Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Pass the ketchup, please!

Have you noticed how important food is? Not for the obvious reasons, like keeping us alive. But to add some realism into the books we read and write. Have you noticed how many times a sleuth will grab a snack, stop for take-out on the way home, have coffee with a police officer? It's what people do in real life therefore it's what characters do in books.

What's your favourite snack? I love almond butter, by the teaspoonful, right out of the jar. Funny that Lizzie Turner loves the same thing. She's my amateur sleuth in the Ashton Corners Book Club mysteries. And even the name of the book club has
Cheese Straws in it. Which brings up the point that perhaps food plays a larger role in cosies than in police procedurals.

Not so. Ever noticed how Inspector Green loves his deli foods? Ask Barbara Fradkin why we know that fact about him. And how about Benny Cooperman? What's his usual lunch? Howard Engel has been telling us for years that it's an egg sandwich.

A shared meal allows an author to introduce facts through conversation. Right...they could do that over the phone or on a park bench. But the meal provides another layer or texture to the scene. We have comfort food, health food, fast food, junk food...a whole lot of eating going on along with the solving of crimes. We have sleuths who are caterers, food reviewers, cupcake bakers, coffee shop owners and all these books include recipes at the back. Mystery Readers Journal has had four issues devoted to culinary crime.

And then we have authors who produce their own cookbooks. Patricia Cornwell has one filled with recipes that her character, Kay Scarpetta uses. Crime Writers of Canada has put out two volumes of Dishes to Die For. Mystery writers also produce blogs about food. Try out these tasty samples: and

How about that mystery you're reading ... I'll bet there's food mentioned in it. Maybe even a recipe or two. Enjoy!

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase
A Killer Read coming April, 2012
from Berkley Prime Crime


  1. I'm currently reading "Death on a Platter" by Elaine Viets. Her main character, Josie Marcus, is a mystery shopper. In this book she's mystery shopping St. Louis restaurants.

  2. How true, Linda! Some sleuths are gourmet cooks and some risk setting the house on fire. Says a lot about character, and it's a fun detail to write.

  3. Think about all the mysteries that have food in the title, particularly chocolate. But who wouldn't kill for chocolate?