All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Popeye Murder by Sandra Winter-Dewhirst

on March 15, 2018

The Popeye Murder
Sandra Winter-Dewhirst
Wakefield Press
2018 (originally 2015), 211p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Rebecca wondered if she was looking at an elaborate hoax. She wasn’t.

Along with a dozen other journalists and food-industry celebrities, she had just witnessed the unveiling of the baked head of one of Adelaide’s most celebrated chefs. The head of Leong Chew sat on a pewter platter. The cloche had just been removed, revealing Leong Chew, clearly not at his best.

As editor of Taste, the food and wine liftout of Adelaide’s daily newspaper, Rebecca Keith has a life of long lunches and social engagements. That is, until one of the city’s most respected chefs is found murdered.

Caught up in a criminal investigation, and having to report on it as well, Rebecca comes face-to-face with a host of suspects – and the charming Detective Inspector Gary Jarvie. The murderer is on the loose, though, and Rebecca doesn’t realise how much danger she’s in.

This sounded very promising and it opens in fantastic fashion. Rebecca has a pretty sweet job, editing a food and wine supplement and is probably on the guest list at every prestigious Adelaide food event. I’ve never been to Adelaide before but it’s reputation for things food and wine is steadily escalating. The Barossa has long been the producers of some very good wines but the food is starting to gain traction too (who hasn’t watched Maggie Beer wax lyrical about the produce?).

I thought the mystery in this book was really good – the head of a very well known chef served up on a (literal) platter at an event. I was a bit less into the descriptions of said head. The word succulent should probably never be used to describe someone’s severed head, I don’t care how well it’s been roasted. But it’s a clever drawn in and I was interested from the very start. A dramatic opening is always a good way to start a crime novel and this seemed, at first glance, to tick all the boxes.

But there’s no denying that there were some negatives. Firstly, I like cooking shows and I like foodie books but the descriptions of food and meals got to drag a bit, even for me. There’s a lot of drinking, too. This is not a long book, only just over 200p and a lot of it seems bogged down with superfluous detail, such as every outfit Rebecca (and all of the other characters) wear throughout the entire story. There’s also the beginnings of a romance but it feels really awkward and a bit forced at this stage. Both Rebecca and Gary, her cop love interest need to get a grip. The section that delves into greyhound racing is so riddled with inaccuracies and a complete lack of understanding of what actually happens at a greyhound meeting and so much else, I could barely read it. It’s also relatively offensive (ableist slurs) and the bikie connection wasn’t exactly imaginative. I actually found that section really random, like the author just dislikes it and decided to include it via a very tenuous connection to the murder of Leong Chow. It really added nothing to the story.

Because of Rebecca’s proximity to what’s going on (she is there when the head is unveiled and also is involved in the discovery of a second body) her editor has her write some colour pieces for the paper, such as what it’s like to be in the middle of a murder investigation, to be a sort-of suspect, etc. I like that Rebecca had such an interesting job and her editor had faith in her to move to a completely different sort of journalism. She seems very capable, quite no nonsense. She isn’t freaked out by the severed head really, nor other things that occur. You get the feeling that Rebecca gets things done – she still takes care to check on her supplement, even when she’s working on writing other articles, making sure that it’s being presented the way that she wants it to be.

I felt as though this story had a lot of promise – it was better when it kept to focusing on the mystery and wasn’t going off on the odd tangent. It felt a bit like there was a red herring or two inserted but both were not really the sort that made you actually take them seriously. I have the second book in the series as well and I’ll be reading it so I’ll see how that is. The second book is always an important one I think, it lets you know whether or not some of the little kinks in the first have been ironed out or whether or not they are going to be a part of each book going forward. This was a quick read with a main character that could carry a series easily. For me, there just needs to be less…..stuff. Less padding, more actual story.


Book #47 of 2018


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