Friday, April 6, 2018

Diane Mott Davidson: A Reminiscent Romp Through Macaroons and Murder

TK Starr is paying homage to one of her favorite mystery authors, Diane Mott Davison. 

Grab the fleece throw, a few Dungeon bars and a Double Shot of  Espresso. Get ready to have your taste buds seduced and your mystery spot tickled as you melt into the world of Aspen Meadow, Colorado and Goldilocks Catering- Where Everything is “Just Right”.

Everything, that is, except the homicide rate. Little Aspen Meadow must have had the highest per capita murder quotient behind Midsomer County in England or Cabot Cove in Maine by the time Ms. Davidson finished the 17th book  (The Whole Enchilada) in 2013 . Oh sure, the criminal catastrophes were separated by a few months, but when you’re talking about a small town perched on a mountain with Denver 40 miles downhill, it’s still impressive.  You don’t really notice the dropping bodies though as each diabolical deed is casually intertwined with Monster Cinnamon rolls drooling with a creamy sugar glaze or chewy “Cereal Killer” cookies laced with enough butter toffee bits to poison any good diet. By the time you find out who the culprit is, you’re starting to think that murder really isn’t so bad. Quite tasty actually.

I last read the Goldy books in the 90’s yet I still remember the magnificently penned descriptions of epicurean delights and the resulting sense of  comfort.  It was this yearning for nostalgic certainty that drove me to rediscover Goldy. I’m glad I did, but one thing I’d forgotten was not to read her on an empty stomach.  The constant stomach gurgling can be downright distracting. Yes, Ms. Davidson’s writing is that criminally delicious.

But let me back-up. As this endearing series opens, curly-haired Gertrude “Goldy” Bear lives in Aspen Meadow, Colorado with her 10 year-old son, Arch. She has recently escaped from an abusive marriage to Dr. John Richard Korman (aka JRK or the “Jerk”) who shares the town’s lucrative ob-gyn practice with his father and continues to viciously harass Goldy in private whenever he can. Goldy is determined to make  “Goldilocks Catering” a success as the Jerk’s spousal/child support payments are anything but reliable. Her closest friend is Marla, a wealthy woman with a kind heart who just happens to be the Jerk’s other ex-wife. Marla takes as much pleasure in trashing the Jerk as she does sharing the town gossip with Goldy. She and Goldy have also started their own “AA” support group called “Amour Anonymous” for the love addicted. It’s  through her catering business that Goldy  gets involved in the mysteries and meets Furman County Sheriff’s Deputy, Investigator Tom Schulz, a smart guy with teddy bear qualities and some wicked chocolate recipes of his own.

Each cleverly entitled book sees Goldy juggling her catering duties, mothering duties, and self-imposed investigating whatever wrongdoing is happening at the moment duties. The reasons for sticking her spatula into police business vary, but are usually very personal like saving her catering business (Catering to Nobody), absolving a friend accused of murder  (Chopping Spree) and finding justice for a murdered colleague ( Prime Cut). Even though I wished she’d stand up more to the Jerk, especially early on, it’s easy to like Goldy. I identify with her caffeine addiction, her inability to knock off those last 10  (or 15) pounds, and her snarky self-smarts.  I want Goldy to win, no matter the occasional eye rolling at her exploits.  

 An added delight this time around has been listening  to the Goldy books on my long daily commutes. The stories come alive through the talented tones of narrator Barbara Rosenblat  (please see the November 13, 2013 interview with  Ms. Rosenblat by Mystery Playground Contributor Kim Hammond  here). Ms. Rosenblat not only gives each character their own personality and voice, but her descriptions of Goldy’s delicacies are mouth watering.  I  look forward to the long drives knowing whatever happens in the real world, in Goldy’s world at least, everything really will turn out “Just Right.”


My drink for the Goldy Culinary Series can only be one thing: coffee. Straight-up, X-large and Strong. Goldy is useless before her first cup in the morning (I can relate) and often double doses at night when she’s cooking or deducting.  She sees it as her lifesaver. Literally. In one of the books (not telling which) I learned if I was ever poisoned, drink large amounts of super concentrated espresso to dilute it. Nice to know.

For this week’s conspiratorial collusion, I’ve paired a large mug of the caffeinated brew with creations based on Ms. Davidson’s 2015 Cookbook   Goldy’s Kitchen: Cooking, Writing, Family, Life”  ,  (Please see the review of the cookbook by Mystery Playground creator Deborah Lacy on September 23, 2015 here). As suggested by the subtitle, Ms. Davidson relates anecdotal tidbits on writing and life between recipes compiled from all 17 books. For example, if the first book doesn’t sell then just write another one, be wary of too much or too little praise from others, there’s no one ‘Great American Novel’ (always room for another, so keep writing) and most of all, don’t take yourself too seriously, go have a cookie.  With that said, I present my takes on Cereal Killer Cookies ( The Cereal Murders) as cookie cups and Scout’s Brownies (Dying for Chocolate) decorated for Easter. Both go quite nicely with a  steaming cup of Joe. I do hope Ms. Davidson decides to continue Goldy’s saga someday, but until then,  Bones Appetite!!

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