Review - DROWNED VANILLA, Livia Day
Slightly girly, crazy comic crime fiction is not my normal cup of tea, and add a plethora of recipes and this reader should, by rights, be groaning and moaning and whinging. But not with The Culinary Crime / Café La Femme series of which DROWNED VANILLA is the second book. (As opposed to THE BLACKMAIL BLEND 1.5 which is a collection of short stories).
Pitched at a very particular market this isn't indepth, psychological analysis of crime and consequences. If anything more time and effort is devoted to the search for the perfect Ice-Cream recipe than is expended on the death of the young woman, drowned in a lake. Which is a bit unfair, because in the middle of cars, vintage clothes, love interests and side distractions, ice cream recipes and baking muffins, there is a mystery that's resolved.
The style employed in writing these books is pitch-perfect for the audience they will attract. Silly and fun, there's enough of an edge in the death of this young girl, her time in The Gingerbread House, the connections between all the residents there, and the small town of Flynn to keep fans of cosier, lighter-hearted mysteries satisfied on all fronts. And some of the recipes, to be frank, are to die for, and yes they have been transferred to the cookbook for trying out. Some on the other hand should be consigned to the scrap bin as a matter of urgency.
Fans of more pointed, gritty books might find themselves overly distracted by the side-issues bought up in DROWNED VANILLA, and goodness knows Tabitha Darling's obsession with vintage clothes, shoes and handbags makes me wonder about my sanity when I say that these are very readable books, but let's face it - we're talking entertainment here.
DROWNED VANILLA, and it's predecessor A TRIFLE DEAD are really great examples of daft, funny, cosy, silly, culinary crime. They are deftly written, pitched for their target market perfectly. Whilst there's plenty of eccentricity in all of the characters, there's a refreshing lack of idiocy (particularly on the part of the women). There's some romantic tension of course, and that old perennial of the love triangle dilemma but it's more fun than angst-ridden and either choice of bloke would be fine with many readers. Of course it's a bit silly and there is nothing in the world wrong with a bit of silly every now and again. Especially when it comes with ice-cream.
It’s the beginning of a hot, hot summer in Hobart. Tabitha Darling is in love with the wrong man, and determined to perfect the art of ice cream. Playing amateur detective again is definitely not on the cards—not even when her friends try to lure her into an arty film noir project in the historical town of Flynn.
But when a young woman goes missing from a house full of live webcams, and is found drowned in the lake outside Flynn, Tabitha is dragged into the whole mess— film crew, murder victim, love life and all.
There were two girls using the internet pseudonym French Vanilla, and only one is dead. So where is the other one? Why is everyone suddenly behaving like they’re in a (quite specific) Raymond Chandler novel? And how the hell did the best kiss of Tabitha’s life end up on YouTube?
Even ice cream isn’t going to get them out of this one.