Beat Until Stiff

Beat Until Stiff

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by Claire M. Johnson
     
 

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Experienced pastry chef Johnson whips up an insider's look at San Francisco's cut-throat restaurant trade. Cranky Mary Ryan has sunk a lot of time and talent into the in-vogue American Fare, the town's hottest spot, while grieving over her broken marriage. At work very early one morning, she steps on a laundry bag stuffed with the dead body of one of her employees.… See more details below

Overview

Experienced pastry chef Johnson whips up an insider's look at San Francisco's cut-throat restaurant trade. Cranky Mary Ryan has sunk a lot of time and talent into the in-vogue American Fare, the town's hottest spot, while grieving over her broken marriage. At work very early one morning, she steps on a laundry bag stuffed with the dead body of one of her employees. The investigation soon exposes all the dirty secrets that the food business would like to keep secret: the philandering chefs, the silly whims of the dining public, the hiring of illegal aliens, and the subsistence-living pay scale. Events begin to spiral that, in time, take out the restaurant's celebrity chef and force Mary to use her unique skills to uncover a poisonous scheme... Beat Until Stiff gives a frank view of the cooking/restaurant scene and explores why food has become theater, with all the waiters, the busboys, the chefs, and the dining public on stage, each with their own parts to learn and perform. Dessert is the last word, the amen of a meal. And Mary Ryan always has to have the last word. Hard edged, filled richly with restaurant lore, sharply characterized, this is a debut to savor.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Mary Ryan, feisty pastry chef at American Fare, a trendy San Francisco restaurant, finds murder on the menu in Johnson's delicious debut, which mixes an unglamorized, behind-the-scenes view of the upscale restaurant trade with a plot replete with well-timed shocks. Horrified to discover the battered body of one of her El Salvadoran employees stuffed in a laundry bag on arriving for work early one morning, Mary debates whether to call her ex-husband, Jim, a homicide detective with SFPD. As it turns out, Jim's former partner, Inspector O'Connor, takes on the case. Lonely and emotionally fragile in the wake of Jim's leaving her, Mary comes to rely on the tough, bullying O'Connor, whose job is on the line, as more than just a friend, while innate curiosity and love of justice propel her to investigate the crime and into grave danger. The down-to-earth Mary, with her keen sense of humor, casts a sharp eye on the novel's flashier characters: American Fare's showman of an owner, an egotistical chef, the suave maitre 'd in charge of the wine, the designer-clad, social-climbing manager. Assorted wives and mistresses, immigrants and a high-profile lawyer fill out the bill of fare. The restaurant business-its food, financing and philosophy-is here in all its complexity for discriminating mystery palates. (Dec. 2) Forecast: With its obvious crossover appeal to readers of serious nonfiction books on food (after completing the California Culinary Academy's program for professional chefs, Johnson worked as a pastry chef in San Francisco and Oakland for eight years), this would not look out of place in a cookbook display, especially with subtle jacket art that gives no clue it's a mystery-a photo of a smiling chef pouring the white from an egg (thumb on yolk) into a metal bowl, with oversized steel stoves and ventilation visible in the background. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A first mystery from a former California pastry chef features a San Francisco pastry chef, smart-aleck Mary Ryan, who has a cop for an ex-husband, his ex-partner O'Connor for an innuendo-packed love interest, and the sort of imagination that dreams up persimmon puddings for soiree desserts. When Mary arrives early at the posh American Fare restaurant to begin prepping for the night's gala dinner, she reaches for a clean apron and steps on the body of Latino kitchen helper Carlos Perez. Dinner, the cops announce, will be delayed while they search for Carlos's brother Gilberto and interview chef/owner Brent Brown, his longsuffering wife Sharon, his several nubile young girlfriends, oily maitre d' Juan Vamos, and Thom, the restaurant controller, who favors pricey designer togs. Quicker than you can peel a persimmon, Mary is chatting up everyone, too, and learning there is something mighty peculiar about the wine deliveries; there's something equally peculiar about the kitchen staff's green-card situation; and, uh-oh, that something has dumped Brent's body in her bed! Does she ask her ex-hubby, the cop, for help? Does she admit what she knows to O'Connor? Of course not: She goes it on her own till she ultimately finds herself slinging eggs and silverware at the evildoer's gun arm-then, when she's polished him off, contemplating a great recipe for devil's-food cake. Even dedicated foodies may find this easy to resist.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781458710864
Publisher:
ReadHowYouWant
Publication date:
10/05/2009
Series:
Mary Ryan, Pastry Chef Mysteries Series , #1
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
404,646
File size:
3 MB

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