Cooking the Books – Kerry Greenwood

I fell upon this book (received from Netgalley, thank you) with glad cries.

Well, no, I opened the book on my Kindle looking forward to a light mystery, and within minutes was uttering glad cries. It started with the prefatory note, which includes the line “This whole book is a work of fiction. As is the city of Melbourne itself.” Score.

Bigger score:

“He deserves to be remembered. He was Richard the Third’s confectioner, a highly paid position. … He went with Richard to the battle of Bosworth Field, where the King was defeated and the cook was captured. Henry VII offered him his life if he would give him the recipe for these sugary little treats. He refused, and after a week Henry VII had him executed. But the cook gave the recipe to one of his jailers and the local bakers made them for centuries, all through the Tudor period. Just to remind the rulers that there had been a good king who was usurped and murdered.”

– Commence glad cries. I didn’t read The Daughter of Time a few months ago for nothing: Josephine Tey won me to the Ricardian cause, and this matter-of-fact comment was a pleasant surprise. She had me at “Bosworth jumbles”. Also, the cookies sound more than pleasant.

Even bigger score:

“Then there was no reason why we shouldn’t relax, watching Doctor Who and eating the rest of the Christmas chocolates…”

Biggest:

“We spent the evening watching Doctor Who – I was still undecided about the new Doctor…”

*happy sigh* (Don’t get me wrong – I like Matt Smith more than I ever expected to. But my heart will always belong to Ten.)

This is, unexpectedly, geek heaven – Corinna would rather settle in and watch Doctor Who, is still reserving judgment on Dollhouse (series/season 2), and the publisher’s note is by Joanna Tribble. Daniel passes some time watching Battlestar Galactica. Someone uses a Princess Bride quote – and it’s not “Inconceivable!” Shakespeare and Tolkien and Star Wars – oh yes.

Image via WikimediaThere is a strong resemblance between this book and the Diane Mott Davidson series about her caterer, Goldy Bear. (One difference: I don’t cringe over Corinna Chapman’s name.) Both main characters are in The Industry, and there was a DMD in which Goldy hosted a PBS cooking show (and another where she catered a fashion photo shoot, to which this is more closely related). Both are first-person POV, and both feature women who are not size six, five-foot-nine, or raving beauties, who exult in being beloved of hunks (Note: A Sabra is a Jew born in Israel), and who enjoy good food, Image via Wikimediaboth the making and the eating. Both include recipes (and both, sadly, fail to provide recipes for the lovely items described in the story for which I would most enjoy recipes – those Bosworth jumbles, for example). The settings are very different – Corinna lives in Australia, and is happily single, her only “child” the fifteen-year-old apprentice she acquired in one of the other books I look forward to getting my hands on, while Goldy is a divorced and remarried mother of one living in Colorado. Where Goldy is pretty much billed as an expert in every aspect of cookery, Corinna is an avowed baker. Bread is her passion, and given a choice she’ll stick to it. Also, the mystery (mysteries, actually) faced by Corinna are much Image via Wikimediamore realistic. Not to violate River Song’s strictures against Spoilers, but one of my problems with the majority of “cozy” mysteries has always been that I don’t think I’d ever find constantly tripping over bodies cozy – and if I had a friend like Goldy who did keep tripping over bodies I think I’d maintain the friendship, but from a safe distance. By email, say. Another point: Goldy met her Schultz, a cop, over one of the bodies she found; I don’t know the origin story of Corinna and David yet, but his career as detective leads naturally into a reasonable level of assistance from her. I’ve enjoyed the Goldies, for the most part but based on this one I think the Corinnas may well be superior. The writing is more fun than any I’ve read in a long while; it reads like the conversation of a good friend. And I think Corinna would be a good friend, based on her geeky intelligence – I like this lady, a lot. And Daniel, of course. And the two of them together.Image via Wikimedia

To sum up, this was a book filled with intelligent writing which I would say sparkled if that wasn’t a blurb cliché, and with wonderful characters I want to be friends with and awful characters about whom I want to be able to gossip with the ones who are my friends. I don’t think I’ve read much set in Australia, and I loved it; I’ve read quite a lot centered around the food industry, and I loved it. It is a cozy mystery that comes closer to fitting the description than any in recent memory, and I loved it. I even loved the cats, and I’m a dog person.

I loved it.

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