Review: Corinna Chapman is a walking advertisement for her Earthly Delights Bakery. She's fat, sassy, hip-swinging, and proud of it. She loves to sample the soups, muffins, cakes and cookies that she and her staff of three dispense daily from her Melbourne shop. And for the icing on her cake, she's got a frequent-visitor boyfriend, a Jewish PI named, Daniel, who she helps to solve crimes when they aren't indulging in her bedroom delights. In Devil's Food, the third of their Australian adventures, Corinna's menu includes a delightfully entertaining concoction of a cold cult, a missing father in mid-life pursuit of sweeties, a mother in pursuit of her nutty, naughty husband, a sprinkling of smugglers of toxic herbal tea, and a madman with his own recipe for murder most foul.
Between dispensing tidbits about her sex life, Australian society, and the history of Melbourne, and living high off the hog, so to speak, Corinna tells her story of the quirky characters around her–sweet and sour–and of the daily operations of her bakery. Even the cats have their personas, from the bakery's Mouse Police, to Corinna's Horatio, to Lucifer–"the Cat Most Likely To Be Found in Trouble." The ensemble cast of characters is equally interesting, from narrator Corinna, of course; to her staff members, the teenaged-girls, Goss and Kylie; and the fifteen-year-old reformed drug addict and apprentice baker, Jason; to Daniel, who specializes in finding missing children and annoying the local cops; to Meroe, "a jobbing witch;" to Jon and Kepler, a homosexual couple; to Mistress Dread, Mrs. Dawson, Professor Knox, the Pandamus family, and a trio of nerds, Taz, Rat and Gully, who run an electronics repair shop at irregular hours and with monkey business around the edges. Two crusty cops, Kane and Reagan, make cameo appearances and appear to be as inept as the worst of any in North American literature while Father Hungerford and his cult followers of Frates Discarnati, dining on famine bread of lentils and not much else, are equally weird. But the bane of Corinna's existence is her parents, her father, Sunlight, who has disappeared and she must find, and her mother, Starshine, who appears unannounced on her doorstep and she must tolerate. While Corinna goes about solving the mysteries of her missing father and the apparent poisoning of her two shop assistants with a diet tea, an ominous note reverberates at the end of most chapters to announce the progress of "the man who was becoming a murderer" until he strikes, and Corinna is left with another sticky mess to clean up.
A repast of light-hearted fare, Greenwood's, Devil's Food is spiced up with the saucy bits about Corinna's bedroom antics and her devil-may-care attitude to fasting, dietary fads and such foolishness. Corinna has found her voice–even if she takes a while to find her father and a murderer- and it's all about her appetite for food, drink, and fun. It's a voice of plenty, too, with frequent references to food and drink, and complete with a couple of end-page recipes, one for "Lemon and Lentil Soup," the other for "Persian Delights-Oriental Fruits." A minor hiccup, though, for this fruitful Australian read from an author "who lives with a Wizard"–there's a fair dusting of down under slang to digest before Corinna and company devour their last slice of Devil's Food cake, savour their last drink, toast the end of their third adventure, and begin salivating for whatever's next on their plate.
Kerry Greenwood has more than twenty novels to her credit, and has won the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crime Writers' Association of Australia. The author of the acclaimed Phryne Fisher series, she frequently works as an advocate for the Australian Legal Aid Commission.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of Devil's Food.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of Devil's Food for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Murder in the Dark
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), March 2009
ISBN-13: 9781590584392; ISBN-10: 1590584392
Murder on a Midsummer Night
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), July 2009
ISBN-13: 9781590586327; ISBN-10: 1590586328
Location(s) referenced in Devil's Food: Melbourne, Australia
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Devil's Food by Kerry Greenwood — A Corinna Chapman Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: May 2009
List Price: $24.95