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Tea Time

An interview with culinary mystery writer Diane Mott Davidson

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Culinary mystery writer Diane Mott Davidson was so enthralled with the movie Shakespeare in Love, she saw it 14 times. Because of her fascination with that era, she decided to place her protagonist, Goldy Schulz, Aspen Meadows' premiere caterer, in a Tudor kitchen. It's only natural, then, that mystery lovers should brew up a pot of Earl Grey tea, bake up a batch of currant-laden Castle Scones (recipe on page 12), and settle down in your English chintz-- covered wing-tip chair for a fun and entertaining read.

Sticks and Scones is the 10th Goldy Bear Schulz saga. Goldy lives in Aspen Meadows, happily married to Tom, her homicide detective husband. She dotes on her gangling son, Arch, who's now 14 years old, and she has an exclusive catering gig, an Elizabethan banquet in a Gothic Chapel on an English estate owned by nouveau riche millionaires Eliot and Sukie Hyde.

The plot begins to boil late one evening when Goldy is awakened by mysterious noises outside her home at 4 o'clock in the morning. Suddenly the living room picture window is shot out. Husband Tom is away, so Goldy calls the sheriff. Neighbors pound on the door and enter armed with two pistols and two rifles. Goldy pauses to realize how grateful she is to live in Colorado where one of the signs on her street proclaims "Neighborhood Watch: This Street Protected by Colts."

As Goldy parks her catering van next to Hyde Chapel the next morning, she pauses to gaze at Cottonwood Creek. As she draws closer to the creek she notices a bloated, bruised body face down in the icy waters.

Thus Diane Mott Davidson begins her newest adventure with our protagonist not only determined to solve the murder of the bloated body, but the puzzle of who shot out the window of the family residence, as well as other mysteries that emerge as we dip into this tantalizing drama as thickly laden with a multitude of ingredients as Shakespeare's Steak and Pie (recipe on page 220).

Diane Mott Davidson lives in Evergreen, Colo. with her husband and three sons.

Indy: What brought about the idea of putting Goldy in an Elizabethan setting?

DMD: Since I had seen Shakespeare in Love and was so intrigued with that era, my editor suggested it might be a good setting for the next Goldy whodunit. As I began researching Elizabethan recipes, I became so interested in the period, I traveled to England and visited castles and was even fortunate enough to visit the Tudor kitchen at Hampton Court. It was there I met Julie Cullen, who is in charge of catering for all the castles in the National Trust. I was very fortunate to have her guidance and acquired many authentic recipes. Although Americans would not enjoy this English fare such as carp, mutton, boar, peacock, larks, eels and sprats, I wondered how Goldy would incorporate these Elizabethan dishes into her menus. And that initiated me into thinking what would Goldy do in this setting and what would she cook. So as usual, Goldy and I communicated via letter. That is how I learn about what Goldy thinks. She loved the idea of experimenting with these dishes in a Tudor kitchen.

Indy: Goldy is extremely proactive in this book and seems to be more in the midst of the violent action. She is beaten up, scalded and shot at. She seems to be taking more risks and assigning Julian, her assistant, more of the catering tasks. Can you expound on why she is placed in more dangerous situations in this particular mystery?

DMD: Tom, Goldy's husband, has always been Goldy's mainstay, but with him out of commission with a bullet hole through his shoulder, Goldy has to take the initiative and be the protector. It isn't that she is doing less of the planning and cooking for the feasts; it's simply that she wants to be and has to be a greater source of strength at this time. She feels it's her turn.

Indy: Even though Goldy takes a stronger stance in this mystery, she also seems to be developing a more spiritual side. Do you agree?

DMD: When Goldy discovers the labyrinth in Hyde chapel and what it means to walk the labyrinth, you do see a further development of her spiritual side. When I was doing research for the book, I went to France and visited Chartres Cathedral. When you are in the presence of those spires and soaring buttress and then walk the oldest labyrinths in the world, you cannot come away from that setting without growing spiritually.

Indy: What's next for Goldy?

DMD: I've become very interested in compulsive behavior. Perhaps it has evolved from Goldy's catering and delving into compulsive eating. But as I researched addictions, I moved a little further and focused on compulsive shopping. I've explored advertising and how it promotes addictive shopping. Believe it or not, our malls are now considered our modern cathedrals by many. But for some people, shopping has become a very destructive pastime. In fact, if you go to Park Meadows, the retailers have instituted special days for free-spending shoppers. The most active purchasers receive treats and relax in luxurious shopping lounges. Goldy's next setting will be as a caterer in one of these lounges.

Betty Howard is a freelance book reviewer and a paralegal for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, a profession that whets her appetite for mystery.

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