Review of Diane Mott Davidson's latest Goldy mystery

Perhaps too many sugar cookies?

By Mo Conlan

Diane, have you been eating too many of Goldy’s sugar cookies?

I have been reading the cozy mysteries of Diane Mott Davidson since she began publishing her series about caterer Goldy Schulz in 1992. At the time, I was skeptical about mystery novels that also include recipes. Isn’t that a bit too cozy? But the gimmick works in this case, and Davidson created an engaging character.

Goldy the caterer lives in Aspen Meadows, Colorado, an interesting locale. She has interesting friends and family. She has a knack for finding dead bodies and culprits.

Davidson’s latest Goldy Schulz novel, "Crunch Time," though, makes me wonder about the pressure put on best-selling authors to produce – either by their publishers or themselves. “Crunch Time” is an overstuffed stew of a story. It is as if the author kept throwing things in and wound up with everything but kippered herring in the pot.

There are too many characters. There’s too much going on. A possible puppy mill. A murder. Drug smuggling. Stolen diamonds. Masks and possible voodoo. Early snow. Animal rights. A sick child. Cuban-American politics and history. STDs. Stalking. Prostitution. Arson. Another murder. Rich ne’er-do-wells throwing dinner parties. Hit-and-run.

“Crunch Time” is a narrative in search of a main plot. Sub-plots are OK, but they shouldn’t sink the story. Even audio book superstar Barbara Rosenblat appears to lose her way, possibly her interest, at times, as she reads “Crunch Time.”

The story starts to go wrong right away after Goldy offers a temporary home to fellow chef Yolanda Garcia and her great-aunt Ferdinanda – a tough old woman who once fought with Castro.

These two are soon joined by a member of the sheriff’s department who camps out to protect Yolanda. This beautiful young chef says she is being stalked by her ex-boyfriend, who hit her with a broom and gave her an STD. But here is the problem: these characters aren’t very likable. Though Davidson tries hard to portray the curmudgeonly Ferdinanda, she’s just not likable; nor is her grandniece, much. So, we don’t really care what happens to them.

The first murder victim sounds likable, but he’s dead.

In a possible move to save her story, toward the end, Davidson throws in the kitchen sink – a family matter that I will leave to fans to discover.

Every writer can be forgiven a clunker or two. I will keep reading Davidson. A mystery with food is savory. But I do wonder why she didn’t save all these subplots to use as main plots later?

Perhaps she’s grown a bit tired of Goldy and needs a new series. But, fans and publishers usually don’t let authors wiggle out of best-selling series. Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes and later had to bring him back.

Writer and artist Mo (Maureen Conlan) was for many years books editor at The Cincinnati and The Kentucky Post newspapers.

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Mo, I enjoyed your review of "Crunch Time" by Diane Mott Davidson. Although I haven't read any of the books in her Goldy mystery series yet, now I'm intrigued. …

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