The Cooking School Murders
E. P. Dutton, 1982
Are you a cozy-mystery lover? Do you like that cozy-mystery mixed with talk of food? There are plenty of books available now that fill both of those qualifications. One of my favorites is from the early 1980’s. It’s The Cooking School Murders by Virginia Rich. For me, it was the beginning of the culinary mystery books. I don’t know that it was the first ever. Probably not. But it was the first culinary mystery I read.
Synopsis from the book jacket:
The elite of Harrington, Iowa (population 4,785) have gathered for an advanced cooking class. But when one of the students is found with her throat slashed, the other chefs, including our Mrs. Potter, home for her yearly visit, are the prime suspects. The weapon? The thin, sharp, six-inch French boning knife displayed in class that evening.
As Mrs. Potter muses, “Everything that happens in New York happens here. The only difference is that here you know the people.” Dignified but down-to-earth, proper but never prissy, it is Mrs. Potter who unwittingly discovers the surprising culprit.
Why I Like It:
The main character, Eugenia Potter, is a first class protagonist. She reminds me of Miss Marple – only Americanized and about forty years later. She is called Mrs. Potter through most of the book, only by her first name when with friends. She relies on her knowledge of people and her intuition. She politely pokes, prods, and listens to gossip to help her solve the crime.
There are plenty of other interesting characters and, of course, I liked all the talk about menus and food. I especially like one discussion about the fads in food tastes. At the time they were bemoaning the fact that mashed potatoes and gravy was no longer “in.” Inside the book, the cover pages are filled with some of the recipes eaten during the coarse of the story.
The plot moves along nicely and the mystery, at least for me, was a good surprise at the end. The author’s dialogue style is very realistic. I felt as if I were right there in the middle of the conversations. I first read this in the 1980’s and it still stands solid as a re-read.
About the author: Virginia Rich was the wife of a rancher in Arizona. They also had a house off the coast of Maine, just like Mrs. Potter. The Cooking School Murders was her first novel. She wrote two more books and had extensive notes for more. Her death interrupted the fourth novel. Nancy Pickard completed the fourth novel and went on to add two more for a total of six Mrs. Potter novels.
My Favorite Reads is a meme sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books. Check her blog for more of her favorite reads and those of others.