by Sandra Murphy
We are thrilled this week to have our first ever review of a Diane Mott Davidson food mystery. We are reviewing her new one, The Whole Enchilada. We also have an interview with Diane, and you can enter to win a copy of the book-details at the end of this post.
The Whole Enchilada By Diane Mott Davidson
In the latest book of the series, Goldy is still going strong. Her son Arch is seventeen years old, still a little teenage-touchy about public displays of affection, but less prickly than before. Tom is as supportive as ever. Julian is back, working for Goldy at Goldilocks Catering, Where Everything Is Just Right! He says he’s there for as long as she’ll have him. Marla, well, she’s still the same as you remember her–brash, over the top and loyal to a fault.
Holly Ingleby is an old friend of Goldy’s, back from the days when they were both married to doctors who under appreciated them. Holly’s kid, Drew, has the same birthday as Arch so when Holly moves back to town and the boys become friends, the boys decide to have a joint birthday party, potluck style, hosted by Marla. There are a couple of gate-crashers and a few upsets but mostly, things go the way they should at a party–of course, the fundraising effort by one of the guests is totally out of line but it was pre-approved–or so he says.
Holly’s been a little weird since she moved back to Aspen Meadows, distant and secretive, but at the party, she tells Goldy they need to get together to talk and catch up. Within minutes, Holly collapses and is pronounced dead in spite of efforts to save her.
Several guests are ill but nothing worse than nightmares and upset stomachs, so why did Holly die? The answer could very well lie in the past.
Holly received a generous settlement and child support when she divorced, but now has lost her home. She’s staying in a house that’s for sale, to give it a “lived in” look. Also gone are the fancy cars. Her artwork seems to be selling well, but where is her studio? There are more questions than answers about Holly’s life and death.
To further complicate matters, another caterer has popped up in town. Goldy could stand the competition–after all, her company is booked for most of the summer already–but the woman is cloning herself to be Goldy’s duplicate. Kathy Beliar changed her profession, her hair color, painted her van, named her catering business Goldy’s Catering and tried to undercut Goldy’s business by contacting Goldy’s clients and declaring she could do the same job for half the price.
Goldy declares enough is enough when she gets a call that Kathy is trying to horn in on the church fundraising dinner. She and Marla head for the church, luckily accompanied by Officer Boyd. Luckily, because when they arrive, they find Kathy and Father Pete have been attacked. Was Kathy the victim of mistaken identity? Who would hurt Father Pete?
If all that wasn’t enough, Goldy’s doctor has ordered her to cut back on her caffeine intake. How can a person get anything done without multiple quadruple espressos?
Goldy’s angst over Holly’s death seems a bit much, since they were no longer close. On the other hand, when they were good friends, it was during a stressful time in each of their marriages and subsequent divorces so a bond was formed. Pay close attention to the characters–there are a lot of them–and relationships. It can get a little confusing to keep up with who’s with who, and who the exes are. There are a number of possible suspects so it’s hard to settle on just one.
This books ends with a nice surprise–no spoiler!–but the next book ought to be a doozy. Recipes follow and include enchiladas, spinach dip, Julian’s dried cherries and pecan fudge, crunch cinnamon toast, chocolate snowcap cookies, Dad’s bread, grilled steaks, chef salad, spicy brownies and to cool your tongue, sugar-free gelato.
This is the seventeenth book in the long running series.
Interview With Diane Mott Davidson:
KRL: How did you first come up with the idea of a mystery cooking series and the character of Goldie?
Diane: The character of Goldy came out of my work in volunteer organizations in the 1970s and 1980s. During that time, the phenomenon of spousal abuse was not much in the national consciousness. Yet I kept encountering middle-class and upper-middle class women who had been physically abused by their spouses, all of whom were professional men — doctors, engineers, etc. I decided to create a character who had come out on the other side of that situation, someone who had not only survived but was thriving. When I took cookies and cakes to my writers’ critique group, they encouraged me to put the recipes in the book I was working on, which became Catering to Nobody. I couldn’t imagine how to do that, until I wrote a sketch of Goldy, who was a caterer. My group said, “This is your main character.”
KRL: Goldie has changed a lot over the years–can you share a little about her character arc and did you have it planed ahead or has she just grown naturally throughout the series?
Diane: I did not plan Goldy’s character arc, because I did not imagine the books would become a series. I have just allowed her to grow as Arch grows — from age eleven at the outset to seventeen at the beginning of The Whole Enchilada. Since we have three sons, I always had material.
KRL: Was it hard to sell that first book?
Diane: It was very hard to sell that first book; in fact, Catering to Nobody was my third completed novel. My break came when Sue Grafton recommended I give my material to the literary agent Sandra Dijkstra. Sandy had just sold The Joy Luck Club, so editors in New York were eager to see whatever she was handling.
KRL: Have you written other books or other things and what led you to write mysteries?
Diane:My first two (unpublished) books were novels that contained crimes. I sent them to different editors in New York, and one mystery editor (Ruth Cavin, now sadly deceased) said if I wanted to write a mystery, I should outline some. So I did; that work was a revelation.
KRL: Do you outline or have another way to keep track of a story?
Diane:I actually make a large calendar of the events in the story — written in pencil, of course. Each day contains notes concerning parties Goldy has to prep for or cater; clues she will uncover (and how she will uncover them); and action involving Goldy or other characters.
KRL: Oh wow, that’s exactly what I do! Do you have a writing schedule or just write when you can?
Diane:Yes, I have a writing schedule, although it has changed over the years, depending on what was going on in our children’s lives. For a while I worked during the afternoon nap time. Later on during my writing life, I used to set the alarm for one a.m., get up, and work until four a.m., then go back to bed and get up at six to take care of the children. (I don’t recommend this.) For quite a while now, I have been exercising in the morning, then working from late morning until late afternoon, up to the point when I get my page quota done.
KRL: Do you yourself have a cooking background?
Diane:The night before our wedding, I sobbed to my husband-to-be that we couldn’t get married, because I couldn’t cook. He calmed me down and the wedding took place. When we were married students at Stanford, I used to call the Sunset magazine test kitchens — which were less than a mile from our apartment — with questions. They were unfailingly helpful. I also watched Julia Child religiously (she later wrote me a fan letter). For the Goldy books, I worked for an excellent local caterer, so that I could learn how it was different from home cooking. (It is very different.)
KRL: How long do you plan on writing this series?
Diane:My next contract is for a cookbook. Then we’ll see.
KRL: Can you tell us about the latest book and how you came up with the idea for the plot?
Diane:My doctor gave me the idea for The Whole Enchilada. Then it was a matter of creating characters and a story around that initial concept. I spent quite a while developing the character of the victim, a formerly close friend of Goldy.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Diane:I adored the movie Shakespeare in Love. When my editor heard I had seen it sixteen times in the theater, she said she wanted me to do a book centered around a Tudor feast. For that I imagined a wealthy person having a medieval castle brought over to Goldy’s town of Aspen Meadow (remarkably similar to our town of Evergreen, Colorado). I drew up a floor plan of the castle, then talked at length to a brilliant medievalist, who teaches at the University of Colorado, about the secret ways into and out of these fortresses. I also read up on that era’s food, and finally went to England to visit several castles where Henry VIII had lived. The Tudor kitchens at Hampton Court are almost perfectly preserved, and they were amazing. I also wanted a labyrinth in the book, so I visited Chartres, not only to see the labyrinth there, but also to study the mystical set of measurements on which the cathedral is based. I put much of what I learned into Goldy’s tenth adventure, Sticks and Scones. (Most of my research is not nearly that glamorous.)
KRL: Is there anything your fans would be surprised to learn?
Diane:My readers might be surprised to learn that when I was learning to cook, I started with casseroles, because they were easy. When we finally splurged and bought a steak, I did with it what you did with the casseroles: Put it in the oven at 350 for an hour. (And my husband ate every bite.)
You can find Diane on Facebook.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
To enter to win a copy of The Whole Enchilada, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Enchilada,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 21, 2013. U.S. residents only.