Sally Andrews created a most unusual protagonist in Tannie Maria in last year’s Recipes for Love and Murder. The sequel is just as captivating–perhaps even more so–with The Satanic Mechanic, filled with eccentric characters, a budding romance, and an interesting mystery. Set in South Africa’s Klein Karoo, the landscape becomes a character all its own. Here’s the author on a bench in the Karoo:
Photo by Andrea Nixon
Mixing Tannie Maria’s recipes with her love and advice column, the woman uses food as a means to help others solve their issues for the local Gazette. The South African Klein Karoo comes alive under Andrews talented writing, as Maria inexplicably finds herself investigating another murder, to the chagrin of Henk Kannemeyer, the detective with whom she is trying to build a relationship.
When Slimkat, a local Bushman activist, is poisoned in her presence, Tannie Maria feels a responsibility to become involved, despite Henk’s warning. She’s seen something in his eyes, something primal that speaks to her as much as it warns her. She feels compelled to find his killer.
At the same time, flashbacks of the abuse from her dead husband, and the secret she holds surrounding his demise, threaten any intimacy she tries to achieve with Henk. Maria soon becomes part of a counseling group for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers, run by a man known as the Satanic Mechanic.
How the counseling group, a second murder, and Slimkat’s murder are related, plus how the counseling helps Maria to heal, form the prongs of this most delightful murder mystery. Maria’s inclination is to deal with life’s highs and lows with food, and her descriptions of the meals and sweets she devises add a lovely visceral texture to the book. She’s also in touch with the animals that surround her, sometimes to interesting effect. This is a common occurrence when trying to navigate the roads of the Karoo and a herd of cows have their own idea:
Andrews, who lives on a Klein Karoo nature preserve most of the year, also brings the landscape and its creatures to life, imbuing them both with a sense of wonder and connection to Maria. Here she is with a friendly leopard.
Photo: Bowen Boshier
Thankfully, Andrews also includes many recipes of the dishes Maria prepares, even describing how a hotbox works. Readers will end the book feeling they wish they knew Sally Andrews AND Tannie Maria.
Photo: Andrea Nixon
This inventive mystery series is one readers won’t want to miss. Highly recommended.