Worth Looking Out For:

Other Food-Related Mysteries

Reviewed by Karen G. Anderson


The past few years have produced a veritable groaning board of culinary crime fiction. Here is a short, and by no means comprehensive, list of some of those books currently in print. Keep in mind that, just as many dishes look better than they taste, some of the clever titles in this subgenre may be more memorable than the books themselves:

A Touch of the Grape, by Claudia Bishop (1998). Innkeepers Sarah and Meg Quilliam specialize in fine cooking and crime solving at the ominously named Hemlock Falls Inn in upstate New York. Their previous investigations (and recipes) are chronicled in Murder Well-Done, A Pinch of Poison, Death Dines Out, and A Dash of Death.

The Body in the Bookcase, by Katherine Hall Page (1998). Aleford, Massachusetts, is a charming New England town right out of the L.L. Bean catalogue -- except for the rash of burglaries in which nothing is taken except antiques. Caterer Faith Fairchild's search for her family heirlooms starts out as a genteel adventure, but quickly turns chilling. Includes recipes.

The Butter Did It, by Phyllis Richman (1997). A food critic for The Washington Post, Richman created (what else?) a restaurant critic/sleuth who investigates the murder of a trendy chef while sparring with a police detective who also happens to be a foodie.

Bread on Arrival, by Lou Jane Temple (1998). This is the latest in a series following Kansas City chef/detective Heaven Lee that includes Death by Rhubarb, Revenge of the Barbecue Queens, and A Stiff Risotto.

Cooks Overboard, by Joan Pence (1998). Another in the adventures of San Francisco chef Angie Amalfi (who has her own signature dessert, called "angelinas"). Earlier books include: Too Many Cooks, Cooking Up Trouble, Cooking Most Deadly, Something's Cooking, and Cooks Night Out.

Dying on the Vine, by Peter King (1998). The peripatetic London sleuth known only as "the Gourmet Detective" is off again (to Provence, this time) to deal with a feud between two French wineries that is turning murderous. As in Spiced to Death (1997), the sensuous Gourmet does his best musing and investigation when accompanied by fine wines and edibles -- and attractive female dinner companions.

Eat, Drink, and Be Wary (1998) is the latest in Tamar Myers' series of Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries, all of which include recipes. These books starring private eye Magdalena Yoder win the competition for clever titles: Just Plain Pickled to Death, Between a Wok and Hard Place, Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Crime, and No Use Dying Over Spilt Milk.

Funeral Food, by Kathleen Taylor (1998). As a rule, nothing much goes on in the small town in South Dakota where Tory Bauer waitresses. So why did someone murder a young Mormon missionary and hide the body in the café's broom closet?

The Trouble with a Bad Fit: A Novel of Food, Fashion, and Mystery, by Camilla Crespi (1996), didn't have a cute or punny title, but it won critical acclaim. The story follows ad designer Simona Griffo through the treacherous -- and, as you might expect, murderous -- world of New York fashion. With recipes.

Still Hungry for Food-Related Mysteries??

We're not done yet, either. Check out the novels selected for the main part of this review.