Review Blog

Jan 25 2016

Recipes for love and murder, a Tannie Maria mystery by Sally Andrew

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Text Publishing, 2015 ISBN 9781925240092
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended, Crime, Domestic violence, South Africa, Recipes. When Tannie Maria is told that her recipe column in the local newspaper has been cut and she is expected to do a personal column, she deftly entwines her recipes with her responses to people's problems.
But the letter which enrages her more than any is one from a woman wanting a recipe to cook for her husband who regularly beats her. Memories of her own abusive husband crowd in on her but unable to do anything for this woman she gives recipes for a meal which will keep him happy. Another letter from the woman's friend underlines the seriousness of the situation but before Tannie Maria can go any further, the abused woman is killed.
There follows a detective story as Maria and the investigative journalist in her office, Jessie, try to help the police with their enquiries.
Often sad and poignant, carefully crafted and very funny, this story of a brutal marriage is addictive, as Andrew rolls out the tale of Martine and her husband and her friend, Anna.
The background, living in the Klein Karoo, a semi desert area in Southern Africa forms an impressive part of the detail of the book, and Andrew expects that the reader will work out some of the Afrikaaner words for themselves while some sent me to an online dictionary. The hum of life for Tannie Maria and her friends is riveting, her recipes (offered in an appendix at the end of the book) mouth watering and methods of detection sublime as she garners the smallest of details to help the detective solve the case. And he also provides an unexpected romantic interest for the lonely Tannie Maria, as every time they meet she notices the gulf between his bahviour and that of her abusive husband.
This is the first in a series of stories starring the wonderful Tannie Maria. Comparisons with Alexander McCall Smith smother some reviews, but this writer stands on her own presenting stories which reflect life in South Africa. Stunning scenery, a host of small animals and plants, hints of racial divides, a touch of history and romance all add up to a most satisfying read leaving the reader with an appetite for book number two.
Fran Knight

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