UNJUST DESSERTS - Goldie Alexander

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Unjust Desserts
Olivia Beauman
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Goldie Alexander. Zeus Publications.


Review by Carmel Shute.

Goldie Alexander's first crime novel has the distinction of being Australia's first full length culinary mystery. And Unjust Desserts fills that role with great aplomb.

The action centres around Olivia Beauman who has started a deli-catering business in the Victorian coastal town of Grevillea.

What starts as a sea-change for Olivia, fresh from a divorce, plunges into a murder mystery as first the wife and then the mistress of local developer and councillor, Harry Oldritch, die after eating her food.

Olivia's deli-foodstore, "Not Just Desserts", is already shaky. It's under threat by Harry Oldritch's new development BrodCom and it's under capitalised so Olivia fears the murder mean the end of her business and her fragile new life.

She's also worried about her daughter who could be mixed up with drugs, and whose boyfriend, a nasty little Yuppy who's balding with a ponytail, is also promoting the BrodCom development. Then there's Olivia's own non-existent love life. She's attracted to the hunky new school principal Eddie Wong, but he's a younger man.

UnJust Desserts is a delicious read with a sufficiently intricate plot and enough well-drawn characters to whet the appetite.

What gives the book strength is Goldie's trenchant insight into the lot of middle-aged women, and not just Olivia. There's Queenie, Harry Oldritch's wife, who's used layers of fat to insulate herself against Harry and the disappointments of the world, and the other women who inhabit Grevillea.

Goldie is not quite right about council planning processes, but my only real niggle is that Olivia doesn't solve the mystery herself, though she is ultimately involved in its denouement. But I'm looking forward to Goldie's next culinary mystery. She knows how to write a page-turner and has the recipe for crime down pat.

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