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Sep 8, 2007 06:40 AM

Mysteries and Food

I have been on a bit of a mystery reading trned lately and I have noticed certain side focus on food in many of my favorite authors.

Foremost amongst those is Rex Stout, his Nero Wolfe series has as its focus a gourmand who employs a trained chef as his butler. The dishes mentioned in the series have been put together in a Nero Wolfe's Cookbook, a copy of which I have not yet been able to procure. But it doesn't stop there.

Andrea Camilleri in his Inspector Montalbano series has a parallel theme of Montalbano employing Adelina, his house cleaner, who leaves succulent sounding Sicilian dishes in his refrigerator, as well as tempt us with the daily fare from his favorite local, while his boss, the comissario's wife occasionally would create some kind of recipe that he would swoon over. All in all a very Chowhoundish experience, along with murder, mayhem, and the Sicilian experience.

Both Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson like to describe their creations, John Rebus and Alan Banks, "tucking" into pub fares and Scottish and Yorkshire recipes.

Diane Mott Davidson has her Goldy the Caterer series where Goldy solves murders in between catering gigs.

So are there any others?

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  1. Tons! There's a classic cozy series by Virginia Rich based on cooking.

    Lots of good cooking in Donna Leon. Patricia Cornwell came out with at least one Kay Scarpetta cookbook. Joan Smith-- there are at least two; I refer to the series about and English professor-- wrote a promising series that went downhill; lots of cooking in that one. Anthony Bourdain has at least two mysteries out, including Bone in the Throat which features a restaurant. The list goes on. Every time you go to a mystery convention you see a few new ones about chefs or whatever, sometimes with accompanying cookbook. Actually, unless the food is particularly interesting, I get tired of it.

    1. I'm reminded of Rumpole of the Bailey by Sir John Mortimer. Rumpole loved the good life and cheap cigars as much as the law, however his main local was Pommeroy's, a greasy spoon tavern where his favorite dish is steak and kidney pie. Rumpole forever extolls the virtues of Pommeroy's house wine, Chateau Bank of the Thames. I'm not sure if his wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, ever accompanied him there. The entire series is hilarious.

      I just remembered: His favorite description of someone who thought himself an expert on anything was, "Corner Sewer."

      1. Oh-- I really like Poppy Z. Brite's Liquor series. I bought the books because they were on someone's list of mysteries, but they are not traditional mysteries although there are some criminal happenings. However if you like food and mysteries, I think you should like these. Brite is married to an award-winning chef, and it shows.

        1. Peter King's Gourmet Detective series offers charming romps through the cuisine scene, with tongue-in-cheek excessive culinary focus and some murder mystery action holding things together. Highly recommended.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Sharuf


            Go to the above site, year 2002, journals 2 & 3. You will have recipes and articles about some of the best culinary mystery books. Just click away.

            I am a Mystery Readers member and friend of the editor.

            1. re: Janet

              Wow, this is awesome. Thanks for posting it.

              1. re: Phaedrus

                You are very welcome. This group is one I love to belong to. If you have questions about the group, or the journals email me


          2. Katherine Hall Page's protagonist (Faith Fairchild) is a caterer in the "Body in the ..." series (Body in the Bouillon, Body in the Belfry, etc.)

            Robert B Parker's Spenser often describes the meals he's eating or cooking.