Louisville, Kentucky – Who’s the turkey with a taste for homicide? So reads the subtitle on Mary Daheim’s Fowl Prey. Publisher’s Weekly referred to it as “light and cozy fare.” Given my experience with the last two “murder mysteries” I barely wanted to crack the wishbone on this one. The subtitle wasn’t helping.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. Once again we have a protagonist who has nothing really to do with the detecting world. The closest this one comes is having been the childhood sweetheart of a hometown detective, for whom she still harbors a major crush, and more or less pines away hoping he’ll divorce his wife. While off on a vacation with her cousin, our girl discovers the dead body of a local popcorn vendor. She also runs into a group of old high school friends and their friends, who happen to be vacationing at the same spot. She spends the rest of the novel, sneaking around gathering clues (there are actually real clues in this one!), and successively building cases against each of this old gang. She’s smart enough, in a change from the other novels, not to run around tossing off accusations. She’s not quite smart enough to share things she finds with the local police – instead just letting them know about random things she uncovers. In the end she sort of actually figures out whodunit, though not in time to catch the crook. The book wraps up with a gathering of all as she explicates her deductive reasoning, and then heads home.
So this wasn’t a disappointment as mystery books go. There was some suspense, there was a plot, there was some vague background romance, even if more of a fantasy. I enjoyed the read. I only have one criticism as far as the writing itself goes – the author makes the detectives – Canadian police and RCMP – out to be a bit bumbling, and somehow only capable of solving the case with the help of a couple of Americans from the other side of the border, who also, of course, bring in the ex-boyfriend, now-detective’s assistance.
Finally, and not a criticism of the book, but a “why was this one recommended as a food-related mystery” question; there wasn’t a whole lot of food. The protagonist is the owner of a bed and breakfast, but the novel doesn’t take place there, nor do her cooking abilities come into play at any point in the story. Being on vacation, she and her cousin eat out alot, and they talk about eating quite a bit, but not much about the actual food they are having – almost like the author has heard about dishes at fancy restaurants and used their names, but didn’t quite know what they were in order to venture further. There’s a fair amount of discussion about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, but it’s mostly who’s bringing what and will they solve the case in time to be there for dinner (that, and a dead parakeet seem to be the only connections to both title and subtitle). And, of course, the victim was a vendor of popcorn, though that plays no particular part in the storyline.
Nonetheless, each of these three books has given me things to think about. I guess we’ll have to see if I can do any better?!