The Satanic Mechanic

Sally Andrew (Recipes for Love and Murder) stirs up another engaging mystery in her second Tannie Maria novel, The Satanic Mechanic. Although South African journalist Maria van Harten  (affectionately called "Tannie" or "Auntie" by her younger colleagues) relishes her role in helping others with cooking and relationship advice, her own love life is more complicated. Still haunted by memories of her abusive husband (now deceased), Tannie Maria is hesitant to open herself up to her still-new boyfriend, Detective Henk Kannemeyer. When Tannie Maria sees a man poisoned at an arts festival and witnesses another murder days later, her relationship with Henk (who is investigating both cases) becomes much more fraught.

"I was maybe too hungry for love and ended up with murder on my plate," Tannie Maria admits as the novel opens. Determined to move past the dark memories of her marriage, she starts attending a local counseling group run by a gentle former Satanist named Ricus, the titular mechanic. But as Maria begins to confide in her fellow group members, Ricus's shadowy past comes back to haunt them.

Tannie Maria's first-person narration is studded with Afrikaans words, most of them related to food, and features a sheaf of recipes at the end. Andrew weaves together the two murders with issues of land rights and discrimination against indigenous peoples, while gently nudging her protagonist forward--not minimizing her past wounds but helping her deal with her pain in new ways.

In short, Tannie Maria's second adventure is like the meals that come from her kitchen: a bit eclectic, with many different influences, but ultimately a satisfying feast for readers. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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