Decorated cutout cookies are lovely and delicious and, I must admit, challenging to create. For me, anyway. Mine never taste as good as I imagine my characters’ cookies do. But I keep trying. Which is probably why my dentist recently informed me that I need a filling. And let’s not discuss the effect those delicious confections can have on one’s weight. My characters never actually gain weight, of course. They might worry about it now and then, but that’s all. I think it’s because they expend so many calories hunting murderers.
So lately I’ve been pondering why cookies—and cookie cutters, especially—seem to lead my sleuths, Olivia (Livie) Greyson and Maddie Briggs, right straight into a mystery. Once they are embroiled in a mystery, making decorated cookies seems to help them solve it, as well. There’s definitely a connection between cookies and sleuthing. As the narrator of Livie and Maddie’s adventures, I feel that same connection, and it makes me curious.
When I’m writing, I love to clutter my desk with sparkling sugar containers and little bottles of gel food coloring in exotic colors like fuchsia and electric purple. They fire up my imagination. For inspiration, I’ll take a whiff of orange bakery emulsion and find myself wondering… might a character be so enchanted by the flavor that she wouldn’t notice that faint taste of lethal poison.
Cookie cutters, too, have a way of turning my mind to murder. Don’t get me wrong, cookie cutters are delightful, and I’ve collected them for years. But for me, those cutters, especially the antique ones, can evoke sinister thoughts. Maybe it’s those mysterious dents, the strange scratches, those sharp edges… I wonder what that jolly Santa Claus cutter has seen during his decades of use. Did someone hurl him at an attacker as a weapon of last resort? Are those scratches the initials of a killer? Was Santa ever used to shape a tasty yet deadly poisonous instrument of murder?
The task of creating cutout cookies is challenging, but it can also be meditative. Believe me, there’s plenty of time to think. The process can take all day, sometimes two, especially if you want to decorate the cookies with royal icing. If you happen to be trying to solve a mystery, you’ll have lots of opportunities to percolate the puzzle while you mix, chill, roll, cut, roll and cut some more, chill again, bake, cool… Olivia and Maddie find that the repetitive process of preparing and baking cookies, which is second nature to them, helps them sort through suspects and clues. (Between you and me, I don’t know how they do it. I’d space out and forget to set the timer.)
Livie is the logical thinker… well, most of the time. When murder visits Chatterley Heights, Livie isn’t satisfied until she has put together all the pieces and solved the puzzle. Maddie, on the other hand, is the artistic genius, especially when it comes to decorating cookies. Her creativity and enthusiasm provide ideas, and she possesses that risk-taking impulse necessary for both baking and sleuthing.
Now that I think about it, even writing about crime makes me hungry for cookies. I wonder why… I’ll just go get a cookie and think about it.
p.s. And by the way, The town of Chatterley Heights wishes to convey a warning to anyone out there with murderous intent: Don’t mess with Maddie’s wedding.
About Virginia Lowell
Virginia lives in the temporarily unfrozen northland with her husband and two bossy cats. One Dead Cookie, which was just released on July 2, is the fourth book in her Nationally Bestselling Cookie Cutter Shop mystery series.
One Dead Cookie
(A Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery)
4th in Series
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (July 2, 2013)
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Mary Ann Lasher
Cover Design by George Long
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
E-Book File Size: 572 KB
Olivia Greyson is the proud owner of The Gingerbread House—a quaint shop that specializes in all things cookie—and her best friend, Maddie, is her sidekick, baking up scrumptious treats for their cookie-themed parties. But a dead body on their front porch might put their bake shop in a truly sticky situation…
Maddie’s engagement party is just a few days away and finding the dead body of a soap star on the front porch has put quite a crimp into the plans. It seems Trevor Lane grew up just up the road in Twiterton and he left a few enemies behind and time has only let their anger fester. Even Livie and Maddie’s friend Stacy has become a suspect. They have no choice but to use their baking and sleuthing know how to mix up the perfect recipe to catch the real killer.
I absolutely love this series. Livie is trying so hard to make her friend Maddie’s party super special but soon realizes she is in over her head and that’s even before the branded victim is found on the front porch.
These characters are so wonderfully written. Their dialogue always rings true. The friendship is the foundation each and every story is built on. People with friendships like Livie’s and Maddie’s are truly blessed.
The mystery sure doesn’t crumble, it is plotted perfectly. There are plenty of suspects and I found myself thinking I knew the killer more than once and was wrong every time.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”