Cooking the Books: Murder at the Taffy Shop by Maddie Day
By Doreen SheridanApril 8, 2020
The second in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery series finds one of the book group’s own under suspicion of murder after a dinner party gone awry. Gin Malloy is the owner of Westham, Massachusetts’ titular taffy shop, so she naturally brings a box of candy with her as a hostess gift to a dinner party that her boyfriend, Eli Tubin, invites her to. Their hostess is Beverly Ruchart, the mother of Eli’s deceased wife and a woman whose own relationship with Eli is often less than congenial. In fact, few of the dinner guests seem to get along well with Beverly, whose behavior grows increasingly intoxicated and obnoxious as the night continues. Gin and Eli are only too relieved to flee the premises as soon as manners will permit.
The next morning, Gin and her best friend (and our heroine), Mac Almeida, are about to embark on their daily walk when Gin stumbles across Beverly’s body right behind her shop. The friends call it in, little knowing that Beverly was murdered and that Gin has just become the prime suspect. Of course, Mac and the rest of their book group refuse to allow the finger of suspicion to point to Gin for too long, not when there are so many people actually happy to see Beverly dead. But they’ve discovered the hard way that murderers will often go to any lengths in order to cover up their crimes—and that Beverly’s killer is no different.
The small town of Westham is such a charming place, and Mac and her family and friends are such delightful people to be around! I especially enjoyed reading of her dilemma in regards to her wonderful boyfriend, Tim, and am rooting for their continued happiness in future installments.
I did think, however, that for a book that wasn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues thoughtfully, it might have done better in representing Mac as the woman of color that she is, alongside her blended family. While it’s lovely to see Cape Verdean culture represented in these pages, it’s sometimes astonishing that race is treated as purely cosmetic, with seemingly no bearing at all on the way other people might interact with her. This may, of course, be a purely aspirational choice, and who am I to gainsay the aim of a world devoid of racism?
Murder at the Taffy Shop includes five recipes, and while I’m only including one of them here, I actually have tried two of them already. Let’s begin with this appetizer recipe:
Avocado Deviled Eggs
8 hard-cooked eggs, shelled
2 ripe avocados
1 teaspoon fresh cilantro or dill, minced (Some people have a severe aversion to cilantro, so consider your diners.)
3 teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon capers, chopped finely
Habanero or jalapeno hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Smoked paprika or chili powder
Halve eggs lengthwise and remove yolks to a bowl. Mash avocados with yolks. Add capers, cilantro or dill, lime juice, a few drops of hot sauce, and a pinch each salt and pepper. Mix gently and season to taste.
Fill egg-white halves. Sprinkle smoked paprika or chili powder on top. Cover and refrigerate if you won’t be serving immediately.
Despite not being a millennial, I love avocados and greatly enjoyed them in this dish. They’re essentially a much healthier substitute for mayonnaise, and while my lovely assistant Karin prefers a more traditional approach, I was quite taken with their use in these deviled eggs. Then again, I’m a sucker for anything with capers, so I found these as delicious on the palate as they were gorgeous on the plate. One note, however: using two avocados meant we ended up with a ton of the deviled filling, so either consider using just one avocado or prepare to have some chips on hand to use up the excess, which makes a terrific guacamole-like dip.
In addition to the deviled eggs, Karin and I also made the cheesy polenta disks from the recipe included in the book and found them to be absolutely spectacular. We served ours with shrimp and lemon butter. With a small salad or perhaps some quickly sautéed spinach and tomatoes, it makes for a complete meal—especially if you’re serving delicious avocado deviled eggs as an appetizer beforehand!
Next week, we head north a ways to investigate murder and serve up a delicious quick bread that would be an easy introduction to baking for those of you looking to get into the hobby in this time of social distancing. Do join me!