Seven Course Tasting Menu of Mysteries
Mysteries are an acquired taste, and they come in a dazzling array of combinations and flavors. With that in mind, I hope this tasting menu may provide some new staples for your enjoyment:
Hors d’oeuvre – Lady Molly of Scotland Yard by Baroness Orczy – Closely aligned with Sherlock Holmes. This detective and sidekick are both women, and Lady Molly is actually employed by the fictional ‘ladies’ department’ Scotland Yard. Lady Molly, in 1910, predates the entry of women into the actual forces of Scotland Yard by a decade. Bite-sized delicacies from the woman who brought you The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Amuse Bouche – The Imperial Coroner – Completely bingable television C-drama. Adorable, female, young Chuchu is ushered into the Imperial Court’s circles and intrigues by sheer force of her competence in forensic analysis. Be prepared for cuteness. A lot. Really, really a lot of cuteness. With, of course, bitter court intrigue, scheming evil bureaucrats, and dead bodies whose mysteries nobody actually wants solved.
Appetizer – The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis – This Roman-era mystery throws its working-class hero into the brutal underpinnings of that ancient, sprawling empire. Marcus Didius Falco has a whole host of problems stemming from the body of a dead girl, and the out-of-his-league lady he crosses swords with is only one of them. A historical mystery that ranges from the streets of Rome to the mist-shrouded chill of Britain. A mystery to whet your appetite.
Soup – The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey – From a hospital bed between the world wars, Inspector Alan Grant takes up a 500-year-old cold case. In the 1480’s, two little princes vanished from the Tower of London without a trace. A dive into history and the possibilities in historical documents, and with all the biases of its detective on full and glorious display. One of the oldest, coldest, most famous cases in English history. Instead of ‘thick or clear’, the question is “Lancaster or York?”
Salad – Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn – The introduction of the Hon. Daisy Dalrymple, set in 1923. Daisy is bright, bubbly, and trying to make a living as a society reporter and photographer in a period when it wasn’t something that gently-born young ladies did. And, like the other investigators of her day, Daisy has a knack for tripping over corpses. If you’d like a mystery set in the era of Agatha Christie, but you’d like to actually know what the detective knows? Here you go! Unrepentantly cozy, in case her name wasn’t a clue. A most excellent palate cleanser.
Main – The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais – Elvis Cole is a private detective who just can’t put down his do-gooder impulses. He’s a classic noir-style detective whose story starts in the late 80s, but Elvis’s soft heart and kooky streak raise him well above the pack. Gritty and LA to the bone, written by a man who has an Emmy nomination and a list of detective mystery screen credits as long as my arm, there are 17 sequels. There’s no mystery in why. A satisfying centerpiece of any meal.
Dessert – Midnight Riot, aka Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich – A not-too-promising career in the London police takes a hard left turn as Peter Grant (I like to think the name is a throwback to Alan Grant), son of a washed-up Jazz musician, turns out to be sensitive to something he didn’t know existed—magic. His mentor is seriously old school and drives a Jag, there are river gods and goddesses contesting one another, and corpses whose heads have been struck clean off. A mystery with cell phones and sorcery and a ghost-hunting terrier. As crunchy as the top of a great crème brulé, and as complex as a good port.