Recipes for Murder: 66 Dishes That Celebrate the Mysteries of Agatha Christie

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What a brilliant idea! Not only are the dishes in Karen Pierce’s Recipes for Murder: 66 Dishes That Celebrate the Mysteries of Agatha Christie inspired by the great writer’s novels, they’re also chosen with awareness of the year the book was published. That means techniques and dishes dating from the appropriate period, which also makes this cookbook something of a social history.

The author aims to consider “how Christie uses food in her novels, whether to advance plots or define characters” as well as explaining the ingredients. The recipe for each book is meant to be doable by the interested reader — no expert techniques — and “best represent the milieu of the novel”. Most recipes are thus British, and so Anglophile readers will particularly appreciate reading the book, whether or not they ever cook from it.

Recipes for Murder: 66 Dishes That Celebrate the Mysteries of Agatha Christie cover

Each section, divided by decades from the 1920s to the 1970s, opens with a short description of what happened in Christie’s life during that period. Each recipe also has a short explanation of its meaning and choice, as well as a quote from the book represented.

The book opens with “A Perfect Cup of Coffee” and ends with another, taking us from Hercule Poirot’s introduction in The Mysterious Affair at Styles to his final case, Curtain. There are essays about how changing times meant fewer servants and changes in cooking methods, as well as notes on post-war rationing and shortages and an influx of international influences during the 1950s.

I learned how to properly poach an egg and what a vegetable marrow (what Poirot dreams of retiring to grow) actually was, as well as how to make the traditional roast leg of lamb dinner, Dover sole, orange marmalade, and of course, fish and chips. Some dishes, such as Lobster Newburg or Oysters Rockefeller or a 1923 recipe for steaks cooked in butter with red wine butter sauce, are fancy. Others are basic fare, including seed cake, various puddings, and a full English breakfast.

I adored reading this, as did the woman who organizes my local Agatha Christie book club. We regularly refer to it to see what dish from the book has been selected and what it tells us about the story. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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