BEAT UNTIL STIFF by Claire M. Johnson


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A first mystery from a former California pastry chef features a San Francisco pastry chef, smart-aleck Mary Ryan, who has a cop for an ex-husband, his ex-partner O’Connor for an innuendo-packed love interest, and the sort of imagination that dreams up persimmon puddings for soiree desserts. When Mary arrives early at the posh American Fare restaurant to begin prepping for the night’s gala dinner, she reaches for a clean apron and steps on the body of Latino kitchen helper Carlos Perez. Dinner, the cops announce, will be delayed while they search for Carlos’s brother Gilberto and interview chef/owner Brent Brown, his longsuffering wife Sharon, his several nubile young girlfriends, oily maitre d’ Juan Vamos, and Thom, the restaurant controller, who favors pricey designer togs. Quicker than you can peel a persimmon, Mary is chatting up everyone, too, and learning there is something mighty peculiar about the wine deliveries; there’s something equally peculiar about the kitchen staff’s green-card situation; and, uh-oh, that something has dumped Brent’s body in her bed! Does she ask her ex-hubby, the cop, for help? Does she admit what she knows to O’Connor? Of course not: She goes it on her own till she ultimately finds herself slinging eggs and silverware at the evildoer’s gun arm—then, when she’s polished him off, contemplating a great recipe for devil’s-food cake.

Even dedicated foodies may find this easy to resist.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 1-59058-040-0
Page count: 214pp
Publisher: Poisoned Pen
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2002