My mom is a reading champion. She consumes books like no one else I know—fiction, non-fiction, history, business, graphic novels, you name it—no genre is safe from her hungry eyes.
Lucky for me, my mom is also very generous. Almost every time I see her, she gives me a stack of books and an order recommendation and she always seems to understand when it takes me much too long to make my way through them.
There’s nothing like a new year to inspire me to get to work on my pile of mom books, and fortunately so. I started 2021 off with an incredible book and I’m so grateful for my mom for bringing Recipes for Love and Murder into my life and promptly onto my “Read” list.
Once I tucked into this novel—one immersed in themes such as South Africa, enticing food, murder, friendship, and romance—it was hard to put down.
- Author: Sally Andrew
- Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Cultural (South Africa)
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Canongate Books, 2015
- More info: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26010158-recipes-for-love-and-murder
In South African, or Afrikaans, the word “Tannie” is a term of endearment for anyone older than you. (Think: “Auntie.”) The protagonist of the novel is Tannie Maria. She’s a down-to-earth woman who loves to cook more than anything else in the world.
Tannie Maria works at her small, local newspaper, contributing as a weekly recipe column writer. When she’s tasked with changing her role into an advice columnist, she vows to keep recipes in her replies.
One day, Tannie Maria receives a letter asking for advice about the author’s abusive husband. Not long after, the contributor dies mysteriously. It doesn’t take long before Tannie Maria and her coworker, reporter Jessie, are investigating the matter further, and find themselves right in the midst of the danger.
Recipes for Love and Murder has it all. There’s murder, mystery, twists, turns, love stories, and food. Lots of food.
At first, I wondered if Recipes for Love and Murder could really be my cup of tea. I flipped back and forth to the Afrikaans glossary in the back constantly, feeling as though the pacing was a little too slow, with many interruptions.
Boy, am I glad I got through that initial, however slight, hesitation.
Yes, Recipes for Love and Murder had a slower start for me. But its intentional pace incorporated plenty of time to build strong characterization. The detailed descriptions of both Tannie Maria’s surroundings and knowledge of food paid off in the end, where things pick up dramatically. The murder mystery case takes off, and the novel transforms into a page turner with each clue. I was totally invested in each of the characters, because of the consideration and time taken to explore them and their interactions.
I love many things about this novel. It’s light, entertaining, and the sense of place and scene transports you right smack into a culture that seems both complex and yet somehow also simple. This is very true of the pacing; the author combines two very different tempos—the easy-going natural slowness of a down-to-earth woman who finds immense joy in the quiet moments and the contrast of a case where every moment counts—and weaves them together masterfully throughout.
And though it takes its time to fully develop, the mystery part of the plot comes through in full force. It’s a major highlight when the murder is finally solved, though it’s done perilously.
I also have an overwhelming soft spot for any kind of newspaper setting. There’s nothing I can relate to more than a small staff, trying to figure out how to run their paper independently and keep their press going to print, while also adapting to digital trends. (This was my entire college newspaper experience in a nutshell.)
Overall, Recipes for Love and Murder is an excellent read. It’s a thoughtful ode to the things that make life most worth living, from friendship to food to love. I definitely recommend this novel for a fun read.
This is a great book. I’d give Recipes for Love and Murder a 4.5/5 star rating.
Let me know
If you read Recipes for Love and Murder, please let me know what you think!