Who would have thought we had to know how to cook to write mysteries? Daryl Wood Gerber and I have laughed about that many times. Fortunately, both of us were fairly decent cooks before we wrote culinary mysteries. Not chefs, mind you, just adept in the kitchen.
My father, an old school European, used to fuss at my mom. “How will she ever learn to cook if you don’t let her try?” He was convinced that all proper young ladies should know how to cook and bake. Bless him, no matter how charred and inedible my results, he would insist that every dish I created was exactly the way he liked it. I was famous for picking out bizarre recipes to try. A popcorn pie probably tops the list. Really, the words popcorn and pie just shouldn’t be used together, much less be a real thing. My cousin devoured it anyway.
The trouble with writing culinary cozies is that people don’t just read the recipes, they make them. Which means the author had better be sure they taste good. In my first Domestic Diva Mystery, The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, my sleuth, Sophie Winston, offers a police detective a slice of bourbon pecan pie. Naturally, that became one of the recipes in the book. How hard could it be? Right? I made seven bourbon pecan pies before I was satisfied with the recipe. When you try a recipe that many times in a short period, right around pie number three, you no longer want an entire slice, let alone the rest of the pie. I had new neighbors at the time, and I kept bringing them leftover pies. They were nice about it, but they must have thought I was very peculiar.
It’s so easy to be writing fiction and think, hmm, what kind of fabulous thing would they be eating now? I’ll write the hazelnut cake was perfect, slightly moist with just the right crumb and the creamy mocha filling all but melted in my mouth. But trying to make such a cake is not as easy as writing about it. I have spent countless hours trying to create recipes that I invented as I was writing, only to realize that creating my delicious idea was way above my cooking paygrade.
Krista Davis, The Diva Serves Forbidden Fruit, Domestic Diva Mysteries
(Delicious recipes and entertaining tips included)
In my Domestic Diva Mysteries, event planner Sophie Winston always keeps chocolate chip cookies in the freezer, so she’ll have them on hand when needed. In The Diva Serves Forbidden Fruit, they’re served to neighbors in the middle of the night when everyone on the block is awakened after someone tries to break into Sophie’s best friend’s house. Of course, the recipe is included. Sophie’s friend, Nina, has just returned from a trip abroad with other residents of Old Town Alexandria. When one of Nina’s fellow travelers is murdered, the only clue is a strange image the victim scratched into the soil before dying. Could it point to a cryptic killer in Old Town? A bitter travel adversary? Or a cursed artifact smuggled back from the trip? When another traveler dies, Sophie realizes that her best friend may be next.
Authors have had a lot of fun with culinary mysteries and have come up with clever and creative themes and twists on mysteries involving food.
Ginger Bolton, Beyond a Reasonable Donut, Deputy Donut Mysteries
(Donut recipes and toppings included in each book)
There are those who focus on one type of food, like Ginger Bolton in The Deputy Doughnut Mystery Series. Widowed Emily Westhill runs a doughnut shop with her father-in-law, a retired policeman. In Beyond a Reasonable Donut, the fifth book in the series, Emily has set up a Deputy Donut tent at a local festival on Friday the 13th. Misfortune seems to be her lot when confectioner’s sugar disappears, and they are robbed by a magician. But things get worse when a mime is murdered, and Emily’s assistant is the suspect!
Maya Corrigan, Gingerdead Man, Five-Ingredient Mysteries
(Includes five-ingredient recipes)
Maya Corrigan has cleverly limited her ingredients in The Five-Ingredient Mystery Series. Who doesn’t love that kind of recipe? Cookbook publicist Val Deniston gave up the fast lane in New York and moved to a tourist town near the Chesapeake Bay. In Gingerdead Man, the seventh books in the series, it’s Christmas and the town is transformed to Victorian London, complete with people costumed as Dickens characters. All is not jolly, though, when Val hosts a tea party and Santa is poisoned by a gingerbread cookie!
Debra H. Goldstein, Four Cuts Too Many, Sarah Blair Mysteries
(Includes quick and easy recipes)
One of the most creative twists on the culinary cozy is The Sarah Blair Mystery Series by Debra H. Goldstein. Sarah Blair is down on her luck and has clumsy domestic skills. In fact, she doesn’t cook and tries to stay out of the kitchen! But her twin sister is a culinary wiz and Sarah reluctantly pitches in at their restaurant. In Four Cuts Too Many, the fourth book in the series, their sous chef lands in hot water when one of her knives somehow ends up in the back of Sarah’s rival!
Devon Delaney, Double Chocolate Cookie Murder, Cook-Off Mysteries
Books include recipes from Sherry’s kitchen.
Devon Delaney knows of what she writes. She actually enters recipe contests and wins them! Devon is the author of the appropriately named Cook-Off Mystery Series about Sherry Frazelle, whose passion is competitive cooking. In Double Chocolate Cookie Murder, number five in the series, Sherry changes hats to act as the judge of a cookie contest. One of the entrants is her former home ec teacher. When he turns up dead, it’s up to Sherry to find his killer.
Libby Klein, Beauty Expos Are Murder, Poppy McAllister Mysteries
(Seven gluten-free recipes in every book)
The Poppy McAllister Mystery Series by Libby Klein is loaded with humor. Newly widowed Poppy McAllister starts off baking gluten-free goodies for a local coffee shop. By book number six, Beauty Expos Are Murder, things are looking up for Poppy. She now has a bed and breakfast and a new beau. At the Health and Beauty Expo, she shares a booth with her new boyfriend, who has been keeping secrets from her. But he’s not the only one with secrets. When someone knocks off the keynote speaker, a prominent cosmetic surgeon promoting breakthrough anti-aging technology, Poppy is soon on the trail of his killer.
Daryl Wood Gerber, Wining and Dying, Cookbook Nook Mysteries
(Includes tantalizing recipes!)
Daryl Wood Gerber’s Cookbook Nook Mysteries cleverly spin culinary fiction in a fresh direction with Jenna Hart, who owns a culinary bookshop and café featuring cookbooks. In the tenth book of the series, Wining and Dying, local wineries are paired with artists to show off their creations at the Art and Wine Festival. Jenna is excited to enter one of her own paintings, but when one of the artists is murdered, it appears that one of Jenna’s friends is being framed.