Thursday, 26 November 2015

Recipes for Love And Murder by Sally Andrew

review by Maryom

Tannie Maria isn't happy when the Klein Karoo Gazette decides to cut her recipe column and replace with an agony aunt advice section. So, as a firm believer in the healing properties of a nicely cooked dinner or a slice of delicious cake, she sets about combining the two, and helping people with their emotional problems through the medium of food. Then someone who wrote to her for advice is found murdered ...and Maria realises not every problem can be solved through culinary skills ...and that occasionally a little snooping may be necessary..

A sort of cross between Mma Ramotswe and Miss Marple, Tannie Maria is a new addition to the ranks of amateur female sleuths. Feeling she has more insight into the deceased woman's life than the local police, she persists in 'interfering' and, along with her colleagues from the Klein Karoo gazette, she uncovers evidence they might have missed but manages to get herself tangled in a deadly situation. In between her exploits unmasking the murderer, Maria continues to offer love, and culinary, advice through her newspaper column - but while she's bringing about happy-endings for those around her, can she find her own with the police's Lieutenant Kannemeyer?

The setting is the sunburnt, sweltering arid Klein Karoo area of South Africa; an area of mainly white and coloured people but still with racial prejudices and bigotry. Add this to the story-line of  domestic abuse and murder it seems odd to call it a gentle, almost light-hearted, tale - but it is, in fact at times when two suspects, one in a wheelchair and one with heavily bandaged and plastered arms, go chasing after a third, the plot almost descends into farce. After rather a lot of dark Nordic noir style crime novels, it's like a breath of fresh air or a blast of that hot African sun! It's certainly one to recommend to fans of Alexander McCall Smith's No1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

Food certainly plays an important part in Maria's life; she believes that there are few problems that can't be solved by the right food. The recipes are described briefly as she cooks and as I read I was wondering if I'd be able to find anything similar on the web - so I was delighted to find several of them included at the end of the book. From mutton curry and tamatie bredie (a South African stew) to her Karoo farm bread, chocolate cakes and honey toffee snake cake (a shape, not an ingredient!), and the buttermilk rusks that Maria hardly ever leaves home without, there are plenty to try out at home.

 Maryom's Review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Canongate
Genre - crime, adult fiction

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