Cooking the Books: Murder at Icicle Lodge by J.D. Griffo
The Ferrara Family Detective Agency is going on vacation! Their youngest member, Jinx, has been assigned a plum reporting gig by her boss at The Upper Sussex Herald. She’s been given rooms at Icicle Lodge, a luxury resort in the snow-capped hills of northeastern Pennsylvania, just a few hours’ drive from where she lives in Tranquility, New Jersey, in order to cover its grand reopening. She invites her beloved grandmother Alberta and grandaunts Helen and Joyce—all amateur sleuths like herself—to join her for the weeklong getaway.
Accompanying them are some of Tranquility’s finest, including family friend and police chief, Vinny; Jinx’s boyfriend, Freddy; Alberta’s boyfriend, Sloan; and Helen’s frenemy Father Sal. As a figure skating fan, Vinny is especially excited at the prospect of meeting one of his idols, Pamela Gregory. A champion figure skater who never medaled lower than silver, Pamela will be gracing the festivities with her glamorous presence. Jinx is also looking forward to the possibly career-advancing interview she has lined up with the celebrity athlete.
While Icicle Lodge itself is as lovely as expected, Pamela turns out to be a real piece of work. Difficult to and demanding of everyone around her, she bosses her assistant unmercifully and seems to have some sort of unpleasant history with several of the resort employees. When she’s found dead on the ice before the resort officially opens, there’s no shortage of suspects. But as a blizzard traps our team from Tranquility on the premises with a murderer on the loose, they must race to find Pamela’s killer before one of them becomes the next victim.
It’s always so much fun to hang out with the extended Ferrara family and their friends! Their interactions are natural, easy, and humorous. They certainly make me wish I was part of a large, loud Italian clan who all pull for each other through thick and thin. And for being a book about older people snowbound in an isolated lodge, the novel has a lot of action as our heroines engage in desperate chases to apprehend villains and save lives.
Murder at Icicle Lodge also includes four recipes, one sweet and three savory. I was very tempted to try out the recipe for Italian wedding soup but found this one even more appealing:
Mama Elena’s Risotto Balls
1 ½ cups water
1 cup uncooked rice
1 teaspoon salt
⅔ cup sundried tomato pesto
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Marinara sauce, warmed (As Mama always said, a real Italian makes her own sauce. If you buy it from a bottle, you’ll have to live with yourself.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine water, rice, and salt in a large saucepan and boil.
Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Leave it alone for 10 minutes, then transfer it into a large bowl.
Add in the eggs, pesto, and 1 cup of the bread crumbs.
Put the rest of the bread crumbs on a plate.
Shape the rice mixture into 1 ¼-inch balls and roll them in the bread crumbs.
Place them on a greased baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Serve with the marinara sauce, which will be either your pride or your shame.
While I did learn to cook from an Italian kitchen and, thus, should feel some shame for not making my own marinara sauce, I simply did not have the time! The store-bought was perfectly adequate for my purposes, though.
Now, I’m a huge fan of risotto balls, and while these were pretty good to really good—depending on which of my tasters you ask—I’m used to risotto balls that are stuffed with gooey, hot, melted cheese. The next time I make these, I’ll definitely be rolling each ball around a chunk of mozzarella. That said, since I didn’t know how to make risotto balls before this recipe, I do think it’s a solid basis to start with. I really enjoyed the addition of the sundried tomato pesto, which was unexpected but delicious.
Next week, we hop back over to New Jersey for another deadly family affair, this time with a side of sweet baked goods. Do join me!