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Cuisine Art

Every country seems to have a trademark, an image that, when you hear the country mentioned, immediately pops into your head. Italy brings to mind a boot or pasta, for example. France makes one visualize the Eiffel Tower. China? The Great Wall. What about our own country? One could probably come up with an image for almost every state. As an international traveler, when my husband reports that he is from Kentucky, the response is usually one of recognition not for our bluegrass or horses, but for Kentucky Fried Chicken! It would seem that much of the South is recognized for its cuisine, especially in the books featured this month.

Strange happenings are afoot at Hilltop Place. An elderly woman has died, but is it natural causes or foul play? Lt. Dekker and Sgt. Murdoch must decipher the confusing evidence in The Hilltop Murder Mystery (Morris Publishing, $13.50) by Lexington author Steve Demaree. Both detectives are aging bachelors who enjoy their work almost as much as they enjoy their ferocious appetites. Their biggest obstacle as a result of their frequent comfort food diner visits isn’t this latest who-dun-it. It’s the 52 steps they must climb every time they visit the crime scene. Lt. Dekker’s description of the grunting and groaning it takes for him and his partner to haul themselves up is cause for chuckling out loud. An unexpected twist in the ending will leave even seasoned case-crackers surprised.

Kentucky is definitely famous for its distilleries, including Maker’s Mark with its memorable wax-dipped bottles. Springfield author Sandra Davis has collected and created bourbon recipes for more than 30 years and has compiled them into a cookbook featuring Maker’s Mark in each dish. That Special Touch (McClanahan Publishing, $39.95) also includes full-color photos and a history of the distillery, a National Historic Landmark. From a Whisky Flip to Bourbon Steak Pasta to Strawberry-Bourbon Crème Delights, Davis can “turn a ho-hum recipe into something special that your guests will enjoy.”

In The Southern Comforts (Mira Books, $13.95), Charma Deane Parker, a Southern woman to the core, is having a breakdown. She feels “middle-aged and over the edge, hanging onto a limb that could not hold my weight and all alone.” In between her surprise at choosing pecan pancakes over a romantic interlude, and her hesitation to delve into yet-unresolved issues stemming from her childhood, she needs to save the family home, save her cousin from youthful mistakes, and save her relationship with her fiancé. She has deemed herself the “saver of everything from awkward social situations to lost souls.” Taylorsville author Luanne Jones turns a busybody drama queen into a loveable character, despite Charma’s salty language and aggressive nature making the reader want to both cheer her on and kick her in the pants. Jones emphasizes the power found in the bond of women, making this a terrific women’s book club choice. A discussion guide is included.

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