Forbidden Fruit, Kerry Greenwood
Aunt Agatha over at Death in the Stacks recently posted a list of mysteries with a Christmas theme or setting. That's the kind of thing that always sends me off to my own shelves, to see which of the books I have, or if I can add to the list. Among the latter is Kerry Greenwood's Forbidden Fruit. I took it off the shelf just to make sure I had the title right, but I ended up leafing through it. After reading a page here and there, and realizing that I'd forgotten some of the story, I added it to my own personal Christmas mayhem reading list.
This is the fifth book in Greenwood's series featuring Corinna Chapman, who runs a bakery, Earthly Delights, in Melbourne (I posted about the sixth book, Cooking the Books, back in March). A zaftig woman very comfortable with herself, Corinna lives above her bakery in a building that combines flats and shops, modeling an ancient Roman insula. The other residents, some of whom also own businesses in the building, sometimes involve her in mysteries. At other times she is drawn into helping her gorgeous boyfriend Daniel, a private investigator. The cases often involve missing persons and generally fall on the cozy side of the spectrum - though one of the residents is a dominatrix who runs a very select dungeon, one which Corinna and Daniel have visited on occasion, and Corinna's Melbourne has the problems of many cities, including a large homeless population.
This book is set during the Christmas season, in the midst of a very hot summer. The weather does not improve Corinna's slightly "bah humbug" approach to the holiday, particularly its commercialism and the endless carols playing everywhere (I complimented a bank employee today on the lack of carols in their branch). Daniel's case here involves a high school student who has vanished from her parents' home, where she has been sequestered since her pregnancy was discovered. Corinna also spends a lot of time in the bakery, where she and her apprentice Jason are turning out special holiday breads, cakes and muffins. As usual, I was left wishing for a version of Earthly Delights here in Houston.
As always, Corinna works out a solution to the case, but for me the real pleasure is in the characters and their interactions. I've said before that I'd love to sit down for a cup of tea with Corinna, to talk about favorite books and characters among other things. In this book she quotes Stephen Maturin; later she and Daniel spend an afternoon reading Terry Pratchett aloud (given the season, I'm sure they were reading Hogfather). I'm going to be very disappointed, when and if I ever get to Melbourne, not to find Earthly Delights in Calico Alley.
If you're looking for a little holiday mayhem in good company, to my mind you can't do better than Forbidden Fruit.