Oink: A Food for Thought Mystery.
April 2017, She Writes Press
Distributed with Ingram Publishing Services
Pigs, poisoned cornbread, a feminist network, a university tainted by corporate values
Emily Addams, foodie professor of women’s studies at Arbor State―a land grant university in Northern California―finds herself an unlikely suspect in the poisoning of a man she barely knows: Professor Peter Elliott of Plant Biology, the hotshot developer of a new genetically modified corn. How did her cornbread end up in his hand as he lay in the smelly muck of the university’s historic hog yard?
As Emily and her colleagues try to identify who and what has poisoned Peter, they also struggle to keep a new and corporate-minded administration from defunding the women’s and ethnic studies programs.
In the process of solving the mystery, Emily and her network deepen their ties to each other―and uncover some of the dark secrets of a university whose traditionally communal values are being polluted by a wave of profit-fueled ideals.
Culminating in a twist as curvy as a pig’s tail, Oink: A Food for Thought Mystery is at once a sly send-up of the corporatization of the university and a reminder of why community belongs at that heart of human life.
Oink comes with recipes.
To read about the characters, landscape, and buildings in Oink, click here.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Oink portrays a struggle between two sets of values. What are they? And how do the major characters embody them?
2. What is the relation of the many animals and plants that appear throughout the novel to the values that the book most endorses?
3. What is the relation between the cooking and dining scenes in relation to the values that the book most endorses?
4. How do the recipes underscore the values of the book?
5. Why choose corn as the primary ingredient of all the recipes?
6. How does the debate about GMOs relate to the struggle between two sets of values?
7. There are many kinds of feminism. What counts for feminist values in this novel?
8. How does Emily affirm or challenge stereotypes about feminists?
9. What finally convinces Emily that she and Wilmer have a future together?
10. The book begins on October 11 and ends on November 1 in a Day of the Dead Celebration. What does the time of year add to the meaning of the book?
11. The author once said that Oink was a cross between Tony Hillerman’s Skinwalkers and the Lemon Meringue Pie Murder. What was she getting at?
12. How would you relate this book to the present moment?
“The winning lead, superior prose, and clever plotting set this above the pack. Recipes are a bonus. Publisher’s Weekly. Starred Review
“One of the seventeen funniest books this spring.”–MediaBookBub.Com
One of the five foodie books you should read this summer.–Epicurious
“One of the breakthrough novels this spring.”–MediaBookBub.Com
” . . .intriguing and full of twists, it’s hard to find fault with the author’s theme of communal empowerment, her love of food, and her frequent instructional asides. A highly educated foodie’s dream, this tale delivers a unique take on both the campus and mystery genres.” —Kirkus Reviews
. . a witty combination of a campus novel, a murder mystery, a debate about GMOs, and a recipe book, . . . Oink is a celebration of community connected to the joy of food and fellowship. At a time when collegiality is on the decline because of the corporatisation of higher education, Newton’s light-hearted novel makes the serious point that collegiality is important not only personally but also politically. It has been said that the comic campus novel is no more (things in higher ed are verging on the tragic), but Oink proves otherwise. —Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber, authors of The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.
Fans of the cozy mystery will love a plot that keeps on twisting until the end and the bonus of recipes for good things eaten in this novel. But what . . . distinguishes Oink is its insightful and often beautiful creation of the academic characters and settings at a formerly agricultural California university. . . . amid vivid, evocative glimpses of an agrarian Central Valley built-scape . . . nonhuman living things loom and fly [overhead] as humans pursue and are pursued by each other. Oink satisfies in multiple ways. —Elizabeth Harris, author of Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman.
“A fabulous fictional voyage through the new landscape of contemporary food culture in the Academy, with the intrigue of mystery to boot. Rich in surprises and recipes.”—Michael W. Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South
“This entertaining mystery novel aptly describes the laid back atmosphere of a small town ag university. Newton, a former professor, captures the distinct traits of academics from both the sciences and humanities. A good read that is both humorous and thoughtful.” —Pamela C. Ronald, co-author of Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and The Future of Food
“Oink takes readers on a lively romp through campus politics and interpersonal intrigue. Food themes abound in this engaging and well-crafted mystery which combines concerns about genetic engineering and pesticides with reflections upon the satisfactions of building community through sharing food and food stories. Recipes are included.”—Janet A. Flammang, author of Table Talk: Building Democracy One Meal at a Time
CHANTICLEER MYSTERY AND MAYHEM Short List.
BEST BOOK AWARDS Finalist in cross genre.
BOOK EXCELLENCE AWARD Finalist in humor.
Southern California Book Festival, Second in General Fiction.
Great Northwest Book Festival, Second in General Fiction.
San Francisco Book Festival, Second in Wild Card.
Great Northern California Book Festival, First in Unpublished.
Great Midwest, First in Unpublished.
Los Angeles Book Festival. Honorable Mention
Picture: Arboretum, U.C. Davis