Archive for the ‘Connie Shelton’ Category

TastreOfMurder1A few weeks ago I reviewed the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For edited by Kate White. As I ,mentioned, I was surprised about the number of mystery related cookbooks that have been published. Two that whet my appetite were A Taste of Murder: Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers and A second Helping of Murder edited by Jo Grossman and Robert Weibezhal. Although not as good as the Mystery Writers Cookbook, they are still interesting. Once again, it reinforced the fact that I’ve just touched the surface of mystery authors. The majority of contributors were authors I’ve never read nor heard of.

Both A Taste of Murder and Second Helpings have snappy section headings such as Choose Your Poison, Pasta Mortem, Just Desserts (an obvious one), Murder Most Fowl and Tough Cookies. Both books have their share of authors I’ve read: Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker, Joanne Fluke (cute cooking mysteries), Dick Francis, Peter Robinson and April Henry to name a few. But the majority of contributors I’d never heard of. There was scant information about the authors, especially when compared to the Mystery Writers Cookbook. More information would have been nice in order to determine which authors might be of interest. There were also several extended narratives, such as Breakfast With David Dodge or Tea With Dame Agatha or Anthony Bourdain’s How to Cook Pasta Without Getting Whacked.

As far as the recipes go, some were great and some not so great, but that’s the truth in any cookbook and everyone’s palate is different. My favorites in A Taste of Murder were: Connie Shelton’s Green Chile Stew (I really like her Vacation books), Death By Chocolate and Annette Meyer’s Apricot Dessert for those who really can’t cook.

T. Jefferson Parker’s Triggerman’s Rattlesnake was probably the oddest recipe.TasteOfMurder2

Robert Parker was, at the time A Taste of Murder was published, writing his own cookbook, so his contribution consisted of Susan Silverman’s Boiled Water (whimsical? Not so much! Better he should have declined, in my opinion. One day I should outline my opinion of Parker, from what little I’ve read about him.)

Kinsey Millhone’s Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich were in both the Mystery Writers Cookbook and A Taste of Murder. (I’m sure a little research could have come up with a different recipe. She does have other food in her repertoire!)

Without a doubt, my favorite recipe in Second Helpings was my namesake’s, Ed Goldberg’s Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms. Now I know, if I ever write the mystery that’s hidden within me, I’m going to have to use a pen name. Archer Mayer’s The Gunther really turned my stomach and if that’s what Joe Gunther eats, I’m surprised he’s survived 25+ books. I’m glad that man’s best friend has not been forgotten. Patricia Guiver (who I’ve never read) contributed Watson’s Favorite Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dog Biscuits. I’m seriously thinking of trying that recipe.

MysteryWritersCookbookSo, my thoughts on A Taste of Murder and Second Helpings? These books are part conversation pieces, part cookbook. If I get two or three recipes I like out of any cookbook, I feel it was worthwhile. You’ll surely find some recipes you’d like to try. I wish these books, however, had more information on the authors and their mystery books, so I can decide whether I want to read them. In this aspect, as well as the whimsical nature and artwork, the Mystery Writers Cookbook surpassed A Taste of Murder and Second Helpings.

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OK, so everyone has their ‘guilty reading pleasure’ and mine is Connie Shelton’s CompetitionCanBeMurderCharlie Parker mystery series. I’m a courtroom drama, police procedural man (think Harry Bosch, 87th Precinct) but something about this series struck my fancy many years ago. I thought they’d been discontinued in the early 2000s but found out Shelton’s been writing them continuously, the last one being published in 2012 (14 in the series, so far). Good for me….I have a few to catch up on.

I started catching up with number 8, Competition Can Be Murder. Towards the middle of the book, I realized I had read it, but really didn’t remember much.

Let me set the background. Charlie Parker (a CPA turned sleuth) and her brother run a private detective business in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her parents died when she was a teenager. The closest thing she has to a mother is her octogenarian next door neighbor (think the female version of Henry in Sue Granfton’s Kinsey Millhone series). She loves her dog, Rusty (I don’t remember the breed). In book 2, Vacations Can Be Murder, she meets Drake Langston, a helicopter pilot in Hawaii. They marry and move back to New Mexico. Between book 2 and 8, Charlie gets her helicopter pilot’s license. So, now you’re caught up.

In Competition Can Be Murder, Charlie and Drake head to Scotland to help out one of Drake’s pilot friends, Brian. Brian’s mother is not well and he must leave his business to be with her. The business, shuttling workers to and from oil rigs in the North Sea, is taking business away from boat operators, who are unionized. The pilots are not. Will the unions take matters into their own hands?

Additionally, Charlie and Drake are renting a cottage on the grounds of Dunworthy, owned by the Dunbars, an extremely old Scottish clan. One day Robert and Sarah Dunbar find their grandson, Richie, is missing when they receive a ransom note. Charlie made the mistake of saying she was in the sleuthing business and gets embroiled in finding Richie.

What do I like about this easy going series? I like the characters. Charlie and Drake truly love each other. There’s a relationship between them…the kind that married couples have. I don’t recall another series like this. Of course, I love the fact they have a dog, especially one named Rusty, which was the name of my first dog. There’s enough action to please most readers. I don’t remember any endings that come out of nowhere. If you can say that a mystery is an ‘enjoyable’ read, then this is the series.

Next is Balloons Can Be Murder, which there is a chance I’ve also read but since my memory is like a sieve, I’m sure I won’t remember until I’m half way through.

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