Friday, December 29, 2006

French Fried - Nancy Fairbanks



French Fried
A Culinary Mystery
Nancy Fairbanks
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

Carolyn Blue, a homemaker turned food writer, is accompanying her husband on a trip to France. She’s thrilled to be headed to what is, essentially, ground zero for most foodies. Jason, a chemist, is scheduled to give lectures in Lyon before moving on to an international conference in Avignon. Carolyn is happy to follow along, sampling the cuisine, soaking up the culture, and investigating the historical sites. As any international traveler knows, the jet lag is deadly. So, when Carolyn arrives at the hotel (alone, since Jason rushed off to do chemist things) all she wants is a nap. Imagine her shock when she unlocks the door and finds a strange man sprawled facedown across the twin beds.

She hears a sort of snoring, and, not wanting to wake a potentially dangerous stranger, demands that the desk staff do something. By the time the staff arrives, the man is dead. Carolyn tells the police, truthfully, that she has no idea who the man might be, but that he obviously let himself into their room and helped himself to some pâté de foie gras that was delivered as a gift from the chairman of the conference. As it turns out, the chairman sent no such gift. And the dead man, one Robert Levasseur, was sent by the chairman to welcome Carolyn and Jason. He ended up saving their lives. But who would want them dead? As Carolyn investigates, she discovers that not all is as appetizing at it looks on the surface, even in France.

This is the latest in a running series, but, as a newcomer to it, I can attest to the fact that it’s quite easy to jump in at this point with no prior knowledge. The novel begins with a chilling scene from the killer’s point of view, detailing his actions and intentions, but completely masking his identity. This is an excellent way to draw the reader in immediately. The details about Lyon and Avignon, both the regions and the food, are liberally sprinkled throughout the story, adding a distinct and flavor. The characters, many of them members of the international conference are colorful and add a dash of interest and danger. Recommended for readers who enjoy cozy mysteries, and for foodies, who will enjoy the included recipes.

Rating: 8
December 2006
ISBN# 0-425-21308-0 (paperback)

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