By Cook or By Crook: A Five-Ingredient Mystery, by Maya Corrigan

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Mysteries are a genre in themselves, and there are numerous sub-genres. You can pick up a police procedural or a hard-boiled mystery. You might find a legal thriller, a paranormal, or a historical mystery. An extremely popular sub-genre is cozies, the sort of classic mysteries written by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, where the puzzle is the important component and the grisly details are mostly off-stage.

This 2014 mystery is the first in a series and is both a cozy and a cooking mystery. Val has moved back to Bayport, a town on the Chesapeake Bay, ostensibly to persuade her grandfather to fix up and sell his large, old house and move to a retirement community. In reality, she’s hoping to make a new life for herself after a horrific car accident put an end to her career promoting cookbooks in New York City.

But there are plenty of snares for the uninitiated in a small town. Val is invited to the home of a new friend from the tennis club and finds her dead. Val gets ensnared in trying to solve the murder because the prime suspect is her cousin. Her investigation forces her to question her first impressions of the people she’s met in Bayport.

She herself becomes threatened when an SUV runs her off the road and there are mysterious sounds in the night. Some among the police suggest that it is just her imagination, but Val isn’t so sure.

I wanted a pleasant story to distract me during a challenging week and found it here, along with a few details of living on the Chesapeake Bay which is always nostalgic for me, but especially so just now.

The cooking aspect is quite fun, too, as Val tries to teach her grandfather to cook. As a bonus, several recipes are included in the book, one of which is for crab cakes. Well, like most Marylanders I have my own recipe for them, one that my mother jealously guarded, even if she did get it off an Old Bay tin.

I enjoyed the story, given the requirements I came in with. Yes, some of the clues were a bit broad, and I wished Val would have stood up for herself a bit more, but those are minor quibbles compared with the amiable diversion it gave me. The description of the town’s alliances and associations—and especially of teaching someone to eat hard crabs—were great fun.

What mystery sub-genres do you enjoy?

2 thoughts on “By Cook or By Crook: A Five-Ingredient Mystery, by Maya Corrigan

  1. Kat says:

    I quite enjoy a good cozy mystery, especially those set in England. There is one I really like that is far more lighthearted than the other I enjoy. The first is the Agatha Raisin series by MC Beaton. The other is the Lois Meade series by Ann Purser. I really love this series. I’d read anything by Ms Purser, and have read a lot. I love the Round Ringford series too. Makes me want to pull my Purser books out and re-read them! And I’m not one who reads a book twice, generally. How about you?

    • barbara says:

      Sometimes I will reread mysteries if it has been a few years–long enough to forget most of the story–or if it’s a writer whose work I particularly enjoy, like Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers. I like the Agatha Raisin series, but haven’t tried Ann Purser’s. I’ll have to check out her work–thanks!

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