Livia Day – Keep Calm and Kill the Chef

Deadlines, an imprint of Twelfth Planet Press, Australia 2019

Livia Day, who also writes as Tansy Rayner Roberts, will appear at the Terror Australis Festival in Cygnet Tasmania from 1 to 3 November 2019.

This is a cozy café crime novel and hence about murder and some mayhem, but it is also a book about friendships, both female and male-female.

We are treated to lots of fun in this somewhat kooky and very youthful novel, the fourth in the Café la Femme series. You don’t need to have read the previous three, but this has whetted my appetite to do so.

Barbie talks with Livia Day

Tabitha Darling is the owner and pastry cook at Café La Femme in Hobart and she enters a reality show competition hosted by a nasty piece of work, chef Cameron Crewe. He is very soon found dead in Tabitha’s cafe, stabbed and decorated with a toffee shard knife. She is a suspect, having motive enough, it seems, to kill him, but in this she is not alone, so notorious is he for harassment of all sorts and general bad behaviour towards almost everyone.

Meanwhile Tabitha’s best chum, the delightfully named Xanthippe Carides, has set up shop above the café as a private investigator after sliding out of a partnership in the café with Tabitha. She naturally takes on the task of keeping Tabitha from being arrested and charged with murder.

Various love affairs, broken love affairs and would be love affairs add spice to the murder scene, the café and the other two contestant cafes in the Café Wars being staffed by larger than life youths, Kiwi bros and two little old Lesbian ladies.

If this sounds like a romp, it is. There is much talk of food, especially cake and pie, of tea and its restorative properties and of coffee, ditto. There is fashion, especially designer ball gowns and dressing up. There is drinking of excessive numbers of shots and the aftermath thereof. There is a police force that seems hell bent on getting Tabitha under lock and key. There is a vengeful estranged but pregnant wife. There is showbiz politics and there are lots of shenanigans.

There is also a use of narrative voice which can only be described, by my generation at least, as funky – or hip or gen X, Y or Z or millennial or post- millennial, or whatever it is. In any case, it works well and allows the reader to make real these characters with their various affectations.

Amidst all of this, however, as I said to begin with, there are firm friendships, friendships of the through thick and thin variety. And there is, satisfying in such a romp of a novel, a denouement held to the very end.