Literary caterer Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon fights to save her reputation and catch a killer when a murder occurs during a fundraising dinner for the local library.
Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon has just moved to Hobson Glen and opened a new restaurant and catering business, Cookin’ the Books Cafe. So when her new landlord, Schulyer Thompson, recommends her to Binnie Broderick, the executive director of the local library, Tish is delighted. Binnie needs a last-minute caterer to create a literary inspired three-course dinner for the library’s annual fundraiser, one of the highlights of Hobson Glen’s social season. But there’s a problem: Binnie Broderick is a notoriously difficult woman to please. And when she chokes to death from arsenic poisoning after dousing her main course in hot sauce, Tish suddenly finds herself fighting to save her business – and her reputation. It seems that very few of Hobson Glen’s residents escaped Binnie’s disapproval. But who would want her dead, and why?
We’ve been gluttonous over the festive period, devouring this darkly delicious new mystery from Amy Patricia Meade! Find out how Amy’s passion for cooking led to this tantalising first in a brand-new culinary cozy series.
Strangely enough, COOKIN’ THE BOOKS began, not as a culinary mystery, but as an answer to a call for a mystery featuring animals and a small town veterinary office.
My sample pages for the veterinary mystery were ultimately rejected, but my agent and I so loved the central characters of Julian Jefferson Davis, Mary Jo Okensholt, Celestine Rufus, and veterinarian Philippa Reed, that we determined they needed their own series. During a flurry of pre-Christmas emails exchanged while I was visiting in Vermont, my agent finally asked: “Aside from writing, what are you passionate about?”
The answer was clear to anyone who’s even glanced at my social media accounts. Cooking.
After a few more emails, we decided to set the series at a literary café and catering business and to include more than a few terrible puns on the menu. Recharged and with tongue fully in cheek, I set to work on a synopsis and the sample pages immediately after Christmas.
First, I needed a new, non-equine name for my protagonist, so the dark haired Philippa Reed became the blonde cook, Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon. (As cooks seldom waste ingredients, ‘Reed’ would be recycled as ‘Reade’, the surname of COOKIN’s local sheriff).
As I was returning to traditional publishing after a lengthy hiatus, I decided that Tish should be starting her catering/café business after a failed marriage and a twenty-year stint in the finance sector. And, as I had recently moved from Vermont to Virginia, I thought there was no better place to set Tish’s new business than in a small town outside Richmond, the crossroads of southern charm and northern sensibilities, of artistic and hippy culture and national military operations.
From that point, I built the town of Hobson Glen. Langhorne, the conure featured prominently on the book’s cover, was inspired by a green parrot I encountered riding his owner’s shoulder on Richmond’s Cary Street on New Year’s Day. The rest of the town’s residents are collages of personality traits of people I’ve either known or observed.
I sincerely hope you enjoy your visit with Tish and the citizens of Hobson Glen as much as I’ve enjoyed creating them. Just a quick word of caution, though: if you decide to attend the library fundraiser during your visit, you might want to stay away from the Prime Rib.
COOKIN’ THE BOOKS is out now in the UK and from 1 March in the US. Find more details here.
Read our Editor’s Pick for COOKIN’ THE BOOKS here.