Austin | Dallas | Houston
Food for Thought

Eat, Read, Die: Authors use food (sometimes even a topped chef) as a novel way to solve a crime

Enlarge
Slideshow
Pecan Pies and Homicides food book by Ellery Adams
Ellery Adams writes the Charmed Pie Shoppe mystery series with great titles like Pecan Pies and Homicides. Amazon.com
Patricia Cornwell food book called Scarpetta
Patricia Cornwell's medical examiner, Kay Scarpetta, is as good in the kitchen as she is in the autopsy room. Amazon.com
Key West Food Critic food book by Lucy Burdette
In Lucy Burdette's debut novel, Topped Chef, the main character is accused of murder. Amazon.com
Wine Country mystery series by Ellen Crosby
For oenophiles there’s Ellen Crosby’s Wine Country mystery series. Amazon.com
Strawberry Shotcake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Some food-theme mysteries even come with recipes. (Shown is the partial cover of Joanne Fluke's Strawberry Shortcake Murder.) Amazon.com
Pecan Pies and Homicides food book by Ellery Adams
Patricia Cornwell food book called Scarpetta
Key West Food Critic food book by Lucy Burdette
Wine Country mystery series by Ellen Crosby
Strawberry Shotcake Murder by Joanne Fluke
News_Marene Gustin_columnist_mug_head shot

I read. A lot.

I used to go to the library once a week and get four or five books and haul at least one of them around with me at all times. Then I got a Kindle. It’s a lot easier to carry in your purse than a library book. Did you know that if your Kindle dies you just hold the on button in the on position for 50 seconds and the device will reboot? Really, this works. Trust me.

Anyway, I love to read food books, autobiographies, zombie tales…and mysteries. I have my favorite authors but I am amazed at all the genres out there. Talking dog mysteries, mystery books written by dogs — and cats — mysteries about people who solve puzzles and run crochet shops.

 In particular there are dozens and dozens of series with a food theme, some even come with recipes. 

And, of course, mysteries with culinary themes.

In particular there are dozens and dozens of series with a food theme, some even come with recipes. Mostly these are cozies, a cute little term that simply means the works are pretty much bloodless and sexless. Not that people aren’t murdered, but not violently and not in great details. It’s like watching a Hallmark movie.

So here’s some culinary cozies you might enjoy:

Ellery Adams writes the Charmed Pie Shoppe mystery series, about pastry chef and pie shop owner Ella Mae and her Jack Russell terrier who solve crimes while baking magical pies. It’s a little far fetched, but cute. And the titles are maybe the best part: Pies and Prejudice, Peach Pies and Alibis and Pecan Pies and Homicides

And yes, the pie recipes are included.

Lucy Burdette writes the new Key West Food Critic series. This is one of my favorites as I love to eat out and she bases all the restaurants and their food in the series on real Key West restaurants. Hayley Snow is the restaurant critic for the Lifestyle magazine Key Zest. In the debut novel, Topped Chef, Snow herself is accused of murder and has to solve the crime to clear her name.

For oenophiles there’s Ellen Crosby’s Wine Country mystery series. Set in the lush Virginia wine and horse country, vineyard owner Lucie Montgomery solves murders while sipping Merlot.

There are mystery series about coffee shop and tea shop owners who sleuth, series with a White House chef, a supper club and a cooking class. The most popular ones deal with sweets and baked goods and the oddest one is set in an Amish bed and breakfast and includes Mennonite recipes the heroine cooks up. I could not make this stuff up.

Of course, sometimes I like something a little less cozy. That’s when I check out the latest Patricia Cornwell. Her medical examiner, Kay Scarpetta, is as good in the kitchen as she is in the autopsy room and although there are ample, well-written food scenes in the book there are no recipes. But Cornwell takes care of her fans. She’s written two Scarpetta cookbooks.

So, bon appétit and good luck solving the murders!

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address