Claire M. Johnson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in history. Upon applying to graduate school for a PhD in history, she received a letter congratulating her upon being accepted, and, by the way, academic positions were thin on the ground, as in none. Switching gears, she indulged in a lifelong passion for making and eating desserts. After completing the professional chef program at San Francisco's California Culinary Academy in 1983, she worked as a pastry chef for eight years during the height of the food revolution. The passion and frenzied pace characterizing the food scene in the 1980s are well documented in Ms. Johnson's first novel, Beat Until Stiff, for which she won the 1999 Domestic Writers Grant. This book was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel and was a Booksense pick. The second novel in this series, Roux Morgue, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Ms. Johnson's third novel, Pen and Prejudice, which will be out shortly, is a bit of a departure. Not a classic mystery, it's a pastiche of the brilliant classic Pride and Prejudice, but instead of our saucy heroine and arrogant suitor waging a verbal war in the drawing rooms and ballrooms of the nineteeth century, this novel transplants them to the present day and has them verbally sparring at various mystery conferences on the circuit.
Reviews for Beat Until Stiff
"Mary Ryan, feisty pastry chef at American Fare, a trendy San Francisco restaurant, finds murder on the menu in Johnson's delicious debut, which mixes an unglamorized, behind-the-scenes view of the upscale restaurant trade with a plot replete with well-timed shocks... The restaurant business--its food, financing and philosophy--is here in all its complexity for discriminating mystery palates." --Publishers Weekly
"Claire M. Johnson's Beat Until Stiff deserves enthusiastic mention as a very special title which offers an unusually frank view of the cooking and restaurant scene in San Francisco. Herself a professional and experience pastry chef, Claire Johnson presents the reader with a lively style that mixes autobiography with culinary and social insights. Highly recommended!" --Midwest Book Review
"Willy-nilly, Johnson takes you there in a fast and furious place, often reminiscent of the theatrical ditto, complete with Hamelts and Greek choruses and magicians who don't get it right. not only is this a treat, I read it through twice to make sure it was as good as I thought." --The Courier-Gazette
Reviews for Roux Morgue
"Food Channel addicts will enjoy the inside details on cooling school politics, while fans of quirky mysteries will like the outrageous adult behavior on display." --Library Journal
"...highly amusing action in Johnson's superior second cosy to feature funky pastry chef Mary Ryan... This enjoyable romp should gain Johnson new fans." --Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Sexual tension, cooking tips, and a neatly package mystery. All in all, a tasty tale." --Kirkus Reviews
On the Menu
Beat Until Stiff (available in trade paperback and ebook formats)
Roux Morgue (available in hard cover, trade paperback, and ebook formats)
Pen and Prejudice (coming soon)