Everybody’s favourite agony aunt and crime fighter Tannie Maria needs some counselling advice of her own. Lingering troubles from a previous marriage still sit heavy on her, while fresh worries about Slimkat, a local man whose fighting for his people’s land threatens his life, keep her up at night.
Tannie Maria seeks out counsellor, jokily known to all as “the satanic mechanic”. Straight out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and from hot-as-hell Hotazel, Ricus fixes both cars and people.
But Maria’s counselling tune-up switches gears when a murder flings her straight into Detective Henk Kannemeyer’s investigation. Not only is she dating the dashing Henk, she now has to work beside him: a potential recipe for disaster.
Blending an intriguing mystery with characters as lovable as the setting of the rural Klein Karoo, this book is Sally Andrew’s delightful, warmhearted sequel to Recipes for Love and Murder.
We heard a car backfiring as it parked in Eland Street.
‘That’s probably them now.’ She got up and stood at the door, and I put on the kettle.
I heard Slimkat before I saw him, his voice quiet but strong as he spoke to Jessie. She led him into the office, and he intro¬duced his cousin, Ystervark. Then he shook my hand.
‘This is my colleague, Tannie Maria,’ said Jessie. ‘She does the “Love Advice and Recipe Column”.’
His hand was warm and dry, but I hardly felt it, because it was his eyes that filled me with feeling. They were big and black, like a kudu’s, and they looked right into me. It was very strange … I felt like he could see me. Really see me. Not only my body but all of me. It was as if my eyes were windows without curtains, and he could just look inside. He saw everything. Including the things I kept hidden, even from myself.
I looked away.
‘Coffee?’ I offered, fiddling with the cups.
‘Rooibos tea?’ he asked.
‘Black,’ he said, ‘but with lots of sugar for Yster.’
Ystervark was looking at all the pouches on Jessie’s belt and frowning. Like Slimkat, he was a small man, but while Slimkat was relaxed, Yster’s whole body was tense. His hands were tight fists, and I recognised him from the newspaper photograph. Ready to fight. Ready to kill, maybe. He looked at Slimkat, then at Jessie’s belt and at Slimkat again.
‘Sorry,’ said Slimkat. ‘We don’t mean to be rude. But could you show us what you are carrying on your belt? We’ve had some … incidents, and Ystervark likes to be careful.’
‘Sure,’ said Jessie, and emptied all the things from her pouches onto her desk. They made quite a pile and included her camera, notebook, pen, phone, torch, string, knife and pepper spray.
Ystervark grabbed the spray and the knife and looked at Slimkat as if to say, ‘I told you so.’
‘Sorry,’ Slimkat said again. ‘He’ll give them back when we go. We can’t stay long.’
Jessie set up two chairs for the visitors, but Ystervark stood at the office door. Then he walked towards the street and back again, with the knife and the pepper spray in his hands. He put them in his pockets when I handed him his tea and rusk. I gave the others their hot drinks and beskuit too.
‘Would you like me to go?’ I asked Jessie.
‘No,’ said Slimkat. ‘Stay,’ and he fixed me with those eyes again.
I spilt my coffee on my desk. I rescued the letters, but the coffee got all over last week’s Gazette.
Jessie picked up her notebook. ‘I know you don’t like to sing your own praises,’ she said, ‘but you must be feeling good about the victory over big business. Diamond miners and agribusiness are used to getting their way. Yet you won the fight.’
‘I am sad,’ said Slimkat. ‘It was not right to fight.’
‘What do you mean?’ said Jessie. ‘It belongs to you, that land. Your ancestors have lived there for tens of thousands of years. You could not just let the companies steal it from you.’
‘No,’ said Slimkat. ‘You are wrong. The land does not belong to us. We belong to the land.’
Jessie blinked, and her mouth opened and closed. It was not often that I saw Jessie without words.
She found them again. ‘But surely,’ she said, ‘if you do not fight, then injustice will be done. Again and again.’
‘That is true,’ he said. ‘Some people like to fight.’ He took a sip of his tea and glanced at his cousin, who stood at the door with his back to us. ‘I do not. Fighting can make you bitter. But sometimes it must be done. If you have to fight, then you must do so with soft hands and a heart full of forgiveness.’
He dipped his rusk into his tea and took a bite. Then he smiled and looked at me.
I mopped at the Gazette with a napkin. There was a brown stain over the pink advert offering relationship help.
‘I hear there have been death threats?’ Jessie said.