Cooking the Books: Word to the Wise by Jenn McKinlay
I’ve read quite a few books from Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery mystery series for this column, but this has been my first of her Library Lover’s, and I have to say that I was completely blown away. Perhaps it’s just the subject matter, or perhaps it’s the slightly more serious tone of this series, but Word to the Wise is definitely my favorite of Ms. McKinlay’s novels to date.
The 10th Library Lover’s installment finds our heroine, library director Lindsey Norris, flummoxed at the planning necessary for her impending nuptials. Fortunately, she has a loving, supportive fiancé in ex-Navy officer Mark Sullivan—Sully for short—who helps run the water taxi service in their bayside town of Briar Creek, Connecticut. Bonus: the Crafternooners at her library are more than happy to help—with details and decorations especially—allowing Lindsey to not get sidetracked from her passion for her work.
So when town newcomer Aaron Grady shows up asking for information on helping his roses survive the summer drought, Lindsey doesn’t think too much of pointing him in the right direction, both in and outside the stacks. Unfortunately, Aaron seems to have mistaken her helpfulness for some greater emotional connection and starts to engage in some decidedly stalker-like behavior. When Lindsey tries to get him barred from her workplace, the town mayor pooh-poohs her concerns, leading to an unpleasant and very public confrontation between Aaron, Sully, and Lindsey at a local restaurant.
When Aaron’s dead body is found the next day, propped up beside the town library door, Sully immediately becomes the prime suspect. While Police Chief Emma Plewicki is determined to do everything by the book, Lindsey has no such qualms and begins digging into Aaron’s background to find out who really did him in. Unfortunately, this will put her in the crosshairs of the real killer, who will not hesitate to kill again.
Having been the subject of unwanted attention myself, I had a lot of sympathy for Lindsey. I recognized a lot of the situations she found herself in, as well as the fear, anger, and frustration she felt at having her life constrained by a guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer and the people who enabled his behavior. It was really great to see how Lindsey’s friends supported her throughout, though, and I 100 percent applauded Ms. Cole’s choice at the end.
I’ve read my fair share of crime novels involving stalkers, but this might be the one that resonated most deeply. Ms. McKinlay has written a sensitive, empathetic look at the everyday impact of harassment. I found it a weirdly cathartic but wholly satisfying book.
And there were recipes! I decided to try out this one:
Greek Salad Skewers
1 big block of feta (about 12 oz.) cut into 12 cubes
1 bottle Greek salad dressing
12 pitted Kalamata olives
12 cherry tomatoes
1 cucumber, cut into 12 large cubes
12 6-inch wooden skewers
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Marinate the feta cubes in the Greek dressing.
Take a skewer and slide on a cube of cheese, a Kalamata olive, a cherry tomato, and a cucumber cube. Make 12 skewers. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dill to taste. Offer extra salad dressing on the side.
I wound up only able to find 12″ skewers, but that turned out just fine, as 1 oz. cubes are a whole lot of feta! I had two blocks of 8 oz. of feta each, and I cut them into 16 roughly equal cubes for 16 skewers. I then doubled the amount of everything else on the skewer to better balance out the flavors. It was a really great, portable version of a Greek salad, perfect for a buffet or any other type of casual social event. It’s also surprisingly filling and serves as a healthy side dish that’s also easy to clean up.
Next week, we get into the Halloween spirit with a collection of seasonal tales and make a yummy entree perfect for the lengthening nights! Do join me!