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Former magazine editor “Sugar” Calloway’s life has taken a delicious twist since she launched a community cookbook publishing business with blue-ribbon baker Dixie Spicer. Now these amateur sleuths must solve a small-town murder—without getting burned…
Sugar and Spice Cookbooks’ newest project is a fundraiser organized by the St. Ignatius Crack of Dawn Breakfast Club, famous for their all-you-can-eat biscuits and gravy events. But when a group member is found dead, Sugar and Spice’s priorities change from raising dough to figuring out who put murder on the menu.
The return of former badboy Nick Marchant has stirred the town’s gossips too. Add a few grudges and some old-fashioned greed over a land deal into the mix, and it’s a recipe for mayhem. And when someone serves up a second helping of murder, Sugar and Spice need to sift the guilty from the blameless, or their next breakfast may be their last…
* Includes delicious recipes! *
Great Food with a Side of Murder
There are so many delicious culinary mysteries out there to read! I’m a particular fan of the books by Joanne Fluke, Isis Crawford, and, of course, Diane Mott Davidson.
And now, there are fellow Kensington authors, Ellery Adams, Cynthia Baxter, Ginger Bolton, and Maddie Day, among many others that also feature great books and great food.
The books all feature wonderful characters, a twisty puzzle to unravel, and, often conversations that take place around food – whether it’s a home-cooked meal or a tasty treat. What’s not to love, right? Good grief, sometimes the covers themselves make my mouth water.
And then there are the recipes that are included in the books. They are to die for. (Pun very much intended, because we cozy writers do love a good pun.)
So, what is it about mysteries and food that make them go together so well?
Part of what makes it work is that food is such a big part of our lives. And when we as authors are writing about murder, we’re really telling the story of ordinary people whose lives are interrupted when something truly awful happens.
The Sugar & Spice mystery series is set in the town of St. Ignatius, Iowa and being set in a small Midwest town, food is definitely a huge component of everyday life for the people who live there. From the diner on the square, to the church ice cream social, to the retirees’ breakfast club, food is involved in almost every social activity.
Food as an element in the mystery also provides the perfect situations for putting people together in a way where our amateur sleuths can dig for clues in a subtle way. Questioning of potential suspects, or those who may know more than they are saying, is not done in a police interrogation room. Instead they are often quizzed over a cup of coffee and slice of pie. Maybe they’re a bit more off-guard while snacking on a cupcake, cookies, or biscuit.
Sugar and Dixie have even been known to tempt the county sheriff with a few treats to get him to stick around long enough to share an update on an investigation in progress.
Finally, food reveals character. What people eat, how much attention they give to the enjoyment of food, and even what their favorite meal is can tell us a lot about a person. Do they eat quickly or slowly enjoy a meal? Are they willing to try something new or do they stick to their favorites? Do they love dessert or do they give it a pass? Do they enjoy what they eat and disregard the calories or do they worry about every bite?
Mysteries are ultimately about characters and motives and, just like in real life, people’s relationship with food tells us a lot about them.
Whatever the reason, culinary mysteries work. And they have become an extremely popular sub-genre. Perhaps it’s because they combine all the right ingredients to establish the story world, provide opportunities to follow the clues, and dig deeper into the characters’ motivations.
Or perhaps, it’s because we imagine ourselves sitting down across the table and enjoying the Red Hen Diner’s chicken and biscuits, one of Dixie’s cherry-chocolate chip cookies, or the Crack of Dawn Breakfast Club’s made-from-scratch biscuits and gravy.
Who’s hungry now? I know I am.
About the Author
Mary Lee Ashford is a lifelong bibliophile, and avid reader, and supporter of public libraries. In addition to writing the Sugar & Spice mystery series for Kensington Books, she also writes as half of the writing team of Sparkle Abbey, author of the national bestselling Pampered Pets mystery series from Bell Bridge Books.
Prior to publishing Mary Lee won first place in the Daphne du Maurier contest, sponsored by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, and was a finalist in Murder in the Grove’s mystery contest, as well as Killer Nashville’s Claymore Dagger contest.
She is the founding president of Sisters in Crime – Iowa and a current board member of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest chapter, as well as a member of Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, Kiss of Death the RWA Mystery Suspense chapter, Sisters in Crime, and the SinC internet group Guppies.
Mary Lee has a passionate interest in creativity and teaches a university level course in Creative Management to MPA candidates, as well as presenting workshops and blogging about creativity. She loves encouraging other writers and is a frequent presenter on a variety of topics at workshops, conferences, and writers’ groups.
In her day job, Mary Lee is a Deputy Chief Information Officer. She currently resides in the Midwest with her husband, Tim, and Sparkle, the rescue cat namesake of the Sparkle Abbey pseudonym. Her delights are reading and enjoying her family and especially her six grandchildren.