Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Diane Mott Davidson: Mysteries plus Food

While I love to read all kinds of books, I really love to read mysteries. They are one of my favorite genres. I like everything about them. I enjoy everything from gothic suspense novels by Amanda Quick to the gruesomely realistic stories that Patricia Cornwell writes. However, I am not one of those people that are anxious to figure the whole thing out before the end of the book. I enjoy finding out who did it as the book unfolds, instead of making myself crazy wondering which character is the culprit. I like being surprised, and I like finding out that the evildoer was someone I didn't even suspect. I don't look for the red herrings and telltale bits of evidence; I simply immerse myself in the book and enjoy the ride. For me, reading is about both the art of relaxation and the delicious satisfaction of having read a good story. My favorite thing to do on a snowy afternoon is to curl up in the corner of the couch with a roaring fire in the fireplace with a book and a Cherry Coke. My baby is napping, and the other two are at school, and that time seems like a little bit of heaven on earth.

I also love to cook. I am one of those people who rip recipes out of magazines, I subscribe to every cooking newsletter my email can handle, and my collection of cookbooks is overflowing the bookcase in the corner of my kitchen. Trying new recipes is like taking a small adventure. Some of them are great, and some of them are best left as a distant, slightly bad memory. Either way, I use cooking as a kind of therapy, like reading, but with more work involved!

Imagine my delight when I came across Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Bear series. Not only are they well-crafted mysteries, since the main character is a caterer, Ms. Davidson includes recipes in the book that the character, Goldy uses in her catering business. The recipes have the added bonus of being tasty, as well. I have not tried one of them yet that has not been good. While some of them are not to my family's particular tastes, such as the vegetarian recipes, I would think that they are delicious, too.

Goldy is a middle-aged divorced mother of one young son in the first book, "Catering To Nobody." Her ex-husband, John Richard Korman, is an OB/GYN who was physically and verbally abusive during their years of marriage. Goldy and his other ex-wife simply refer to his as The Jerk. They have one son, Archer. He is smart and funny, and is well written and believable as a boy in sixth grade. Goldy lives with her son in Aspen meadow, Colorado. The book starts with Goldy catering a wake for one of Archer's teachers, Laura Smiley. The official story is that she committed suicide, but Goldy has a hard time buying that, and she soon finds out she might be correct in thinking that Laura didn't kill herself but was actually murdered. As a caterer, Goldy is determined to make the money she needs to support Arch and herself, because The Jerk does not make his child support payments in a timely manner, and Goldy prefers to avoid arguments with him, for many reasons.

I admire Goldy as a single mother. She works hard to make a living for her son, and she has taken a skill that she has and turned it into a thriving business. She doesn't make a fortune, but she makes enough money to not have to depend on her ex. Her independence is one of Goldy's best traits. It also gets her into trouble sometimes, because solving mysteries is a dangerous business, of course.

At the wake for Laura Smiley, Goldy's ex-father-in-law is poisoned, and Goldy becomes the chief suspect. Her ex-husband is sure she is guilty, and the Department Of Health confiscates the leftover food from the wake and shuts her down until further notice. She starts getting questioned by Tom Schulz, a handsome police officer, who is drawn to her cooking and exasperated by her attempts to solve the mystery of who killed Laura Smiley and poisoned her ex-father-in-law.

Goldy finds out that her ex-in-laws have a lot to hide. She also finds out that she likes Tom Schulz, in spite of the fact that he is investigating her. The ending of the story includes a great little twist in the form of a man named Pomeroy. Since I don't want to give the ending away, I will just say that it was an enjoyable story with a great ending.

Ms. Davidson has the ability to bring her characters to life. You really like Goldy, and cheer for her quick thinking and shake your head at some of her rather bad choices in the name of solving a murder. The recipes in this book are fabulous. I especially liked the Dungeon Bars and the Holy Moly Guacamole.

There are over ten books in the Goldy series now. The next one is "Dying For Chocolate," and is also a fantastic read. The recipes make you want to try them out as soon as you finish the book, that is! Along the way, Goldy marries Tom Schulz, Arch grows up, her ex continues to be a jerk, and we meet an amazing array of strange and lovely characters. I just completed the latest book by Dian Mott Davidson, entitled "Double Shot." This one has a surprise that you will not believe.

So if you haven't heard of these books, and like a good mystery, give them a try! They are well written and an incredibly fun way to while away a weekend or couple of stolen afternoons. There's nothing like the guilty pleasure of reading a good book instead of all those things you "should" do. And when you're done, you can top it off with one of the great recipes found in the books.

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