Tough Cookie

Like the Chesapeake Crab Cakes and Chocolate Coma Cookie recipes that are filed among the pages of her mysteries, Diane Mott Davidson’s novels are a guilty pleasure. I got an early start on my summer reading with Tough Cookie, just released in paperback and a New York Times best-seller. She’s also released, in hardcover, her ninth book, Sticks & Scones.

The books are similarly and somewhat predictably themed: Longsuffering caterer Goldy Schultz, trying valiantly to earn money while plying her trade, stumbles upon and solves murders in her small, Colorado mountain community, putting herself in danger in the process. (There are a lot of passages like, “As I carefully mixed dry ingredients into the creamy, bronze dough, my injured arm began to ache. My mind’s eye raced backward to the van plummeting down the snowy slope. Really, it was a miracle I’d survived.")

I’m seldom hooked on a Davidson novel during the first chapter; her sometimes-sappy takes on the character’s family and business struggles (her cop husband hasn’t finished her kitchen remodel so she can get her catering license back; her wife-beater ex-husband is warping her 14-year-old son) can wear thin. But once the plot is laid, the mysteries don’t disappoint. I toted this volume to bath, gym and bed for the three or four days I took to read it.

Tough Cookie is set largely on a ski resort, and it’s clear the author knows of what she speaks. The characters are well developed, the scenes vivid. A crooked parole board member, a felon, PBS cooking show staffers and the pregnant widow of a man who died in an avalanche overlap and build to a not-disappointing climax. It’s a fun read. Davidson has mastered the presentation of the culinary mystery.

The Sonora Chicken Strudel doesn’t sound bad either.