Cooking the Books: A Crime of Poison by Nancy Haddock

Lilyvale, Arkansas, is about to host its biggest Fall Folk Art Festival and Bake Sale yet, thanks to the organizing expertise of our heroine Leslee Stanton Nix (or Nixy, as she’s known to her friends) and her family, the Silver Six. The Silver Six is a group of retirees who live together in a farmhouse and run a crafts store that also showcases the goods of other local artisans. They’re as tight-knit a family as Nixy could possibly hope for, even though she’s only related to one of them by blood: her Aunt Sherry. Add to this her rescued pets, an inseparable dog and cat pair, and her police detective boyfriend, Eric, and Nixy is starting to feel really at home in her adopted small town.

But then, Cornell Lewis, former apartment manager from hell, rolls back into town. He claims he’s found religion and become a changed man, but his former tenants—including several of the Silver Six—are deeply skeptical. When he’s found dead in his car with a plate of snickerdoodles baked by some of Nixy’s family, suspicion immediately falls on their group. With Eric recusing himself from the investigation and hotshot new detective Charlene Vogelman looking to impress her boss, it looks like two of the Six will be headed to prison for a really long time—unless Nixy and the rest of them can solve the crime first!

I really enjoyed spending time with Nixy and her family as they juggled running a festival and store with solving what soon becomes more than just one murder. The cast of characters is charming and deeply human, and I’m an especially big fan of the Silver Six’s nonagenarian neighbor, Bernice Gilroy. Fans of the series will also love what happens in the epilogue!

A Crime of Poison includes two crafting articles as well as two recipes. While the “Banana Icebox Cake” sounds delicious, it's also way more labor-intensive than even I can handle for this column, so I opted for these delicious old-fashioned snickerdoodles instead:

Snickerdoodles

Ingredients

1 cup shortening

1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

2 ¾ cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cinnamon

Instructions

Cream the shortening and 1 ½ cups sugar together, add the eggs, and beat well. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together and add them. Mix well.

Roll the dough into small balls (about the size of walnuts.) Roll the balls in a mixture of the cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees F or until lightly browned but still soft.

These cookies will puff up at first, then flatten out with crinkled tops. Makes about 5 dozen 2-inch cookies.

These were some of the easiest cookies I’ve ever made in my life! They were so much fun to make that one of my 3-year-olds—who usually only likes stirring and mixing—helped me sift ingredients and roll dough as well. This recipe also takes barely any time to complete, even with letting the snickerdoodles rest on the cookie sheet for two minutes after baking before transferring to a wire rack.

Of course, I’m incapable of producing small cookies, so I wound up making only about 4 dozen of these, which probably saved a bit of time. I’d honestly recommend making a slightly larger cookie, however, as these snickerdoodles tend to be a bit dry; the larger size preserves the moistness better. I was also taken aback by how these don’t look like your traditional snickerdoodles, but I feel like they taste so much better, an opinion shared by all three of my kids who gobbled these up very quickly.

Next week, we travel back to the Midwest, and I try my hand at mini-donuts for the first time! Do join me!

See also: Cooking the Books: Egg Drop Dead by Laura Childs

 

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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.

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