by Sally Scott
Publisher/Year: Fremantle Press/2021
Journalist Alex Grant is enjoying the last days of her summer holiday in Croatia when she is accosted by an old school friend, Marie Puharich, and her odious brother, Brian, both there to attend the funeral of their fearsome grandfather’s two loyal retainers. The only upside of the whole sorry business is meeting Marco, the family’s resident Adonis. An incorrigible foodie, Alex is unable to resist Brian’s invitation to visit the family creamery in Australia’s south-west to snoop around for stories and eat her body weight in brie. But trouble has a way of finding Alex, not least because her curiosity is the size of a giant goudawheel. What begins as a country jaunt in search of a juicy story will end in death, disaster and the destruction of multiple pairs of shoes.
Reviewer: Narrelle Harris
Fromage begins at a seaside resort in Croatia, soon after the ethnically motivated wars of the 1990s, which were connected to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Holidaying West Australian food writer and journalist, Alex Grant, bumps into an old school friend, Maria Puharich, and her somewhat unsavoury brother, Brian.
Alex finds herself unable to politely back out of the siblings’ invitation to accompany them to a family funeral at the Puharich family’s Croatian cheesemaking headquarters – mostly due to the lure of tasting some really world-class cheese.
The funeral is actually for two family retainers for the Puharich patriarch – Jure and Zorka – who have died violently. The members of the extremely powerful Puharich family say it was a murder-suicide, but Alex wonders if that’s a cover-up for something more sinister.
With this beginning, the dodgy keeps on coming – served with crisp white wine and a selection of to-die-for cheeses – when Alex goes on to accept an invitation to visit the Puharich creamery back home in Margaret River in south-west Western Australia. Alex’s aversion to Brian’s persistent attentions can’t compete with her desire to try more award-winning cheese, or her instincts that there’s a bigger story to be found about mysterious Croatian-Australian family.
With the blessings of her editor, Alex drives to Margaret River to gobble cheese, swoon at handsome Puharich cousin Marco, and pry into things with more bravado than good sense, and discovers very dodgy goings-on indeed.
Alex’s penchant for following handsome men, good cheese and her instincts into sinister, unsavoury and potentially dangerous situations is a recurring theme while she follows leads and discovers clues all around rural WA. The way she presents as equal parts intrepid reporter, reckless ditz and dedicated gourmand can be frustrating at times, making several terrible decisions (and losing a truly ridiculous number of nice shoes). Her klutzy approach to both food writing and investigative reporting pay off, however, and are fairly entertaining.
More Alex Grant books are promised, so if you enjoy the idea of a slightly hapless yet professionally lucky gourmand-sleuth, Sally Scott’s books may be for you.