MYSTERY

Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery

Ecco: HarperCollins. Nov. 2015. 432p. ISBN 9780062397669. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062397683. M
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OrangeReviewStarThe dry rolling hills of South Africa's Klein Karoo region serve as the striking backdrop for this winning debut culinary cozy. Middle-aged widow Maria van Harten (known as "Tannie Maria" in the traditional local term of respect) writes a local newspaper advice column that offers wisdom to the desperate and lovelorn via mouth-watering recipes. (In a typical example, a young woman is given sex advice couched in terms of instructions for making chocolate-covered bananas.) When an abused woman who sought her counsel turns up dead, Tannie Maria is reminded of her own terrifying experience with domestic assault. Armed with her wits, the help of a handsome police detective, and killer milk tart, Maria sets out to crack the case and soothe her lonely heart.
VERDICT Take a pinch of Alexander McCall Smith, a dash of Diane Mott Davidson, and add a smidge of the wild veld and you'll get a taste for this lekker story (that's "delicious" in Afrikaans). While the tone is heartfelt, Andrew doesn't shy away from the realities of spousal abuse or the shadow of South Africa's tumultuous history. With a fascinating setting, engaging characters, and a full complement of drool-worthy recipes, this is sure to leave readers craving more. [See Prepub Alert, 6/1/15.]

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