I think I have a new favorite mystery heroine: Tannie Maria, from Recipes for Love and Murder. (“Tannie” is the polite way to address a woman older than you in South Africa, kind of like calling someone “auntie”). She is naïve but intelligent, vulnerable yet strong, and one of the best fictional cooks around! And she solves crimes. Who could ask for more?
Tannie Maria is the advice columnist for her local newspaper, the Klein Karoo Gazette. She not only provides wise advice for the people who write to her, but she includes delicious recipes to go along with it! One day she receives a letter from a woman who is being abused by her husband, which sets in motion memories of Tannie Maria’s own past. Shortly afterward, the woman is found murdered, and Tannie Maria sets out to find the perpetrator of the crime with her two colleagues at the Gazette. They keep finding themselves in sticky situations, frustrating the handsome local police detective, Henk Kannemeyer, but edging ever closer to the truth. And to make things more interesting, an unlikely romance begins to blossom between Tannie Maria and Kannemeyer.
This is a cozy mystery that never feels trite. It’s charming and funny, yet also takes on the very serious issue of the abuse of women. It’s also liberally sprinkled with words in Afrikaans – you’ll have to look them up in the glossary in back but it’s a lot of fun to do. And beware: food is such an integral part of the story that you should not read this book on an empty stomach! This book is like a breath of fresh air: sweet, light, and life-affirming.
P.S. If you read this book, be sure to go to the author’s website: http://www.sallyandrew.com/. It’s got fabulous photos of the Klein Karoo (the one shown here is from her site) and of the wonderful foods made in the book, plus some fun videos featuring the author.