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Murder, mystery and meals

Mike Murphy
mmurphy@messengerpostmedia.com
Sodus Point author Karen Shughart has written two mysteries that also feature food.

SODUS POINT — Karen Shughart once wrote of a trip to Philadelphia and the high tea she and the manager of the Four Seasons Hotel shared. Another of her stories involved a trip to Tarpon Springs, Florida, and focused on its Greek fishing village and the places she dined.

For another piece, Shughart wrote of a gourmet group who convened under a canopy on a summer afternoon, and the meal with wine pairings all enjoyed.

And later on, Shughart, who for a time ran a Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania, authored a cookbook featuring the recipes and stories of historic bed and breakfasts in Pennsylvania.

Clearly, Shughart had free rein to pursue stories she liked.

“I love to cook and so it was natural for me to write about food,” said Shughart, who also saw a recipe she created featured in Bon Appetit magazine.

Now a Sodus Point resident, the former freelance food and travel writer for The Sentinel daily newspaper in Central Pennsylvania had a dream dating back to her childhood.

“I had always, always wanted to write fiction,” Shughart said. “When I was a little girl I read Nancy Drew mysteries in second grade. I always wanted to do that.”

So she did, while also incorporating her love of good food and cooking.

“Murder in the Cemetery,” the second in a series of Shughart’s Edmund DeCleryk mysteries, was released earlier in the month by Illinois-based Cozy Cat Press. Her first, “Murder in the Museum,” was published in 2018.

The books, set in the fictional village of Lighthouse Cove that is based very much on the Wayne County village where Shughart lives, are cozies, meaning they are low on explicit sex and graphic violence and so are “very clean mysteries, with a lot of community and a lot of family ties,” she said.

And, yes, food.

The sleuth is Edmund DeClerk, and his wife, Annie, is head of the local historical society and loves to cook. Shughart said she wanted the main character to have this savvy wife who helped him with investigations but also was nurturing and domestic.

“Throughout the books, Annie makes meals for friends and family during holidays or other times or summer brunches,” Shughart said.

Shughart includes Annie’s recipes of the meals the characters enjoy at the end of her books. Annie’s recipes are recipes that Shughart cooks, and she tries to make them appropriate for the season or the mood.

And, she laughed, “they’re tested.”

“I just wanted that to be part of the book because I thought that just makes the book more interesting and it gives a sort of human component to that,” Shughart said. “This is a family that lives in a tight-knit community but there are things that go on — festivals and fairs, people get together and they have meals.”

Shughart’s background helped with the cooking aspect of her works. For the criminal investigation parts, she took a nine-week course with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office that helped her with the sleuthing techniques in her mysteries.

“It was fabulous. It really helped me with a lot of the details,” Shughart said. “I wanted to make sure the criminal investigation parts were accurate.”

And, she recalls another helpful criminal justice source — a strapping former Monroe County law enforcement commander, she said — who after reading her first book and a particular meal described in it, called her up asking for more.

“He wanted my recipes so he could cook them,” Shughart said. “I thought that was cute.”

Sodus Point, or at least fictional details of it, figure prominently in the stories. She and her husband came here 17 years ago, and immediately fell in love with the village on Lake Ontario to the degree they chose their home over a retirement home they had built already.

Shughart is working on the third in a series of five books, and the Finger Lakes region she and her husband now call home itself is inspiration for both writing and their love of food and beverages.

“We’re foodies and wine people, too,” Shughart said. “I feel like we’re living in the best place we can possibly live in.” 

A meal that's no mystery

If you want to try one of the recipes from the mystery novel “Murder in the Museum,” visit YouTube, where author Karen Shughart demonstrates how to make a shrimp with feta cheese and tomatoes dish that she promises is easy to make.

Shughart said she adapted it from a recipe she doesn’t even remember where she found, but at the time, she thought it was too complex and too rigid. So she skipped some steps here and there, and voila!

“It came out great. It’s sort of a favorite of my family and also a lot of our friends,” Shughart said. “It’s so easy — you just serve it in bowls with bread.”

Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8Y1JGa6yyc to watch. For recipes featured in her novels, visit her website at karenshughart.com. Her second book, "Murder in the Cemetery," is available for purchase through Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats, at Barnes and Noble online, and at local and regional museums and gift shops.

Eat, Drink and Be Murphy

The Eat, Drink and Be Murphy column explores the region’s bounty of food and drink — and the people who bring it to you — soup to nuts, accentuated with a craft beer or Finger Lakes wine. After all, who doesn’t love to eat and drink? Email assistant editor Mike Murphy at mmurphy@messengerpostmedia.com or call 585-337-4229 with ideas and suggestions.

Sodus Point author Karen Shughart has written two mysteries that also feature food. [PHOTO PROVIDED]