When Murder and Gazpacho Are on the Menu

By Anna Dantoni.

The title A Plateful of Murder speaks for itself and communicates volumes to a reader with an insatiable appetite for a juicy food mystery. But, this paperback by Claudia Bishop is actually two complete novels under one cover, A Taste for Murder and A Dash of Death. They are the two initial novels in the series of more than a dozen light mysteries emanating from the fictitious Inn at Hemlock Falls.

The setting is idyllic, but the set up is predictable and just routine for devotees of foodie-fiction. Two sisters, one a gourmet chef and the other a plucky artist in career crisis, own a charming little bed and breakfast in a
picturesque town beside a gorge in upstate New York. Meg, the cook, toils toward a four-star rating in the kitchen while Quill works the front of the house. Various supporting characters such as the earthy owner of the town diner, the mayor, the newspaper editor, the Inn’s Native-American business manager, and the head of the chamber of commerce waft in and out providing local color and sometimes adding to the suspect pool.

The murder in A Taste for Murder revolves around a town reenactment of a 17th century Puritan witch trial and it’s played out with the kind of quirky village enthusiasm you find in the Midsomer Murders series from England. The second homicide, in the book A Dash of Death, involves a Martha Stewart-like character who turns the town upside down and ultimately becomes a suspect when dead people turn up foiling her plans for a location TV show on gracious living using the sisters’ inn as the backdrop.

If you’re drawn to food-mystery characters because of their detailed encounters with cooking techniques, menu descriptions and recipes, you’ll be disappointed to discover there are only two recipes offered by this author, one for each book. The gazpacho in A Dash of Death is worth making.

Author Claudia Bishop is a pseudonym for Mary Stanton, a prolific American writer of youth fantasy (The Unicorns of Balimor) and a popular fiction series known as The Beaufort & Company Mysteries which is about angels, paranormal types and curious humans thrust into very odd situations.

Gazpacho From The Inn at Hemlock Falls
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cups pureed tomato
½ cup fresh-cut cilantro, chopped
½ cup vodka
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup each, chopped very fine: seeded cucumber, celery, green pepper,
orange pepper, gold pepper, sweet red pepper.
1 cup each, chopped coarsely: Italian plum tomatoes, Vidalia onion.
½ teaspoon fresh hot pepper (use gloves)
Blend stock ingredients in food processor. Chill until very cold. Add
vegetables when ready to serve. Serve in chilled silver bowls.
(A Plateful of Murder by Claudia Bishop. Berkley Prime Crime, N.Y. paperback, $15).

Flavors and More Magazine – November 2009

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