Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Delightful Debut Mystery from South Africa

Sally Andrew
November 3, 2015
Ecco Books

Coming in under the wire in 2015, Recipes for Love and Murder has risen to the top of my favorite list. I ran across a review and thought it might be something I might enjoy; food, love and murder in a place I have very little real knowledge of. It ticked all the boxes.

Tannie (a respectful Afrikaans address for ladies of a certain age) Maria is a widow living in a cottage on the veldt in South Africa. She has her chickens and her food for company and writes a recipe column for the local newspaper. The column has been very successful, but the syndication agency governing the paper has decreed that they want an advice column. Tannie Maria and her boss, Hattie, come up with the notion that advice and recipes can be combined, thereby pleasing both the big bosses and the readers. Tannie Maria doesn't think that she will be any good at giving advice but Hattie has confidence in her. One of the first letters she receives is from a woman living with a violently abusive husband. Tannie Maria lived for years in a very abusive marriage so the letter triggers unwelcome memories. She sends the woman a mutton curry recipe and advises her to make a plan to escape as soon as possible. When the woman is murdered, Tannie Maria is sure that the husband is guilty and goes to the police with what she knows. Of course, the solution is not so simple. Tannie Maria's knowledge and attempts at independent investigation place her and her friends in great danger. It's a good thing that the handsome police officer, Henk Kannemeyer, is determined to protect her.

Recipes for Love and Murder is a delight from beginning to end; packed with descriptions of the veldt and the life there. Marauding baboon packs and jackal's calls in the  night are not exactly a part of my daily experiences. The food descriptions are drool-worthy and are accompanied by liberal sprinklings of Afrikaans words and expressions. Tannie Maria was so wounded by her marriage that she has shut herself off from all notions of romantic love. All her love goes to her friends at work and into her cooking. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out; supportive Hattie, intrepid investigative reporter Jessie, the steady Kannemeyer, and many others spring to vivid life. The subject matter is serious but there are many humorous moments. The incident of the purple flowered dress comes to mind, for one. Watching Tannie Maria slowly open herself up to the possibility of love and trust was a pleasure I won't soon forget.

Now I think I may go out and get the ingredients for vetkoek and babootie from the extensive recipe collection provided at the end of the book! Highly Recommended!

RATING- 5 Stars

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