I had planned to wrestle Kerry Greenwood’s Forbidden Fruit from Mt TBR on the lazy long weekend following Christmas day but recently learned it’s set at Christmas time so thought I’d settle down with it in the lead up to the holiday instead.
Although branded crime fiction it’s stretching the bounds of the genre’s definition to call it that. There’s not a dead body in sight and until the last few pages there’s not even a hint that a single crime has been committed. The fifth book in Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series sees her boyfriend Daniel, a private investigator, trying to trace the whereabouts of two teenage runaways. The girl, Brigid, is heavily pregnant. Of course Corinna becomes involved in the search in between running her successful bakery, fending off a troupe of carol-singing vegans who are opposed to all the companion animals that share the apartment block where most of the book’s characters live and dealing with a donkey addicted to her rose-syrup flavoured muffins.
Given that there’s no real crime or detecting going on and given that much of the action is of the incidental, non-plot developing kind I can appreciate this reviewer’s disappointed response to the book. However I like this series. I enjoy the odd assortment of characters and the way the series celebrates a whole range of lifestyles and doesn’t just feature the traditional families and loner alcoholics that populate much of crime fiction. In lots of ways it reflects my own real world environment and I appreciate dipping into the lives of these people every now and again. Even so, I don’t think this is the best example of the series given that its plot is so weak in comparison to the other books in the series. (I’ve rated it a 3 out 5).
For Christmas-y ness though the book has some unique things to offer. Being set in Melbourne, Australia the book really does a great job of depicting a Southern Hemisphere Christmas where often scorching heat replaces chilly snow. I don’t think Northern Hemisphere dwellers (except perhaps native Californians) really appreciate how tedious all the frosty snowmen and dreaming of white Christmases can be when it’s often hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement on Christmas morning. And Corinna, who hates the trappings of Christmas but can get into the spirit of things when pressed, depicts a fairly realistic attitude to the season. The ending of the book, with its nativity references abounding, is a bit too cheesy even for me but overall I still enjoyed catching up with Corinna and her good-hearted friends once again.