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Literature / Corinna Chapman

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Another mystery series by Kerry Greenwood.

Corinna Chapman is a baker in modern-day Melbourne, Australia. She owns and works in her bakery, Earthly Delights (and she has the Hieronymus Bosch painting on the wall) and lives an ordinary, happy life. She's had a fairly tough life, but now she's happy to get up every morning at 4 AM (OK, not so much about that), bake bread for a living and remain good friends with almost everyone in her very Roman apartment building.

Until one day in summer, she discovers a junkie who OD'd outside the bakery. From there, she is introduced to Daniel Cohen, a private detective, and forms a relationship with him while helping him solve the mystery of whom has been supplying addicts with drugs that are purer than they expect. The relationship works out and they form a lasting relationship. Tying into this case is Jason, an ex-junkie who starts out cleaning the bakery and ends up as the assistant baker and the first of a series of people who move into the building, book by book.

From there, the books basically run like this: Either Corinna is pulled into a mystery by accident, or she aids Daniel with one of his cases. In the meantime, another mystery becomes apparent in the apartment building, called Insula, both of which have to be solved. Someone in the apartment building will be involved in the first case, and by the end of the book all of the mysteries will be solved, and everyone will be much better and happier for it.

There are seven novels:

  • Earthly Delights (2004)
  • Heavenly Pleasures (2005)
  • Devil's Food (2006)
  • Trick or Treat (2007)
  • Forbidden Fruit (2009)
  • Cooking the Books (2011)
  • The Spotted Dog (2018)

Tropes present in this series include:

  • Abusive Parents: Jason, Corinna, Brigid, Dolores, Goss, Kylie and Rowan (Corinna is the extreme example as her parents are hippies who didn't believe in medicine or eating meat and almost killed her as a child- her grandmother had to teach her how to switch on a light, how to wear shoes, and how to eat with a knife and fork).
    • Played straight and inverted with Cherie Holliday - her uncle molested her and her parents refused to believe her, leading her to run away. After the truth came out, her mother stood by said uncle, but her father, Andy, divorced her mother and spent years trying to find his daughter and apologise. They manage to reconcile and now have a happy relationship.
  • The Alcoholic: Andy Holliday. A variant in which it's because of frustration, guilt and fear over Cherie's loss. Once he finds her and they reconcile, he instantly quits. Though he occasionally falls off the wagon, it's treated as not very serious, because as Cherie explains, his alcoholism mainly because of a specific set of circumstances. Both Andy's AA group and Cherie's Alateen group think he could be okay as a social drinker. Notably, he's never seen actually drunk again during the series.
  • Alpha Bitch: Sarah in Forbidden Fruit.
    • Molly Atkins in Cooking the Books
    • Georgiana Hope in Trick or Treat.
    • Goss had a few moments in Earthly Delights.
  • Ancient Grome: Despite the continual emphasis that Insula is a Roman apartment building, a lot of the gods and references are Greek.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: This occurs in Forbidden Fruit- Against Dominion Over Animals has a lot of views that make Corinna and a lot of people extremely angry (well, Janeen and Sarah and occasionally Rowan do, everyone else is OK).
  • Anti-Hero: Corinna can be a real bitch sometimes.
  • Artistic License: In Trick Or Treat, Daniel identifies ice as a 'new kind of ecstasy'. Ice (otherwise known as crystal meth) and ecstasy are both amphetamines, but the effects are completely different- and crystal meth has been around for decades.
  • Artistic License Biology: In Cooking The Books, there's a scene where Corinna pets a tiger, who purrs. Big cats can roar, but they can't purr.
  • Attempted Rape: Meroe in her backstory (it failed as on his way to her caravan, the attempted rapist fell over a sleeping bear that killed him.)
  • Berserk Button: Corinna goes Mama Bear on anyone who might or does cause harm to Jason, her apprentice, who is an emotionally unstable recovering heroin addict who was formerly homeless.
  • Badass Israeli: Uncle Solly, a retired Mossad agent, and Daniel.
  • Badass in Distress: In Forbidden Fruit, Daniel is imprisoned in a deserted building without any way of escape or contacting help. Thankfully, he's rescued by the freegans and Corinna.
  • Big Eater: Jason. Justified by his being a former street kid who frequently had to scrounge or beg for food. The Greek family who runs Cafe Delicious clean up over betting how fast Jason can finish their Trucker's Breakfast every morning.
  • Black Magic: About the blackest that Meroe the witch ever gets is the occasional curse, but there are several instances of black magic being used.
  • The Bus Came Back: Letty White vanished with no explanation after Heavenly Pleasures, but reappeared (again with no explanation) in The Spotted Dog.
  • Buy Them Off: The O'Ryans in Forbidden Fruit pay off their daughters with the means to live independently in order to keep them from pressing charges for rape and kidnapping.
  • The Casanova: Ethan from Cooking the Books.
  • Church of Happyology/ Cult: The religious group in Devil's Food that teaches that being fat is a sin.
    • Also, the so-called church that Mrs O'Ryan belongs to in Forbidden Fruit.
  • Continuity Drift: Earthly Delights is all over the place when it comes to the junkie deaths. Seven victims are named and given some detail as to their overdoses, but there's mention of several other victims who died by using the same heroin but somehow never came to the media's attention, and the accounts of dates and places aren't at all consistent.
    • In the same book, Daniel mentions that the street kids talk about 'the man in the red Porsche' who supplies all the drugs, and says he is a myth. By this point, it's been established that Daniel has been around and knows what he's talking about, so there's no reason to believe that the man is not a myth. But a few chapters later, suddenly the man was always real, and there's no explanation as to how Daniel didn't know that.
    • In The Spotted Dog, Jason mentions that he went back to AA after stealing a bottle of alcohol from Corinna and drinking it. The only time something like that happened in the series was in Earthly Delights, and at that point, Jason hadn't started going to AA- and he hadn't stolen the bottle so much as found it in the kitchen.
    • It's never established exactly when the series is set or how long passes between books (excepting the gap of several days between Earthly Delights and Heavenly Pleasures), but the first five books appear to take place across the span of a single year, with the sixth set in the January of the following year. References to President Bush suggest that the series begins somewhere between 2002 and 2007. The Spotted Dog, however, refers to a few real-life events that happened in the late 2010's, but had that much time been skipped, certain events in the book would have either happened or been close to happening (Horatio dying of old age, for instance), which they haven't.
    • In Devil's Food, the map of Insula at the beginning of the book explicitly says that Mars is vacant and there are two apartments (Perseus and Pluto, both on the seventh floor) that are owned by a grazier company. In The Spotted Dog, Mars is suddenly owned by a grazier company, and there was no mention in any of the intervening books about the sale, when newcomers moving in is always mentioned in detail.
    • Kylie and Goss are nineteen in Earthly Delights, twenty-one in Forbidden Fruit, and back to nineteen in Cooking The Books.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs Dawson, in an impeccably ladylike way. Corinna's grandmother, who died pre-series, qualifies in Corinna's memory of her. Maybe Meroe, depending on what age she appears to be that day.
  • Covers Always Lie: At least one publication of Devil's Food has an example in the blurb. It says that there is 'a body found in a park, dead from malnutrition'. This never occurred in the book: a young man close to dying of malnutrition and starvation is found, but it's never stated that he died.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Averted. Corinna puts cling wrap over a junkie's mouth before giving her CPR, and she only survives with the help of some rather fast ambulance officers and their narcan.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Corinna, in spades.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In Devil's Food, Nerds Inc find a recipe for a weight-loss tea which they make and begin selling, since they're going broke. So far, so good. Except the recipe tells them in which countries the best herbs are to be found... and the nerds, being idiots, have the herbs imported illegally, which leads to them being caught, when, as Meroe says, "Only you idiots would have done such a thing. You could have gone out and picked your herbs and no one would have ever caught you."
  • Embarrassing First Name: Goss and Dolores bond over their bad first names in Forbidden Fruit- both prefer their nicknames (Dolores prefers to be called 'Dolly' and Goss's real name is Gossamer).
  • Evil Redhead: Played for Laughs with the ginger kitten Lucifer. Notably, he's the only cat in the building (including his littermates Nox and Tori) who needs to wear a harness to (not always successfully) keep him out of trouble. Even though it's heavily implied Meroe's spelled the harness for extra security!
  • The Fashionista: Several. Kylie and Goss both dress in the latest trends as a matter of course. Cherie is studying fashion design. Mistress Dread wears impeccable Fetish fashion in her dungeon, and impeccable Country Road (well-regarded as a 'ladylike' fashion label for women of quality) out of it.
  • Foreshadowing: In Cooking the Books, the writers Gordon and Kendall discuss a possible sub-plot and end it with 'But secretly, she's really his mother." This turns out to be true for Harrison and Molly.
    • In Forbidden Fruit, Brigid, who was established to be a very smart girl who got excellent marks in science, seemed to have no idea how she could possibly be pregnant and didn't recognise the signs of pregnancy. Her sister also commented that she had no idea when or how Brigid and Manny could have slept together. Because they hadn't- Brigid had never had sex, and had instead been artificially inseminated without her knowledge, when she was asleep.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Meroe.
  • Genre Savvy: After six books of crazy events happening in Insula (including a stalker who was doing his best to scare all the women, armed thugs repeatedly robbing a resident, blowing his door open and later holding most of the residents hostage, an accidental drug overdose, a snake getting slipped into the bakery, and more armed thugs invading the basement), the residents sensibly get panic buttons for all the apartments by the time of The Spotted Dog.
  • Hidden Depths: Jason is a genius when it comes to anything involving muffins.
  • Idiot Ball: In Forbidden Fruit, most of the plot revolves around a baby prophesied to be a future Messiah. Eventually, the crazy fanatic parents attempt to kidnap the baby... without bothering to ascertain its sex. The Messiah was supposed to be a boy, the baby is a girl.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: In Forbidden Fruit, this is the ultimate plan of the Animal Wrongs Group, designed to shame people into becoming vegetarians.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: In Cooking the Books, Daniel fantasizes about taking revenge on his client's bullying employers.
    Oh, if I could get her bosses to myself I'd [...] I'd remember some of my Israeli army training. In unarmed combat. I was quite good at it. There are some holds which are exquisitely painful [...] but then they would just squeal the time-honoured bullies' justification: "It was just a joke, can't she take a joke?" And then [...] I would have to kill them, and that is just so illegal.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Let's see, we have:
    • Corinna and her cats Horatio, Heckle and Jekyll
    • Meroe and her cat Belladonna
    • Andy and Cherie Holliday and their cat Calico
    • Professor Monk and his cat Nox
    • Trudi and her cat Lucifer
    • Kylie and Goss and their cat Tori
    • Anwyn and her cat Bellamy
  • Language Barrier: In The Spotted Dog, the titular dog is abducted by a criminal family because he was an army dog, trained to detect drugs and explosives, and they thought he could detect any explosives around their house. Like a lot of military and police dogs, however, Geordie only responds to commands in a foreign language (in his case, Scottish Gaelic), and since none of his captors knew that or spoke the language, they couldn't get him to tell them if there were explosives or not.
  • Lean and Mean: A number of thin, conventionally pretty characters turn out to be horrible people (see Alpha Bitch).
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Harrison and Emily are Molly's children.
  • Meaningful Name: All the book titles have some sort of double meaning related to food or crime, and often refer to something in the book as well.
    • Earthly Delights is not only the name of Corinna's bakery, but a very famous painting (a copy of which hangs on the wall).
    • Heavenly Pleasures is the name of the chocolate store down the lane.
    • Devil's Food is a type of cake (which Jason makes and serves at the party at the end).
    • Trick or Treat is set just before Halloween, and much of the plotline revolves around a Wiccan coven. The climax of the book takes place at the coven's Samhain celebrations.
    • Forbidden Fruit is often used to refer to the Apple of Knowledge in the Bible. This book is set in the lead-up to Christmas, and abounds with Shout Outs to the Nativity, including an immaculate conception and implied virgin birth, culminating in an accidental living Nativity in Insula's basement.
    • Cooking the books is not only a phrase that serves as a Call-Back to Corinna's unhappy life as a corporate accountant, pre-series, but also a hint that there's financial skulduggery in the plot.
    • Spotted Dog is not only a type of pudding, but the plot is kicked off by an Army Veteran searching for his missing service dog - which is, of course, spotted.
  • Mushroom Samba: Kylie and Goss overdose on weight-loss tea and end up going nuts, and could have killed themselves (Meroe later speculates that the tea could have been fine if they hadn't OD'd, but because the instructions were extremely vague and they had no idea of the amount specified, they drank heaps.)
    • The people who eat the muffins from Best Fresh in Trick or Treat- they contain ergot, so they were basically on LSD trips.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Forbidden Fruit. Brigid can't understand how she's pregnant when she's never had sex. No one believes her claim. Brigid fell pregnant after being drugged and artificially inseminated by her mother while asleep, on instruction from the Cult Leader her mother followed. He was seeking to invoke this trope, with the associated implications; too bad for him the baby turned out to be a girl.
  • No OSHA Compliance: It hasn't been explicitly described, but the climax of Heavenly Pleasures suggests that when Insula was built, the architect somehow decided not to put any railings or anything that would stop anyone falling off on at least part of the roof.
  • Non-Action Guy: Corinna. She'll step up and deal with any situation that needs it, but ultimately she prefers leaving it up to someone else.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Jason walks in on Corinna hugging Bernie, the pastry chef helping her cook for the TV crew, and assumes she's replaced him. He's wrong, but he refuses to admit it.
  • Papa Wolf: Sam Lake in Forbidden Fruit, who protects his huge family from anyone who might do them harm (including the abusive parents of the children they foster).
  • Pet the Dog: Sarah is a self-righteous, hypocritical Straw Vegetarian zealot, but she does help rescue the mistreated animals from the mall Nativity scene.
  • Plot Hole: Trick or Treat: Why was Georgiana after Uncle Solly? Was she working for a spy agency? Why did she put up with Daniel for so long when she hates Jews? Who told her that Daniel knew who Saba was? Where did she get the poisoned bread mix? Why did she give so much of it to Eddie when she just wanted a few soul cakes? Was she running a bread company? Why did Eddie use the mix to make bread when Georgiana didn't ask him to? Who put the heart on Insula's door and why? How did bush spices wind up on the note with the snake?
    • In Heavenly Pleasures, it's revealed that the chocolates were being contaminated through a specific method: the perp was taking the premade boxes off the counter home, doctoring them and returning them without anyone noticing them. But the box Corinna was given, which contained a contaminated chocolate, was not one of those boxes and could not have been contaminated by that method. How that box got contaminated is not explained.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted in The Spotted Dog, Corinna, Alasdair and Daniel rescue Geordie from the criminal family's house just before it explodes. Not only do the police, who were watching the house, quickly apprehend them, they're caught on camera by bystanders who saw the explosion and recorded it.
  • Retcon: In Earthly Delights, Daniel reveals that he is a widower who never really got to know his wife before she died. In Cooking the Books, he is retconned to have been about to marry her when she died.
    • Meroe is stated to be Polish in Earthly Delights, and in all the other books is Hungarian.
    • In Trick or Treat, Corinna can speak a little Greek and understand a lot more. In The Spotted Dog, she suddenly can't speak or understand Greek at all.
    • In the early books, Corinna had at least two cats before Horatio, and at least one of those cats was during her marriage to James. In The Spotted Dog, James suddenly refused to have cats in the house at all.
    • In Forbidden Fruit, Corinna says that Kylie and Goss are twenty-one. In Cooking The Books, they're suddenly nineteen.
  • Running Gag: The whole weight-loss obsession with Kylie and Goss, until it takes a nasty turn in Devil's Food. It pretty much dies down from there, though it's stated that they still diet- just not as obsessively.
  • Second Love: Widow Mrs Dawson and widower Professor Monk get together in The Spotted Dog.
  • Shout-Out: In Forbidden Fruit, Janeen tells Corinna that the freegans all have pseudonyms based on their favourite characters and rattles off a list. One of the names is Phryne Fisher- the heroine of Kerry Greenwood's most famous detective series.
    • An anecdote that Daniel quotes in Cooking the Books ("Why did you hit me?"/"Because you asked me why.") is a variant of an exchange in Schindler's List.
    • Corinna is a Joss Whedon fan. In early books, she bonds with Kylie and Goss over Buffy the Vampire Slayer; she and Daniel are later mentioned to be re-watching from the first episode. She also has 'some very mixed feelings' about season 2 of Dollhouse.
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: Meroe basically has this attitude toward Barnabas, a witch she doesn't like, because of all the grey-leaning-toward-black magic he's doing.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Mrs Dawson is the step-mother of Harrison and Emily, but is introduced to them as their grandmother.
  • Take That!: Cooking the Books has an antagonist named Tony who's obsessed with fitness and is 'all ears and zeal and smile'. Sound like a certain Liberal Politician (later Prime Minister), maybe?
  • Too Dumb to Live: Kylie and Goss. In Cooking the Books, they ask if they can ride on Tabitha the tiger, and when warned by Corinna that tigers like to eat people, answer 'Oh, she wouldn't eat us, not when we like her so much.'' Thankfully, nothing of the sort happens.
  • Valley Girl: Kylie and Goss.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: One of the major plots in Trick Or Treat is the story of Max Merten (the book calls him Max Mertens), a Nazi war criminal in 1940's Greece, but while the book retains the major details, quite a bit was changed.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Corinna hates snakes, so when one turns up in the bakery, she's stuck. (The Mouse Police handle it.)