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Beat Until Stiff: A Mary Ryan Mystery (Mary Ryan Mystery #1)

3.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  208 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Experienced pastry chef Johnson whips up an insider's look at San Francisco's cut-throat restaurant trade. Cranky Mary Ryan has sunk a lot of time and talent into the in-vogue American Fare, the town's hottest spot, while grieving over her broken marriage. At work very early one morning, she steps on a laundry bag stuffed with the dead body of one of her employees. The inv ...more
ebook, 300 pages
Published September 10th 2009 by Poisoned Pen Press (first published November 15th 2002)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 23, 2013 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't normally read fiction. I think I stumbled on this because I wanted something light and fluffy, candy for the mind, after all the heavy reading (A.S. Byatt, Carlos Ruiz Zafon), and it seemed like fun. I see all these culinary-related mysteries go at the library, so I found one I could get through Overdrive and what a fun ride!

This protagonist Mary Ryan is sharp, cranky, and overworked, plus broken-hearted as so many of us are; I can definitely relate. She's lucky enough to be doing what
Jun 08, 2013 John rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A fairly good story weakened by the main character, who's snide, sarcastic, and judgmental. I don't mind a story mostly about--or even entirely about--unlikable characters (I loved Gone Girl), but it really needs to compensate with a brilliant story.

This book did not have a brilliant story.

It also didn't have a brilliant main character, though the author attempted to portray her as such; instead, she was rather slow to make sense of a few obvious clues, and in some places the story depended on h
Tami Hampton
Sep 24, 2014 Tami Hampton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the character of Mary Ryan! Wish I could find more books like this.
Jul 11, 2015 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great for a summer drive book - silly in all the murders that pile up, but still a good read.
Eleanor D
Nov 12, 2013 Eleanor D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starting this book I went into it expecting a traditional trashy chick lit., I was pleasantly surprised. This book is essentially a light hearted murder food mystery meets tacky love story. The only real issue that I had with this book is the dramatic portraying of the protagonists emotion. I am sorry but I have no interest in their deepest emotions nor do I care about the multitude near death experiences in this book. The charm in this book is the lack of any connection to reality, it draws you ...more
Sarah Madison
May 19, 2015 Sarah Madison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever stumbled across a new-to-you author and then run out and read the rest of his or her backlist as a result? Yeah, that happened to me the other day. Laid up with a shoulder injury, I began working my way through a backlog of unread books. When I picked up Beat until Stiff, I was immediately pulled into Mary Ryan's life from the moment she stumbled across the dead body of a co-worker at the upscale restaurant where she works.

This story is so much more than a classic mystery with an i
Holly Booms Walsh
2.5 stars. Okay murder mystery set in the culinary world of San Francisco. The mystery was pretty good and the restaurant life details spot on, but the depressed, angry,catty main character was hard to like. The awkward almost romance was annoying.
Nov 19, 2014 Fmorlan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled on this lovely cozy mystery and listened to the audio. It was very good - about a pastry chef who has issues n general and unfortuately finds a body whike trying to prepare for a big party. Mary lives alone due to unfortuare divorce but her husband keeps showing up out of concern. The murder made her a target. There are so many suspects that keep.cropping up to foul up her investigating. She is tryimg to prove herself to her ex's best friend a married cop. There are funny scenes betwe ...more
Rogue Reader
If you’re wanting yet another culinary cozy replete with recipes and cute, don’t read Johnson’s works. Instead, think Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential and Gordon Ramsay’s angry tirades and you’ll be spot on.

Mary Ryan is Johnson’s protagonist, a pastry chef who’s gone through the school of hard knocks and been tested in the kitchens of San Francisco. “I’d done time in too many kitchens to count where I’d had to adopt this bitchy, balls-the-size-of-grapefruits-attitude to get any respect.
I spent the whole book wrestling with myself, off & on, about whether it was worth finishing.

On the plus side, the mystery was OK & the restaurant background info was interesting and informative. I rarely read mysteries, discounting the Hardy brothers & Nancy Drew stories when I was younger, however I loved this books' title!

On the flip side, the characters didn't behave consistently with themselves or with their contextual setting. I haven't decided if I hated the character(s) them
May 15, 2014 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book in audio format and really enjoyed it. Main character was very well done. She seemed like a "real" person with real emotions, desires, and behavior. I hope there are more books featuring Mary Ryan.

In addition to have a great protagonist the backstory is fascinating. I admit to loving foodie stuff and this supplied my craving. It leads the reader into the gritty world of chefs and restaurant staff of San Francisco.

I will be looking for more from this author.
Michelle Robinson
I really enjoyed this heroine, it's too bad that there are only two of these books, in this series.
May 17, 2014 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars. I did not really warm-up to the protagonist, Mary Ryan.
Bridgette H
Jul 27, 2013 Bridgette H rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this one while looking for an eBook that was available through my library. It's a murder mystery set in a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles. Mary Ryan is a thirty-something divorced pastry chef who is ANGRY. She is overworked and doesn't have time for the body she finds in the kitchen of American Fair, the restaurant she basically lives in. What follows is a duo of over-protective cops, a language barrier, illegal aliens, celebrity chefs, put upon wives, and a love of pastry. Look ...more
Sep 20, 2013 Deb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was very impressed with how the narrator could do a male Mexican accent as easily as she did an American female. Quite nicely done.

I'm always amazed at how badly chefs in books eat. I hope real ones do better.

The mystery was well done. Like in most cozies, the main character has no common sense when putting herself in danger. Luckily she has a good relationship with the local police so they keep yelling at her.

The descriptions of San Francisco were very realistic and I could almost feel the f
Sep 26, 2013 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
audio review - I liked the idea of the restaurant setting. The narrator was not up to the accents on some of the characters. The story was fine, but the heroine was a little unbelievable in the way she jumps into the sleuthing and mystery solving. I have the impression this is the start of a series. If so, I don't think I'll read more. Not a bad book, but there are other books of this genre that are more interesting.
Jun 24, 2013 Melanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-read
The early parts of this book should not be read with an empty stomach! The descriptions of baking and desserts made my mouth water. I thought this was a light, entertaining read. The narrator's voice was terrific with all characters except for the accents; her Hispanic accents were distracting.
Aug 18, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice look @ culinary scene in SF w/o being a NF book. Much like Agatha Raisin, though, the lead (Mary Ryan, pastry chef) takes way too many things into her own hands. I will look for more from this author. Written well. Did not see all the loose ends tying up as they did.
Likeable heroine, and I enjoyed the culinary/restaurant setting. Ended pretty rapidly in a fairly predictable matter, but I will check out more of the series. It's a nice easy read. Reminds me a lot of The Women's Murder Club series by James Patterson.
Jul 17, 2013 Stephen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Just picked this up on a whim. Was fine and a sorta quick, fun read. But nothing really stood out - the mystery wsan't terrfiic, the food-based stuff was thin, the writing a little clichéd, the characters a little formulaic.
Lydia Cain haight
Nov 05, 2012 Lydia Cain haight rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not just another culinary based mystery. This had a great story, great characters and great writing. I enjoyed this book very much and will be looking for more from this author.
May 10, 2013 Eileen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sophisticated Stephanie Plum, Mary encounters dead bodies wherever she goes. Much action for this snarky pastry chef. The dialogue is witty and quite funny at times.
Jennifer Krider
Ok audio book, took a while to get into. Good to read if there is nothing else on your to-read list. It was listed under comedy... Not true it was a murder mystery
Nov 03, 2012 Deb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Found the book to be entertaining. After listening to the audiobook,however, I realized I don't want to work in a restaurant. Count that one off the list!
Jul 28, 2008 Shelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This is a great mystery, full of very realistic characters and a fabulous setting. I'm currently reading the sequel and am quite enjoying it as well.
Joni Allison
Aug 08, 2012 Joni Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed the background information on running a restaurant. Seemed like an accurate account of their lives in that industry. Then a mystery thrown in!!!!
Dec 07, 2011 Marianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a clever and captivating mystery that would particularly enchant foodies or anyone who has wondered what the restaurant business was like.
Sep 05, 2013 Nori rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Nothing particularly noteworthy about this book. You can figure out who did it long before the books nears the end. Mediocre at best.
Jul 28, 2013 Gerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another good murder mystery involved with food. This time, it takes place in a fancy San Francisco restaurant.
Nov 12, 2008 Lorri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First in fun mystery series set in Napa Valley about a pastry chef with themes rich in food and wine
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Claire M. Johnson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in history.

Armed with a whip and a knife-roll, she worked as a pastry chef for eight years in San Francisco and Oakland during the height of the food revolution. The passion and frenzied pace characterizing the food scene on the West Coast during the 1980s is well documented in Ms. Johnson’s first novel Beat Until
More about Claire M. Johnson...

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Mary Ryan Mystery (2 books)
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