of the above titles on my shelf, but have asked Santa to bring me the ones I’m missing. J
Happy shopping everyone!
P.S. If you are subscriber to Nightstand Book Reviews and would like to add a cookbook title to the list, please email me with your suggestion.