Grad student and food connoisseur Chloe Carter has had more success navigating the gastronomic treasures of Boston than finding love. And when murders are linked to upscale restaurants, she must use all her culinary and investigative expertise to solve the cases.
Steamed: Chloe meets Eric, her online match, at a five-star restaurant. But before dessert is even served he’s found dead in the men’s room. Suddenly, Chloe is plunged into the cutthroat world of trendy restaurants and murder investigations. Along the way she connects with a sexy chef—but is he Eric’s killer?
Simmer Down: Chloe’s dishy boyfriend, Josh Driscoll, has just landed his dream job as executive chef at the new restaurant Simmer. As he preps for a New Year’s Eve grand opening, Chloe hooks him up with Food for Thought, an annual charity fundraiser. Everything is going perfectly—until murder makes a late addition to the menu.
Turn Up the Heat: Having an executive chef boyfriend guarantees Chloe the best table at Simmer, Boston’s hottest new restaurant, any night of the week. So when the body of one of Simmer’s waitresses is found dead in a seafood delivery truck and expensive cooking equipment goes missing, Chloe is on the case.
About the Author
Susan Conant graduated from Radcliffe College and has a doctorate in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The author of twenty mystery novels and two short stories featuring Holly Winter and her Alaskan malamutes, Conant is an eight-time winner of the Dog Writers Association of America Maxwell Medallion. Conant’s dog mysteries have been legally translated into German, Swedish, Finnish, and Japanese, as well as pirated by a Russian publisher. She has published one mystery for cat lovers, Scratch the Surface; two nonfiction books; and has collaborated with her daughter, Jessica Conant-Park, on the Gourmet Girl culinary mysteries. Conant and her husband live near Boston with their Chartreux cats and their Shetland sheepdog.
Read an Excerpt
On Saturday morning I woke up at eight, poured a nasty cup of coffee that had automatically brewed itself at 5:00 a.m. instead of the programmed time of 8:00 a.m., and plopped myself at my kitchen table to do some early morning people watching out the window. I sipped my coffee-sludge and peered down at the street. My hope was to catch sight of some miserable soul ambling home after a night of drinking or to witness a minor car accident followed by entertaining screaming and swearing. The good thing about my neighborhood in Brighton, Massachusetts, was the excellent opportunity it afforded me to spy on my neighbors from the safety of my apartment.
Just yesterday I'd enjoyed a good fifteen minutes of bantering among three college kids attempting to move a massive seventies-style couch through their building's small entryway, a space that was clearly too narrow to accommodate the gigantic sofa. After much debating and tilting of the couch at varying angles, the group made one final and admirably collegiate attempt to move the beast into the apartment. The effort, which involved bungee cords and ropes, was aimed at hauling the monstrosity up the side of the building and through a window. This misguided, if entertaining, plan failed. I later saw the couch on the curb with a pleading note written on cardboard, Please Take Me Away, and one of the students passed out on the cushions, gripping a bottle of Jack Daniel's. Higher education in Boston had officially begun for the year.
Unfortunately, there was no activity this morning. Most of my college neighbors were sleeping it off on this Labor Day weekend, but since I was about to start my graduate studies, I felt obliged to behave like an adult and not spend most of the term in a drunken state while pretending to attend class and do schoolwork. I glanced through my Welcome to Boston City Graduate School of Social Work folder with the pointless abbreviation BCGSSW scrawled over every enthusiastic page. "Welcome, Chloe Carter," the first letter began. There followed a tediously detailed breakdown of this Tuesday's orientation, which ran from 8:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Right, like I was going to make it through an entire day of what would turn out to be a team of bright-eyed social work doctoral students leading mobs of us through soul-baring "trust falls" and, as the brochure promised, opportunities to "share our personal stories," especially those that would lead us to "develop social work skills based on an understanding of the impact and influence of socioeconomic, biochemical, familial, and racial factors on mental health and social policy."
The welcome packet went on to assure me that I'd be given the chance to explore my own racist attitudes and the contributions I had made to the downfall of our society. The hour and a half allotted to lunch was supposed to afford me the chance to socialize and thus to begin developing relationships with my fellow students. And most of all, as luck would have it, I was informed that I would be learning to take many "proactive" approaches in my work over the next two years. Quick learner that I am, I immediately embarked on my very first act of proactivity by vowing never, ever to utter the word proactive aloud — and damn the consequences, which would probably include getting kicked out of social work school for my blatant failure to demonstrate fluency in the language of political correctness. Many students, I read, were eager participants in coalitions and committees that sent representatives to legislative meetings and protests at the State House. I could pretty much guarantee that I'd do whatever I could to avoid any sort of participation in any of those horrible-sounding groups. As liberal and feminist as I was in many ways, I was not someone who enjoyed engaging in overt displays of my political views.
The letter ended with a "personal" invitation from the president of the school to drop by his office any old time to discuss how my year was progressing. I considered dropping by his office to say that after reading the welcome packet, I was not all that interested in attending BCGSSW. In fact, I was doing so only to get my inheritance from my late and loony Uncle Alan, whose will contained the following moronic clause: "If Chloe Carter wants her inheritance, she must complete a master's degree program in any field this fine young lady selects." The will granted me a moderate monthly stipend during my years of graduate school hell — my term, not the will's — and a lump sum should I actually manage to graduate. When I'd read through the packet, it became clear that social work was a less than ideal choice for me. But I had always enjoyed my undergraduate studies in psychology, and social work wasn't that far off. And it was only two years of school. So, when Uncle Alan died last winter and I was forced to pick something to pretend to study for a few years, I did minimal research into choices, decided I liked helping people, and impulsively applied to this program.
Now here I was, faced with phrases like "social policy," "victims of a capitalist society," and "disenfranchised youth." Not that these weren't important issues; I just didn't want to be trained as some militant avenger of world evil. I'd simply have to avoid courses that focused on anything cosmic, global, or political. But when I examined the class schedule I'd been sent, I found it jammed with required classes, including Global Perspectives on Social Welfare, Peace, and Justice; and U.S. Public Policy Through the Eyes of the Social Worker. As far as I was concerned, the word eyes did not belong in a course title — except maybe in Ophthalmology and Therapy? At least I'd gotten into Psychopathology and Deviant Behavior, a course that should be full of juicy details about personality disorders and behavioral problems — I loved that stuff.
So I continued to drink my thick and bitter coffee and plan my day. I definitely had to do laundry and dishes, but my Saturday was otherwise pretty free. I hoped to meet up tonight with my downstairs neighbor, Noah Bishop. It is a bad idea to date a neighbor, but it is really a bad idea to date someone who lives in your building, especially when you aren't even dating but engaging in some sort of weird, undefined (I hesitate to say) relationship that is mostly built around occasional sex. So, of course, that's what I'd been doing with Noah. And since we lived in an old house converted into condos, the floors creaked and all the tenants could hear who was coming and going, and when and with whom. Noah and I had agreed that we'd be up front if we were sleeping with other people. Well, truth be told, I had said that we would be up front, and Noah had made a vague remark about not wanting a relationship now or some such stupid thing that men say so that they don't have to limit their carousing. But desperate for any hint of that boyfriend feeling, I let slide his comments about the need for freedom and not wanting to be exclusive. In other words, I managed not to hear what he was saying. He clearly wasn't long-term material, but since no one else had come along in quite a while and since there was the convenience of only having to walk down a flight of stairs for a thrill, I went ahead and ignored all the monumental warnings that this was an idiotic pursuit. I'd just enjoy a little fling with no regard for the inevitability of disaster.
And Noah was enjoying a fling, too. Just not one with me. Or not only with me, as indicated by the damned bleach blonde in a tight red tank top who was making her way out of our building. Following her was a shirtless Noah. He walked her across the street to her white BMW and planted a quick kiss on her lips as she started the car. I glanced down at my poor little silver Saturn Ion coupe, which I'd been so proud of leasing a few weeks before. Next to her luxury car, it now seemed pathetic. The lovers exchanged a few parting words, inaudible to me, and that sleazy Noah swaggered back toward our house. The pair of shorts he'd tossed on after his fun fest didn't do much to cover his morning glee. Bastard! He knew I lived upstairs. He knew I could see the street from my condo. I was seething. And mortified and ashamed. According to our undefined and open agreement, Noah had been allowed to do whatever he wanted with whatever tacky woman he wanted. It just hadn't seemed to be a real possibility. Why had he needed that twit last night when I'd been right upstairs watching the Discovery Channel until midnight? God, I'd been so dumb. So stupid. I just didn't realize that men existed outside the FOX network who actually behaved in this stereotypical Playboy fashion. And now I was the stereotype of the girl who thinks she has enticed a reluctant guy into monogamy.
I felt sick to my stomach as I debated the question of who was the bigger dope, Noah or I? I claimed the honor for myself. Idiot Suave downstairs had been the honest one; like some clever lawyer, he'd made the statements required to retain his legal right to go off skirt-chasing whenever he so desired. Jerk! I, on the other hand, had made a poor attempt to convince myself that I didn't care what Noah did when he wasn't with me. I mean, I'd gone to college, for Christ's sake; I wasn't naive. Or was I? I was in the sense that I hadn't counted on Noah's fooling around with anyone else. And I'd missed the possibility that he'd bring someone back to our building and, in essence, parade his female captive in front of me. Unfortunately for me, and probably for eighty or a hundred other women, the hitch was that he was pretty hot.
I'd first met Noah last spring, a few weeks after he'd moved into his second-floor condo. I'd been out on my deck (okay, fire escape) watering my plants when my cat, Gato, had managed to push open the screen door and jet down the steps. I'd made a feeble effort to follow but knew it was a fruitless pursuit. When Gato escaped, he typically waited until sundown to return. Since I was on the second-floor landing and still clutching my watering can, I decided to water the one droopy and unidentifiable plant the new neighbor had placed on the railing. I'd caught only a glimpse of him from my window as he'd stood supervising his movers, but he'd looked attractive and, from my bird's-eye view, I could see that he wasn't balding or gray haired, and was thus more suitable for me than for AARP. So I was watering Noah's plant, as a good neighbor should, when his screen door opened and that sexy mouth of his appeared and said, "I didn't know a gardening service came with the condo fees."
"This isn't really gardening," I'd replied. "This is called 'neighborly watering to prevent death' and is free of charge."
That was the beginning of my spiral into sexual idiocy. The verbal flirtations soon progressed into physical flirtations, a touch here and there, until the night we rented Daredevil. As Ben Affleck began his ludicrous transformation into his superhero persona, Noah and I started a foolish liaison that would end with the bleach blonde and her BMW. With his dark hair and green eyes and the muscled body that he showed off by always wearing as few clothes as possible, Noah provided compelling relief from the dry spell I'd been going through. I'm a sucker for a good-looking guy, but who isn't? Although charming and flirtatious, he had a style that I was pretty sure he'd copied from primetime television shows. All in all, although Noah was an undesirable boyfriend, he was a sexy guy. And he lived a flight down from me.
And we did have fun. We cooked romantic dinners together. Well, truth be told, I would make chicken simmered with fresh vegetables, wine, and herbs, and Noah would add a tablespoon of butter to the rice pilaf mix and ask the names of the strange ingredients I'd used. "That's called thyme," I'd explain. "This is a mango." Food savvy he was not. Although he usually ate whatever I cooked, he exhibited minimal gastronomic satisfaction with my meals. But the illusion of romantic dinners was there, I suppose. It was for me.
We went to the movies and walked to local wine shops to pick out bottles with the most artistic labels we could find — activities usually reserved for couples actually dating. So, although Noah said he didn't want a girlfriend, he acted as if maybe I'd be the exception to that rule. And maybe he was protecting himself because he'd had his poor heart broken so many times before. And I bought that crap, by which I mean his phony charm and my rationalizations.
I can see why I fell. Take the time we went to the grand opening of the Trader Joe's grocery store up the street from our place. ("Our place" always sounded as if we actually lived together.) The store was packed with fabulous frozen health-conscious meals, gourmet sauces and chutneys, aromatic coffees, and miniature bamboo plants. Noah and I browsed the aisles together, but we got into separate lines for the registers. In retrospect, I realize that Noah was so uncommitted to me that he didn't even want us to be seen as a couple waiting in line together. Then there was the time I cajoled him into coming with me to my parents' house to pick up an air conditioner. When my father innocently suggested that we all have dinner together, I believe Noah momentarily stopped breathing.
But back to Trader Joe's.
"Noah," I called over to him, "look what I found! Frozen gyoza!" This to a person who couldn't tell Japanese dumplings from Chef Boyardee ravioli and would have preferred the taste of the latter.
Noah looked innocently around at the customers in his line and then turned those green eyes on me. "Ma'am? You found some purchases you like? You've had a nice shopping experience?"
"Look," I continued, "and a bag of dried papaya!"
"I'm not sure who she is, but I'm glad she's so enthusiastic about this store," he stage-whispered to the elderly woman ahead of him.
"Noah, stop it!" I laughed. "Don't pretend you don't know me!"
We developed a small audience, smiling at the playfulness of the young, happy couple. And so it continued for a few moments, Noah pretending I was some lunatic shopper raving about her finds, and me insisting to those around us that he did, in fact, know me and that, no, I didn't typically shout about the joys of white-chocolate-covered pretzels to strangers. But it was fun and flirtatious and felt good, as if two weeks into our affair we were safe and secure enough to play around like this. I totally overlooked the significant feature of the episode, which was the boring barrenness of Noah's shopping cart. One bunch of bananas and a box of cereal? I should have run.
I hadn't. I was now facing the consequences, which, on this Saturday morning, consisted of shame, guilt, anger, embarrassment, and feelings of such inadequacy that I felt a desperate, impulsive desire to bleach my red hair to white blonde, begin regular tanning sessions at our local QuickTan, and trade my Saturn up for a BMW I couldn't possibly afford. But I decided I must stick to the rule of not doing anything drastic when in distress. I didn't want to leave my apartment because Noah might see me, and I didn't want to stay in my apartment because Noah might stop by. I will never sleep with any neighbors, I will never sleep with any neighbors, I repeated to myself. I am not going to cry, and I am not going to care!
But I did impulsively call up my friend Daniel.
"Chloe, it's too early," he mumbled in an I'm-still-asleep voice. "Call me back later."
"It's an emergency!" I pleaded.
"Nobody has emergencies at eight thirty on Saturday morning. Go away."
"No, listen! I need your help."
Daniel had had a serious girlfriend for over a year, but after explaining this morning's events, I demanded that he come over and make out with me in front of the condo building. We'd slept together before, so I didn't see the harm in a little kissing. Actually, we were each other's backup person in case of a dry spell. In fact, I'd probably slept with Daniel more than with anyone else — meaning little sleep and rarely a bed. The front entryway to his apartment building, a parking garage at two a.m., and an empty football field? Yes. A bed? No. And as much as we liked having sex, we never got it together to actually get involved. But somehow we had managed to stay friends. And right now I wanted him to be a good friend and help me out of this humiliating situation with Noah.
"I'm not getting out of bed to come make out with you. The guy sounds like a prick. And, besides, I can't. What about Shelly? I don't think she'd exactly be thrilled."
"Just explain it to her! She'll understand!" I practically screamed at him. "It's not real kissing. It's helping-out-your-friend kissing. Revenge kissing, we'll call it. And maybe a little groping, like I've been having another man on the side the whole time?"
Daniel gave a simultaneous sigh and laugh. "I'm sorry, Chloe. I'd help you if I could, but I can't."
"I'd do it for you!" I slammed down the phone, furious, flopped on my bed, and pictured Noah's face as he looked out his window and saw me entwined in a passionate frenzy with a mystery man. He'd probably just nod with approval, the jerk.
I called my sister, Heather, who didn't hear a word I said because her three-year-old, Walker, and her two-month-old, Lucy, were both wailing. In the background, her husband, Ben, was saying something about orange-colored poop. Over the family noise, she did seem to understand who was calling and shouted that she'd call me back.
Excerpted from "The Gourmet Girl Mysteries Volume One"
Copyright © 2008 Susan Conant and Jessica Conant-Park.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.
Table of Contents
Turn Up the Heat,
Preview: Fed Up,
About the Authors,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Title: The Gourmet Girl Mysteries Volume One - Steamed, Simmer Down, and Turn Up the Heat Author: Jessica Conant-Park & Susan Conant Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media Published: 7-11-2017 Pages: 649 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub-Genre: Culinary Mystery; Amateur Sleuths; Culinary Mystery ISBN: 9781504047074 ASIN: B0732LF6C9 Reviewed For NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media Reviewer: DelAnne Rating: 4.25 Stars This trio of books released in one volume are reissue of the first three books in the series originally released in 2015. A fast paced read that can be savored over days rather than all in one entire afternoon. Chloe Carter is a likable and believable character even if it does seem she is tripping over murder scenes more than any other grad student ever known. She handles situations with calmness and uses her keen insight to find the killer. The authors keep readers guessing. Food lovers will enjoy the different food descriptions as well. Not to mention the delicious recipes included. My rating of "The Gourmet Girl Mysteries Volume One - Steamed, Simmer Down, and Turn Up the Heat" is 4.25 out of 5 stars.
A wonderful set of books filled with charismatic and witty characters, the Gourmet Girl series will leave you hungering for more. The writing is clean and the plots are skillfully written. If you enjoy food this is the series for you, it's filled with a plethora of recipes that will have you picking up a pan and wanting to join in on all the cooking. I would definitely recommend this series to those who love a mystery filled with food, fun, and a dash of danger.