This month as part of my series talking about the most popular and recommended Cozy Mysteries I reread another first book from one of my favorite Cozy Mystery authors, Diane Mott Davidson’s Catering to Nobody, the first in the Goldy Bear Mystery Series. This classic series has seventeen books that were published from 1990 to 2013. (Initially it was called the Goldy Bear series, however, it was then changed to another name. I stayed with the original series name as the second name gives away something that happens…)
Goldy is a divorced mother of an eleven-year-old boy, Arch. She and Arch live in the small Colorado town of Aspen Meadows. Goldy makes her living as a caterer and the novel is sprinkled with delicious looking recipes. The town she lives in is small enough that Goldy seems to know just about everybody. It is so small that she seems to keep running into her ex-husband, Doctor Richard Korman (also known as “The Jerk” – which is a very appropriate “pseudonym”).
The story begins with Goldy preparing to provide the food and drink at the wake of one of Arch’s recent teachers, Laura Smiley, who has apparently and unexpectedly committed suicide. As the mourners are partaking of the refreshments at Laura’s house (the affair is being hosted by one of Laura’s aunts), Doctor Fritz Korman, Goldy’s ex-father in law falls suddenly and violently ill. The police are called because poisoning is suspected. Because Goldy was providing the food and drink, the police ordered her business suspended until the investigation is completed.
Goldy, who relied almost totally on the income from her business (because her child support payments from “The Jerk” are sporadic at best), can’t sit by idly while the police try to find the culprit, so she begins her own investigation. With the partial cooperation of the police investigator, Tom Schultz, Goldy sets about collecting as much information about Laura Smiley and Fritz Korman.
I really enjoyed rereading this first book in the series. I especially enjoyed Diane Mott Davidson’s 2001 introduction to the new edition of the book. In the introduction, she explains how she came up with the idea for Goldy and the series. The author reveals that in 1989 when she was shopping around the book, it was rejected by a bunch of publishers –“scores of editors rejected it”. In the early 80s another author had written three culinary mysteries:
Who would buy a culinary mystery in 1989?” When my wonderful agent, Sandra Dijkstra, pointed out to editors that no one—not a single author—had ever had a caterer (who offered recipes!) as a main character, the response was equally negative. Even more damning, the fact that Goldy had survived spousal abuse was seen as “too dark.” The recipes were viewed as “intrusive.” I felt strongly that both were necessary to explain who Goldy was…
So, Diane Mott Davidson was a pathfinder in the mystery world — culinary mysteries are still a huge sub-genre of Cozy Mysteries in 2019!
I find Goldy to be a very good mystery sleuth character. Her world seems quite real. Her relationship (or lack thereof) with her abusive ex-husband is just one of the elements that make the stories seem to be based in reality. Goldy’s son, Arch is another. Arch is a complicated little eleven-year-old whose character is developed much more than is common in Cozy Mysteries. Goldy has the kind of relationship with Arch that you would expect of a mother who is divorced and running a business that keeps her so very busy.
Back in the 90s when I first started reading these books, these elements, plus the rousing good mysteries, kept me coming back for more each time Diane Mott Davidson would publish a new one. After enjoying reading Catering to Nobody so much again, I might just reread them all!