Too cold then too hot but Catering to Nobody was never just right. Odd is what it was. In fact, the oddest book I’ve read in quite a while and my tenacity to see if it became a better book along with it being the current selection for my face-to-face mystery group compelled me to read just another fifty pages and then another until finally the ordeal was over.
The book centers around Goldy Bear a caterer and single mother to 11-year-old Arch who is three years removed from a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. She is making it on her own when an ill-timed poisoning shuts down her business and with the cops three-day-old investigation taking too long she decides to jump in and get the job done for the sake of her financial security. Along the way, we meet her ex-husband and his secretive parents, her best friend who was also formerly married to her ex, her son Arch and the incidental Patty Sue. Nothing about this book quite adds up, even the mathematics of characters’ ages and various dates mentioned didn’t add up, literally, though nothing a better editor couldn’t fix. I could never shake the feeling that I had come in mid-story, mid-last century, mid-explanation, even at times mid-conversation or that there were pages I had missed.
The dialogue lacked logical flow and often seemed antiquated while the sentence structure was incredibly awkward. The first hundred pages were lackluster filled with stilted and almost emotionless characters while the pages after that were filled with Goldy’s snappish temper (where did that come from) towards almost everyone though mostly focused on her 20-year-old house guest, Patty Sue, whom she treated and ordered around as though she were a cross between a particularly naughty child, a juvenile delinquent newly paroled and someone with learning difficulties without any explanation from the author. Further, tarnishing the book's readability were characters that operated purely on emotion without actually emoting, the occasional italicized words to tell what the author couldn’t or wouldn’t with more words of her own, and actions that made absolutely no sense.
The publisher’s idea of breaking up a scene or a sentence with the placement of two and three page recipes is completely ridiculous, it doesn’t serve any purpose and kills any expectation and suspense created by forcing the reader to turn page after page. Perhaps if the book had some humorous aspects other than the “aw shucks gee whiz” cop, who was not funny or engaging in the least, the story would have appealed more to me, though I suppose the trite notion that pregnant women actually crave ice cream could serve as a source of amusement were it not written so seriously in the book. The twice-mentioned assertion that one of the character’s didn’t shave her legs because she was a feminist was stereotypical, absurd and offensive to me.
If the choppy dialogue, awkward story construction, uninteresting characters and obvious perpetrators of the crimes hadn’t killed it for me well that statement straight out of the kind of handbook that applauds terms like feminazi certainly would have. While a woman who is the victim of emotional and physical abuse and the holder of a degree in psychology wouldn’t necessarily identify herself as a feminist of even support the politics of feminism I would imagine that she would know better than to align herself with archaic patriarchal notions of what women are, feminist or otherwise. Mott Davidson seems out of touch with the world as it is and even the world as it was 18 years ago when she wrote this book despite using her maiden and married name. I wonder if she shaves her legs.