Sally Andrew has published three books in the Tannie Maria series: Recipes for Love and Murder, The Satanic Mechanic, and Death on the Limpopo.
I discovered Tannie Maria when Recipes for Love and Murder was first published in 2015/6 and immediately fell in love with the unlikely heroine. (I also gained a considerable amount of weight in the very short time that I took to devour this first book of the series. I kept having to interrupt my reading for urgent foraging trips to the kitchen for snacks– inflamed byTannie M’s obvious passion for food and her mouthwatering recipes generously seasoning the pages.)
Maria is a nice, middle-aged, widowed, Afrikaans Tannie who lives in a small Karoo town and who makes a modest income writing a cooking column for the local community newspaper, the Klein Karoo Gazette. When her column is scrapped she is forced to reinvent herself as the agony aunt to avoid losing her job and the camaraderie and karring melk beskuit she enjoys at the newspaper’s office. She finds an extraordinary way to combine her advice on life and love with recipes that provide the perfect therapy to her readers. But when the author of one of her more agonized letters dies under tragic circumstances, Tannie Maria is drawn into the investigation which leads to tension, conflict and romance with the solemn local SAP detective Henk Kannemeyer (“I could feel the warmth coming off his body like he had just come out of the oven.”)
I love everything about Tannie Maria. Everything. She is firmly middle agedand feels no obligation to be anything other than her plump, uncool, comfortable, authentic self. She is unapologetic in a friendly, unassuming way about her girth, her elderly brown veldskoene, her pink flannel nighty and her little Nissan bakkie. Most of all I love how she is constantly and euphorically distracted by the texture, flavor and soul of food. Food is her ministry, her work of art and love and healing for herself and others.
I love the way she talks to her chickens, the gwarrie tree in her garden, the old Aga and the food she so effortlessly produces and consumes. I love the way she notices things and appreciates the nuances and the not-so-obvious charm of the Karoo. Like the Karoo landscape (and for that matter like many middle aged women!) her value is easy to miss or underestimate. But one quickly comes to appreciate that Tannie Maria is in fact unwittingly subversive. She rejects convention without ever making a big deal of it. She is independent and brave, revolutionary and funny. She is a gentle survival expert who neither notices nor proclaims her own magnificence. I hope to be more like her when I grow up.
The amateur detective (and of course food!) themes run through all three of her books which introduce glorious South African characters like Jessie the feisty coloured reporter, Hettie the uptight editor, and Zaba the badass political investigative journalist.
The latest book, Death on the Limpopo, has just (deservedly) been shortlisted for the SA Book Awards.
I love books! After all, “Reading is like breathing in and writing is like breathing out.” Pam AllynSo I am excited and proud to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Vrye Weekblad (https://www.vryeweekblad.com/
), which I have admired since my student days, to write some of their book reviews. Previously published in the Vrye Weekblad in Afrikaans.