Review: Claire M. Johnson's second Mary Ryan mystery, Roux Morgue, has the San Francisco pastry chef joining the faculty of the Ecole d'Epicure (School of Cooking) and finding herself in the midst of all sorts of mischief and mayhem.
A battle royale is raging at the school between the "old" chefs who believe traditional European cooking should be taught, and the "new" chefs who want to embrace of more inventive, modern, and healthy methods of food preparation. If that weren't enough, the dean of the school gives Mary an ultimatum regarding the status of a student, one with which Mary not only doesn't understand, she doesn't agree. And what is homicide detective O'Connor doing enrolled at the school? When a student dies after eating shellfish (an item conspicuously missing from the menu), it's assumed to be a tragic accident. But when another death follows, suspicions are aroused. Is all this conflict connected in some way, and if so, how?
Roux MorgueRoux Morgue is not a culinary mystery in the generic sense of the genre's definition. The mystery happens to be set at a school of cooking, and Mary is a pastry chef by profession, but there is very little in the way of culinary arts going on here. Mary isn't the most pleasant of characters, a sort of vulgar Nancy Drew. She seems to bounce from one mystery to another (and there are several more not covered here) and it's never quite clear how her involvement furthers the investigation of any of them. There are attempts to inject humor into the story, to lighten up the sometimes dour mood, but they generally fall flat.
Roux Morgue is all the more disappointing since the elements (ingredients, if you will) for a good mystery are all present. It's just that they never come together.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Roux Morgue.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of Roux Morgue for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Beat Until Stiff
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), December 2002
ISBN-13: 9781590580400; ISBN-10: 1590580400
Location(s) referenced in Roux Morgue: San Francisco, California
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Roux Morgue by Claire M. Johnson — A Mary Ryan Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: April 2008
List Price: $24.95