RogerBW's Blog

Devil's Food, Kerry Greenwood 11 September 2022

2006 mystery, third in Greenwood's Corinna Chapman series. Two of Corinna's bakery staff are made dangerously ill by a mysterious "slimming tea"; a strange cult demands deliberately unpleasant bread for the mortification of the flesh; and Corinna's demanding mother turns up, because Corinna's father has run off from the collective where they live.

On the one hand there are serious and dangerous mysteries to be solved here; on the other I think what Greenwood's most interested in in the series as a whole, and particularly here, is the found-family. When the assistants are off sick, and her apprentice gets pneumonia, she's all ready to try to do it all solo, but everyone helps out with their own particular skills and contacts and so on. Corinna is fat; when she's feeling particularly got-at (the mortifying cult is also a weight-loss deal, with the slogan "Fat? Hate it? So does God!") her friends and neighbours the ex-junkie and the gay couple and the witch point out that they also have their own experiences of being unacceptable to "normal" society.

So if you're after a gritty modern mystery this may not be for you; that strong undercurrent that there are good people if you can only let yourself admit that you need their help isn't something the reader can get away from. It's thoroughgoing feelgood escapism, and can feel simplistic at times. But Corinna also works on the soup run, and it's very clear that however wonderful this particular block may be there's still plenty of suffering and deprivation in the city never mind the world, so in spite of some moments that approach overwhelmingly sweet the overall effect is a good one.

It's not too hard to work out the general outline of what's going on, even if some of the specifics are left out until the revelation scene, but it all holds together and the tonal shifts are handled extremely well.

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Previous in series: Heavenly Pleasures | Series: Corinna Chapman

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