(Reviewed by Shannon Bloomstran JAN 16, 2005)
Just when you thought it was safe to go back on to the snowy streets of fictional Aspen Meadows, Colorado, *POW!*, another murder rocks the small town. Luckily, this isn’t just any small town, it happens to be the home of America’s #1 crime-fighting caterer, Goldy Schulz. And it isn’t just any murder, this time, the victim is none other than Goldy’s vile ex-husband, John Richard Korman, aka The Jerk.
Fans of Diane Mott Davidson’s long-running detective series featuring Goldy, the sautéing sleuth, will be happy to know that she is back and better than ever. Double Shot, the 12th Goldy Bear culinary mystery revives the series that had recently become tiresome to the point of absurdity. How many murders can take place in one small Colorado town? The tedium is understandable since the series debuted fourteen years ago and kudos to Davidson for taking some risks and whacking one of the main characters.
Goldy’s main business isn’t detection, it’s catering and her culinary fortunes have risen to the point that’s she’s been able to purchase a catering facility, The Roundhouse. As the book opens, she’s catering the funeral lunch of a member of Aspen Meadows’ medical community, only someone has broken in and trashed the venue and ruined her food. Definitely not the impression one wants to leave with the hoi polloi of Aspen Meadows.
This, however, is only the hors d’oeuvre. The main course concerns the especially heinous murder of Goldy’s ex. Few will actually shed any tears over the Jerk’s demise. He was an abusive psychopath whose run-ins with Goldy had become a bit tedious during the series’ run. Unfortunately for Goldy, she’s the #1 suspect and can’t resist “helping” the investigation along, especially considering her current husband, Detective Tom Schulz, is in some sort of depressive funk. The escapades take her with best friend Marla in tow all over the Front Range, from a greasy country bar to a particularly funny adventure in a downtown Denver “gentleman’s club.”
As a former personal chef, I always have to resist the temptation to pick apart Goldy’s seemingly super-human prepping abilities. The woman can prep a picnic for 100 and simultaneously battle an evil health inspector. Technical glitches aside, what does come across is Davidson’s love for good, usually caloric, food. It’s fun to live vicariously through Goldy who isn’t afraid to toss back an iced triple-espresso with cream or mix six cups of crushed corn chips into seasoned ground beef with three cups of shredded cheese. She figures out “whodunit” when she’s making pie crust with lard, for goodness’ sake.
Double Shot represents an upturn for the series. The relationships are sharper and more realistic and Goldy’s work is a bit more believable. At least until the next installment appears, it’s safe again to walk the streets of Aspen Meadows.
- Amazon readers rating: from 74 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Double Shot at HarperCollins.com(back to top)
(Reviewed by Shannon Bloomstran AUG 26, 2002)
As I start to write this review, I'm munching on a few "Spice of Life" cookies. They're soft and slightly chewy with a big dose of cinnamon and cloves. The smell from the oven is so intense that I hope it doesn't wake my daughter from her nap. I'm carrying on about these cookies because they are part of Diane Mott Davidson's latest mystery, Chopping Spree. This book, as do her previous 10, stars Goldy Schulz, a full time caterer and part time sleuth. In each book, Davidson includes several recipes that Goldy prepares in between all the crime fighting. So I felt that I had to test at least one of the recipes, purely in the interest of obtaining reviewing accuracy, I assure you.
Goldy Schulz runs a small catering business in the fictional town of Aspen Meadow, Colorado, situated close to Denver. Although it was at one time a sleepy small town, Aspen Meadow's mountainous location and proximity to Denver has brought on an onslaught of the newly rich, complete with all the requisite accoutrements. One such luxury is the new Westside Shopping Mall which promises to outfit and cosset the residents within an inch of their fur lined lives. The mall is so successful that it is undergoing an expansion and Goldy is hired to cater a swanky cocktail buffet for its best shoppers. Of course, the buffet is not uneventful and one of the participants meets with an untimely demise, thankfully not from salmonella. The inept police department immediately arrests Goldy's assistant, Julian, and she must clear his name, in between slugging quadruple espressos and concocting dishes like "Quiche Me Quick" and "Chopping Spree Salad."
Fans of the series will recognize the familiar cast of characters; Goldy, her husband Tom and son Arch, her best friend Marla. Thankfully, her former husband, the abusive John Richard doesn't play a role here. The characters' basic personalities don't change that much from book to book, so readers unfamiliar with Davidson's work shouldn't feel intimidated about starting in anywhere in the series. Goldy is funny and often self-deprecating, referring to herself as "pudgy" and a "mop-top." Goldy's son, Arch, is now fifteen, a sophomore at a tony prep school and afflicted with "acquisitiveness," a disease that requires Goldy to buy him many expensive presents. I wish Davidson had given Goldy just a little more backbone in dealing with her son whose character seems more than a little over the top. You'd think a crime-fighting caterer wouldn't put up with such snarky behavior.
I worked for about a nanosecond as a professional home cook, (sometimes called a personal chef) and can appreciate Davidson's eye for detail in terms of the food service industry. In several different books, Goldy remarks that whatever happens at a party, it's always the caterer's fault, which has been my experience as well. However, I must quibble with a few details. Goldy always seems to have a freezer stocked with high quality goodies; homemade chicken stock, spinach appetizers, cookie dough, you name it, all she has to do is pull it out of the freezer. I never can figure out when she has the time to cook all this stuff, since she's always off solving murders. I also think Davidson overestimates the amount of sleuthing one can do while prepping and running a party. I always needed total concentration in order to avoid lopping off a finger while I prepped food. This lack of verisimilitude doesn't detract from the overall story, which is fast-paced and extremely enjoyable. The included recipes also seem well-written with enough directions to calm the fears of any novice cook. While I can't speak for the outcome of all the recipes, the "Spice of Life" cookies I made passed the taste test with my family. Speaking of those cookies and crime, I think I'll make off with another one right now.
- Amazon readers rating: from 71 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Chopping Spree at MostlyFiction.com(back to top)
"The Main Corpse"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark AUG 6, 1999)>
Goldy is preparing to cater an investor's party at the opening of the Eurydice Gold Mine. Business has been slow lately due to a miserable spring and her catering business is in jeopardy of collapsing. So she welcomes this job arranged by her best friend Marla. Of course, in the catering business it is not just good food that makes people want to hire her, it's how much they enjoy themselves at the function. Now Marla is unintentionally about to ruin it for Goldy.
Goldy's new assistant, MacQuire, gives Marla a piece of paper that enrages her. After a few beers, Marla picks a fight with the one of the owners, Albert Lipscomb, of the venture capital firm Prospect Financial Partners (she's dating Tony Royce, the other owner). The paper she holds says the assay done on the gold ore was not done correctly. She (and everyone else at the party) has invested a minimum of $90,000 to start up the mine again based on this assay and the fact that the government closed the mine in its prime. Marla is outraged to think Lipscomb could have shammed her. Goldy and Tony break up the fight between Albert and Marla and ensure everyone at the party that all is fine. Then, to add fuel to Marla's theory, Albert Lipscomb and three and half million dollars are missing.
Davidson weaves a lot of community in her story which all adds momentum to the plot. There's her catering business, her son and his new dog, Jake. The very nice policeman Tom Shultz is now Goldy's husband. Marla (the other ex-wife of her ex-husband) is still her best friend. Her previous catering assistant (the young boarder who shared the house in Dying for Chocolate) has gone to college, so we meet her new catering assistant, MacQuire Perkins, who's also a wanna-be detective. Marla's brother-in-law, General Farquhar, makes a repeat performance in this book as well. One criteria that I use to evaluate a good sleuth series is its continuity. The Main Corpse surely offers continuity even though there are four books published between this one and Dying for Chocolate. The mystery itself is a page turner. Although I had my ideas about "whodunit," there was still an extra surprise or two in the end.
Once again, she offers some very enjoyable the recipes. My mouth was watering over the "Sugar-Snap Pea and Strawberry Salad" and the "Tomato-Brie Pie" recipes. What great ideas for summer foods! In fact, I'm off to the farmstand now.
Amazon reader rating: from 56 reviews(back to top)
"Dying for Chocolate"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark MAR 27, 1999)
Goldy Bear is the caterer in Aspen Meadows, Colorado. To protect herself and her son, Arch, from her abusive ex-husband (a well known doctor in town), she accepts a summer job as a live-in cook at a very secure home. Part of the arrangement is that she can run her catering service from the Farquhar's home. And thus we start at this point in Goldy's life. She's seeing a very nice policeman, but has cooled it because she's just started up with Philip Miller, a college flame who's a shrink in town. Meanwhile "Pierre" has written an awful critique on her catering. Her 11-year-old son is enrolled for the summer session in a very exclusive prep school which is pressuring everyone for fundraising. The Farquhar's are boarding one of the Prep's schools scholarship kids and Goldy is busy preparing for a decadent dinner party and posh society barbecue. Then Goldy witnesses Philip Miller die in a strange car accident and Goldy must understand what happened to put this behind her.
I heard mention of Davidson's "Culinary Mysteries" for sometime and this is the first one I've read. Although I dislike the name "Goldy Bear," she and her son Arch are very likable. Perhaps the plot is a little contrived, but it's comfortable as she prepares mounds of food and keeps an eye out for her son and for clues. Ah yes, her mouth watering original recipes are included in the book---I gained a virtual 30 pounds reading this one!
- Amazon reader rating: from 51 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
Goldy Bear Mysteries
- Catering to Nobody (1990)
- Dying for Chocolate (1992)
- The Cereal Murders (1993)
- The Last Suppers (1994)
- Killer Pancake (1995)
- The Main Corpse (1996)
- The Grilling Season (1997)
- Prime Cut (1998)
- Tough Cookie (2000)
- Sticks and Scones (2001)
- Chopping Spree (2002)
- Double Shot (2004)
- Dark Tort (2006)
- Sweet Revenge (2007)
- Fatally Flaky (2009)
- The Whole Enchilada (August 2013)
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- Wikipedia page on Diane Mott Davidson
- The Mystery Reader review of The Grilling Season
- The Mystery Reader review of Sticks and Scones
- BookReporter review of Dark Tort
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