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# 83: Toast Mortem by Claudia Bishop:
Adela chaired the library board. Just as John Deere bulldozers were good at moving dirt, Adela was good at fund-raising. So the library was a pleasant, well-ordered place with good lighting, lots of books, and up to date computer equipment.
Synopsis: Simply the best culinary mystery I've ever read.



I've seen lots of articles puzzling over the popularity of cozy mysteries, those mysteries where the main character is usually a woman employed in a domestic or semi-domestic sphere, who negotiates between that and the world of crime-solving due to unforeseen necessity. And I think I have the answer: these books all* pass the Bechdel test with flying colors. The protagonist usually has a female sidekick with whom she banters back and forth about the crime. If there's a romantic subplot, it takes a backseat to solving the mystery.

And Toast Mortem, in addition to having a really fabulous title (no I can't explain the popularity of puns in cozies) is an outstanding cozy.

The Qwilliam sisters' upstate New York inn is threatened by the establishment of a culinary school right next door, whose famous French chef holds a grudge. In between deflecting his unfunny practical jokes and trying to keep the city council from killing each other, Qwill, the innkeeper, must also find time to raise her son, Jack, put up with air-heads at the front desk, and stop her chef-sister Meg from throwing frying pans at people. And what's the deep dark secret their pastry chef is protecting?

Cue more mayhem.

And it's glorious.

The town of Hemlock Falls is adorably quirky and better yet, well delineated, with the various tangled relationships between the characters adroitly managed. The Qwilliam sisters are fantastic: Qwill, the pragmatic worrier is the perfect foil for her hot tempered and snark-mouthed sister Meg. The front desk airheads are hilarious. Things fall apart in deliciously ghastly ways and the characters respond to situations in ways I could definitely relate to.

Well-written, interesting loopy plot, passes the Bechdel test, and features both placeporn and madcap good times (did I mention I love madcap? I love madcap).

Plus there's a librarian who manages to be neither a bunned spinster** or a flowing-locked sexpot, but an intelligent and savvy individual who's amazingly good at her job. Bonus.

For a culinary mystery, it's not very food-oriented so much as it is kitchen-oriented, as in the focus remains squarely on what it's like to work in a kitchen, making all the food people squee over. The included recipes are kind of terrible, but that's also a plot point, so I'll let it pass.

Strong contender for book of the year.

*A Rose From the Dead passed, but only by the skin of its teeth. I had to go get the book back to check.
**which is fine but come on. Work with stereotypes if you've got 'em

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
soulswallo
Oct. 16th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
TOAST Mortem?!?!?! I love it!
oddmonster
Oct. 17th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
Isn't that a genius title? LOVe
rileyc
Oct. 17th, 2010 04:00 pm (UTC)
Let me guess, those articles baffled by the popularity of cozies were all written by men?

I agree with you about why they're popular. I will read just about any kind of crime novel, barring those told from the POV of the killer, but cozies are my favorite. A lot of it is because of being able to identify with the protagonists. I'm never going to be Philip Marlowe or Spenser or Sherlock Holmes, but I can imagine stumbling into a mystery and calling on my personal expertise to try and solve it.

Anyway, I'm glad to see a ringing endorsement for a title from this series. The books keep coming up on my Amazon recs, but I've wondered if they would be my thing. Sounds like it might be.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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