Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Travel to Klein Karoo...for...Recipes For Love and Murder by Sally Andrew

Isn't life funny? You know, how one thing leads to another in a way you just don't expect. That Sunday morning, I was in my kitchen stirring my apricot jam in the cast-iron pot. It was another dry summer's day in the Klein Karoo, and I was glad for the breeze coming in the window. "You smell lovely," I told the appelkooskonfyt. When I call it apricot "jam" it sounds like something in a jar from the Spar supermarket, but when it's confyt, you know it's made in a kitchen. My mother was Afrikaans and my father was English and the languages are mixed up inside me. I taste in Afrikaans and argue in English, but if I swear I go back to Afrikaans again.
The appelkooskonfyt was just coming right, getting thick and clear, when I heard the car. I added some apricot kernels and a stick of cinnamon to the jam; I did not know that the car was bringing the first ingredient in a recipe for love and murder.
But maybe life is like a river that can't be stopped, always winding toward or away from death and love. Back and forth. Still, even though life moves like that river, lots of people go their whole lives without swimming. I thought I was one of those people. The Karoo is one of the quietest places in South Africa, so you can hear an engine a long way off. I turned off the gas flame and put the lid on the pot. I still had time to wash my hands, take off my blue apron; check my hair in the mirror, and put out the kettle.
I put a tin of freshly baked beskuit on my desk. Jessie looked up from her computer and grinned at me and the rusk tin. "Tannie M," she said. Jessie Mostert was the young Gazette journalist. She was a coloured girl who got a scholarship to study at Grahamstown and then came back to work in her hometown. Her mother was a nurse at the Ladismith hospital...
Hattie put the letters on my desk...I looked at the three letters sitting on my desk like unopened presents. I left them there while I made coffee for us all...
Recipe For Murder

1 Stocky Man Who Abuses His Wife
1 Small Tender Wife
1 Medium-size Tough Woman in Love with the Wife
1 Double-Barreled Shotgun
1 Small Karoo Town Marinated in Secrets
 1 Mild Gardener
1 Red-Hot New Yorker
7 Seventh-Day Adventists (Prepared for the End of the World)
1 Hard-Boiled Investigative Journalist
1 Soft Amateur Detective
2 Cool Policemen
1 Handful of Red Herrings and Suspects Mixed Together
Pinch of Greed

Throw all the ingredients into a big pot and simmer slowly, stirring with a wood spoon for a few years. Add some chilis and brandy toward the end and turn up the heat.

Recipes for Love and Murder:
A Tannie Maria Mystery

By Sally Andrew

The Amateur Detective genre has a new series that you've just got to check out! Especially if you like to learn and explore new areas of the world--Klein Karoo in Africa this time... Especially if you like the beginning and then mellowing love interest that is a staple characteristic of this type of story, normally between the local policeman and the amateur detective... And, this time, especially if you enjoy cooking--with many recipes included!

Back off or Die
For me, I was most drawn in by the main character, Tannie [rhymes with honey] Marie. Tannie is a wonderful character who loves nature, her chickens, cooking, and believes food equals love... So she loves all those around her with some type of treat, especially if their emotions need to be "stroked..." and when they are having fun... and, while they are working... You get the idea. Kinda reminded me of my sister when I retired from working... and I had also moved closer to her home... I was getting homemade food and some type of sweet on an almost continuous basis for awhile!

In fact, Maria's occupation was as a food column writer for the Klein Karoo Gazette. At least initially... But the sponsors of the newspaper wanted to have a lovelorn column, which they figured would be more popular--even though Maria's column was already popular. Soooo, the head of the newspaper agreed to combine the two topics!

And that's how the whole Gazette staff became involved...in solving a murder, or two...

"Oh hell, I'm such a total idiot. Please tear up
that last letter. If my husband ever sees or
hears about it...I'm a fool. Please don't
publish it. Destroy it. I beg you."
Marie quickly started receiving letters asking for personal advice... To keep the "flavor" of the former column, she always included a recipe of some food--some even ask for a recipe to help in their love life!

But one woman wrote about having an abusive husband who she was afraid of and that began a series of letters between Marie and the woman... I must add that many of the other letters to Tannie Maria were included...and sweet...and soon Maria was becoming popular because they had added a web site and the letters and answer were posted. Maria had great empathy because her husband had abused her and she knew what types of questions and issues brought sadness and concern to lonely people...Food was always the answer and she even tried new recipes to be sure she was giving good advice...

Such as for how to prepare ostrich...

But before long the woman had been murdered!

And another woman came out of the woodwork, as a friend, would-be lover if she had her way, who accused her husband of everything. From then on, the husband and his wife's would-be lover, were out to kill the other for the murder! 

And then another murder occurred...

I had seen two dead bodies before this one. In coffins. My mother's and my husband's. At the sight of each of them, strong feelings had swum up from deep inside me and taken the air from my mouth. But I did not know this man, Lawrence, at all, so I was surprised to find such feelings coming up in me again. He was not in a coffin. His blood was still fresh. Just now he'd been walking in the rain, smoking, talking. He was alive. Then someone shot that out of him...Stole it from him forever. Murder is the worst kind of stealing. Martine's life had been stolen. And now Lawrence's.

OK, I admit it, this book made me hungry! LOL  Everytime something happened, Marie was cooking--lots of desserts which I love--and passing them out... I was even forced to check out the recipes in the back of the book to see if...well...that didn't work for me, but I am sure many of you will want to try such dishes as  perfect buttermilk chocolate cake or mango sorbet, and many more.

Maria started cooking whenever she knew when that one police officer was coming to ask her for the letters she received, ask questions, or later to protect her... and during such conversations, she'd stop and point out the sound of a certain bird or throw a handful of feed to her chickens who had come running...

Neither of them was looking for love, both hurt in previous relationships. Those past feelings of pain were now melting away and neither quite knew what to do with what they knew was happening...

Now of course I was cross with Kannenemeyer after that. He was stubborn. Rude, in fact. How could he leave without cake? But I was more cross with myself, I shoul've brought it out soon. I went into the kitchen and began icing the cake. If he had only seen it. Or smelled it. "I messed up," I said to the cake. "If he had a taste of you. He would have agreed to anything I asked." I licked a bit of rum-and-chocolate icing off my finger. "Anything."..

This debut of a new series is wonderfully written, a great way to escape from your world and just enjoy a fun read.  I loved this one and fully expect that the series will continue to gain more popularity. There is a little disruption, but an interesting diversion, while reading due to the insertion of the native language sometimes used by Maria. There is a full, lengthy glossary where you can find the translation and definition or sometimes a lengthier background paragraph. 

Highly recommended.


Sally Andrew lives in a mud-brick house on a nature reserve in the Klein Karoo, South Africa, with her partner, artist Bowen Boshier, and other wildlife (including a giant eland and a secretive leopard). She also spends time in the wilderness of southern Africa and the seaside suburb of Muizenberg. She has a Masters in Adult Education (University of Cape Town).
For some decades she was a social and environmental activist, then the manager of Bowen’s art business, before she settled down to write full-time. This is her first novel. It will be published in at least twelve languages, across five continents.

Pictures used today are from the author's web site: 

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