Val Deniston certainly has her plate full running a café, dabbling with recipes, and helping her grandfather prepare for the town’s upcoming tri-centennial celebration, but she’s grown fond of her new life in the Chesapeake Bay town of Bayport. . .
So when Val is asked to reclaim her old position as a cookbook publicist in New York City, she puts off her decision in order to help her grandfather perfect his chocolate fondue for the weekend festivity’s dessert cook-off. But after the opening ceremonies, Val finds a houseguest strangled to death in her grandfather’s backyard. She suspects a classic case of mistaken identity, especially when another guest nearly bids her life a fondue farewell. Now it’s up to Val to keep the killer from making another stab at murder . . .
Includes 6 five-ingredient recipes!
Why I Write About Food
I first became aware of my food obsession while teaching freshman composition years ago. Though the course syllabus didn’t include a unit on grammar, occasional grammar questions came up. One day a student asked what a dangling participle was. I put a sentence on the blackboard: Running down the street, my ice cream cone fell.
Half the students laughed. The student who laughed the loudest explained the point to the those who saw nothing wrong with the sentence: “Ice cream cones can’t run. The person who’s running has to be in the sentence to do the action of running.” He corrected the sentence: Running down the street, I dropped my ice cream cone. When the class was over, he came up to me and said, “So, um, you teach this class on an empty stomach? Every sentence you put on the board has food in it.” News to me. I didn’t usually teach on an empty stomach, but hungry or not, I had food on the brain.
Food plays a role in everything I write, whether or not the subject relates to cooking. For example, I’ve described a room as painted in a luscious shade of lemon chiffon with woodwork like chocolate mousse. When I feel like eating, which is most of the time, even the walls remind me of food. In my mysteries many scenes occur in the kitchen or dining room. Characters unknowingly reveal their values, fears, and obsessions in what and how they eat. The opening scenes of Final Fondue, the third of my Five-Ingredient Mysteries exemplifies how a sleuth can draw conclusions about character from food.
Café manager Val Deniston lives with her widowed grandfather in a historic town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay. The story takes place during a festival commemorating the 300th anniversary of the town’s founding. As Granddad readies his Victorian house for weekend visitors to the festival, he brings down a fondue pot from the attic. For him fondue conjures images of friends talking and laughing while sharing a warm pot of melted cheese or chocolate. With fond memories of convivial gatherings in the 1970s, he makes chocolate fondue to welcome his houseguests.
The guests, all in their twenties, have no such memories. Fondue is quaint to them, its etiquette and customs unknown. Granddad’s high hopes for fondue as an icebreaker are dashed. Conversation at the table lags as the guests check their phones for text and email messages. When their attention turns to the fondue, Val observes them and draws conclusions about their characters. The competitive guests view fondue as a contest and devise ways of hogging the chocolate pot. An alpha male does it by adopting an assembly line approach, dipping and eating cake cubes faster than anyone else. Hmm, a man motivated by greed? A woman blocks his access to the melted fondue by holding a forkful of chocolate-dipped strawberries over the pot. Does she use passive aggression to get her way? A few hours after everyone has left the table, one guest raids the fridge for leftovers and treats herself to a solo fondue party. Then a murderer joins the private party . . .
About the Author
Maya Corrigan lives near Washington, D.C., within easy driving distance of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the setting for this series. She has taught courses in writing, detective fiction, and American literature at Georgetown University and NOVA community college. A winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense, she has published essays on drama and short stories under her full name of Mary Ann Corrigan.