Fans of Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Schulz, the gourmet gumshoe of Aspen Meadow, Colorado, love her modus operandi: "Treat every puzzle with questions and chocolate." In Tough Cookie
, Davidson's ninth culinary mystery, Goldy is waiting to reopen her catering business, which has been shut down by the health department for lack of adequate drains. She's got a PBS cooking gig for a few weeks, and is trying to build a reputation as a personal chef, but she's desperate for a little extra Christmas cash, so she agrees to sell a pair of vintage skis to Doug Portman, a local art critic and former sort-of-romantic interest.
When Portman's killed in a skiing accident at Killdeer Resort with Goldy nearby, the police treat her with suspicion. It turns out that Portman was the easily persuaded head of the Parole Board, and Goldy's ex-husband (a.k.a. The Jerk, who was imprisoned for domestic violence) is coming up for parole. But when Goldy herself narrowly escapes a chilly death after her van is forced off a snowy highway, she starts looking for connections and steps into a minefield of unsolved murders, including the three-year-old avalanche death of her friend Nate Bullock. There're a multitude of suspicious characters lurking around Killdeer: Barton Reed, a crazy ex-con who sent Portman a letter loaded with poison; Arthur Wakefield, whose wealthy mother was also killed in a skiing accident at Killdeer; Jack Gilkey, a handsome young chef who was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Wakefield's mother (and released by Portman); Boots Faraday, a local artist; and even Rorry Bullock, Nate's angry widow. As usual, Goldy manages to solve the murders (with the help of Chocolate Coma Cookies), save her own skin (just!), skewer a few local snobs in passing, and revive her catering business. Lots of fun, and recipes too. --Barrie Trinkle
From Publishers Weekly
Chef/amateur sleuth Goldy Schulz returns for a ninth outing in Davidson's popular culinary mystery series. Goldy's home-based catering business in the Colorado high country is temporarily suspended by drain problems, so she accepts a stint on a PBS cooking show before the Christmas holidays. After a meeting with Goldy, Doug Portman, her wealthy ex-boyfriend, is found dead on a back country ski run, with thousands of dollars flying from his pockets. Goldy discovers that an old acquaintance, Nate Bullock, had also been discovered there after an avalanche in almost the same spot three years earlier, and she herself is a victim of misadventure when her van is nudged over a cliff. Determined to find the killer lurking on the ski slopes, Goldy unearths motives aplenty, possibly among her culinary friends in a mountain restaurant. Davidson's creative recipes, scattered liberally throughout the narrative, add flavor to this spirited tale, which follows Goldy from one life-threatening escapade to the next. The characters are sometimes too good to be true (such as Goldy's husband, who's a county sheriff), but others have a refreshing edge, like pink-haired coffee-shop owner Cinda Caldwell. The ending is cookie-cutter predictable, but overall this is hearty fare for those who like their murder with a bit of nosh on the side. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (Mar.)
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