The Mastering the Art of French Murder and a Crisis of Mayonnaise

Welcome to this round of Cook the Books, the round I almost missed. 

Deb from Kahakai Kitchen is hosting this month and chose Mastering the Art of French Murder by Coleen Cambridge.

About the book:

Fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Marie Benedict, Nita Prose, and of course, Julia Child, will adore this magnifique new mystery set in Paris and starring Julia Child’s (fictional) best friend, confidante, and fellow American. From the acclaimed author of Murder at Mallowan Hall, this delightful new book provides a fresh perspective on the iconic chef’s years in post-WWII Paris.

As Paris rediscovers its joie de vivre, Tabitha Knight, recently arrived from Detroit for an extended stay with her French grandfather, is on her own journey of discovery. Paris isn’t just the City of Light; it’s the city of history, romance, stunning architecture . . . and food. Thanks to her neighbor and friend Julia Child, another ex-pat who’s fallen head over heels for Paris, Tabitha is learning how to cook for her Grandpère and Oncle Rafe.

Between tutoring Americans in French, visiting the market, and eagerly sampling the results of Julia’s studies at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Tabitha’s sojourn is proving thoroughly delightful. That is, until the cold December day they return to Julia’s building and learn that a body has been found in the cellar. Tabitha recognizes the victim as a woman she’d met only the night before, at a party given by Julia’s sister, Dort. The murder weapon found nearby is recognizable too—a knife from Julia’s kitchen.

Tabitha is eager to help the investigation, but is shocked when Inspector Merveille reveals that a note, in Tabitha’s handwriting, was found in the dead woman’s pocket. Is this murder a case of international intrigue, or something far more personal? From the shadows of the Tour Eiffel at midnight, to the tiny third-floor Child kitchen, to the grungy streets of Montmartre, Tabitha navigates through the city hoping to find the real killer before she or one of her friends ends up in prison . . . or worse.

“Part historical fiction, part mystery, Mastering the Art of French Murder is totally delectable entertainment.” – The Washington Post

What I thought…

So I usually don’t like mysteries and I really, really don’t care for cozies. Maybe that’s why I forgot about reading this Cook the Books selection until May 29! In my head, I thought I had another month. Luckily, the ebook was immediately available from the library. Luckily, it’s a quick read.

If I had actually realized (or remembered) that Julia Child was a main character, I might have picked the book up much earlier. From page one, her voice rings true. Cambridge totally nails her cadence and vocabulary.

Ah, to be Tabitha, the young woman who casually meets Julia at the market. They bond over their heritage and Julia sets about teaching Tabitha about the market and all things food.

The book opens with Julia facing a mayonnaise crisis, one of epic proportions and one that definitely heralds what is to come. After a body is found, Tabitha (urged on by Julia and her elderly messieurs) sets about trying to find the murderer. Lots of red herrings abound and there tends to be lots of suspects, including Julia and Paul and Tabitha.

As stated above, sometimes mysteries leave me wanting and I got a bit tired of the sleuthing and I wanted more of Julia and Tabitha at the markets and in the kitchen. I also was a bit annoyed with Tabitha’s constant referencing herself as the “imp” and the “sprite” when she should have not been putting herself in danger.

I enjoyed the other characters that Cambridge creates too like the aforementioned messieurs, Tabitha’s grandpère and oncle.

The Food:

Of course, there’s an abundance of food in the novel and the standbys are mentioned like Julia’s revelation with Sole meunière, roasted chicken, a croissants. I just kept going back the her mayo crisis. In the first chapter, she wanted to make a mayo sauce with lots of herbs and toss it with pasta. That sounded perfect to me.

Julia’s Blender Mayonnaise

Julia Child (From “The Mayonnaise Show”)

This is a lighter sauce than the hand whipped method because of the whole egg.


  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. dry mustard
  • 1 T. acid (vinegar or lemon juice or a combo of both)
  • 1 c. light olive oil (or other light oil)
  • white pepper
  • fresh herbs


  1. Place whole egg in the blender and run on high for 1 minute.
  2. Add the salt, mustard and acid. Continue to run on high.
  3. Start drizzling in the oil until the desired thickness is achieved. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water. Taste. add pepper if needed.
  4. Remove from the blender and place in a bowl. Fold in chopped herbs.

Yield: 1 cup

I have lots of flavored vinegars so I used a tarragon infused one for this recipe. I would refrain from using extra virgin olive oil as that will overpower the taste of your sauce.  Trust me. I know.

If you haven’t watched Julia in a while, I highly recommend “The Mayonnaise Show.”

At the end of the episode, she says the blender method is foolproof and it is. I also like that it uses a whole egg. I transcribed the recipe above from this episode.

I hope to try that herby-mayo-pasta that is mentioned in the book soon. Time just ran out for me.

Thanks for hosting, Deb! Join us for the June/July round. Claudia (Honey from Rock) is hosting Family Tree by Susan Wiggs (August 2016). I already have that one check out. I’ll try to be ahead of the game then.



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