My colleague had the new display of cookery books and food writing well under way this morning. At some point, two different labels suggested themselves: “Just Desserts” or “Getting Your Just desserts”. I concurred that “Just Desserts” was the less risky option. What if someone who loves sweets and is perfectly cognizant of their dismal calorie-to-vitamin ratio reads the sign and takes offense? He or she might view the phrase as implying that dessert fanciers will get what they have coming (e.g., weight gain and guilt) if they follow through with the lusciously illustrated titles on offer.
Surely we all recognize the morality factor associated with food: you’re an admirable human being if you choose whole grains and count fat grams but frivolous and self-indulgent if you veer toward pies and frosting. (Those of us who both relish whole grains and mentally count fat grams in the layer cake we’re ecstatically consuming belong in a special tag.) Because food is elemental for us, we have to discuss it; we just require less controversial and more entertaining outlets for our obsession.
Mystery authors figured this out long ago and have successfully marketed hundreds of volumes featuring caterers (Diane Mott Davidson), herbalists (Susan Whittig Albert), Pennsylvania Dutch recipes (Tamar Myers)–even a White House chef (Julie Hyzy), along with many other culinary connections. Entering this popular field must be a daunting venture, necessitating not only literary imagination but also a fresh angle and an eye on culture and trends.
Enter Sandra Balzo and Cleo Coyle. Observers of contemporary caffeine- and latte-driven society, they’ve authored clever coffeehouse mysteries. Beginning in 2003, Coyle has produced eight titles, including Espresso Shot, French Pressed, and Holiday Grind. The next installment–Roast Mortem–is due out in August. Sandra Balzo’s Maggie Thorsen series debuted in 2004 with Uncommon Grounds, followed by Grounds for Murder; Bean There, Done That; and Brewed, Crude, and Tattooed.
You could also watch for an upcoming bakery treat to accompany your beverage mysteries. A reviewer of Jenn McKinlay’s Sprinkle With Murder deemed it a “tasty concoction”. Combining popular themes–cupcakes and the Big Wedding (think Bridezillas or Say Yes to the Dress)–McKinlay’s story is set in a specialized bakery, Fairy Tale Cupcakes. I could tell you more, but it’s after 5:00 and I need to go home and bake something.