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Dead Good Recipes from The Mystery Writers of America

The biggest names in mystery fiction share their favorite family recipes and detective-inspired dishes.

mystery writers cookbook
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  • Photo Credit: Quirk Books

If one must die, death by chocolate is the way to go.

James Patterson must agree, judging by the decadent chocolate cake recipe he contributed to The Mystery Writer’s of America Cookbook.

The thick tome, edited by Kate White, includes favorite dishes—from breakfast foods to cocktails—from the country’s most esteemed mystery writers, including Lee Child, Charlaine Harris, Harlan Coben, and more. Some share their family’s go-to meals, like Gillian Flynn’s midwestern Beef Skillet Fiesta. Others take inspiration from their characters, like Sue Grafton's concoction, Kinsey Millhone's Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich.

Related: Mystery on the Rocks 

Moody photography sets a mysterious tone throughout; White's delectable anecdotes about Roald Dahl, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nero Wolfe add a dash of literary humor. In short, it’s a feast for foodies and whodunnit fans alike.

Here’s one “killer” Alex Cross always loves to catch—Grandma’s Killer Cake! A special family recipe dating from the 1940s, this decadent cake seems to get better with age; it is tastier on day two. And you need to be a good detective around the house after it has been made, sitting there in its glass-domed cake stand, staring back at you with deadly temptation, because a piece seems to mysteriously disappear every time I go into the kitchen. Not to be caught red-handed, so looms the “Killer Cake Killer”!

James Patterson’s Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake

mystery writers cookbook
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  • Photo Credit: Alchetron

Yield: 1 Single Layer 9-by-12 Inch Cake or 1 Double Layer 9-Inch Cake

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons baking soda, dissolved in 2/5 cup hot water
  • 3 1/2 squares bitter chocolate, melted gently
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 squares bitter chocolate
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs.
  2. Blend in flour and buttermilk in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour. Add baking soda mixture, followed by chocolate and vanilla extract.
  3. Pour batter into one 9-by-12-inch pan or two round 9-inch springform pans. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.
  4. Combine all frosting ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a full boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Let cool. You can put saucepan on ice if necessary to cool quickly.
  5. Remove the cake from the pan, frost, and serve.

For more wickedly good recipes, download the cookbook.

Excerpted from The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.

Featured photo courtesy of Quirk Books; Additional photo: Alchetron