Tuesday, August 05, 2008

FINISHED: Crime Brûlée

“Life doles out the most amazing surprises, not all of them pleasant.”

Needing to increase my reading average so that I might hit my target of 20 books read between Memorial Day and Labor Day, I have turned to cozy mysteries. Nancy Fairbanks, author of the comic police procedural series featuring Elena Jarvis, also writes this culinary series, featuring Carolyn Blue. I have enjoyed a few others in the series (French Fried and The Perils of Paella) and find them mildly addictive. I believe the culinary analog is profiteroles. The covers are well designed, setting the mood for a light, fun mystery.

Crime Brûlée is set in New Orleans and, as the first in the series, introduces Carolyn Blue, a forty-something homemaker who takes on a dream job as a food writer. If you ask me, it's a great premise! Carolyn has accompanied her husband, Jason, a chemistry professor, to an academic conference in New Orleans. She's also writing a book on eating in the Big Easy. Ostensibly, while Jason is occupied with lectures and plenary sessions and doodling molecular bonds on cocktail napkins, Carolyn is combing the city, sampling its culinary treats. When Carolyn's close childhood friend, Julienne—also an academic attending the conference—goes missing, and no one seems to care, including Julienne's husband, Carolyn investigates.

Occasionally, I found the plot to stagnate a bit, which I didn't notice in subsequent books, which leads me to believe that Fairbanks has work on the pacing and settled into Carolyn Blue's voice. And, occasionally, I found it hard to suspend disbelief necessary to accept that our protagonist would get involved with the sleuthing.

But, Fairbanks gets the foodie bits down, which more than make up for the rest. I find this series far more interesting and more delicious than Diane Mott Davidson's caterer Goldy Bear series. Often while reading Davidson's books, I'd feel the guilt that comes from empty calories. Sure, I keep reading them, but I prefer Fairbanks. And, no matter how formulaic Fairbanks' series may get, I'm committed to reading more titles. Up next: New York-set Truffled Feathers.

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