You can safely eat yourself into a chocolate and hot cross bun coma over Easter weekend. That skinny, older guy with the friendly smile, who banished sugar and carbs, is gone. Done. Dead. Well, at least in Paige Nick’s tongue-in-cheek(y) novel, Death by Carbs, he is.
The story begins with the murder of Banting guru and South African superstar, Professor Tim Noakes. Detective Bennie September (who is a kind of a parody of Deon Meyer’s iconic detective, Bennie Griesel), faces a task almost as big as his belly: solve a murder in which almost anyone could be a suspect, and hide his doughnut addiction from his wife, who is mystified that he’s not losing weight on the Banting diet.
But who could it be? One of the sugar Nazis whose withdrawal symptoms caused a psychotic break? One of the Prof’s co-authors, green with envy that he’s the one who’s become the celebrity, along with the big bank balance? What about the ex-publisher, Frank, who’s lost his job and is now drowning his sorrows after turning down the publishing deal of a lifetime, Noakes’ The Real Meal Revolution? Could the CEO of a bread and confectionary company, Trevor, have buckled under the pressure of nose diving sales? There’s also the widow – a Banting believer, whose ‘Noakes-endorsed’ meal plans can now be sold without fear of reprimand. And there are always the haters; someone could have decided their Facebook feed is clogged with the lost fat of smug banters, and their nasty before and after photos.
As if this investigation isn’t complicated enough, the ambulance transporting the body to the mortuary is hijacked (only in South Africa, né?). And now Thabo and Papsak are stuck with the remains of a celebrity, who is starting to cause a stink.
Death by Carbs is described as having more twists than a koeksister, and it will leave you guessing right ‘till the end. It’s a fun, witty, satirical look at Banting culture. My favourite parts are the digs at the ridiculous (and hilarious) real-life Facebook ‘support’ groups where Banters viciously attack one another when someone accidentally strays on to the orange or, god forbid, the Mordor of Banting, the RED list.
The book is a light-hearted but wickedly clever read, perfect for a long weekend when all you want is a giggle and some chocolate, sugar-free or otherwise. The book doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is part of the reason why it’s so enjoyable. Tim Noakes, by the way, has read it and in his usual good-humoured manner, endorsed it with the quote “I was breathless right until the end.” If you want to know more about what the Prof. had to say when Nick first approached him, and why the author decided to write this book, listen to the podcast of my interview with her, which you can stream or download.
A cop who liked donuts: he was the world’s biggest cliché. Bennie September turned on the interior light in the car and angled the rearview mirror so he could catch a glimpse of his face. Then he swept back and forth at his top lip with his fingertips. It wasn’t easy getting powdered sugar out of a moustache.
He dropped the now-empty Pick ‘n Pay box on the floor of the passenger seat of his old Opel, then strained against the seatbelt to shove the box as far back under the seat as possible. That was the first rule for anyone committing a crime, wasn’t it? Get rid of the evidence. He could hear the box knocking against the empty Coke and Fanta Orange cans, which he’d hidden under the seat earlier. Exhibits B, C, D and E.
Bennie wiped his hands down the front of his jacket and swore as he transplanted white streaks of powdered sugar from his fingertips onto his lapels. He swore again, unclipped his seat belt, pulled off his jacket, balled it up and tossed it onto the back seat, which was littered with newspapers. If Felicia found that donut box and those cans, he’d be sleeping on the couch for weeks. But at least the mystery of why his wife was losing weight at a rate of knots, and he wasn’t, would be solve. Shame, he felt quite bad about it, she was genuinely baffled. She swore by this new Banting diet, and had banished all carbs and sugar from their home. Puzzled when this didn’t work for him, she’d cut down his dairy intake and increased his fats even further, but with no joy. The answer was simple, really: gatsbys.”
Rating: 4 out of 5
Death by Carbs is published by N&B Books.
Listen to my interview with Paige Nick.