I am delighted to welcome Valerie Burns back to the blog today! She’s here to talk about her RJ Franklin Mystery series.
Thanks, Julie and all of the Wicked Authors for inviting me to spend time with you all today.
Food and Murder
I was recently honored to have a chance to talk about food cozies with Wicked Author, Maddie Day (Elizabeth Maxwell), and Joanne Fluke on NPR’s Under the Radar with Callie Crossley. It was amazing. I love cozy mysteries and I love food so anytime I can combine the two, I’m in heaven. However, one question has stuck with me. Why does food pair so well with murder?
Culinary or “food cozies” are mysteries that have a food theme. The sleuth in a culinary cozy can be a professional baker, like Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson mysteries, the owner of a café, restaurant or country store, like Maddie Day’s Robbie Jordan, or simply a woman who shows her love by cooking for her family and friends, like Mama B in my RJ Franklin Mystery series. Similar to other cozy mysteries, sleuths in a food cozy must still use their deductive skills to solve a mystery. However, in a food cozy, the sleuths must also rustle up meals or deserts that make your tummy growl and your mouth water.
In all honesty, I have no idea why food and murder go well together. However, I do have a theory. Food is one common thread that binds people together. It’s the one thing that all humans have in common. Everyone, regardless of race, religion or sex, has to eat. It’s essential for basic survival whether you’re eating gourmet meals prepared by someone like Swiss chef, Fritz Brenner in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe Mysteries or Jell-O in a can like Debra H. Goldstein’s Sarah Blair Mysteries (even non-cooks need to eat). Thankfully, there are tons of food themed cozy mysteries out there, with something to appeal to every taste, culture and dietary need.
Food is not only essential for life, it’s important for social and emotional well-being (Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia has mended many a broken heart). Many social and cultural events include food. Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and even funerals (repast) will include some form of food. Whether a couple is meeting for the first time or celebrating a milestone there’s almost always food (or at least cake).
Of course, it might be as simple as realizing that, like me, people just like to eat. However, for mystery writers, the inclusion of food could serve another purpose. Murder, even those without graphic descriptions are unsettling. Including something as mundane as eating might be needed to provide balance. There’s something very ordinary about eating. Regardless of the trauma, eating provides a moment of normalcy. In a food cozy, food brings the normal into a very abnormal situation. Readers may not know what it’s like to be mixed up with a murder, but we all know what it’s like to eat our favorite meal at our favorite restaurant. Most of us can relate to finding comfort in a bowl of macaroni and cheese or in a slab of meatloaf, a plate of spaghetti, a bucket of fried chicken, or a slice of cheesecake in times of distress. And, what is more distressing than murder?
So, why do food and murder pair well together? Perhaps, food provides a common link that we can all relate to in one way or another. It helps to provide a connection between the reader and the sleuth by allowing them to share a meal while they work together to solve a mystery.
If you’d like to hear the NPR interview on Food Cozies, you can listen here: Under the Radar
Readers: Do you have a favorite comfort food?
About Steal Away
Detective RJ Franklin has worked with Search and Rescue volunteer, Marti Alexander, many times. So, he’s not surprised when he receives a call that she and her dog, Callie, have found a body near the St. Joseph River. What is surprising is when he learns that the body is that of her ex-husband, Jake Harrison. Between Marti’s unusual behavior, the fact that she had motive, opportunity, and the means to kill her cheating ex-husband, RJ doesn’t believe she’s guilty. Overlooking the mountain of evidence that all points to Marti as the killer, RJ starts investigating to see who else wanted Jake Harrison dead. With the help of his partner, Harley Wickfield IV, and his sharp-as-a-whip godmother, Mama B, RJ discovers a web of lies, deceit, and corruption. When one of RJ’s suspects with ties to the underworld gets a bit too close for comfort to RJ’s close-knit church family, he has to decide between his loyalty to his church and his commitment to his badge. Can RJ protect those closest to him, keep the River Bend community safe and catch a killer?
All of the titles in this series come from Negro Spirituals and there are soul food recipes in each book. Preorder your copy today!
About the author
V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She received a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, a Master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Seton Hill University. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Thriller Writers International and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. In addition to the RJ Franklin Mystery series, V.M. Burns is also the Agatha Award nominated author of The Plot is Murder, the first book in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series; and the Dog Club Mystery series. She currently resides East Tennessee with her three poodles. Readers can keep up with new releases by following her on social media.