Murder Gets the Munchies

Apr 23, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Food Fun, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Victoria Abbott

Why is it that mysteries and food go so well together? Particularly those satisfyingly cozy mysteries? Keep in mind, I’m not talking about hard-boiled adventures where the detective spends the night face down in the gutter after too much scotch and cold fish and chips in oily wrappers.

No. I’m thinking more about the kind of world where the characters often share a meal, plan strategies, and stroke their loyal pets. The kind of world we live in and one we want to write about.


Victoria and Mary Jane Maffini are Victoria Abbott

In building the world of book collector mysteries, we wanted—-in addition to the austere, crumbling mansion so coldly inhabited by cranky book collector Vera Van Alst—a warm and comforting offset, a place where Jordan Bingham, our twenty-something sleuth could feel at home and where we could taste and savor every meal with her. We chose to model the food and the Italian cook on some of our relatives, brilliant cooks and as eccentric as all get out. Jordan, raised on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and beans and franks, enjoys every mouthful of these sumptuous meals as we have in real life.

Isn’t there something wonderful about sharing life through the senses? Taste is one sense that can transport us instantly to the scene. We don’t need a lot of description: we all know what a fresh, hot coffee tastes like or a frosted, still-warm doughnut or even a dish of ice cream. We’re betting that you could taste one or all of those as you read that last sentence.

Not only does the taste transport the reader (And we are all about transporting our readers!), but it is also kindness to our characters. Face it, we strand them, get them shot at, abandon them in burning buildings, ruin their love lives, all in a day’s work. Shouldn’t they be able to close their eyes from time to time and savor, say for example, that mountain of seafood linguine or Signora Panetone’s chocolate tiramisu?


chocolate tiramisu

Food can mean support for our characters from the other players in the story. Lack of support or decent food, makes us feel their pain. Are they chewing on cold pizza and slurping fizz-free flat cola on a stake-out? We would just hate that. Therefore, we’re rooting for them to get out of there with some success.

bookSome terrific amateur detectives cook and enjoy the whole ‘foodie’ thing as part of their gig. Maybe they have a café or a coffee business or are a restaurant reviewer. But most sleuths are too busy leaping over fences and running down blind alleys to stop and whip up a soufflé, if they had any idea how. That’s why it’s so good to have a minor character do the dirty work in the kitchen. Not only does it give us a break in the tension, but also a chance for the character to experience some kindness, although we’ve found that food often comes with unwanted advice. Never mind, amateur sleuths eat plenty but almost never take advice, free or otherwise.

Mysteries need pace; we can’t be staring down the barrel of a gun 24/7. Our characters need to rest, bathe, and possibly stare out the window. Who wants to read about characters sleeping, unless they’re having interesting nightmares? We need other ways to keep your interest. Food can serve that purpose in fiction and in real life. And isn’t that great?


That shadowy body known as Victoria Abbott is actually mystery writer Mary Jane Maffini and her artist daughter, Victoria Maffini. Together they write the book collector mysteries. The latest, The Marsh Madness, was recently reviewed in KRL and the fifth book, The Hammett Hex, will be out in October 2016.
If you love food and mystery be sure to join Victoria and MJ at on the second and fourth Saturday each month. In their Cozy Chicks connection, they are part of a fabulous new tea book with menus, themes and recipes: Check out their website:


  1. such a great article can’t wait to read and I notice that you ladies have borrrowed one of my scarfs haha!

  2. Back in high school (back when the dinosaurs roamed), I went to Ireland, England, and Scotland with my mother. Our hotel in Dublin had a corridor on the first floor that we took to get our elevator. It took us past the kitchens and there was a wonderful aroma there.
    Years later, I tried Mrs. Paul’s frozen apple fritters. Their aroma instantly transported me back to that Dublin hotel!

  3. I had never thought about food relieving tension in a mystery but I imagine it works very well. Thank you for the Article.

  4. Lovely post. But I did notice one thing. Books. Like most movies. Don’t have potty breaks. How on earth do they manage? LOL!!! But you do have a point. Meals would fit in in many ways. Remember a Murder She Wrote episode where Jessica Fletcher is at a dinner party. She imagined it a murder mystery. As one couple was leaving the husband pointed to his wife and said you should put her in your books. Jessica said. “I did” That was what the episode was about. Her putting them in her mystery. You didn’t know until the end of the episode that it was all her plotting her story.

  5. Some of my favorite mysteries weave food and drink into their story…almost like a character that supports the protagonist in their investigation. I love the recipes.


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