May 07, 2007

Book Review: Simmer Down (A Gourmet Girl Mystery)

I haven't been served any subpoenas, nor been contacted by anyone's lawyers, nor has anybody tested the ferocity of my two overprotective pitbulls, so mister preacher man is still at bay. ...and hey, who wants to mess with a chef, really? We have big knives, and we know how to skin things with excruciating precision. My sex-tech expert friend, Regina Lynn knows all about pervertibles, but just imagine what you could do, torture-wise, with a full battery of kitchen implements? Knives aside, there's the Crème Brûlée torch, trussing needles, rolling pins, and a whack on the noggin from a cast iron pan wouldn't do you no good...

And if you are a chef inclined to murder, there are plenty of places to hide the body! I mean, we actually have freezers that big.

Anyway, this is the second culinary murder mystery I've ever read. The first one, Death by Rhubarb written by Lou Jane Temple, I got from a resale shop for 50¢. The link goes to the amazon page, where there are both flattering and unflattering reviews. My review would be included in the latter, but it's not necesary for me to be harsh.

This was written by a mother-daughter team, Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant. I was also promised a copy of their first book, Steamed, but i haven't received it yet.

Let's just say my expectations for a culinary murder mystery were pretty low, after having had the rhubarb book as my introduction.

I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading Simmer Down In fact, my sights were set so low that i cracked the book in the middle, which i never do, to see if there was any substance in it before i invested a whole lot of time in it. The page I turned to let me see that this was put together by someone who knew a kitchen, so I gave it a shot, and started from the beginning.
The female lead, Chloe, comes off as kind of a spoiled brat, whining about a lot of mundane stuff, and although she tries to improve, she goes about it so begrudgingly it is uncomfortable. Partly because it's very clear that Chloe is an incarnation of the daughter half of the team. (red hair, social work, etc.)

The food detail, though, and the cooking stuff: very good. If you've ever worked in a pro kitchen, the nuances of an expert's voice comes through in the writing. it actually made me a little 'homesick' for working in a cramped kitchen, filled with people wearing their whites, speaking lots of Spanish and nibbling on the bits and scraps of stuff that can't be served, like the remnants on a sheet pan when circular portions have been cut out if it.

ok, ok, sorry, got a little dreamy-eyed there; back to the review.

I don't think i'd get along with chloe, but i'd love to work with josh. The writing about his intensity in the kitchen really comes across. I kind of imagine him to act like the guy who won the first top chef. The tall dark and handsome one, kind of brooding and quiet, but very focused on his work.

So I'm giving it four stars, out of five. All the cooking and food-related stuff was spot-on. The relationships between the characters came off as kind of dodgy. Maybe an extra make-out scene or two would be nice, too.

and HEY, btw, don't read the amazon reviews by the pro reviewers. they practically tell the story in their review, and as you can imagine, it rather spoils a murder mystery!

Last thing I ate or drank: licorice jellybeans

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1 comment:

  1. Hi. I am food hobbyist not a pro but I like culinary mysteries a lot. They really really vary in terms of btoh whetehr they are mere fluff aimed at a sitting audience who will buy anything that is both a murder mystery and has a recipe in it -- to real novels that incorporate a food theme. I review some on my site at -- and was glad to read your review of these two. Temple, I think, did do a reasonable job in one set in the time of the French revolution but you mgiht think differently. . . .


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