Deadlines Australia 2014
Drowned Vanilla is the second of a triplet of culinary crime novels dubbed the Café La Femme series.
Livia’s first crime novel, A Trifle Dead, was released by Twelfth Planet Press in May 2013. This was followed by a novella The Blackmail. Blend. The third was Keep Calm and Kill the Chef, pub. Deadlines, 2019.
The books linger between romance and cosy crime genres, weaving relatively complicated plots with recipes and romantic interludes as we follow the love, domestic and working life of our heroine Tabitha Darling.
In this, the second of the series, we have an almost Shakespearean construction (a la Twelfth Night) with people disguising themselves and/or hiding their identities or true selves. Two murders carry the crime plot and there is a dose of film noir.
Tabitha is well supported by a zany cast of support characters who travel from book to book and play roles of varying importance in each – Ceege, the tech nerd; Stewart, the lovable blogging, romance novelist Scot; Xanthippe, the school friend come business partner (and Bishop’s sister); Bishop, the boyfriend/not boyfriend cop; Nin, the long suffering café employee; Darrow, the rich ex-boyfriend of Xanthippe and owner of Tabitha’s building.
In Drowned Vanilla we also see themes of the reach and power of the internet being explored along with issues of family loyalty, family secrets and the power of friendship. The voice is definitely millennial but this does not detract. It’s a highly readable piece of crime fiction.
The pace and feel is akin to the classic gum-chewing private eye books but very much lighter and homesy, despite the violent deaths and liberal portions of unpleasant behaviour and characters. And – if you are an ice-cream lover you will find a few possibilities for your own kitchen adventures.
This is a book that has aged well. I’d love to see a follow up to Keep Calm and Kill the Chef…
You can hear my interview with Livia Day about Keep Calm and Kill the Chef, conducted prior to the Terror Australia Crime Writing Festival in October 2019 at: https://livingartscanberra.com.au/livia-day-keep-calm-and-kill-the-chef/