Event planner JJ Tanner is looking forward to a picnic outing with her Culinary Capers club—a group of friends who meet to choose recipes from a cookbook one member picks each month to put together a dinner from. The gang has met up in the driveway of one member, Alison Manovich, to convoy over to the picnic grounds. When Alison unlocks her SUV to load up the trunk with goodies, she has the shock of her life when she discovers a dead body inside. Worse still, it’s the body of her estranged husband, James Bailey.
Alison is a police officer, so she quickly alerts her colleagues and calmly accepts a suspension with pay while James’s death is being investigated. JJ is eager to do everything she can to help Alison; she has had some success helping solve murders in the past, after all. At first, Alison wants JJ to leave the investigating to the professionals. But then, they learn that James has been leading a double life with another wife in New York State, just an hour’s drive away from their Vermont town of Half Moon Bay.
Despite her shellshock, Alison knows that she needs all the help she can get. With the information Alison gives her and the invaluable help of former cop turned private detective Ty Devine, JJ sets out both to clear Alison’s name and figure out the enigma that was the dearly departed.
The mystery in this third entry in the Dinner Club series had me guessing until quite late into the book, and it was also notable for its focus on JJ’s love life. Earlier in the series, JJ decided that she and another Culinary Caperer, Connor, were better off as just friends. Since then, she’s been on a few noncommittal dates with Devine, but she finds herself wanting more.
Fortunately, attractive men are suddenly showing up to rival Devine here in Marinating in Murder! I’m not Devine’s biggest fan—there is only so much berating a person “out of love” that I can find healthy—but I am glad that JJ is opening up to romance again.
One of the best parts of this series for me is Linda Wiken’s excellent taste in food. Her recipe selections have always been superior, and this installment proved no different, providing three of the recipes mouthwateringly described in the text. I limited myself to trying out this one for the column:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves: 2 grated, 2 thinly sliced
Pinch of kosher salt
1 pound large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
Parmesan or Asiago cheese, grated
In a medium bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the grated garlic, and salt. Add the prepared shrimp, tossing it thoroughly to coat. Chill, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the shrimp for about 1 minute per side, until pink but slightly underdone. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plate.
To the remaining oil, add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring for about 1 minute. Add the wine and lemon juice, cooking for about 2 minutes. Add the butter, and cook until sauce thickens and butter is melted.
Add the shrimp and any juices to the skillet and toss for about 2 minutes, until the shrimp are fully cooked.
Transfer to a plate, top with the basil, green onions, and parsley. Grate fresh cheese over top (Parmesan or Asiago works well).
Serve with rice or pasta and your favorite veggies. A fresh bread slice or roll is perfect for sopping up all the sauce.
Ms. Wiken’s palate never fails—this was another winner! After my four-year-old twins’ constant raids on my spice rack, I found myself unexpectedly lacking in red pepper flakes, so I used half of the amount in cayenne pepper instead. Since my lovely assistant Karin is very sensitive to spice, I skipped adding the cayenne until plating everyone else’s dishes. It was still excellent, though I imagine the hint of heat would have gained greater dimension if added as recommended in the recipe. We served it with angel hair pasta and steamed vegetables for a delicious and filling (and healthy!) dinner that was actually quite simple to prepare.
Next week, we stop briefly in Lake Eden to try an unusual cookie recipe (and as loyal readers of this column will know, to satisfy my curiosity after the cliffhanger of the last book set there that we reviewed). Do join me!
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
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.