The Proof is in the Pudding
By Melinda Wells,
Pub. Berkley Prime Crime
2010, 291 pages
Mass Market Original
This is the author’s third in her series featuring Della Carmichael. And yes it comes with several pages of what appear to be mouth-watering recipes. While noting that the author sent a copy of the book to review, I have not (yet) tried any of the recipes. However, if they are on a par with the quality of this author’s writing which is excellent, they should be worthwhile.
Della Carmichael is the hostess and chef of a West Coast cable cooking show. She also runs a small cooking school. Her deceased husband was a cop so she has some useful connections for her adventures. Make no mistake, this novel is not a cozy. Even though set in Southern California, and the circle of suspects and other characters is limited, many of readers’ expectations about cozy crime novels are broken. There are pets. There is some fine humor and the pace is enough to keep even non–foodies interested. And, this is a whee of a story.
An Important Personage is staging a celebrity cooking competition for both humanitarian and personal reasons. Della is brought in at the last minute to be one of three judges of the event. There she encounters another judge who is definitely not on her ‘A’ list of desirable guests. When the man is stabbed to death during the beginning of the cooking competition, in a delightful and well-thought-out scene, suspicion falls variously on a close friend who is a cop, the cop’s daughter and on Della herself.
Wells is a good writer and she deals with one of the major problems of writing a series in a competent and forthright manner. If a series is to continue, we can’t have the protagonist in such jeopardy that she dies. However, by recognizing the quandary , this author builds the tension in other ways, and the detecting is handled in a well-done manner. In addition, Della Carmichael acts like a real, fully realized woman, with desires, problems, and some pets and friends who are occasionally troublesome. They are interesting which contributes to the stew without distracting us from the main story.
I was completely charmed by Ms. Carmichael and her adventure. Her world is fun, funny, and as real as can be. Moreover, the story is well plotted and has a very satisfactory conclusion.