Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sweet Revenge

I first met Goldy Schultz (then Goldy Bear), the Colorado caterer who keeps stumbling across dead bodies in 1993, and she hasn't changed much.  Her business is more secure, she's happily remarried to Aspen Meadow's sheriff, and her abusive ex-husband was killed two books ago, but she's still the same espresso-guzzling, chocoholic who solves mysteries while whipping up a souffle.  Like many series characters, she's aging in slow motion (from 28 to 34 in 16 years), but it doesn't seem to matter.  Goldy's never been a deep character, and Davidson's mysteries tend to be more like an angel food cake than a dense chocolate torte.  It's a balancing act, because she touches on serious issues, especially domestic violence, but she usually succeeds.

Sweet Revenge is Davidson's 14th novel.  It's the holiday season, and Goldy is fully booked with office and private parties and events at her still-new catering hall.  On the way to a client's house to sign contracts and plan the menu, Goldy sees a ghost - Sandee Brisbane who killed Goldy's ex and then apparently died in a forrest fire.  Needless to say, her husband Tom doesn't believe her - dozens of police and fire fighters saw Sandee jump into the raging wildfire after confessing to John Richard Korman's murder.  But Goldy sees her again outside the library where she's setting up a holiday breakfast, and again when investigating the real mystery.  

Sandee is a bit of a red herring.  The real mystery involves a corpse found in the reading room, map collectors, angry ex-spouses, fighting dinner guests, and counterfeiters.  It moves along pretty well, never dragging or skipping logical steps, until Goldy ties everything together in about ten pages.  

Sweet Revenge is a bit formulaic, but it's a formula that works.  I was usually a page or two ahead of Goldy, but I don't read these books to be stumped.  I read them because I enjoy Goldy and her friends and family.  Her best friend (and JRK's other ex) Marla shows up for gossip and to display expensive clothes; her teenage son skis, studies, and hangs out with his friends; her assistant/former apprentice Julian works a few events, and there are a dozen or so recipes at the end of the book.  Sweet Revenge isn't the best book in the series - the series started strong, slumped a bit around book 6, and has been uneven since - but it's still enjoyable.  I enjoy spending time with the characters and the mysteries are usually believable, but the main attraction is the food.  I've made and enjoyed a few of the 150+ recipes included (my mom refers to Snowborder's Pork Tenderloin from Tough Cookie as Porkay Mignon) and I know that about every 30-40 pages, she's going to describe a dish that will make me drool.  

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