Pasta, Pinot & Murder: A Willa Friday Food & Wine Mystery
Jamie Lee Scott
LBB Company, 2017
There is a whole food and wine sub-genre of mystery fiction, and it ranges from incredibly well done to rather horrific (the writing, that is, not necessarily the plot line; most of these types of mysteries and known as cozys because the murder takes place off-scene or is not described in all its bloody, gory detail). This first book of food fiction by best-selling mystery writer Jamie Lee Scott falls somewhere in-between.
Willa Friday is a food blogger and stylist who still lives with her ex-husband and his family at his Sonoma Valley winery and restaurant. Willa discovers the body of of another wealthy vineyard owner and takes it upon herself to try and find out whodunnit, mostly because she suspects the young chef she’s just hired as an assistant, whose last gig just happened to be working for the deceased where words were had before his departure.
Willa butts into police investigations (and then is pretty much welcomed by the local police chief, I’m never really sure how mystery writers get away with this bit of plot manipulation), and unwinds the convoluted story to find the killer. It’s all a bit of a leap of logic, but it’s fine if you don’t think about it too much.
While I’m not familiar with Scott’s other works, I’d offer that this first attempt at food fiction is a bit clunky. While she’s got an easy setting to work with, the transition from the food stuff to the mystery stuff is not smooth and while Scott has obviously done a lot of research into food styling and photography, details about running a blog for money, and restaurants (both front and back of house), it still feels like two different stories at various points. There’s also a lot of references (and overly-detailed descriptions) of coffee and cocktails, which begin to feel like filler.
There are two more books in the Willa Friday Culinary Cozy Mystery Series, so maybe Scott is able to tighten things up and give her characters more depth.
Having said that, this was a fun, light mystery that I finished in an afternoon, and it would be a fine read for the beach or a rainy day for anyone who likes to read about food even when they’re reading about something else.