Recipes for Love and Murder
By Sally Andrew
(419 pages, mystery, 2015)
“Recipe for murder
1 stocky man who abuses his wife
1 small tender wife
1 medium-size tough woman in love with the wife
1 double-barreled shotgun
1 small karoo town marinated in secrets
1 mild gardener
1 red-hot new yorker
7 seventh-day adventists (prepared for the end of the world)
1 hard-boiled investigative journalist
1 soft amateur detective
2 cool policemen
1 handful of red herrings and suspects mixed together
pinch of greed
Throw all the ingredients into a big pot and simmer slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon for a few years. Add some chilis and brandy toward the end and turn up the heat.”
Set in rural South Africa, this culinary mystery features a plucky widow who can’t help trying to solve a murder.
“Tannie” means Auntie – a respectful term in Afrikaans used for a woman older than yourself. Tannie Maria loves eating, cooking, and feeding people. She has a recipe column in the local paper. When the paper’s advertisers insist that she writes an advice column instead, she does just that – she writes an advice column, but with recipes! She gets all sorts of letters from people of all ages. One is an auto mechanic who wants to be able to cook for a young woman. He’d like her to become his girlfriend. Tannie Maria is happy to help him out with advice and a recipe. But another letter tells a sinister tale. A woman writes that she has an abusive husband. She wants to leave, but she is afraid of him. Tannie Maria’s husband used to beat her, so this brings back terrible memories. She does what she can to help. But shortly after that, the woman is found murdered. And Tannie decides to help with the murder investigation, much to the chagrin of the local police.
If you liked The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book and series by Alexander McCall Smith, then you should try this mystery. It’s a mix of humor, mystery, romance, and action. It has a vivid sense of place, and lots of comfort food. I especially liked the character of Tannie Maria, who is unsure of herself in many ways, but has a good heart, and really knows her way around a kitchen! There’s a very helpful glossary of Afrikaans and South African terms in the back. And some of Tannie Maria’s recipes for The Perfect Buttermilk Chocolate Cake, Bobotie – a spiced baked meat dish, and Koeksisters – South African braided syrup-coated doughnuts, and more. It’s a fun read, and I learned a little about South Africa’s countryside, its animals and plant life, too, from Tannie Maria.
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