by Christine DeSmet
The famous Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot, debuted in 1920 in the mystery series written by Agatha Christie. She described him as having an “egg-shaped” head. Perhaps she wrote that first book in spring or at Easter time.
One hundred years later you can find a new Belgian sleuth in the form of my main character, Ava Mathilde Oosterling. Her adventures debuted in 2013, but she continues this spring with the new Deadly Fudge Divas, Book 4 of my Fudge Shop Mystery Series, published March 2020 by Writers Exchange Publishing. The first three books (from Penguin Random House publishers) are still available. As with most mystery series books, you can read my “cozies” out of order.
(A “cozy” mystery keeps sex behind closed doors and avoids gory violence.)
Ava and her Grandpa Gil operate Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers, Belgian Fudge & Beer on a harbor in a Door County, Wisconsin, village. That’s a real county known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. It’s the peninsula that looks like a thumb jutting into Lake Michigan. In Deadly Fudge Divas, Ava and her grandpa have their hands full when five former cheerleaders meet for a fudge and chocolate facial reunion after thirty years. What could possibly go wrong in such a sweet setup?
Grandpa epitomizes the Belgian personality. I’m Belgian, too. Door County is part of a multi-county area known as the biggest settlement of Belgian immigrants in the United States. Belgians prize beautiful farms, perfect lawns, astounding and big gardens filled with flowers and vegetables, exquisite chocolate and pies (made in 12-inch tins), booyah (a harvest soup made outdoors over an open fire), and, of course beer. Everything goes better with beer if you’re a Belgian.
Belgians are hard workers, love a good joke, and are also stubborn at times, which may be the reason they’re sometimes called “buffaloes,” able to put their heads down in a storm and charge ahead. Grandpa Gil is that type. As much as Ava warns him about getting into trouble, Gilpa—as she affectionately calls him—will end up in some mishap. He’s constantly tinkering with his boat engines and coming into the bait-and-fudge shop covered in grease. He makes Ava want to tear her hair out.
Ava, thirty-three, gets herself into as much trouble as Gilpa but with her friends and the law as she goes about solving crimes. Ava played basketball in high school and college (unlike me!), so she has a soft spot for the sheriff who used to be on the practice squad for the Green Bay Packers football team.
And that brings me back to that 100-year marker. The Packers are celebrating their 100th year, too! Their first season was 1919-1920. The coach then, Curly Lambeau, was a Belgian. His stubbornness got that pro team underway in a small city where the team is publicly-owned by citizen stockholders. Lambeau Field is named after the Belgian.
The history of Belgian immigrants is detailed in the beautiful displays at the Belgian Heritage Center in Namur, Wisconsin. Please visit and read the astounding events on the informative timeline. The Center is also on Facebook.
Visiting Door County for research is always a treat. I’ve been to the Belgian kermises (fall harvest festivals) where long tables are filled with chocolate in every form from pies to candies and bars. And don’t forget beer! We make chocolates in Wisconsin infused with locally brewed Wisconsin beers. They go well with our cheese curds.
My novels include a look at history and a fudge recipe named for a fairy tale that Ava loves, often one that her grandfather likely read to her when she was little.
I love hearing from readers about fudge, farming, your association with Door County or the Midwest, or the things your parents or grandparents did or taught you. And, of course, Deadly Fudge Divas may help you recall your past as a cheerleader. I hope your memories are as sweet as fudge!
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week!
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