Read of the Week

Recipes for Love and Murder

Sally Andrew

Umuzi

Review: Brian Joss

Maria van Harten, whom everyone calls Tannie Maria, is the most unlikely detective you could imagine.

She lives on a farm outside Ladismith in the Klein Karoo, where she moved after the death of her abusive husband, Fanie.

Maria, who enjoys cooking, believes that food made with love is good for what ails the soul. And it doesn’t talk back to you.

She writes a recipe column for the Klein Karoo Gazette. One morning, the editor, Harriet “Hattie” Christie, comes to visit bearing bad news: the publishers want an advice column and Maria’s recipe page has to go as there is no space for both.

Over coffee and melktert, they decide that Maria will write “Tannie Maria’s Love and Recipe Column”, which will incorporate dishes to help solve the problem.

When a letter arrives from a woman (Martine van Schalkwyk), who is being abused by her husband, it strikes a chord with Maria. Then she gets a letter from Anna Pretorius, who is in love with Martine and wants to save her. Martine is murdered and Pretorius is the prime suspect.

Jessie Mostert, the Gazette’s young investigative reporter, and Maria, with Hattie’s tacit blessing, decide to find the killer, much to the annoyance of the police, especially the handsome detective, Lieutenant Henk Kannemeyer.

There is another murder and as the intrepid amateurs get closer to the truth, Jessie is kidnapped. Recipes for Love and Murder is a gentle tale but it also has a black side: fracking, domestic abuse and violence.

Andrew has perfectly captured the intimacy of a small platteland community where everyone knows your name (and business) and with a few deft sentences, makes her characters flesh and blood.

You’re likely to bump into them in the aisles of the Spar; enjoying a chicken pie at Tannie Kuruman’s café; or poking their fingers at the fruit and vegetables at the Saturday morning organic market.

One jarring note for me was the inclusion of the Seventh Day Adventists who were waiting for the end of the world. Recipes for Love and Murder is well written with some neat touches of Herman Charles Bosman.

Tannie Maria is a new star in the genre, and she and Andrew will garner lots of fans, guaranteed.

I enjoyed reading it and so will you. Don’t miss it. As a bonus, some of Tannie Maria’s recipes are included at the end of the book.