The Satanic Mechanic (Tannie Maria Mystery, #2)

The Satanic MechanicThe Satanic Mechanic
by Sally Andrew
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781925355130
Series: Tannie Maria Mystery #2
Publication Date: August 1, 2016
Pages: 312
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Text Publishing

Tannie Maria writes the Love Advice and Recipe Column for the Klein Karoo Gazette: words of wisdom for the lovelorn, along with a recipe for something delicious that may help.

But Maria’s own problems resist her attempts to self-medicate, even with an amazing peanut-butter coffee chocolate cake. Her new relationship with Detective Henk Kannemeyer continues to be haunted by the memory of her abusive husband, and she decides to check out a PTSD counselling group run by a man they call the Satanic Mechanic.

But then someone is murdered—poisoned with mustard sauce—before her eyes, and Tannie Maria’s quest for healing takes a more investigative turn. Which means her intimate relationship with Henk is about to get professional. And more importantly, very complicated.


 

The follow up to the first Tannie Maria mystery, Recipes for Love and Murder, this sophomore entry started off with the same lyrical voice and fabulous atmosphere, but a very disjointed plot.

As the synopsis says, the satanic mechanic is a counsellor specialising in PTSD, whom Tannie Maria consults about her past as an abused spouse.  But he doesn’t make an entrance into the story until Chapter 24, page 92. In the meantime, the book starts almost immediately with the murder of a tribal man whose tribe just won a major land case against a diamond mining company and a cattle company.  He’s poisoned right in front of Tannie Maria and her now-boyfriend Henk, the chief detective.  Her experience with food and cooking gives her the ability to spot how he was poisoned and this opens a rift between her and Henk.

This murder has, seemingly, nothing to do with the satanic mechanic, but his reputation as a suspected former satanist makes everybody suspicious, though Tannie Maria finds her group sessions to be the only thing that’s helped her to date, and several incidents, including another murder in the middle of a group session keeps the focus on the titular character.

Everything comes together in the end, but the journey is not, from a writing perspective, a smooth one.  The connections revealed at the end make complete sense, but getting there was a clumsy exercise in plotting.

The romance started off a bit sweet – in a good way – but veered into the eye-rolling with Henk’s manufactured drama.  I realise attractiveness is entirely subjective, but the author seems to delight in creating male characters that not only defy common stereotypes of attractiveness, but are firmly planted as far away from them as realistically possible.  But perhaps I’m totally wrong, and waxed handlebar moustaches and hirsute men are what’s hot in South Africa.  It matters little, as the characters are all well drawn with magnetic, if not attractive, personalities.

Once again though, what pretty much kept me glued to the page is the evocative atmosphere of the Klein Karoo and the little side stories that develop from letters written to Tannie Maria in her role as Advice and Recipe columnist.  I also enjoyed the somewhat spiritual, somewhat hallucinogenic connections with the African wildlife.

A lot of these first two books is built around Tannie Maria as a victim of spousal abuse (the spouse is dead when the series begins), but by the end of this book, she’s well on her way to putting herself back together, which makes me curious about what kind of book the third one will be.  It’s out now, but my library doesn’t currently have it.  Might have to go on the to-buy list for 2022.

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