UPCOMING: "Pirate Latitudes" by Michael Crichton (Harper, $27.99, 320; Nov. 24): The manuscript for this book was found in Crichton's files after his death in 2008. The adventure is about pirates in the New World.
"Fatally Flaky" by Diane Mott Davidson; Morrow (336 pages, $25.99)
Diane Mott Davidson has become the queen of the culinary mystery, and her 15th novel showcases her plotting and characterization skills. For the record, Davidson's recipes equal her plotting; I still use her stovetop chocolate souffle from "Dying for Chocolate."
In "Fatally Flaky," Davidson's Colorado caterer Goldy Schulz has been hired to prepare a wedding reception for a bridezilla. A local physician's death is linked to a town scandal, insists Jack Carmichael, Goldy's godfather. Is all this because of the secrets at a high-end spa?
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Davidson's novels have become fan favorites because of her attention to characters and plotting. Goldy started as a new divorcee escaping an abusive marriage from a prominent doctor, showing that domestic violence could happen in the best of homes. Her now happy home life, strong marriage and relationship with her son have added new dimensions to this beloved, entertaining series as "Fatally Flaky" shows.
"Cream Puff Murder" by Joanne Fluke; Kensington (320 pages, $24)
Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen novels act as the wonderful little sister of Diane Mott Davidson's series. Hannah is a baker, specializing in cookies in Lake Eden, Minn., and in this 11th outing, she is forced to go on a diet and start working out at a gym. But the body of a fitness instructor found in the club's Jacuzzi may put a stop to that nonsense. The trainer was disliked by just about everyone who frequented the gym well - the women, anyway. The men had a different opinion.
Fluke's trademark of eccentric characters gets a sweet workout. The 22 original dessert recipes make "Cream Puff Murder" even sweeter.
Fluke will have two novels this year. Look for "Plum Pudding Murder" to be released in time for the holidays.
"The Battered Body" by J.B. Stanley; Midnight Ink (302 pages, $13.95)
When the Flab Five get together, it is supposed to be for dieting, but good food just keeps getting in the way in the charming Supper Club Mysteries set in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.
Librarian James Henry and his four friends are a motley crew with distinct personalities who have found a refuge in their gatherings. J.B. Stanley's fifth novel in this series continues to combine the culinary mystery with the village mystery. Recipes fit the tone of the book; each chapter begins with the calorie count of the recipe that's at its end.
In "The Battered Body," an arrogant celebrity chef is killed while making a wedding cake. The suspects include just about anyone who ever met her, as James and his buddies find.
Stanley's light approach works in "The Battered Body," but the author also frosts each novel with an insightful look at how people form relationships and how sometimes families have nothing to do with blood relations.
"The Chocolate Cupid Killings" by Joanna Carl; Obsidian (230 pages, $21.95)
Joanna Carl's novels about chocolatier Lee McKinney balance a light approach with dark undertones - much like superior chocolate. Carl's novels can be addictive to chocoholics, especially those of us who like that bit of darkness.
Carl's 10th novel in this series finds Lee, the business manager of TenHuis Chocolade, and her aunt Nettie TenHuis, the store's owner, working with an underground railway that helps abused women. Lee and Nettie are put in danger when a private detective trying to find one of the women is murdered.
"The Chocolate Cupid Killings" moves at a brisk pace. Instead of recipes, Carl gives chocolate trivia and history.
- Oline H. Cogdill, South Florida Sun Sentinel