Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dying for Chocolate: Whodunit #9

Dying for Chocolate is a book in Diane Mott Davidson's culinary mystery series about Goldy Bear (yes, that's the name of the main character and, no, this is not a fairy tale): newly divorced from an abusive husband, desperately trying to be a good mom, working to keep her fledgling catering business afloat, and solving a mystery to boot. Busy woman.

In Dying for Chocolate, Goldy, with her son Arch in tow, is forced to move into the house of Bo and Adele Farquhar in the exclusive Aspen Meadow Country Club as a live-in cook while she has a security system installed in her own home following an incident involving her violent ex-husband. Aside from cooking the Farquhars' meals, she also accepts catering jobs like the fundraising events that keep Adele busy, and intimate themed dinners for their neighbors, the Harringtons.

When Philip Miller, a wealthy psychologist she is dating, dies in a mysterious car accident, Goldy wonders who is responsible for his death. Is it her ex-husband, who might have been driven by jealousy? Philip's sister, who is dependent on him financially and possibly the heir to all his fortune? Weezie Harrington, who is rumored to be having an affair with Philip? Or is it Julian Teller, a quiet, troubled college student who is also Philip's patient?

The novel is interesting in that recipes of dishes Goldy prepares in the story are included between chapters. Maybe to cleanse the palate, to break the monotony of a pretty dry storytelling, or to help the reader imagine how tired, busy and frustrated Goldy must have been, for example, when she dropped a cake she was about to serve and which took her four hours to make.

I thought it was predictable as all the clues suggest that almost all of the characters may be the murderer-- all but one. This character seems to have no motive and a lot of convenient alibis. The fact that the reader's attention is deliberately being drawn away from him (or her) makes it all the more obvious that he (or she) is the villain.

I love the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters and the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, because both Amelia and Jack are thinking characters. Though they have their share of luck-- as when they stumble upon clues, or when they are rescued from particularly sticky situations-- it plays no part in unraveling the mystery. I was disappointed by Goldy because, had the villain not admit to the murder, she would have been clueless to the very end. And she was impossibly lucky, too. When she was poisoned by cantharidin, along with her massively-built, fit and healthy cop friend, it was fortunate that its effect on her 5-foot, overworked, undernourished, caffeine-loaded, stressed body was so minimal and short-lived that she was still able to come to the aid of her cop friend (who was reduced to a helpless, immobile, useless, groaning heap on the bathroom floor) and drive several miles to rescue her son who was drowning in the school swimming pool (and just in the nick of time, too).

I have not read any of Davidson's other books, and I admit to being discouraged by Dying for Chocolate, but she does cook up the most appetizing titles: The Last Supper, The Grilling Season, Killer Pancake and The Cereal Murders (my personal favorite), to name a few. Though it would probably be fun to see what recipes are included in her other books, I, however, am not looking forward to the mystery part.

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dementedchris said...

Thanks for the honest review! I think I would have picked up this mystery for the title (plus I want to try out more culinary mysteries) but I think I'll try another series.

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

I agree with demented chris that the titles do sound promising. I am happy about your candor in your review though. I think that it is our strength as book bloggers to be able to really share our honest thoughts about books. I am also glad that you were able to balance the good things with the things that did not quite work for you. =) Again, many thanks for joining our reading challenge.

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