FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Kerry Greenwood
FORBIDDEN FRUIT is the 5th book in the Corinna Chapman series by Australian author Kerry Greenwood (probably best known for her Phryne Fisher series). These books are set in modern day, inner Melbourne, are also on the cosier end of the scale. There are enough elements that coincide in both series to make fans of one feel somewhat comfortable in the other. Having never read any of the earlier books in this series, though, I can't comment on whether FORBIDDEN FRUIT is particularly representative, so I comment on it in isolation.
Corrina is a woman who has turned to baking after a life in the professions. Happier, content to the point of delirious, she is even able to just cope with the 4.00am starts. Living in very idealised circumstances, she has a happy home life in a building full of bohemian type characters, all living their own somewhat unorthodox lives. A content love life with Daniel, the main thing making Corinna grumpy in this book is Christmas.
Basically the story is that Daniel, the private investigator, is trying to track down two teenage runaways. Pregnant Brigid and the father of her baby Manny. Neither parents approve of either of the couple, Brigid has been locked up at home awaiting the birth of the unwanted (by her family) child, when she escapes and hits the streets with Manny. Daniel wants to find them because he's been asked by her parents, Corinna wants to find them because she's worried for Brigid's health. Along the way they are assisted / distracted by nuns who run a soup kitchen bus, freegans, maniacal mothers, thunderstorms and naked dancing witches, a donkey named Serena, glace cherries, the heat of a long hot Melbourne summer and meals which are described in somewhat minute detail.
Whilst it could be that all these distractions - and to be frank - meandering down a simply astounding number of irrelevant byways and cul-de-sacs is part of the charm of these books, in FORBIDDEN FRUIT, it just seemed to go on, and on, and on, and on. As did the none-too-subtle hinting about the joys of bohemia and alternative lifestyles and finding your inner whatevers. Not that I'm opposed to any of the elements that were raised by this book - but I just found that the constant bombardment and distractions ended up, well tedious. Every time the plot tried to progress a little, the reader was suddenly down one of those cul-de-sacs with a whinge about something (really, if you don't like Christmas decoration shopping then just don't do it!), or a lauding of "insert bandwagon here". Yes, I know these books are fictional and idealised, and maybe that's part of the problem - I prefer idealised fiction that "shows" rather than "crows".
There are some glimpses of parallels between elements of these books and the Phyrne Fisher series that were interesting - a similar sort of independent, feisty female character with an abandonment of normal conventions. But in FORBIDDEN FRUIT everything just seemed a little too over the top, a little too arch, a little too preachy for comfort. Perhaps this is a book for fans of the series, perhaps there's something about not reading the earlier books that means I missed the point.
Corinna Chapman, owner of Earthly Delights, detests Christmas. The shoppers are frantic and the heat oppressive. Neither of which this perfect size 20 with a genius for baking breads finds congenial. She's dreaming of quiet, air-conditioned comfort but instead finds herself dealing with a rose-loving donkey named Serena, a maniacal mother with staring eyes, a distracted assistant searching for the perfect muffin recipe, her friend the fearless witch Meroe, and the luscious Daniel with whom she'd like to spend a lot more time.
But Daniel is on the hunt to find two young runaways, Brigid and Manny. This simple Romeo and Juliet romance though is not as straightforward as it seems and they will go a long way to ensure they're not found. When Corinna and Daniel find that Brigid is on the streets, heavily pregnant and in danger, the stakes rise.
With the help of a troupe of free-spirited freegans, some very clever internet hackers and a bunch of vegans, Corinna and Daniel go head-to-head with a sinister religious cult on a mission and a band of Romany gypsies out for revenge in a wild and wonderful chase against the clock.