aut0215 is the winner of Maya’s book. Watch for an email from her!
I’m delighted to welcome back Maya Corrigan who is celebrating the release of Bake Offed. Her first book, By Cook or by Crook, came out a month before my first book. We’re both members of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and have done lots of fun events together!
Thank you, Sherry, for hosting my guest post today. I got to know Sherry through the Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter and met the other Wickeds at mystery lovers’ conventions like Malice Domestic and Bouchercon. Bake Offed, my 8th Five-Ingredient Mystery, takes place at a similar gathering—the Maryland Mystery Fan Fest.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember where the inspiration for a story originated, but for Bake Offed, I can pin it down exactly. When the pandemic lockdown began in March of 2020, I was in San Diego at Left Coast Crime, a four-day gathering of mystery lovers. It ended on its first day, shut down by the health department to keep Covid from spreading. I suspected that the other mystery fan gatherings I planned to attend that year would also be canceled. So I decided to create a fictional one to fill in the gap. Sadly, that gap lasted two years.
The fictional Maryland Mystery Fan Fest includes panels, author signings, and a charity auction, like real mystery gatherings, but unlike them, it is the scene of a bake-off and a murder. My sleuths, café manager Val and her grandfather, are fest volunteers, recruited by Val’s best friend, an avid mystery reader who organized the weekend.
The fest starts with a Deadly Desserts Bake-Off, in which each contestant must play the part of a cook to a famous fictional detective and bake a dessert the detective would like. Val’s grandfather, a recipe columnist who refuses to make any dish with more than five ingredients, is given the challenging role of Nero Wolfe’s gourmet cook Fritz. After flipping through several of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries, Granddad grumbles that all the dishes mentioned in the book have “scads of ingredients.” Then he discovers a unique item in the attic—a book-shaped recipe box that his mystery-loving aunt bequeathed him. Granddad is delighted to find a five-ingredient dessert recipe among the 34 recipes in the box. He’s even happier when he learns how valuable the box is. As one of only a thousand promotional gifts from Rex Stout’s 1938 publicity tour for Too Many Cooks, the box is prized by collectors. The current price for the recipe box in good condition is $3,750 plus shipping.
Granddad is up against stiff competition at the fest’s bake-off. A culinary arts graduate plays Bunter, Lord Peter Wimsey’s manservant from the Dorothy Sayers books. Playing Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes’s landlady, is Cynthia Sweet. Granddad blames her for ripping off the five-ingredient theme of his Codger Cook column to use in her own recipe column and cookbook. But he isn’t the only one who has a beef with Cynthia. After the bake-off Granddad’s prized recipe box disappears and Cynthia is found dead in her hotel room next to a whistling teakettle.
Photo on left courtesy of: WFinch, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
How do readers at the fest who love a murder on the page react to a murder in their midst? Many assume it’s a murder game devised by festival organizers. Others come up with solutions derived from locked-room mysteries and Agatha Christie’s best-known plots. With a witness in jeopardy, and a killer familiar with every trick in the book to avoid detection, Val and Granddad must read between the lines to prevent another murder.
With nods to Holmes and Poirot, Bake Offed echoes classic mystery tropes—an unsolved murder in the past, disguises and false identities, wills and inheritances, and crime re-enactments. The book reflects my enthusiasm for mystery fan conventions. It’s dedicated to the organizers of those events, who make it possible for readers and writers to celebrate crime fiction together. Having this book come out in the year when those in-person events resumed is, to use a culinary cliché, the icing on the cake.
READERS: Mystery fan gatherings feature discussions of all types of crime fiction: from classics to cozies, historicals, thrillers, police procedurals, and private eye mysteries. What kind of crime books are your favorites?
I’ll send a signed copy (US only) of BAKE OFFED to one person who leaves a comment.
Maya (Mary Ann) Corrigan writes the Five-Ingredient Mysteries featuring a café manager and her live-wire grandfather solving murders in a historical Chesapeake Bay town. Each book has five suspects, five clues, and Granddad’s five-ingredient recipes. A Virginia resident, Maya has taught courses in writing, detective fiction, and literature at Georgetown University and NOVA community college. When not reading and writing, she enjoys theater, travel, trivia, cooking, and crosswords.
Visit Kensington Books (https://www.kensingtonbooks.com/9781496734570/bake-offed/) for an excerpt of Bake Offed and Buy Links.