Virginia Rich (1914–1985) was a mystery author who pioneered the "culinary mystery" subgenre.
In three novels written 1982 to 1985 she introduced sleuth Eugenia Potter, a widow and chef who divided her time between a ranch in Arizona and a small town on the Maine coast. The books included recipes, the hallmark of what has come to be called 'culinary mysteries'. Several years after her death her family approached mystery writer Nancy J. Pickard to complete an unfinished manuscript, producing The 27 Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders, published in 1993. Pickard went on to write two more novels in the series, based on Rich's notes.
Rich was born in Sibley, Iowa. She wrote a food column for the Chicago Tribune under the name of Mary Meade, and served as food editor for Sunset Magazine. She was married to cattleman Ray Rich. Like her heroine, she lived on a working cattle ranch near Tucson, Arizona and spent a number of months a year at her cottage off the coast of Maine. Her daughter Susan Sheridan Rich is an art teacher.
Culinary mysteries are usually seen as a type of "cozy": escapist, enjoyable mysteries just right for reading by the fire. There are now several series of "cozies" with sleuths who are cooks, caterers, food critics and so on, incorporating recipes, written by Jerrilyn Farmer, Diane Mott Davidson, Joanne Fluke, Nancy Fairbanks and others, as well as a wider pool of "food themed" mysteries with settings in the food or wine businesses. However, one reviewer notes that Rich's books are not quite as "cozy" as the latest offerings, being the product of female experience in earlier decades and different literary influences.
Eugenia Potter mysteries
By Virginia Rich
- The Cooking School Murders (1982)
- The Baked Bean Supper Murders (1983)
- The Nantucket Diet Murders (1985)
Created by Virginia Rich, written by Nancy J, Pickard
- The 27 Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders (1993)
- The Blue Corn Murders (1998)
- The Secret Ingredient Murders (2001)