The best mysteries that will make you hungry

Who am I?

I love to eat, read, write, and talk about food. Since I was a clinical psychologist before turning to writing, I use food to develop complex characters, including my food critic protagonist, Hayley Snow. Here's how she describes food writing: "When we wrIte about simmering a stew or a sauce for hours or days, we are really talking about how much we owe to the folks who came before us and the importance of cherishing their memory. And how much we yearn to give to the people in our present who’ll be gathered around our table. We are writing about food as family history, and love, and hope, and sometimes a little splash of guilt." 

I wrote...

A Dish to Die For

By Lucy Burdette,

Book cover of A Dish to Die For

What is my book about?

Key West food critic Hayley Snow’s beach picnic is interrupted when her husband’s dog disappears. She follows his barking to find him furiously digging at a shallow grave containing a man’s body. A birdwatcher identifies the dead man as GG Garcia, a rabble-rousing local builder, famous for over-development on the fragile Keys, womanizing, and refusing to follow city rules. Then Hayley’s mother is hired to cater GG’s memorial service reception at the Woman’s Club, using recipes from the club’s vintage Key West cookbook. The real clues materialize when Hayley begins to study the old cookbook, as whispers of old secrets come to life, dragging the past into the present—with murderous results.

The books I picked & why

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Catering to Nobody

By Diane Mott Davidson,

Book cover of Catering to Nobody

Why this book?

Davidson's series about a Boulder-based caterer who solves mysteries on the side is probably the grandparent of the current culinary mystery boom. As I read this first book, I wanted to be friends with caterer Goldy, sitting in her kitchen, tasting her food, helping her untangle herself from an abusive marriage. When Goldy finally remarried—this time to a cop—many crimes were dissected in their kitchen as they cooked. How did I know Goldy’s husband Tom was a good guy? He didn’t push her aside when she had smart ideas, and he made her incredible comfort food and cups and cups of fabulous coffee.

Clammed Up

By Barbara Ross,

Book cover of Clammed Up

Why this book?

In this first book in a foodie mystery series, Ross’s character, Julia Snowden, is lured home from a successful career in New York City to a small town in Maine to help save her family’s clambake business. Those books set in the summer season, including this one, feature the bake as an extra character in the background. Repeat readers know the menu by heart (fish chowder, lobster, steamers, corn on the cob, a roasted onion, baked potato, a boiled egg, and blueberry crumble). The mystery is clever, the protagonist appealing but not perfect, and the cast of small-town characters and family, irresistible. 

The Diva Says Cheesecake! A Delicious Culinary Cozy Mystery with Recipes

By Krista Davis,

Book cover of The Diva Says Cheesecake! A Delicious Culinary Cozy Mystery with Recipes

Why this book?

Davis is particularly good at using food to show connections between people and bring the surrounding community to life. Sophie Winston, the series' main character, runs an event business in Old Town Alexandria. She’s nosy and loving and a consummate entertainer, who regularly whips up appetizing meals and snacks for unexpected visitors. When I read one of the books in the series, including Cheesecake, I yearn to be part of Sophie’s inner circle, and certainly to have her in my corner if I run into murderous trouble.

A Bitter Feast

By Deborah Crombie,

Book cover of A Bitter Feast

Why this book?

Crombie has a popular and long-running series featuring a pair of married London detectives. I especially enjoyed this entry as it’s focused on a high-strung and competitive chef, and a high-stakes charity luncheon for important guests and critics. But the chef’s growing reputation drags the past into the present, with disastrous results. The food is divine, and the hot kitchen with its sharp knives and pressure-cooker atmosphere makes a perfect backdrop for murder.

Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Mysteries

By Ann Cleeves,

Book cover of Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Mysteries

Why this book?

Ann Cleeves is a British mystery writer with three-plus long-running series. My favorite, including Raven Black, features emotionally wounded but fiercely dedicated Shetland detective Jimmy Perez. Cleeves is by no means a cozy culinary writer, but she’s a master of showing characters through their relationship to food. How can a reader resist lines such as, “Mr. Scott was a pale, thin man. A stick of forced rhubarb said Sally’s mother, who had seen him at a parents meeting” or “She tried to imagine Mr. Ross, sitting at their kitchen table while her mother hacked at the overcooked meat and picked away at him with her questions.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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