I was mucking about in one of our local English language bookstores, just looking for something casual to read (why, I don’t know – I have more books piled up and also loaded on my e-reader than I’ll likely ever get to) when I stumbled across a few books from Diane Mott Davidson. She has written what turned out to be a fifteen volume series (with more on the way I gather) of cozy mysteries – you might remember… no, you won’t… that a little over five years ago I reviewed a trio of such fare… if you’re interested, here, here and here – each of them progressively better than the previous one, thankfully. The genre is one of light reading fare, generally, as best I can tell, with a protagonist who probably shouldn’t be investigating whatever happened, but does so, and is almost invariably a woman, with a different career. The particular ones I was reading were food related – with the woman of investigatory skills being, respectively, the owner of a cookie shop, the manager of a chocolate shop, and the owner of a bed & breakfast.
So, though I’d not heard of Ms. Davidson, I thought I’d give one of the books a try, and started off with the first in the series (not knowing at the time there were fourteen more down the line already published and more on the way). Our heroine, this time, is a small town caterer in Colorado, divorced from an abusive husband, best friends with another ex-wife of the same guy, and a single mom with a newly budding adolescent. She is befriended by a local sheriff’s department investigator as the story progresses, who strangely seems to encourage her poking around in police business.
Let me save a little on suspense – I ended up reading all fifteen books in rapid succession – they’re easy reads, most taking me no more than a couple of hours, before bed, and I read the entire series in about five weeks. I’ll admit upfront that I found most of them in pirated e-book form (not that hard copies of more than the couple at the bookstore I started at are likely available here is really an excuse, but it’s the one I’m using). They weren’t amazingly well written, but they were fun, light reading, and I even tried some of the recipes from a couple of the books and they worked.
There’s a lot of belief to be suspended – a caterer (named Goldy, who runs a company called Goldilocks Catering: Where Everything is Just Right) who becomes an unofficial investigator for the local sheriff’s department – by midway through the series, both the noted investigator and others are pretty much actively encouraging her to do things that they themselves can’t because, well, it would be illegal. That anyone would hire this woman as a caterer… the fifteen books take place over a period of about four years, and each involves the murder of one or more of her clients or friends… for a total of around two dozen people dead, or about six a year… umm, no thank you, I’ll be taking my business elsewhere. Top that with her going about looking into people’s personal business in this small town, accusing one or another of them of murder, robbery, and mayhem, yet, these same people don’t seem to hold a grudge, reappearing later on to hire her for some event, or hang out with her at a party. A skewed timeline – part way through series she’s talking about having spent more than a decade building her catering business since her divorce, she’s 33 or 34 at the time, she spent seven years married to her abusive husband, who she supposedly met after college when she moved to Colorado… which pretty much puts her university years from ages 12-16. Oh, and at this same point in her early 30s, she spends at least a few paragraphs every novel lamenting the fact that she’s gotten old and can’t get around like she used to.
Of course, the last might be due to her diet, which seems to consist of everything fat-laden that she, her family and friends, can get their hands on (don’t try any of the books’ recipes if you’re even thinking about being health conscious). Even her assistant, a die-hard vegetarian (who nonetheless will cook whatever) agrees with her oft repeated comments that nothing lowfat or fat free can possibly be edible – as they load things down with cheese, cream and butter, repeatedly – even for clients who have requested lowfat or one or another special diet – time after time she simply decides that her clients are wrong about what they want and serves them whatever she wants. And a few other prejudices show up – in one book mid-series she, and a local doctor, have cured her assistant of his vegetarianism because the lack of protein in his diet was having him waste away or something (with all that dairy, not a chance, let alone whatever other sources of protein a good vegetarian diet provides) – but, she must have gotten some flack on that one because without comment, by the next novel, he’s back to being vegetarian, and suddenly in the peak of health, with a well-developed body, and is apparently irresistible to the local girls.
And, like the other novels I read, there’s not really much investigating going on. She pretty much does the shotgun approach to things, fantasizing and being paranoid about everyone she and whomever is dead has come into contact with, bulldozing into their lives with no regard for them, her own or anyone else’s safety, and, oh yeah, she never actually solves a single one of the crimes – in the end, she just annoys the killer so much that they seem to think she’s getting close to solving the mystery (which she’s not), so time and again, they come after her, attempt to kill her, and she is saved by either dumb luck or someone else happening to be keeping an eye on her that she doesn’t know about.
So that’s a lot to set aside. But somehow, Davidson makes the prose work, the books read well, and are enjoyable. So I can’t kick too much. Even if I’d like to.