Morrow, Feb 2002, 23.95, 256 pp.
Patsy Avery asks her friend caterer Faith Fairchild to teach a cooking course for idiots at the all male high school, Mansfield Academy in Aleford, Massachusetts. Patsy actually wants Faith to use the cooking course as a cover to ferret out who is committing hate crimes against African-American scholarship student Daryl Martin. The amateur sleuth agrees though she loathes teaching male teenagers.
As Faith teaches her class, she begins to investigate the students who most likely sent the hateful e-mail, nasty newspaper clippings, and the noose to Daryl. However, her inquiries take a twist when someone murders Faith's prime suspect Sloane Buxton with Daryl as the prime suspect. Now Faith feels really obligated to prove the Roxbury resident is not only innocent but also the victim of a heinous crime.
When THE BODY IN THE BONFIRE stays focused on the hate crime, readers receive a tremendous regional cozy. When the plot spins into a murder mystery, the story line remains solid and well written, but much of the excitement is lost as if the air was let out of the balloon. Katherine Hall Paige cooks an engaging morsel that cozy and culinary mystery readers will take pleasure in especially when the delightful lead character teaches her students how to cook.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner