Friday 31 October 2014

Drowned Vanilla by Livia Day

Drowned Vanilla by Livia Day is the second Culinary Crime novel, following A Trifle Dead which I reviewed last year. I think Drowned Vanilla is a bit less geeky, but I think I enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery more. This isn't spec fic, by the way, it's firmly realistic crime/mystery.
It’s the beginning of a hot, hot summer in Hobart. Tabitha Darling is in love with the wrong man, and determined to perfect the art of ice cream. Playing amateur detective again is definitely not on the cards—not even when her friends try to lure her into an arty film noir project in the historical town of Flynn.

But when a young woman goes missing from a house full of live webcams, and is found drowned in the lake outside Flynn, Tabitha is dragged into the whole mess— film crew, murder victim, love life and all.

There were two girls using the internet pseudonym French Vanilla, and only one is dead. So where is the other one? Why is everyone suddenly behaving like they’re in a (quite specific) Raymond Chandler novel? And how the hell did the best kiss of Tabitha’s life end up on YouTube?

Even ice cream isn’t going to get them out of this one.
This is another mystery story in the same vein as A Trifle Dead. If you enjoyed that book, definitely read Drowned Vanilla. I believe this is what's known as a cosy mystery. Tabitha is called up by a friend of a friend to help find a girl who's mysteriously disappeared. The disappearance turns out to be only the beginning (of course) and soon Tabitha is haring back and forth across the Tasmanian country side trying to get to the bottom of things — or trying unsuccessfully not to get more involved.

As well as the mystery elements, the story involves Tabitha's quest to make all the ice cream flavours (except vanilla) and inflict them on her friends (several recipes included). And her ongoing love-life confusion. The love triangle set up in the first book continues to be a source of angst for her and slight confusion for the reader (or, well, me anyway). I don't find it an annoying addition to the story, but I found her choices odd (I'm on Team The Other One, is what I'm saying).

But basically, Drowned Vanilla was an excellent book and I pretty much read it in two sittings. There were only two things I didn't like: the dearth of dairy-free frozen deserts (somewhat inevitable), and the fact that the Greek family celebrated Christmas in December (with no comment as to why, which made me a bit sad). I feel confident most readers won't be bothered by either of those elements.

Drowned Vanilla is a gripping and entertaining read and I recommend it to anyone who likes crime novels, banter and/or Tansy Rayner Roberts' other writing. If you enjoyed A Trifle Dead, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: October 2014, Twelfth Planet Press
Series: Culinary Crime/Cafe La Femme book 2 (of 2 so far. On going series of stand-alones)
Format read: Paper (gasp!)
Source: Pre-ordered from TPP website
Disclaimer: Friends with people involved in producing this book, nevertheless I have endeavoured to give an unbiased review, as always.
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

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