A Teeny Bit of Trouble is a cozy southern mystery by Michael Lee West (available April 10).
To celebrate March Madness, Criminal Element had their own clichés of crime death brackets. The final bracket had serial killers facing off against cooking cozies. I voted to get rid of the serial killers once and for all. I’m appalled that many of you actually want to kill the cooking cozies.
Obviously you’ve never met Teeny Templeton, who first appeared in Gone with a Handsomer Man written by Michael Lee West, and now is back again.
Sure, Teeny is a super cook, excellent baker and can develop recipes that will melt in your mouth and harden your arteries all at the same time. But that is only a small part of her life.
Everyone thinks Teeny’s man troubles are over since she found herself a sweetie, her old childhood crush and present day lawyer Coop O’Malley. But dark clouds are never far away and it seems Mr. Perfect may have forgotten to mention he has an out-of-wedlock child, whose mother is Teeny’s lifelong adversary, Barb. Can’t be good. Can only get worse...and so it does.
But the women in Teeny’s Georgia peach-farmer family have a fallback position when it comes to dealing with folks that cause them grief.
We Templetons specialized in peaches and poisoned recipes. The fruit was real, but our recipes were a harmless method to relieve tension—like a punching bag, but with imaginary food. If someone pissed us off, we wouldn’t spit or pull hair; we’d just mentally cook a deadly meal and pretend to feed it to the enemy. My aunts had written these lethal concoctions in the back of a spiral-bound church cookbook. Some of the dishes were paired with music and Bible verses. That had been Mama’s special touch. At Coop’s suggestion, I’d hidden the tome in a Charleston lockbox—after I’d memorized every last formula, of course. If only I’d cooked a pie for Barb, a Get-Rid-of-the-Bitch Pie. The key ingredient is hydrangeas. The flowers and buds are poisonous, similar to cyanide, causing acute gastrointestinal distress. I wouldn’t have fed it to her; I would have thrown it in her face. Take that, you man-stealing, child-leaving hussy.
When Barb disappears and is later found dead, Teeny might be a suspect, or might be the next victim, but, typically, she is less worried about her own predicament and more concerned about what will happen to the motherless ten-year-old, Emerson Philpot, who may or may not be Coop’s child. And while trying to help the little girl, Teeny hears that Coop may presently be romancing still another woman. To ward off personal hysteria, Teeny concocts still another recipe.
To soothe myself, I invented a drink called If-I-Can’t-Have- True-Love, I’ll-Buy-A-Bigger-Dress-Size: vodka, coffee liqueur, Hershey’s Syrup, crème de cacao, crushed ice, and chocolate ice cream. Place ingredients in a blender and pulverize. Ponder the chemistry of food and romance. If love can be frozen, will it still be love? True love isn’t smooth, it’s lumpy; but if you own a quality blender, you can make this drink in three minutes.
And if you can’t fall in love with a character who, when she’s nervous, develops recipes named to address her issues, well then you’ve no heart at all.
For those of you who not only read cooking cozies, but, like CrimeHQ’s own Laura K. Curtis, actually try out the recipes, I present Teeny’s Orange You Sorry You Lied Marinade:
1 cup orange-flavored liqueur
1/2 cup blood orange juice
1/2 cup peach juice
Whisk until smooth.
1/4 cup blood orange zest
1/4 cup finely chopped, skinned peaches
4 garlic cloves (peeled and minced)
4 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
1/2 cup safflower oil
1 teaspoon large-grained salt (sea or Kosher)
2 tablespooons chopped fresh pepper
1/4 cup chopped herbs, Italian parsley, and lemon thyme
Pour into a container and refrigerate. Yield 2 ¾ cups
To find other recipes that look absolutely awesome to me, you can click here for a free download of Teeny Templeton’s Kitchen Diary.
So there you have it. I, a woman who avoids actual cooking as much as humanly possible, had a fabulous time hanging with Teeny, Minnie O’Malley, Red Butler Hill, and even precocious Emerson Philpot, as Teeny solves a string of seemingly unrelated deaths that turn out to all have the same underlying reason. Even the non-cooks among us will love a teeny bit of trouble.
Read all of Terrie Farley Moran’s posts for Criminal Element.