Monday, February 12, 2007

Perils of Paella

For the past eight or nine years, I have been stoking my interest in Spanish food, drink, and culture. Last summer, John and I threw a tapas party. We renewed our desire to travel the Camino de Real by bicycle. And, I purchased The Perils of Paella, a culinary mystery set in Spain, by Nancy Fairbanks.

Our amateur sleuth is Carolyn Blue, a food columnist for an El Paso newspaper. Carolyn accompanies her husband to Spain. While he is presenting an academic paper, she travels to Barcelona to visit her friend Robbie Hecht, a visiting researcher at a Miro museum. Before the friends even have a chance to meet up in the museum, Carolyn stumbles across a dead body and naturally becomes a part of the investigation.

The mystery is told in the alternating voices of Blue and of Inspector Pujol. The mystery is standard fare, which is exactly what I was hoping for in a quick read. The characters were just this side of addictive. I liked centered Blue, who riffed really well off of feisty Robbie. Pujol was very likeable. The chorus was a host of stereotypes—Latin playboy husbands and their jealous wives, American husbands who attempted to keep their adventurous wives on short leashes. Still, a humorous mix.

Like Diane Mott Davidson’s culinary series starring caterer Goldy Schulz, food plays a central role in Fairbanks’ mysteries. Recipes are included throughout (and, they’re far less intrusive than in Davidson’s books).

I’d happily read another mystery from this series.

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