Posted On July 19, 2017 by Print This Post

Cooking up the Culinary Mystery by Linda Wiken aka Erika Chase

Please welcome LINDA WIKEN, who also writes as ERIKA CHASE, to her first guest spot at Romance University! As regular followers of RU will know, our goal is to provide helpful information to writers – primarily romance writers, but also to those writing in other genres. Scroll down to find out about Linda’s GIVEAWAY to one of today’s commenters!

I’m often asked what it’s like to write a culinary mystery. When my friends ask, it’s usually with a snicker because they know my deep, dark secret. I’m not a cook. I’m a wanna-be. Much like my character in the Dinner Club Mysteries, J.J. Tanner.

So, that was my starting point with this series. An independent, successful young woman who likes a challenge and this happens to be the perfect fit — join a dinner club and learn how to cook or in other words, not disgrace yourself when presenting your dish as part of a composite meal.

Now, she isn’t just jumping into the unknown here. She admits she’s lacking cooking skills, even basic ones, but she’s hooked on cookbooks, especially those with large, full-page colored photos of the food. She has a large and growing collection of them (as do I!). And, I guess not surprisingly, I also have been sucked into the world of cooking, and now actually look on each attempt to master a new recipe with much less fright and more anticipation.

J.J.’s starting point was joining the Culinary Capers Dinner Club. It’s comprised of five friends who meet monthly, rotating homes, with the host choosing the cookbook they’ll use for that gathering. Yes, it’s a real cookbook that you’ll find on the shelves of your favorite bookstore. So, spoiler – no one gets poisoned. I wouldn’t want to be sued!

J.J. is by weekday, an event planner so that’s provided lots of opportunities for an intriguing murder scene. For instance, in Toasting Up Trouble, the first book, the demise of the egotistic caterer took place after the twenty-first birthday bash that J.J. had organized, for the favorite daughter of an IT tycoon.  Of course, the problem was that J.J. had been the last person to see the victim alive. And they’d been arguing. So, guess who topped the suspect chart. Uh, reason to investigate!

In the second book, Roux The Day, J.J. takes a guilt trip after one of the emcees on a charity casino boat cruise she organized, is murdered. She was the one who asked her to do the job, after all. Once again, the police temporarily focus on her as a suspect. It seems the co-emcee was once the victim’s fiancé, and now he’s been dating J.J. So they think J.J. was jealous. They definitely need her help on this.  As the plot unfolds, she finds the people in her life are not always how they seem. But isn’t that so true for many of us?


Marinating in Murder, the third book, comes out in March, 2018 and all I’ll say about that is the murder plays out a bit closer to home.

But back to the food. For J.J., she challenges herself to cook more by instinct and think more about pairings of seasonings and other ingredients. That, strangely, has become my quest also, especially when coming up with recipes for my twice-monthly blogs on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. Much to my surprise, and delight, I’ve found I really do enjoy puzzling it out although I’m first to admit, I have a long way to go. Cooking classes in my future? Hmm.

The road is shorter for J.J., though. She needs to come up to speed much faster and does so with the help of her foodie friends, who also turn out to be able to lend a hand when she gets caught up in sleuthing. Of course, there’s also the dashing Ty Devine, private investigator and pain in the neck.  At other times…. Well, what’s a murder mystery without a little romance to balance it out?

I’ve added recipes at the end of each novel, my own attempts at personalizing a dish. However, in Roux The Day, the Culinary Capers use the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook and I was pleased to have permission from Sara Paretsky, Cathy Pickens, and Lisa King to reprint their recipes. I think you’ll enjoy them.

It’s been a tasty adventure, writing the Dinner Club Mysteries but it’s not without its perils.  It started with the usual problem of pacing when I’m blocked in my writing and if the route goes into the kitchen and past the cupboards, I’ve been known to snack. And then there’s an added challenge — can you even begin to imagine how much taste-testing I’ve had to do? And the amount of chocolate consumed! Oh, well…good reason to look for shopportunities.

What I enjoy the most about culinary mysteries is the food, of course, but also the fact that these are cozy mysteries and cozy women can save the world! These are savvy and smart young women who not only manage a career but also are able to cope with solving murders. They don’t go out into the murder scene all gung-ho and dare-devilish, looking for places to change into their super powers outfits. They use their intelligence and determination to sort it out and ensure that justice is served. It’s just who they are. It’s in their DNA.

Of course, in a culinary mystery there is also the food. I may have mentioned that before. After all, a gal’s gotta indulge in some of life’s pleasures!


So, I’m curious, do you think that cozy mysteries – those with a female sleuth and that seems to be the majority – can be thought to be feminist literature?




Linda Wiken leads a double life writing the Dinner Club Mysteries and, as Erika Chase, she has the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries. A former mystery bookstore owner, she was short-listed for an Agatha for Best First Novel, and an Arthur Ellis Award, Best Short Story, from Crime Writers of Canada.  She contributes to the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen and Killer Characters blogs. You should see her cookbook collection! She admits to a passion for choral singing, chocolate and Siamese cats!

Twitter: @LWiken, @erika_chase



My thanks to Becke Davis and Romance University for the opportunity to connect with you through the blog-sphere. In appreciation, I’m offering your choice of a signed copy of Toasting Up Trouble or Roux the Day to someone who leaves a comment. It will be a random draw and be sure to leave your email info. Good luck!

This will be a paperback edition, and the winner is NOT limited to U.S. residents only.


Event planner J.J. Tanner is planning a fundraising cruise boat Casino Night – and she’s really going overboard! She even arranged for radio DJ Connor Mac and TV personality Miranda Myers to help the good times roll. But the party comes to a screeching halt when Miranda is found dead on the main deck.


With a boatload of suspects, the police focus in on J.J., who, though recently linked with Connor, never knew he was once engaged – to Miranda. With Half Moon Bay’s gossip mill running full tilt, J.J. turns to her fellow dinner club member to help fish for clues and keep herself out of hot water…

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30 Responses to “Cooking up the Culinary Mystery by Linda Wiken aka Erika Chase”

  1. Thanks so much for joining us today, Linda! (FYI – Linda is on the road, but she will check in when she can.)

    Food is always a topic of interest, no matter what the genre. My mom was a great lover of cozy mysteries, especially those with recipes at the back. She always clipped and saved those. 🙂

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | July 19, 2017, 12:44 am
  2. My last post here compared writing to cooking. I LOVE to cook, and I enjoy baking even more. So this post resonated with me. I love the titles of your novels. Very clever.

    As to your question about the cozy mystery, I say yes. Well, with this caveat. I’m not big on the “feminist” label, because I don’t really want to separate men and women; I just want us all to be equal in rights (equal pay for equal work, equal opportunities presented to us, etc.). I’ve become addicted to American Ninja Warrior, and the women don’t have a separate category; they do the same courses, and they’re doing better every year!

    Getting down off my soapbox, I believe a strong woman lead in any genre is a good thing. I wrote a cozy mystery with a smart, strong woman as the lead, and while the tone was a little lighter than hard-boiled noir, she was every bit as capable as a male detective would have been. So, long story short and working with that label, yes, I definitely believe a cozy mystery with a female lead can be feminist fiction.

    Really great post. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Staci Troilo | July 19, 2017, 9:14 am
    • Thanks for commenting, Staci. I also try not to use the label but it does have its uses. I missed your post but love that you’re into baking.

      Posted by Linda Wiken | July 19, 2017, 9:56 am
      • You’re right; the label is sometimes useful.

        And yes, I love to bake. If I wasn’t so busy these days, I’d do it even more! (I’ve been having cravings for stuffed pizza, so I think I’ll be making dough soon. And extra dough means cinnamon rolls, so I’ll be making a lot!)

        Posted by Staci Troilo | July 19, 2017, 10:00 am
    • I’ve never watched American Ninja Warrior (I’m more likely to be watching American Pickers, Flea Market Flip or one of the HGTV decorating shows) but I like that women are on an equal playing field. One of my favorite quotes is this one by Ann Richards: “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards – and in high heels.”

      Being the mom of a son and a daughter, I do like to think both would have equal opportunities. I don’t want to take anything from the guys, I just want my daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughters to have equal rights.

      I do lean toward female-written or female-driven fiction, but I think I just like reading the female voice. But I read lots of mysteries written by men, too. I’m pretty much an equal opportunity reader.

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | July 19, 2017, 10:30 am
      • I love the Ann Richards quote. So true. I also like reading the female voice, Becke, although I do read a lot of male authors, too. In the mystery book business, some inequality still exists and that’s in the number of reviews that female authors receive, when contrasted with male authors. That’s the driving force behind Sisters in Crime, and although the organization has broadened its work, the initial reason for its existence still needs some attention.

        Posted by Linda Wiken | July 19, 2017, 10:57 am
      • We watch a wide variety of shows in this house. (Husband, son, daughter, and I all have different tastes, so our viewing history is pretty eclectic.)

        My son and daughter played some of the same sports in school, but ultimately settled on different ones. Both have black belts in taekwondo (son, second degree; daughter, first), both played hockey, basketball, soccer, and tennis. Ultimately, my son settled on football and my daughter on tennis. (If you allow me a proud-mom moment, she got a scholarship for her sport and will be starting college in just a few weeks.) The nice thing about most (and I do mean most) of the sports they played? They were co-ed teams, at least in the earlier years.

        We raised our kids to know gender doesn’t have to be a barrier. Both sides should be treated with respect, both sides should have equal opportunities, and both can excel at whatever they attempt. I hope they find that to be true in the real world.

        And Becke, I love that Ginger Rogers quote. (BTW, I love HGTV, too. Rehab Addict and Stone House Revival are two of my favorites.)

        Posted by Staci Troilo | July 19, 2017, 11:01 am
  3. I can’t wait to read it

    Posted by Angie Carroll | July 19, 2017, 9:37 am
  4. I’m going to be out for a couple hours this afternoon, without access to the internet (i.e., no Smart Phone). I’ll check in as soon as I get back home.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | July 19, 2017, 10:32 am
  5. I love the cozy mystery genre and especially culinary mysteries. You are a new author to me and I’m excited to check out your series. Thank you for your guest post and introducing me to your series. Hoping I win.

    Posted by Meg Gustafson | July 19, 2017, 12:17 pm
  6. I like the cozy mystery genre and love almost any book that involves cooking. My one beef with romances is that they often focus on women who are my daughters’ ages. I would love to see more include romantic heroines that are 50 and over. For your cooking endeavors, I recommend the book Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat.

    Posted by Ella Dodson | July 19, 2017, 12:31 pm
    • Thanks for the suggestion, Ella. I’m with on the age thing, too although mine are also young-ish. Many publishers believe no one will read about “older” women.

      Posted by Linda Wiken | July 19, 2017, 9:00 pm
  7. i love cullnary mysteries, I am excited check outi your series.

    Posted by jane werthmann | July 19, 2017, 2:22 pm
  8. This is a new author and series to me. I really enjoy reading culinary cozies and would like to start this series. Sounds like an amazing read.

    Posted by Dianne Casey | July 19, 2017, 3:26 pm
  9. I like reading cozys with a strong female lead. I would love to read Linda’s books.

    Posted by Maryann | July 19, 2017, 7:33 pm
  10. I wonder if there is a correlation between people who enjoy reading romance and people who enjoy reading cozy mysteries. (I also like suspense and thrillers, but not books that are exceedingly gruesome or nightmare-making scary.)

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | July 19, 2017, 8:28 pm
  11. Evening Linda!

    Oh I sound just like your character..I wanna be able to cook, but the gift just isn’t there. =) That doesn’t stop my massive cookbook collection however!

    Thanks for posting with us today – your covers look great!


    Posted by Carrie Peters | July 19, 2017, 9:59 pm
  12. I love this post and since I love to cook and learned by doing, I sympathize with JJ. I do think that cozy mysteries with a female sleuth can be considered to be feminist literature, since they almost always show how women can solve problems by using their intellect and their ability to investigate. Thanks for the chance to win! aut1063(at)gmail(dot)com

    Posted by Autumn Trapani | July 20, 2017, 12:18 pm
  13. I love almost all types of cozy mysteries but a culinary cozy give you that extra bonus with recipes that you can make at home and share with friends and family.
    I’ve been cooking since I was very young as my mom really didn’t like to cook/bake. I have a big cookbook collection and enjoy making new recipes. I even like to change them to my liking.
    Thanks for the chance to win. New author and series to me.

    Posted by Margaret Rushton | July 21, 2017, 11:26 pm
  14. Thanks for leaving a comment, Margaret. You’d enjoy being a part of the Culinary Capers gang I’ll bet.

    Posted by Linda Wiken | July 22, 2017, 9:17 am


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