My Favorite Reads: A Culinary Mystery

ckgschlmurdrThe Cooking School Murders

Virginia Rich

E. P. Dutton, 1982

Rating: A

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. VirgRich

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.

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The Cooking School Murders is available at Amazon

This entry was posted in 100+ Book Challenge, A Book, Book Challenges, Books, Books About Food, My Favorite Reads, R.I.P.Challenge, Read and Review Book Challenge, Spice of Life Challenge. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to My Favorite Reads: A Culinary Mystery

  1. Alyce says:

    I think at some point I should give cozy mysteries a better opportunity than I have in the past. I tend to veer away from all mysteries unless there is something very specific that draws me to a book (subject matter that I’m interested in – like a setting in a foreign culture, or an author I already like). I should stretch my reading habits more and try some cozy mysteries. 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Cerrin says:

    This one sounds interesting.

  3. Beth F says:

    As I said the other day, I really like the Rich books. Have you read the ones written after her death? I’m not sure if I have.

  4. Belle says:

    You already had me hooked with your Tuesday Teaser about this book, and now I really want to read it! An American Miss Marple – I can’t resist that. I just checked my library and unfortunately they don’t have any of Virginia Rich’s books. They do have a Mrs. Potter book by Nancy Pickard, though – do Pickard’s books capture the flavor of the character you describe in your review?

    I’m off to check Bookmooch now!

  5. Kathy says:

    I love a good cozy mystery and any book with food in it, so I’m sure I’d like this series.

  6. Bumbles says:

    Although I don’t cook, I enjoy passing the recipes along to Andy as “suggestions” for what might be yummy! So I really like it when a fictional book includes recipes in it – like Fannie Flagg did in her Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – I think her and Paula Dean could be sisters considering all the bacon fat and butter encouraged.

  7. stacybuckeye says:

    This sounds cozy and yummy! I’ll have to look for it at the library.

  8. Phyl says:

    Another reminder about this book — I must go look for it! I’m due to visit the library soon…

  9. Rebecca Reid says:

    I’m not one for mysteries — I just read one this month and decided that just again — but that cover is awesome! So sinister and yet strangely fun looking!

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