Recommended Reads: Enjoy this delicious mystery, with dash of humor

Beat Until Stiff, by Claire M. Johnson

Are you hungry for a fun, summer read? Here it is — a taste of intrigue, with spicy characters, a dash of humor, and a steamy setting all blended into a delicious mystery.

In this mystery, the protagonist, Mary Ryan, is a pastry chef at a fancy San Francisco restaurant. Some who work at the restaurant, or dine there, hide interesting, personal secrets. And somebody hides one that’s clandestine. It’s murder after hours in the restaurant’s kitchen. You, the reader, are in a great place to try to solve this murder along with Mary.

To complicate matters, Mary’s ex-husband is a police officer and becomes involved in the investigation. However, the officer assigned to the investigation is the ex-husband’s former partner on patrol, who also knows Mary very well. Neither of them is interested in Mary’s theories, but as the reader you’ll find that the clues she turns up are very helpful.

I really enjoyed the humor in the book, especially with the amateur sleuth, Mary Ryan. And not just the characters are described so well. The author painted a vivid picture of the setting. San Francisco scenes are well known, but Claire M. Johnson wrote deeper, including background snippets about the society and cultures there that put the story into a meaningful context.

Claire M. Johnson knows a lot about the life in her book. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in History, she decided to work as a pastry chef. She loved it so much she continued for eight years in San Francisco and Oakland during the height of their food revolution. The passion and frenzied pace characterizing the food scene on the West Coast during the 1980s is well documented in this book, her first novel Beat Until Stiff. For this book she won the 1999 Malice Domestic Writers Grant. She stopped cooking professionally when her children were born. Eating at restaurants is still one of her favorite hobbies, with her most discerning critiques reserved for their dessert menus.

If you have an appetite for following clues, meeting interesting characters and trying to solve mysteries, you’ll enjoy this book. Perhaps you’ll want to read it with a side of butterscotch pie — Claire M. Johnson’s favorite.

And if you’d like to hear more from the author herself, click on our podcast Kendall & Cooper Talk Mysteries with Claire Johnson –

Thereby hangs a tale . . .

— By Wendy Kendall

Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.

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