Murder with a Side of Kale
A Muddied Murder, the first in the Greenhouse Mystery Series from Henery Press, comes out Tuesday. I’m elated. I’m nervous. And I’m feeling the urge to cook.
It runs in the family.
I learned much of what I know from my great-grandmother. She was born in Italy, then moved to the United States when she was only ten. Her English was imperfect, especially when she didn’t want us to understand what she was saying, but her cooking was divine. I remember hours spent in the kitchen she shared with my grandmother. I would perform some small task while my grandmother, great-grandmother and aunt prepared lavish family meals, all the while sharing stories. The tales—set against my family’s constant culinary activity—riveted me. We ate dinner with my grandparents every Friday and Sunday, and those meals—and the time spent preparing them—are some of my favorite and most vivid memories.
So when I decided to write a cozy mystery with an organic farm as a backdrop, I knew I had to include food. Not just any food: dishes prepared using the fresh ingredients from the farm. Washington Acres Larder & Café was born.
You see, my family loves to travel, and we love to eat. We’ve eaten our way across much of two continents, sampling cuisine in more than ten countries and trying (occasionally with a modicum of success) to recreate the exotic dishes we’ve had elsewhere. I cook creatively when I’m anxious (like tonight—Gruyere macaroni and cheese is on the menu, in case you’re curious), when I’m writing a book (the activity is conducive to plotting a novel), and when I need to relax. Cooking and sharing food bring back those wonderful memories and remind me of the places we’ve visited.
But in addition to the pleasure it gives me to cook and write about cooking, food and murder make good sense. As an author, I love the twist of mixing meals and mayhem.
For many of us, food is comfort. Cooking can be therapeutic, and reading about food and cooking can be comforting too. What better way to offset the tension and suspense of a fictional murder than with something so basic, so evocative of coziness and safety? And at the Washington Acres café, much of the food comes from the farm. Fresh ingredients, sustainable agriculture (the stuff of life)…and a deadly dose of intrigue. There is a built-in paradox in pairing food with murder—which is why it works.
Another benefit of the café? Community. Food is only part of the equation. Like those Sundays spent at my grandmother’s house, many cultures use mealtime as a way to bond, to develop kinship, to celebrate family life. In A Muddied Murder, the café is a challenge to get off the ground, but it provides a spot for the residents of Winsome to come together and build community. And where there is community, gossip spreads and grievances are aired—perfect ingredients for a cozy.
Culinary mysteries are not new. Many authors before me have understood the allure of food and mystery, and I’m grateful for their creativity. As I sit here tonight grating Gruyere and chopping kale for the side dish, I’m thinking about my next Greenhouse mystery. And all the ways misfortune may come to Winsome.
Wendy Tyson is an author, lawyer and former therapist whose background has inspired her mysteries and thrillers. Wendy has written four published crime novels, including Dying Brand, the third novel in the Allison Campbell Mystery Series, which was released on May 5, 2015. The first in the Campbell series, Killer Image, was named a best mystery for book clubs in 2014 by Examiner.com. Wendy is also the author of the Greenhouse Mystery Series, the first of which, A Muddied Murder, is due to be released in spring 2016. Wendy is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, and she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, International Thriller Writers’ online magazine. Wendy lives with her husband, three sons and three dogs on a micro-farm just outside of Philadelphia.