One day, Corinna Chapman, high profile accountant and banker, walked out on the money market and her dismissive and unpleasant husband James, threw aside her briefcase, and doffed her kitten heels forever. Now she is a baker with her own business, Earthly Delights, in Melbourne, Australia, living in an eccentric building on the Roman model called Insula with a lot of similarly eccentric people.
She and her cat Horatio are quite content with this new life until a junkie falls half dead on her grate, a gorgeous sabra stalks along her alley telling her that she is beautiful, and threatening letters accusing her of being a scarlet woman begin to arrive. Then suddenly Goths, lost girls, fraud, late nights, nerds, and beautiful slaves complicate life for Corinna. And she still needs to get her bread out for the morning rush....
About the Author
Kerry Greenwood is the author of more than 40 novels and six non-fiction books. Among her many honors, Ms. Greenwood has received the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crime Writers' Association of Australia. When she is not writing she is an advocate in Magistrates' Courts for the Legal Aid Commission. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered Wizard.
Read an Excerpt
A Corinna Chapman Mystery
By Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 1992 Kerry Greenwood
All rights reserved.
Four a.m. Who invented four a.m.?
I dragged myself out of bed, slapped at the alarm, thrust bare feet into slipper-wards, stood on what felt like a furry rope and was rewarded with a yowl.
Oh shit. Horatio was waiting politely at my bedside to deliver his morning greeting and I had just begun the day with a bad deed. Meroe would frown at the effect on my karma.
Of course, if Horatio didn't insist on sitting in my slippers it might cut down the number of times this happened, and the consequent karmic debt. I'll probably come back as a mouse, and that would be on my good days.
Suppressing an unworthy thought that he carefully positioned his tail so that I would stand on it and then spend ten minutes apologising to him, I spent ten minutes apologising to him—poor kitty! Did the big fat woman stomp on his innocent stripy tail? I would see if a little milk would assuage his sense of insult.
It did. While Horatio was giving the milk his reverent, devoted attention, I had time to flick on the heater, put on the coffee (without which no baker ever commences the day), survey the squalor of my small stone-flagged kitchen, shiver a bit and drag on some clothes. I tend to dress in the kitchen because there is no heating in my bedroom until the ovens come on automatically at four. I had heard the fans cut in as I shut off the alarm clock.
Not a pretty sight on a cold dark morning, a baker. Long mousy hair tied back ruthlessly. Face entirely devoid of make-up, eyes dark-ringed as a result of waking when all others are sleeping. Thin faces look skeletal at this hour, fat faces like an illustration in a textbook on forensic pathology under the heading 'adipocere.' I'm fat, so it's the adipocere for me. I grin at my reflection, finish washing my face, put on two layers of tracksuit, and toast some gourmet date and walnut bread for breakfast.
Not bad at all. Possibly a little under-sweetened. I made a note to add more honey next time I baked it.
I got into baking because I wanted to become an accountant. Bear with me—it makes sense. I was looking for a job which allowed me to attend all my lectures and the local Italian bakers gave me a job as a general hand, hours from four a.m. to nine a.m., which got me to my economics lecture almost on time, though a little floury.
As the years went on numbers became drier and baking more fascinating. It's almost an alchemical process. You combine flour, water and the plant yeast and at the end of the process you get something shiny, crunchy, aerated and delicious.
Four in the morning is a time when the mind has a tendency to run loose. Where was I? Ah, yes. I can pin down the moment when it happened. I was in the middle of a meeting about a takeover and the CEO was talking about currency fluctuations, I should have been fascinated, but all of a sudden there was a click in my mind. I didn't care. There was our client with more troubles than the Jam Tin (aka the Telstra Dome) on a bad grass day and I didn't care. Bastard had too much money anyway.
You can't be an accountant—no, you can't stay an accountant—with that sort of attitude. I left a note about cashing in my superannuation payments on my boss' desk, went home, levered off my uncomfortable shoes, tore off my bloody ridiculous suit with the padded shoulders, dragged on a tracksuit and vowed that whatever I had to do to make a living for me and Horatio, it would never involve wearing a kitten heel again. I joined the bakery full time, completing my apprenticeship. When I left Pagliacci's, Papa Toni gave me a lump of his own pasta douro dough.
It was still with me, growing happily in its bucket, fed with sugar and kept at the optimum temperature. Yeast must be nurtured. Mama Pagliacci used to talk to her yeasts. Before Horatio arrived, so did I. Now I talk to him and I hope the yeast doesn't feel slighted.
I set up this bakery, Earthly Delights (anyone heard of Hieronymus Bosch? Look at the picture on the wall next to the glass case. It can keep a queue amused for, oh, minutes), in Calico Alley in the middle of the city. I like cities. Even at four a.m. something is always stirring, though around here it is likely to be up to no good. We have a lot of junkies at this end of the city. They are the reason why my bakery has extremely expensive triple locks, bolts and stainless steel security doors. I can't afford the health risk if they break in. I'd lose a whole batch of bread if someone dropped a syringe in my mixing tub.
Yesterday's mail caught my eye, piled on the table. Mostly bills addressed to Corinna Chapman, baker. One was a strange religious tract which appeared to be accusing me of being the Scarlet Woman. Done on a computer—any madman can make a respectable looking tract in these IT days. 'The Wages of Sin Is Death' it proclaimed. Weird.
Horatio, one paw politely on my knee, was intimating that breakfast might be acceptable. I shelved the tract for later consideration. Cities breed madmen. I shook some of the dried kitty food—why do they mould it into little shapes, like fish and hearts? It can't be to amuse the cat. Horatio would eat alphabet cat food that spelled poison as long as he felt peckish. And he'd eat it out of anything. There is no need for a special bowl with cat on the side. Who else is going to eat amusingly shaped fish-flavoured biscuits with added vitamins and minerals out of a dish on the floor? Since I've grown up, I haven't any friends who would do that.
I had bread to make. I took my second cup of coffee with me down the stone stairs to the bakery. I could feel the hot air rising. Horatio would join me when he had finished breakfast. He is a gentlemanly cat and considers it impolite to hurry his food. Besides, he needs to remove every crumb from his whiskers before he steps down to meet the Mouse Police, a rough but pleasant pair, far removed from him in elegance.
Horatio is an aristocat. I occasionally feel that I am unable to meet his stringent requirements for suitable conduct in a Lady.
I walked down into the bakery and the lights flicked on, blinding me momentarily. The Mouse Police collided solidly with my ankles in their eagerness to demonstrate that they had been working hard all night and deserved extra servings of Kitty Dins.
As I counted corpses—seven mice and (erk!) eight rats, one almost as big as a kitten—I congratulated them on their excellent patrolling and laid out the food in their bowls.
Allow me to introduce them. Rodent Control Officer Heckle, on the right, a black and white extom of battered appearance, a little light on as to ears and with a curious kink in his tail. A notorious street fighter in his prime, now retired. And on the left, Rodent Control Officer Jekyll, a strong young black and white ex-female who had her litter under the mixing tub and now has no further interest in matrimony. She delivered the best right jab I had ever seen to Heckle when he swaggered too close to her kittens, and thereafter they have a relationship based less on mutual respect than on a balance of terror. I have, however, observed Heckle allowing Jekyll to lick his ears, and I once caught Heckle grooming Jekyll. When they saw me watching they both looked embarrassed. As far as I'm concerned it's meant to be old diggers together.
I got on with the mixing of the first batch of the day to the pleasant crunching of Kitty Dins and appreciative whuffling. Rye flour, sugar, sourdough yeast, water, a measure of white to make it a little lighter, on with the dough hooks and switch on the machine. My rye bread yeast is derived from a certain wild yeast, which is sour. I can sell all the rye bread I make to Eastern European restaurants.
I've got an order for Health Loaf, guaranteed free of fat.
I haven't told the buyer that unless it's a special or sweet bread there isn't any fat in bread. I don't believe that the Trade Practices Act obliges me to do so. Health Loaf is also free of gluten, which means that I need to use baking powder to get it to rise. Gluten is essential in making bread and provides much of the nutritional value as well as the taste. But there it is. The customer, as some capitalist observed, is always right. It's a reasonable deal, I suppose. They get something better than the average sawdust, and I get paid. There's really no satisfaction in making Health Loaf. Without binding elements it's crumbly and without salt, sugar or spices it's flavourless.
I think the eaters would get as much kick out of a handful of unprocessed bran and it would be cheaper too.
I remember delivering a tray of this bread to some healthy function and catching myself muttering, 'Eat sawdust and die, yuppie scum.' I probably didn't really mean it. Right, Health Loaf mixed and into tins and into the oven. Baking powder is a chemical reaction and starts as soon as the liquid is added. Speed is essential. I stacked the tins onto a slide, into the oven, timer on.
Now for the French sticks while the sawdust bricks are cooking. Pasta douro yeast, white flour, a little oil, warm water. Go, yeast. Muffins go in as soon as the sawdust comes out, another chemical reaction. I felt like apple today. Haul out the tin of apple pie filling (yes, yes, I know, but do you know how much peeling I have to do for the potato bread tomorrow?) and reach for the tin opener.
No tin opener. My hand falls confidently onto its place on the shelf and comes back empty.
Damn. I must have taken it up to my own kitchen.
I clatter up the stairs in my Doc Martens (good solid shoes are essential if you are on your feet all day, and at least they never come with a kitten heel), find the bloody thing, clatter down again, remove top layer of tracksuit, open tin.
It's really getting hot now. The ovens are into their stride. Time to open the door and greet the new dawn.
The Mouse Police rush outside with cries of relief, as though they had been trapped for days in a lift with Philip Ruddock talking about border protection. A gust of cold air rushes in. I turn off one mixer and set the rye bread on 'rise.' I prepare the muffin mix, except the milk, and pause to look out at the dawn and stretch my back.
Then Heckle leaps inside as though he had been stung. Something is stuck in his foot, he is shaking his paw frantically and mewing loudly. I grab him and extract a syringe from his paw.
Heckle immediately settles down to allow Jekyll to lick his injury and I stalk out, shaking with fury.
Junkies! Irresponsible bloody junkies. Never mind finding a sharps bin, just drop the syringe in the alley, a waiting trap for an innocent cat. I kick at the wall with a furious foot, a waste of effort, for when they built this building they built it to survive anything short of an exploding volcano. I swear into the chill grey pre-dawn light. Then I see a figure slumped on my ventilation grate. No wonder it got so hot in the kitchen with some vagrant lying on my grate! I stomp over, reach out and grab for the offending shoulder, meaning to give it a good shake and send it on its way.
It collapses bonelessly out of my grasp and falls, flat on its back. A girl, with long matted hair shifting away from her blue face. Not just a delicate azure either, but dark blue like my slate floor.
Not breathing. I run back inside, grab the mobile and call 000, get a bored voice which promises instant attention and instructs me to start CPR. Oh, Jesus Mary and Joseph. My skin tries to crawl off me and find a more compassionate human. This girl is probably riddled with diseases, AIDS, hepatitis A to Z. And she's just wounded one of my cats with her careless syringe. What a bitch life is. It's a punishment for stepping on Horatio's tail.
I still have plastic gloves on and I can use cling wrap on her mouth. I'm shuddering with revulsion as I lay her out on the cold cobbles. I punch a hole in my cling wrap, clear the airway and puff breath into her mouth. I can feel no heartbeat but I don't know where to check. I learned this at school, come on, Corinna, it's push here and then breathe, count, then push again, breathe again. There are soft lips under the plastic. She feels like a child, all bones, high rib cage, stinks like a sewer. Breathe, count, push, breathe again.
I'm dizzy. I don't know how long I can do this or whether it's working. Breathe, thump, breathe, thump. Both cats are watching me from the doorstep. Horatio joins them, looking quizzical. I see his point. I don't know why I'm doing this either. She's dead. There's not the faintest response to all my shoving and I'm using bruising force.
I can smell singeing. If I don't get those Health Loaves out of the oven in five minutes they'll catch fire. But somehow I can't leave this filthy, childlike corpse, because what would I do if I stopped? Go inside and shut the door?
Hands are on my shoulders. Someone is lifting me to my feet. I stagger up and see, blessings upon them, a pair of ambulance officers who look like they know just what they are doing.
So I drag in a deep breath—I get to keep this one—go inside and haul the loaves out of the oven. They are slightly more crisp than usual but I'm sure the taste-challenged won't notice. I find my cold coffee and drink it and the red mist recedes from my eyes. At school no one told me that CPR required Olympic levels of fitness.
Then I go outside to see what has happened. I don't want to. I just do.
The paramedics have attached an oxygen mask to the girl's face and are injecting her with something. I ask what.
'Narcan,' says one. 'You did a good job, but it might be too late. The respiratory system shuts down, see, and starves the brain of oxygen. We get a lot of brain damage. But narcan cancels out the effect of opiates. Works fast. Right. Back away, lady. They usually wake up cross. Here we go, Jules.'
Julie, his mate, had the girl by both arms, a constabulary come-along-o'-me grip which immobilises quite well. She needed it. The girl came up from her deathly trance screaming and bucking like a frightened beast. It was astounding. One minute she had been utterly still, pulseless and breathless, and the next she was struggling like a fish on a hook. Colour flushed her face. Pink, for a girl, not blue, for a corpse.
'Cunts!' she shrieked in an accent which I'd always heard associated with the best schools. 'You narcanned me! I only had one hit! Gimme back my hit!'
'Could have been your last hit,' said Julie, holding her tightly. 'You took too much. Take a breath, now.'
'They're always like that,' observed the ambulance man, who must have seen how shocked I was. 'You did good there. M'names Thommo. Nice to meet yer.' We shook plastic gloves. He lit a cigarette. I suppose we all have our drug of choice. I took one of his smokes, though I stopped smoking three years ago. It tasted divine. Thommo continued my education. 'Druggies mostly react like this. Don't let it worry yer. From her point of view, we robbed her. Now she's got to go and hustle for another hit. Lucky we're not in the job for the gratitude,' he added. 'You want to come into casualty,' he advised the girl. 'Get a doctor to look at you.'
'Yes, come on,' urged Julie. 'You were pretty close to the edge, you know. Can you tell me your name?'
'Fuck off, cunt,' said the patient.
'Come on,' said Thommo. 'We haven't got all day.'
'No!' screamed the girl, struggling so hard that she broke Julie's grip. She staggered to her feet, unbalanced on one broken stiletto.
'Working girl,' said Julie. 'They don't want to miss out on a paying client by going to hospital.'
'I'm not,' shrieked the patient, hands out, fingers curved into claws.
'Hey, Suze,' said a deep, rich voice, as casually as if he had met her in the street at lunch hour, instead of confronting a screaming hysterical dervish in a back alley at five in the morning. 'What's happening?'
A man had strolled into Calico Alley, walking over the hard damp cobbles without making a sound. He was tall, with close-cropped dark hair, a scar across his forehead, and the most penetrating, bright and beautiful eyes I had ever seen. He was dressed in jeans, boots and a leather jacket lined with fleece.
'These cunts want to send me to hospital!' Suze replied, moderating her tone. I wondered how many of my exceptionally respectable neighbours were even now listening fascinated from their bedroom windows above. Usually the only noise in Calico Alley at that hour was the muted hum of my machines and the occasional squeak as the Mouse Police made another arrest.
Excerpted from Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood. Copyright © 1992 Kerry Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Book One of a wonderful mystery series. Kerry Greenwood also writes the wonderful Phyrne Fisher mystery series. If you liked Charlaine Harris in her earlier years of writing, I think you'll like this series as well. Kerry Greenwood is a much better writer!
In Flinders Lane in Melbourne Australia, there is an architecturally, interesting building based on the roman design named Insular. It is home to Corinna Chapman, a Junoesque woman who owns a bakery Earthly Delights on the ground level. Each apartment has a roman name and their inhabitants are an eclectic quirky bunch that includes techno geeks, a dominatrix and a female witch. It is a peaceful place until the flyers start coming to the tenants claiming it is home to a temptress, whore or witch. The person goes from sending flyers to painting graffiti to attempted arson.---------------------- While Corinna is very concerned about this, she is dealing with other troubles. She saved the life of a heroin addict who almost died near her door. She meets Daniel, a man of mystery, who is concerned that people are dying from heroin because they are given it in its purest form. She meets Jason, a recovering addict who attaches herself to her, helps her with her baking and is the key to finding the clue that will let them discover who is behind the junkie¿s deaths. Corinna also is thrilled to realize that the handsome Daniel is in love with her even though she is not a size five----------------------------- The Corinna Chapman mysteries are nothing like the Phryne Fisher tales because the women are different as the latter is comfortable in all settings while the former struggles when somewhat outside her norm. The heroine of EARTHLY DELIGHTS is a determined woman who chooses her own path and takes risks on people that most individuals will avoid. Although there is very little action, this tale is a pleasurable interesting reading experience with mysteries great and small----------------------- Harriet Klausner
cosy-mystery, ex-military, law-enforcement, wannabes, amateur-sleuth, Australia, murder, situational-humor, verbal-humor I read the last book in series first, and now want to know everything about the quirky characters, the very retro apartment building, and the Mouse Police! Great plot with lots of unexpected twists and suspense. The depiction of the drug scene and small group efforts to help are so very timely, so too the alternative Goth scene, pedophiles, and the positive aspects of Wicca. But it's also very funny. I loved it! Louise Siverson is absolutely amazing as the voice performer!
Absolutely Enjoyable! Enjoyed it. Have read the author's Phryne Fisher series and now enjoy both. Very different but a fun cozy.
Corinna is the baker and propritress of Earthly Delights in Melbourne. She (mostly) enjoyes getting up at 4 a.m. to bake bread for local restraunts and her own shop. Being up so early gives her a slightly different perspective on the local scene. Her part of Melborne has always had it's share of junkies and derelicts, but when one of her mouse catching cats comes into the bakery with a syringe stuck in his paw and Corinna finds an unconscious girl on her grate she knows that this is something out of the ordinary. Before long she finds herself employing a detoxing junkie as kitchen swab, volunteering bread and her time on the Soup Run to feed the city's homeless, and teaming up with a mysterious, but oh so sexy hunk named Daniel to discover who is poisioning Melbourne's junkies. At the same time, the women in her apartment house are under attack from poison pen letters. They are all receiving slightly blurry missives calling them harlots and scarlet women and threatening their lives. It's more than one baker can stand so Corinna decides to put a stop to it. Once and for all.
And the apartment/stores complex where she lives above the bakery add the condos residents to the mix and you can settle down to a satisfying read of a rather large gal who enjoys baking and eating her own bread can she find romance when she has to get up before dawn to start her bread rising? who is up then? A handsome soldier of fortune who has seen too many starving people and appreciates a softig lady with a thriving business and a past with finance. Who is trying to buy their condos and kick them out of house and store front?
There are too many sad tails of drugs and murder these days. This is not the Phryne Fisher historical novel that Kerry Greenwood is known for. Phryne is a smart, fun loving, mischievous, lady crime solver of the 1920's. Most of the many Phryne stories are well researched with lots of interesting twists and turns, a good supporting cast of charataers, and great settings. Corinna Chapman is a fat baker with good intentions. The setting is interesting. Some of the characters are good. But the modern storyline has been worn out by what seems like hundreds of other authors. Greenwood's character Chapman claims not to listen to the "news" with its standard lineup of drugs, murder, and one sad story after another. Yet that pretty much sums up all the modern murder mysteries. Let's see who can write the saddest tail. Too bad Phryne Fisher has gotten so tired.
This is the frst book that I have read by Greenwood, and I will be back for more. Terrific characters, and a wonderful protagonist. Plus, recipes! Highly recommended to fans of Madelyn Alt, and cozy mysteries everywhere. -- lyradora
Without spoilers I can't clarify the poor rating.
To aussie land and not outback but a city with good bread and an apartment building worthy of rear window only fancier the supporting cast provides humor and all the cats have a history and a place in the plot plus a terrible little mop head dog i have read all and now i am buying them on nook one by one and have four took almonds and raisins by title mistake mom
I have now read ALL of Ms Greenwood's books, both the Corrinna Chapman series and my personal favorites The Phryne Fisher series. I have seldom enjoyed an authors style as much as this one. All the mysteries are based in Australia, for those fussy readers who think the grammar is American English. Simply pleasurable reading!
My first book by this author. I loved the heroine and the mystery. Great quick read. I plan to buy more from this author.
If you like baking especially in Italian style, this book is for you. A quick read, but was disappointed in all of the grammatical errors. Over all a good one!
To Elements academy! You can join at result two. Please leave age description and element u control. Please don't post here. Result three is where u can train and chat. Result four is the mess hall. The elements you can control are ice, wind, storm, spirit, fire, earth, water, and light. Your dorms for elements are in the same order as the elements above starting at result five. Btw im not the headermaster. Thank u!- Raven weilder of earth.