Poisoned Pen Press, Dec 2002, 24.95, 214 pp.
Pastry chef Mary Ryan graduated from the Ecole d'Epicure cooking school and found a great job working at American Fare, the top restaurant on the west coast and considered by gourmands to be one of the top three restaurants in the country. She should be very happy since she loves to cook but her divorce turned her into an acrimonious, emotionally upset person.
Her attitude goes downhill when she arrives early for work only to find the corpse of pastry assistant Carlos Perez stuffed in a laundry bag. Besides the shock of discovery, Mary has no clue why anyone would kill him. When the owner of the restaurant also turns up dead, the victim of a homicide, Mary starts asking questions to see if the two deaths are connected and almost winds up as victim number three.
BEAT UNTIL STIFF is a delicious culinary mystery that shouldn't be eaten on an empty stomach because the food descriptions will make the reader ravenously hungry. Despite being upset about her divorce, the audience will take the heroine into their hearts because she is really vulnerable and in “kneed” of kindness. Though why she turned sleuth chef even to insure her own safety seems questionable, Claire M. Johnson shows a lot of writing talent as she bakes a mystery epicure's delight.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner