Blog Tour: Pass The Cyanide, Karmen Špiljak

Book Review: Pass The Cyanide, Karmen Špiljak

Pass The Cyanide, Karmen Špiljak

Mystery: Pass The Cyanide, Karmen Špiljak

Blog Tour November 20, 2023


I’ll have to admit, this book scared me a little bit. As I read it, we were preparing for Thanksgiving in the United States. Recipes for dishes, both new and traditional, were in every magazine, on the radio, in the papers, on television. So, reading a book of short story culinary murders, complete with recipes, was a bit jarring in the midst of preparing for a major feasting event.


Author Karmen Špiljak seems to delight in this discomfort. She makes the point that the recipes she provides do not actually include cyanide. Most of her stories don’t, either. There is cyanide, but there are also stabbings, blunt force trauma, even piranhas. Some of her murderers get away with seemingly perfect crimes. Others reap what they sow. All of the stories, though, are told with a deft touch, a bit of humor mixed in with the murder and mayhem, and enough food to make a reader hungry, though perhaps a bit reluctant to eat what is being served.


Špiljak’s characters leap off the page. They have to, since there are only a few pages to get in, commit the crime, then get out. They are driven by the usual motives for these stories: jealousy, greed, etc. A lot of them, though, seem to be driven to murder by sheer exhaustion. A wife tired of her husband’s lies. A son, worn down by his mother’s criticism. An employee, fed up with an employer’s empty promises. Many of these are characters who did not act from rage or calculation, but faced the cruel erosion of their values from the constant dripping of a cruel or indifferent person. That’s not to say the victims deserved their fate. In stories, though, the reader can indulge in somewhat morally ambiguous schadenfreude.


The obvious unifying theme is the culinary aspect. The other, though, is the sheer cleverness of the stories. In just a few pages, Špiljak succeeds in bringing these people to life. Then killing some of them. The plots are fun, the twists keep coming, and the characters are fresh. These may be culinary murders, but honestly I was ready to pop some popcorn and watch the stories play out.


I’d better let someone else taste the popcorn first, though.


Our thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for our copy of Pass the Cyanide, given so we could write an honest review for this blog tour. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla. For other perspectives, check out the other bloggers on this tour.


Pass The Cyanide, Karmen Špiljak

Book Review: Pass The Cyanide, Karmen Špiljak

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