Mystery Review: The Cooking School Murders

A Mystery I Almost Didn’t Finish

I love reading mysteries. I also have enjoyed many of the food related mysteries I’ve  read. That’s why I picked up The Cooking School Murders by Virginia Rich at the public library. I started it because the setting intrigued me and it was about a food columnist. I thought it would be as interesting as some of the cozies I’ve read about chefs and bakery owners. I don’t know why I finished it, though, since I figured out who had murdered at least one of the three dead almost a third of the way through the book. I guess I read to the end to see if I was right.


The Characters and the Plot


Mystery Review: The Cooking School Murders


This mystery is set in the small town of Harrington, Ohio. It’s a summer resort town on a lake. The protagonist, Mrs. Potter, loves details and pondering over everything. Her friends are the elites of the town, and they are all very socially conscious. They seem not to notice anyone but their own society of “old” family residents with a history in the town.

Mrs. Potter has learned a famous food columnist is spending the summer in Harrington, but he seems to be very private and the Chicago summer people he’s staying with have made it clear that he doesn’t really want to socialize. He wants to work on writing his new cookbook.


The Cooking School Murders Base image created on Pixabay ( Modified at PicMonkey.


In spite of this, Mrs. Potter persuades Mr. Redmond to teach an adult school cooking class, and she talks the minimum amount of people needed to fill the class into enrolling. The morning after the first class, the body of one of the class participants, Jackie, a beautiful woman who had just returned to Harrington, was discovered in the parking lot of her apartment building. Mrs. Potter learned this from the sheriff, who came to tell her about it and get advice on how to investigate the murder, since it was his first homicide case.

The next day, Mrs. Potter learns that her close friend MacKay, who was also in the cooking class, appears to have committed suicide in his garage. He was found lying by the garage door and his car motor was running. Mrs. Potter is convinced he did not commit suicide.

The next day, the body of a school teacher, Miss Versteeg, another cooking class participant, was discovered in the lake. Since people knew she drank too much, it was assumed that she had somehow fallen in the lake and drowned while she was drunk. The sheriff determined she had probably had also died on Thursday night.

The rest of the book consists of Mrs. Potter’s thoughts, her visits and conversations with neighbors, and lots of talk about what they were all eating and how it was prepared. The plot crawls along between the lengthy discussions of gossip, family histories, and what everyone thinks of everyone else. This book will do if there’s nothing else to read or if you like reading about how people prepare their food, or if you want a book you can take to bed and fall asleep while reading.

Trust me. Reading this book can make your eyelids droop , even though it is a mystery. There’s very little to make you want to rush to finish it. Everyone is very proper, the conversations seem stilted, and it’s hard to believe this was written as late as 1982. I kept wondering why these people didn’t get lives.

If you would  still like to read this book, you can probably find it at the public library, as I did. I would not recommend that you pay for it. To see a book I could not put down and had to stay awake to finish, check out Earlene Fowler’s Benni Harper in State Fair

Have you ever stopped reading a book because it was  putting you to sleep? Want to tell my readers about it?

Featured Image at top is in the public domain courtesy of Pixabay ( Text was created  on Picmonkey.


  1. Gil Camporazo

    Where’s the mystery? If I were a crime investigator, I would surveillance Mrs. Potter. I have a strong feeling, though I never read the book, that she is the murderer. That would be the twist of the plot if I am the writer. Nobody would suspect Mrs. Potter. But she has turned to be the killer.

    1. Barbara Radisavljevic Post author

      I’m not a spoiler, so I won’t tell if you’re right. You’ll have to read the book, but I don’t recommend it. Maybe you should just write your own version. It might be more interesting.

    2. Gil Camporazo

      If I remember I had written a mystery short story sometime in 1972. It was 44 years ago and it was published in our official publication of the college where I was studying. I am planning to rewrite it.

    1. Gil Camporazo

      I will try. I have written it for I used to write a fiction short stories in our local dialect magazine before.

  2. Andria Perry

    Thank you for the review, I will skip it unless I find that I an having problems sleeping.

    Mystery is just about my favorite, but I have to want to stay awake and never put the book down.

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