Minced, Marinated, and Murdered
(Gourmet Crimes, #1)
by Noël Balen and Vanessa Barrot
Translated by Anne Trager,
adapted by Amy Richards
First published in French
as Petits meurtres à l’étouffée
Le French Book 2/20/2018
The tandem Balen and Alaux have accustomed us to wonderful cozy mysteries focused on wine and its most famous regions all around France. With his wife as co-author, Balen now turns to food, and in Minced, Marinated, and Murdered, this first book of the series, to the city of Lyon.
The book opens with a scene in 1916 after turning to the present day.
In this Prologue, we see Clotilde Bizolon, one among many famous “Mères lyonnaises”. This generation of women chefs are a major part of Lyon’s rich and colorful story. They are really the foundation of that city culinary traditions. The best remembered may be Mère Brazier, because of her most famous apprentice, Paul Bocuse, who incidentally just passed away.
The main detective in this series is Laure Grenadier, the managing editor of Plaisirs de Table magazine. Just as she arrives in Lyon with her photographer, Paco Alvarez, to review the restaurants and small cafés of the city, “les bouchons” as they are called there, a restaurant owner is found murdered, and then another one…
The victims are actually suffocated. I specify it, because the French title is really cool. There’s a technical expression in French when you steam ingredients, it’s called “à l’étouffée”. And the verb étouffer also means to suffocate, so the play on words is really neat in the title: Petits meurtres à l’étouffée. Of course, it’s impossible to translate with a few words in a title.
I like what they did to convey some of the idea. They started a list of two culinary words, accompanied with an unexpected third one. Plus the three words start with the letter M.
The book starts a bit on the slow side, which makes sense for the first book of a series, the time we get to know the main protagonists.
I liked some suspense scenes, a good number of red herrings and shady characters, and how Laure eventually identifies the killer.
The ending was not spectacular, but satisfying enough. I liked how the dénouement is given as a newspaper article in the last chapter.
The book is also a wonderful guide to Lyon’s historical places (for instance its two hundred hidden passageways) and eating establishments, and a homage to the women who started it all.
But this strength of the book became also its weakness for me: I thought there were too many names of restaurants and owners.
There were also some subplots that I didn’t care much for, for instance Laure’s love life and issues with her teenage daughter.
A few wonderful recipes are included in the narration! A dangerous read if you plan to go on a diet!
VERDICT: Promising debut of a new French mystery series! And a wonderful homage to Lyon and the women who made it the culinary city it is today.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Revelations in a city where food is so much more than a meal.
A routine assignment in Lyon, France’s traditional capital of gourmet food, turns bitter for food writer Laure Grenadier when a beloved chef is found murdered. A wave of panic follows with a second death, and Laure sets out to find the truth. As she reviews the city’s traditional bistros, interviews the town’s best chefs and local food producers, and shares stories and culinary lore with her photographer Paco Alvarez, she uncovers secrets and rivalries. But will she find the murderer before the city loses more of its master chefs?
Laure’s passion for food and deep knowledge of culinary history combine with a reporter’s natural curiosity and a particular Parisian chic, turning her into a natural sleuth in a city where food is so much more than a meal. Paco’s photographer’s eye brings the details to life, while murder and mayhem spice up the mix.
In this fun, satisfying, mouth-watering French mystery novel, authors Noël Balen and Vanessa Barrot whisk readers to France for a troubling mystery, local culinary anecdotes, recipes, home-grown products, and very human feelings.
“When you feel as much hunger as grief, then you know you’re still alive.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Noël Balen, writer and musician, has over thirty mysteries to his name, including the Winemaker Detective series, a hit cozy mystery and TV series.
His co-author and wife Vanessa Barrot is a corporate lawyer whose love of gastronomy literally runs in the family with her restaurateur grandparents and great-grandparents, who owned restaurants in Paris.. Both are passionate about food and mysteries, and together they created the Gourmet Crimes series, which kicks off with Minced, Marinated, and Murdered.
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
Any other book culinary mystery you enjoyed?
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