Saturday, June 13, 2015

Please Pass the Murder ... I Mean The Syrup

The City:    Atlanta

The Date:    13 June 2015

Just remember, I am an unrepentant Cozy Mystery addict and unabashedly I admit that yes, I started another series.  In my defense, I saw this title on the "new mysteries" shelf and purposely ignored it, but guess who came along?  Jeff.  Who saw it and asked why I was not interested, to which I responded firmly that I was most certainly not interested in beginning another series. It was lie of course, but I walked away nevertheless.  The next time I was in the bookstore, I just picked up the book.  Big mistake.  But I was resolved not to get involved, so, again, I walked away.  Unfortunately, I began thinking about it as I lay in bed.  The very worst of signs. It was turning into "The Lost Weekend". Therefore, it will come as no surprise that the next time I was in the bookstore, I caved, I bought, I read, I adored.  

There are a number of factors that appeal to me about this series.  The first, is the whole Chicken and Waffles enigma that began for me with the classic film noir motion picture, "Mildred Pierce" starring my beloved Joan Crawford.  In the story, Mildred works her way up from a waitress to a hugely successful restauranteur. Her restaurant chain, Mildred's, becomes famous for Chicken and Waffles.

If only this was a real place I could go to. 

For years, I tried to find out exactly what this Chicken and Waffles dish really was.  I mean, fried chicken, baked chicken ... which chicken parts...?  Gravy and syrup ... gravy or syrup ... both? 

Miraculously, I discovered that the bowling alley restaurant down the street from us served Chicken and Waffles. Their version serves large, fried chicken fingers with gravy and waffles with syrup. Though my taste buds and stomach were finally satisfied in such a yummy way, Halia's recipe in the book calls for fried chicken wings, but does not mention gravy.  However, it seems waffles with syrup remain the constant.  Unfortunately, the mystery remains about this dish. It seems I will never get the definitive answer, although I seem to be getting closer.  All I really want to know is how it was served at Mildred's! Does anyone have the answer?

Perhaps the greatest appeal for me about this new series - A Mahalia Watkins Soul Food Mystery by A.L. Herbert - is something very personal.  Over the last 35 years, I have been profoundly blessed to have forged deep bonds with four remarkable women of color.  Beginning with my friend, Katherine whom I met in the Theatre Department at school and one of my first friends there, to my friend Rhonda, one of my greatest champions, to my glamorous friend Lisa who was my "work-wife" for eight years in the last place I worked in New York City, to my friend, Karen, who was my "train-wife" on New Jersey Transit - these beautiful, strong, kind, generous, loving women have been among my staunchest friends and guardian angels. The main character, Halia, possesses so many of the qualities that these amazing women have that it's no surprise I had an immediate  affection for the series just because of Halia.  Wavonne ... well, when you live and work in New York City for nearly 30 years, you encounter a lot of ladies like Wavonne.  There's a roughness about her character that might put some people off, but for me, she is an echo of something familiar and oddly comforting.  

Halia and Wavonne in front
of Sweet Tea Restaurant
In addition to these beloved women, for two and a half years I worked in a word-processing pool at Nynex Corporation where there were nine of us:  seven black women, one hispanic woman and me, the gay guy.  It was a culture unto itself and all the people who worked in that company treaded very carefully when they walked through the door of our space.  None of those women played and everyone knew it. My time there was by and large a wonderful experience even though it ended unhappily for me ... but that's another story.

This series, unfortunately for me, promises to be a favorite.  A.L. Herbert's writing is tight, the story well woven, and the characters perfectly constructed - reminiscent of so many people I know, love and have encountered in my life both black and white.  There is humor and humanity - truth and heart in this new series and great recipes to boot!  I love the fact the recipes are interspersed throughout the book as opposed to being relegated to the back of the book.  

I am not sure if A.L. Herbert is a man or woman; I'm dying to know.    However, you can follow A.L. Herbert and the Mahalia Watkins Soul Food Mystery Series on:


I'm looking forward to more titles in this series and by the looks of the Amazon inventory, it's selling like hotcakes!  

As always, I'd love to hear from my fellow Cozy Addicts.  If you want to know more about me, please visit my website:

Until next time!


  1. The title of this book caught my eye first, and it went on my TBR list. Then, I was lucky enough to win a copy in one of the contests on A.L. Herbert's FB page. I loved the book also and can't wait for the next one in the series.

  2. thanks for your comment chris. glad to know there are fellow cozy addicts!