Scam Chowder (A Five-Ingredient Mystery)
by Maya Corrigan
Review by Verna Suit
Kensington Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781617731402
Date: 30 June 2015 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Val Deniston tries to convince her grandfather to come up with his own recipes for his Codger Cook newspaper column instead of plagiarizing hers. Things get complicated when he gives a chowder party and one of his guests ends up dead. Now Grandad is suspected not only of journalistic fraud, but also of poisoning people.
He may actually have had a reason to do that. The victim is thought to have perpetrated a stock market scam that wiped out the savings of Grandad's best friend Ned. Suspicions of fraud are everywhere, it turns out. Val distrusts Grandad's new girlfriend Lillian, suspecting that she is after his money rather than his good company. A local reporter is researching a story that she won't tell anyone about, but it sounds like it could be related to the scam that took Ned's retirement money. Lastly, someone is staging fake food disasters in the tennis club cafe that Val manages, leading her to fear for her job.
This second Val Deniston outing brings back several familiar characters from the first book, including Val's sometime boyfriend Gunner. She's still not entirely sure about him, especially when his ex-fiancee arrives on the scene.
The identity of the book's murderer successfully remains a mystery to the end. In trying to solve it, Val and her grandad frequently refer back to the fatal chowder dinner, trying to track the bowl that likely had the poison as it was passed from person to person. But the game of musical chowder bowls only confuses the matter further.
Scam Chowder is recognizably set on Maryland's Eastern Shore, close enough to Baltimore and Washington to allow same-day trips there for research. Concerns of the elderly, including vulnerability to scams and the expanding world of retirement communities, are prevalent in this well-plotted book.
Happily, the author continues her clever practice of using subtle tennis and cooking metaphors to tell the story. Recipes are included, of course. I tried out the Crunchy Lime Chicken and am happy to report that it's a simple and tasty keeper.