A mystery to really sink your teeth into (3.5 stars)
Source- review copy
Mysterious Press/Open Road Publishing- this edition reissued 25th September 2012
Kindle edition- 270 pages
In the first book of this culinary mystery series we are introduced to the ‘Gourmet Detective,’ a man renowned for tracking down hard-to-find ingredients for high calibre eateries and answering the most tricky of food questions. This time though, he may have bitten off a bit more than he can chew after he inadvertently gets pulled into solving the murder of an investigative journalist at a high-end dinner party. A bit of real sleuthing is called for as he eagerly follows in the footsteps of his hallowed fictional detective heroes, working with Scotland Yard in a bid to crack the perplexing case, for which there are any number of suspects…
When I am reading culinary mysteries the first question I ask myself is: does it make me feel hungry? The answer here was an unequivocal: YES!
I must admit that this book was much better written than I had initially anticipated, with some great scene setting, particularly that of London and the restaurants themselves, and some vivid food descriptions that really made my mouth water. It’s definitely more culinary than ‘cosy,’ with lots of emphasis on food and drink and a few minor swear-words- though a surprising lack of violence or gore, which is why I’m finding it a bit hard to categorise it! I learned useful details about food and drink too, which is always great, as it was drip-fed to the reader in quite a subtle fashion.
Personally though, I think this book would have perhaps worked better if it hadn’t been written in the first person narrative; it does tend to get overly bogged down in some of the technical details and as a reader you only comprehend what the narrator is thinking and feeling and merely witness his speculation towards other characters. It does become clunky and repetitive at points- especially when he is trying to pair his food choices with music which occurs consistently throughout the novel and just feels a bit TOO much like name-dropping. I’m all for enhancing the eating experience, but those aspects did feel long-winded and distracting at times. That’s not to say that I didn’t like the narrator of course- I did- it’s just that a third-person narrative would have allowed for a much wider scope of information within the plot and far less inadvertent marketing of varieties of wine.
That aside, I did enjoy getting to know the gourmet detective and following his journey as he became a ‘real detective.’ Earlier within the book he does concede that he is a “private person as well as a private eye,” and I would welcome reading more books in this series to see if that still remains the case, as well as seeing if some of the characters in this book make a welcome reappearance in future- especially burgeoning romantic interest Winnie.
I would not hesitate in recommending this book to mystery readers whose ‘tastes’ tend to favour culinary fiction. This is certainly a pleasing addition to the genre.