Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cozy in the Kitchen: New Mysteries-With-Recipes for Relaxing

Crossing off items on a holiday list? Baking and freezing for the upcoming party? Pick up a "cozy" mystery for relief, especially for that feeling of being burnt-out as the year wraps around its shortest days, and spring seems a loooong way off ... The "cozy killers" that Kensington Books brought out in the past few weeks are just plain fun to read: mysteries with amateur sleuths whose passion for life -- and for justice -- somehow entangles them in snooping, sleuthing, and solving.

Lee Hollis -- pen name of a brother and sister team -- started the "Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery" series with Death of a Kitchen Diva. And a couple of years ago, I enjoyed Hollis's Death of a Country Fried Redneck. DEATH OF A CHRISTMAS CATERER, this year's treat, is actually the fifth is this cheerful series. Hayley Powell has her own newspaper column, food-focused of course, a favorite part of the gutsy little publication in her Maine town, the Island Times. This year her editor boss is in a personal crisis, and dumps the office holiday party in Hayley's lap. She books a great caterer -- but when she and the caterer find out that the newspaper's party budget is miniscule, the caterer drops the job. And soon drops dead (not Hayley's fault!). Hayley makes some awful choices about her own private life while scrambling to solve the murder, and the suspense about finding the criminal is almost equaled by wondering whether she'll pull her life together in time, as well!

Tucked among the chapters are some of Hayley's flavorful columns, each one wrapping up with both a beverage and a food recipe ... like Crock-Pot Christmas Stew, and Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. I wish Hayley lived next door! Meanwhile, after galloping through her adventures, I'm motivated to head to the kitchen. And while I'm cooking, I'll be mulling over the unusual and clever mode of death that Hollis's book involves. Somebody did some startling research for this one!

Equally enjoyable is Maya Corrigan's first "Five Ingredient Mystery," BY COOK OR BY CROOK, where Val Deniston is still adjusting to the drastic change in her life after a car accident -- no longer promoting chefs' cookbooks in New York City, she's come home to her grandfather and the family house near the Chesapeake Bay. Her new job isn't exactly high end: She's running the Cool Down Café at the local fitness club and taking part on a tennis team. But when her cousin Monique is the lead suspect in the death of one of the tennis players, Val becomes determined to find the real killer, and get her cousin out of trouble. Meanwhile two would-be suitors on hand are tangling with her grandfather, and the "cooking codger" himself is sneaking into Val's recipe collection, with ulterior motives.

Each book of Corrigan's series will include five suspects, five clues, and some five-ingredient recipes (Val's grandfather thinks anyone can handle five ingredients!). My choice from BY COOK OR BY CROOK is going to be the potato recipe, which looks terrific ... then again, so does the one for a strata ... and those macaroons ... The recipes all show up during Val's sleuthing, too. Mmm!

I have two more of these kitchen cozies to review in a couple of days. Meanwhile, next up: a college professor tackles employment research among California porn stars! And then some international titles. Come on back for more.

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