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Books for Mystery Cooks
By Mary Ann Smyth

Have you noticed how many mystery authors are putting out cookbooks lately? In them, they tell us how to make the mouthwatering recipes we've drooled over in the novels, and invite us to share their protagonists' gourmet (or gourmand) tastes. It's taking one step further the trend that began with tales (like Diane Mott Davidson's tasty culinary mysteries, or Elena Santangelo's historical mysteries that lean toward good Italian cooking) which emphasize palate as much as plot (see Stories that make you Salivate). Here are a couple of cookbooks by big name mystery writers for your entertainment and entertaining ...

I love a good mystery and I love good food. The Cat Who ... books encompass both. Lilian Jackson Braun writes a delightful series about Qwilleran and his two Siamese cats. One of the cats Kao K'o-Kung aka Koko helps Qwilleran solve dastardly crimes. During the course of each book, Qwilleran, not a cook himself, eats some very fine food. The Cat Who...Cookbook by Julie Murphy and Sally Abney Stempinski (with a special note by Lilian Jackson Braun) gives recipes for foods mentioned in the series.

From The Cat Who Could Read Backwards comes Mountclemen's Restaurant's Lobster Bisque and Chicken in a Dark and Mysterious Sauce. The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern gives us Royal Caviar and Marinated Mushrooms. As the series continues, so do recipes for Piroshki made with ground beef, Mrs. Cobbs Apple Pie with Cheese (a winner in my estimation), Broiled Oysters, Broccoli Parmigiana, Braised Fennel Amandine, Pasties and Raspberry Trifle. There are short quotes from a number of the novels and recipes that range from Mountclemens' Restaurant to the MacIntosh Inn to Onoosh's Mediterranean Cafi. The cats had their own menu and those foods are also mentioned at the back. A fun book. To keep or to give as a gift to mystery loving cooks and their feline companions.

A blurb on the cover of Patricia Cornwell & Marlene Brown's Food To Die For : Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen tells us that 'America s number-one-bestselling crime writer reveals another side of Scarpetta in a cookbook that celebrates Kay's passion for great food and cooking for friends.' In chapters headed with titles of her books, the author gives recipes for tantalizing meals mentioned inside them. In an intro, Cornwell gives hints for her successes in the kitchen. For instance, she uses olive oil and honey in her pizza crust! She's also adamant about searching for cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil and whole milk Buffalo mozzarella.

Each chapter starts with excerpts from episodes in the Kay Scarpetta series - enough to make me run out to buy her books if I hadn't already read them. Her Shrimp Sauti with Garlic and Lemon as well as the Lasagna coi Carcio (artichokes and Bichamel Sauce) sound like winners to me. Jumbo Shrimp with Bev's Kicked by a Horse Cocktail Sauce intrigues me. I'm partial to pasta, so the Linguine with Olive Oil, Parmesan and Onion and the Tortellini Verdi will be high on my list to try. There are some luscious photographs, and not all the recipes are Italian. The Classic English Breakfast would always make me happy, as would the Key Lime Meringue Pie.

Whether cooking for your next Murder Mystery Dinner Party, for your significant other or just noshing in front of the TV, there are some very enticing recipes between the pages of good mysteries. No reason why a person who writes well cannot also enjoy cooking and excel there too. Even though I thought a few years ago that I would swear off cooking, I've donned apron and oven mitts again to whip up some of these recipes. Good ones all.
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