Catering to Nobody - Diane Mott Davidson *4.8 Stars*

Scorecard: (Out of 10)
* Quality of Writing - 10
* Pace - 10
* Plot development - 8
* Characters - 10
* Enjoyability - 10
* Insightfulness - 9
* Ease of Reading - 10
* Photos/Illustrations - NA
Final Score: 67/70 = 96%

*The Gush*

I will admit to coming late to the whole ‘Amateur’ mystery genre, particular the myriad of what I call niche mysteries – books based around either animals people like (Dick Francis’ Horse Racing and Lillian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who books), hobbies (everything from knitting to book lovers), or culinary (Café’s, Cupcakes, and the this writer and book which launched culinary mysteries). For years, mysteries for me concerned Christie’s Poirot and Marple or Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Those were my introduction to the mystery genre as a whole and even into my adult life mysteries strayed little beyond Holmes pastiches and Christie’s mind-blowing mysteries with two exceptions: Braun’s Cat Who series and Fran Rizer’s Callie Parrish series. The Cat Who mysteries caught my eye on a library shelf and I’ve read several, though never all and sadly out of order because of what the library had. Rizer’s series strikes home for me, as a Southern girl who falls into mysteries, though I don’t work as a cosmetologist to the dead.

I’m a bit between mysteries series now though and was hoping to find a new series to enjoy. I decided to give this well-known series – one that opened the door for so many others – a try.

I’m very glad I did.

What made this book for me was the characters. Even the ones that flittered around the edges stood out in some form or fashion, while the ones the writers focused more on were each unique, flawed people who will remind you of someone you know if you’ve ever lived in a small town. As the book is narrated from Goldy’s perspective, the reader naturally comes to know her best. She’s a woman who’s had a hard life and has largely shut herself away from others, particularly men, so she won’t be hurt again. That is not to say she doesn’t have friends and people she cares about, but she does keep herself aloof often. She cares a great deal for her son, Arch, though she does not seem to always know how to show this – as all many parents and children experience throughout their lives. Her main friend is a woman named Marla, basically her exact opposite. Their friendship seems to steam at least in part from understanding and shared circumstances because of the Jerk. Ah, the Jerk; I do so hope to see more of him in future books. Not because he’s a nice person but because he’s a very not nice person who is not clearly painted as a murderous villain. He’s a bully, a selfish bastard, and an abusive jerk but that doesn’t make him a murderer, something many mystery writers forget. Sometimes people are middling bad but never to the point of murderous criminality (he should be in prison for what he’s done to Goldy and Marla but that doesn’t make him a killer).

Often times children, when included at all, serve as little more than wallpaper but Arch holds his own, entwining himself into the story in a dozen surprising ways as well as growing as an older child and a character. His interactions with Goldy are a times equally heart-wrenching and touching as they pick their way across the unknown world of single parenthood and growing up. Then there’s Tom Schulz, not only the way and means through which Goldy is able to put her contributions to work, but a man she is, abet very slowly, coming to trust. While not as developed as I might have liked, he is a very solid character and one I hope to see more of.

The plot is quite a good one for an introductory volume with all the various characters and the town introductions set throughout the book in logical places; never tying the text down but there when you need explanations. The pace was gripping, I literally couldn’t put the book down and read straight through until I finished. The plot flowed and connected well, it was an easy and fast read. The recipes, while I was a bit upset when they’d break into the middle of a sentence and interrupt the narrative flow, were good and made even me want to try them out. I’m not much of a cook but I want to try out a couple of these.

*The Rant*

My main issue with this volume was the mystery. It was interesting enough but I figured out over half of it before I even reached the half-way point of the book. I knew basically from the first Fritz was ‘playing’ with Patty Sue, that the mysterious girl in the pictures basically had to be Vonette’s by how she acted, that Laura Smiley had been killed (probably by Fritz), and that Fritz had run to Colorado to escape either/both malpractice and/or inappropriate relations with patients. It was all there and fairly easy to work out. The one thing that eluded me was who gave poisen twice to Fritz Korman. I was positive it was Vonette. That it was Pomeroy was the only thing that surprised me.

*Conclusion*

While perhaps not the greatest mystery I’ve ever read, this was a fun, fast, and entertaining read with wonderful new characters to get to know and a whole new series to enjoy. I’m looking forward to a return trip to Aspen Meadow, Colorado.