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BookBrowse Reviews Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew

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Recipes for Love and Murder

A Tannie Maria Mystery

by Sally Andrew

Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew X
Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2015, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2016, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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Food and murder intertwine in this first mystery in a series by Sally Andrews.

It was one of those fervent moments that you sometimes experience in books.

Tannie Maria (Tannie means Auntie in South Africa and is used as a term of endearment and connection even by those not related) brings two big slices of her buttermilk chocolate cake to the police station — one for Detective Lieutenant Henk Kannemeyer, who's handling the murder case Tannie Maria is interested in (her friend was the victim), and the other for Anna, the murder suspect, who insists that the woman's abusive husband did it.

When I read this part of Recipes for Love and Murder, I easily imagined Kannemeyer looking at the cake with slow-simmering lust, and Anna wolfing down her piece in a back room in Tannie Maria's company. I was also vividly reminded of the slice of pumpkin pie that I had bought at the supermarket that afternoon. I wanted that slice at that very moment and I was going to have it.

Tannie Maria incorporates recipes into her love advice column at the Klein Karoo Gazette in the South African town of Ladismith, where she works with her editor friend Hattie, and dogged reporter Jessie. First-time mystery novelist Sally Andrew's descriptions of food are surprisingly rich, despite their simplicity - Andrew knows what she's doing. She gives readers just enough food description to interest them outwardly about South African food culture and, in the process, inwardly at their own preferences — pumpkin pie included.

Tannie Maria is the sole reason this series can work. Unlike many main characters in mystery novels, whose character traits are clear within the early pages of the story, hers unfold slowly. She's worth the wait though, especially with the inner strength she musters even after her horribly abusive marriage. This connection is what interests Tannie Maria about her first case, as she received letters from the victim addressed to her advice column, pleading for a way out of an abusive relationship. Andrew deftly creates details such as people still in shock, speaking of the deceased in the present tense, as well as the progress of Tannie Maria's possible happiness, which she hasn't felt ever since her abusive husband died.

As for the mystery, well...Andrew knows how to introduce one, but she doesn't know how to gradually fan it out like a deck of cards. And while she has created characters who are worth following, the mystery itself is only worth getting through to see how they live their lives. For instance, there's a tense, violent confrontation at a bed-and-breakfast, which could have made the mystery more interesting, more urgent. But that particular scene ends as expected, and we're stuck with the same red herrings a few times, which makes Recipes for Love and Murder much longer than it needs to be. The strength of this novel is its character development. Readers want to follow Tannie, Hattie and Jessie, and want, especially, to see if Tannie Maria finds happiness.

Now that Andrew has gotten this mystery out of the way, and now that her characters are fully established, more enthralling mysteries, as well as a little more fun. will hopefully be in Tannie Maria's future.

Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in January 2016, and has been updated for the October 2016 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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