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American/Cozy Mysteries

Dark Tort, Diane Mott Davidson, William Morrow, $24.95.

Dark Tort by Diane Mott Davidson

I've long been admirer of Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Bear books (I've read all of them) and am delighted that she will be stopping by the store this month, and even more delighted that there's a new book to read. If you are a "Goldy" fan you already know that along with authors like Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich, Ms. Davidson delivers one of the most reliably entertaining series on the planet, and like the recipes laced throughout the books, one of the more comfortably familiar. Either you are a fan of Goldy, Tom, Arch, Julian and Marla, or you are not, but if you are you are seriously hooked, and have enjoyed the arc of Goldy's life as she established her business in the first few books and broke away from the clutches of her abusive ex-husband; believably raises her very true to life teenager, Arch; and meets, falls in love with, and marries Tom Shultz, policeman, cook and husband extrodinaire. Like all good women's detective fiction, these books work because while there's an element of reality, there's also a large dose of enjoyable - and perhaps attainable - fantasy. In these books the fantasies involve Goldy's drinking espresso from morning till night and never having that awful caffeine sick feeling; having a husband who treats her like a goddess (down to running her shower and getting her a soft robe to climb into when she's done); having a best friend, Marla, who besides being rich is also the ex-wife of Goldy's ex and hates him just as much as she does; and best of all the fact that Goldy cooks like Julia Child and eats like Roseanne Barr but never seems to gain a pound. For some reason this is completely and totally captivating, and I haven't regretted reading a word of this series.

In this outing, Davidson employs another tactic which has proven successful for her in the past. The victim - Goldy falls over her in the first scene - is a friend and neighbor of Goldy's, which adds a real emotional oomph to the story. She worked at the law firm where Goldy has a catering contract, and Goldy had been teaching her how to cook in her off hours (which are extremely few). To add to the heartbreak, the victim, Dusty, has a family living in a house built by Habitat for Humanity with an unemployed mother, a toddler brother, and a grandfather blinded in prison by cosmetic experiments. As Goldy begins to unravel the various relationships within the law firm - culminating in the catering of a birthday lunch for one of the lawyers - she also unravels the why of the murder. Davidson is able to gently skewer Aspen's upper crust while at the same time having Goldy live among those same people. Goldy's not an outcast so much as an outsider, a classic mystery trope. Sprinkled throughout are the day to day details of Goldy's life; unlike other books, except maybe the Spenser books, where the description of food and cooking is an intrusion, in Davidson's books she's just describing the work of an artist in the kitchen. Her description of the food Goldy's preparing, how she's preparing it, as well as the recipes for the food, are all part of the action. Another reviewer has already mentioned the sad lack of the recipe for potato puffs - to which I can only agree. I can't wait for Goldy's next outing though; she always leaves me wanting more, and whether that's a condition at the end of a meal or at the end of a novel, it's a welcome one. (Robin)

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