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Evergreen author creates spicy mystery with local setting

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By Sandy Barnes

Evergreen author Diane Mott Davidson has concocted “The Whole Enchilada,” her 17th suspense novel, with a spicy twist.

 

The mystery, set in the town of Aspen Meadow, serves up a cast of characters and intriguing story line, along with tested recipes for readers to try in their kitchens.

As in her other novels, caterer Goldy Schulz is the central character, around which murder and dire threats swirl in disturbing fashion. Early in the book, Goldy’s friend dies suddenly at a party, apparently from a heart attack.

However, it is later discovered that a rare poison killed Holly. In creating her latest book, Davidson said that she used an idea her doctor gave her about a poison that would work only on certain types of people. She also incorporates locations in Evergreen that local readers may recognize, such as Evergreen Lake.

Davidson said she drove around Evergreen and looked at different locales, which she then used in her novel. The road on which her character Goldy lives is actually Douglas Park Road, she said.

Davidson also said she bases characters on people with whom she is acquainted, and their experiences.

Goldy has a background of domestic abuse, which Davidson mentions at the beginning of “The Whole Enchilada.”

When she first started including characters in her books who were victims of abuse, Davidson said her editor said that aspect was too dark.

However, Davidson, who has volunteered at a rape counseling center, said it’s important to raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence.

“I wanted Goldy to be someone who has come out on the other side,” she said. “Goldy was going to thrive. That’s why she found a support group.”

Members of a group called Amour Anonymous also are featured in “The Whole Enchilada,” as suggested by her editor, Davidson said.

“Mysteries are not about crime,” said Davidson. “It’s about living in a small community. Goldy is looking at relationships in a small town.”

Davidson knows the Evergreen community well. She has lived in the area since 1976, when she moved here from Baltimore with her husband.

“I’ve been happily married to Jim Davidson for 44 years,” she noted.

Davidson said she began writing as a high school student at an Episcopal school in Virginia.

After completing undergraduate studies at Wellesley College and Stanford University and receiving a graduate degree from John Hopkins University, Davidson began pursuing a career as an author.

Because she enjoyed reading mystery novels, Davidson said, she decided to move in that direction in her writing.

To learn about the construction of a mystery book, Davidson said she took the advice of an editor who suggested that she outline one.

Davidson also said that she writes the ending of a book first and then works her way forward.

“Even if it all changes, I know where I’m going,” she said.

Combining a mystery with the culinary is not an original idea, Davidson added, but a technique used by other writers.

To sharpen her skills as a chef, Davidson worked with a former Evergreen caterer, John William Schenk.

“I went to him and said, ‘I’ll work for free,’ ” she said. “Because I love to cook, I thought, ‘This will be a piece of cake.’ ”

However, Davidson said she learned how challenging working as a caterer can be. She also learned that the most important thing is not how food tastes, but rather how it looks, and how well it holds up.

The recipes in “The Whole Enchilada,” such as Enchiladas Suizas, are inspired to some degree by Davidson’s Mexican-American daughter-in-law, she said.

The book will be available on Aug. 27, and those who would like to meet Davidson and hear about her latest novel can attend a book signing at HearthFire Books in Bergen Park on Aug. 29 at 5 p.m.

Another book signing will take place at Mountain Books in Conifer on Sept. 6 at 6 p.m.

 

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.