UPPER EAST SIDE — Neighborhood scribe Linda Olle's latest novel is a tale of intrigue, suspense and tasty recipes.
"Parsley Does Thyme" is the third installment of Olle's New York-centric fiction series focusing on protagonist Parsley Cresswell, a fashion-loving foodie who has been wrongly jailed for killing her boyfriend.
The latest tome takes its name from a clever play on words to describe Cresswell's reflections on life behind bars, Olle said.
The book, published by Olle's imprint Parsley Press, was inspired by high-profile incarcerations such as Jean Harris and homemaking icon Martha Stewart, who was jailed for insider trading, Olle said.
"When I first came to New York, the Harris story was in the paper for a year. It just riveted me. Also, Martha Stewart going to jail riveted me, too," said Olle, who is from Wisconsin. "It really intrigued me what they did while they were in prison, and what Parsley would do while she were there."
The novel is a mix of Cresswell's thoughts on life in prison, peppered with recipes like "The Chimney Sweep," a dessert made of "ice cream of any kind, with whiskey or scotch, dusted with instant coffee."
"It has a caffeine kick and the scotch goes well with ice cream," Olle said.
Another recipe in the book is the Cincinnati Three-Way Chili — "spaghetti with a mole poblano-like Bolognese on top."
Olle said her latest book, available at Kitchen Arts & Letters and as an e-book, will get a better glimpse both into Parsley's meal selection, as well as her character and access to socialite society.
While Olle's first two novels are written through the eyes of Cresswell's neighbor, who finds a stack of annotated recipes with notes, "The third one is in Parsley's voice from prison."
At the same time, though, Olle does not want Parsley to be perceived as ritzy. She wanted to make Parsley interesting, but accessible and believable.
"The character Parsley, she's somebody you can identify with without feeling a great deal of empathy," Olle said. "But she also has the bossy tone that used to be used in cookbooks, that sharp, persnickety tone."
Olle, who spends about a year writing each novel, is a freelance fashion editor who has also done stints as a fact-checker for the New Yorker as well as a researcher for Garrison Keilor's "Prairie Home Companion" and the New York Public Library's English Romantics collection.
The planned fourth volume, "May I Have a Doggie Bag?," will detail Parsley's return to normal life, she said.
"I would like to do one last one," she said. "I hope that Parsley is relevant to our times and that it'll go on as a series."