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Crunch Time: 10/06/13
It's hard to believe but after a year and a half of consistent reading (mostly through audio books narrated by Barbara Rosenblat), I'm now current with Diane Mott Davidson's mystery series. As of posting this review, I have read her most recent, The Whole Enchilada and will be posting a review in the near future.
Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson is the sixteenth book of the Goldy Schulz catering series. Goldy in Fatally Flaky was feeling like she had finally made it. Her business had taken off and she had a regular flow of business. Now business is constricting again as the economy takes a hit. Although things are a little tight for Goldy, she has hired Yolanda who had been the chef at the now defunct Gold Gulch Spa.
Before she knows it, she's also offering a home to Yolanda and her irascible aunt Ferdinanda. Bad luck and fires seem to follow these two women. Goldy even finds herself in one of these fires and has to rescue a litter of puppies. Pretty soon Goldy's up to her elbows in a puppy mill investigation, marijuana growing, and stalking.
All the way through the series, there have been inconsistencies in things like the local geography and in Goldy's personal timeline. There are sixteen books in the series up to Crunch Time and approximately six months pass between books. Looking at Arch's age, ten years have passed; he was in 5th grade in Catering to Nobody and in this one, he's sixteen. Goldy, though, doesn't seem to be aging along with Arch. Originally she's early thirties (in 1990) but her memories of life with her first husband (The JERK) describe situations that were more common in the 1970s — especially the outspoken misogyny and the expectations that the "med wives" be house wives.
I think this comes from a baby boomer writing someone a decade younger than herself at the start of the series. Goldy throughout the books talks and acts like a women who was closer to 40 and should now be closer to 50 than someone just now pushing 40 (speaking as someone who turned 40 this year).
That brings us to the next inconsistency due to the time slippage between writing/publishing time and narrative time — the economy. If the start date of the series is circa 1990, using the publishing year of Catering to Nobody as the origin. And if, by Arch's aging, ten years have passed, then the present time of Crunch Time should be circa 2000. That was the middle of the dot-com bubble. There was still plenty of venture capital funding and newly made millionaires were starting to drive up housing prices across the country. But Aspen Meadow is specifically suffering from job loss and a collapsing real estate market. One of the sub plots involves squatters going from home.
Putting the timeline problems aside — as I've forgiven the series these oddities before — the thing that really took me out of the moment was the extreme makeover of Yolanda's character. In Fatally Flaky she was the sassy, self confident and successful chef (albeit at a terribly run location, no fault of her own) that Goldy wants to be.
Now, with the JERK out of the picture, and Goldy relatively safe in her domestic space with a son nearly grown up, a loving and protective second husband, and the financial stability afforded by her now established business, Davidson dumps all of Goldy's old issues onto Yolanda's head. Now it's Yolanda who is in an abusive relationship. She goes from being strong (and fluent in Spanish) to being a complete emotionally mesh (and barely functioning in Spanish). All of Yolanda's original character traits are instead mapped onto her aunt, who if her stories of fighting in the Cuban revolution, must be about ninety now (but is written like she's seventy).