Killham, Nina

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Born in Washington, DC; married; husband's name Andrew (a senior lecturer); children: two. Education: College of William and Mary, graduated.


Home—London, England. Agent—Author Mail, Bloomsbury U.S.A., 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Novelist. Washington Post, Washington, DC, former food columnist; Columbia Pictures, Los Angeles, CA, worked in office of executive production.


How to Cook a Tart, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to Washington Post. Author of screenplays.


Former food writer Nina Killham has done what writers are counseled to do—write about what she knows—in penning her first novel, How to Cook a Tart. Far from being a pastry cookbook, Killham's debut work of fiction is a crime thriller featuring Jasmine March, a Washington, D.C.–based food writer whose tidy life is disrupted when murder is added to the menu. Calling How to Cook a Tart a "decadent debut," a Publishers Weekly contributor praised the novel for its "elaborate culinary descriptions and metaphors"

With her penchant for high-fat foods, the plus-sized, food-obsessed, thirty-something March is in the process of bemoaning her flagging career with a newspaper that caters to dieters; meanwhile, her husband is cheating on her with a demanding young mistress. The silver lining to the dark clouds in March's life seems to appear when she is invited to appear on television and the influence of the Atkins diet craze suddenly makes fat popular and March a local celebrity. When the body of her husband's svelte mistress winds up conveniently deceased but inconveniently stashed in March's kitchen, Killham's novel embarks on what Booklist contributor Mark Knoblauch dubbed "a comedy of errors" spiced by "Killham's drooling descriptions of foods and wines."

The characters in Killham's novel "don't have personalities so much as gastronomic profiles," maintained New York Times Book Review contributor Jennifer Reese, "and the two are unnervingly similar." March is a woman of immense appetite; in contrast, her straying husband Daniel has become obsessed over the health of his colon and survives on high-fiber cereal in an effort to maintain internal cleanliness and thereby good health. March's daughter, sixteen-year-old Careme, is eschewing all foods as a way of acting out against her mother, while mistress Tina is a mini-malist whose diet of tofu and egg whites reflects the cold, calculating strategies she is using to fund her rise to the top as a famous celebrity. Familiar with the world of cookbook journalism, Killham also introduces readers to "a whole gallery of grotesques from the world of food writing"; then, as Reese noted, the novelist humorously "skewers them all."

Reviewing How to Cook a Tart for the Boston Globe, reviewer Clea Simon praised Killham's style and use of "sassy, occasionally salty language," noting that the novelist exhibits "a sure sense of plot and gives out just enough of her characters' interior monologues to ensure that we're strung along." While praising the author's prose for its "infectious zest" and Killham for portraying March with "a motherlike affection," San Francisco Chronicle contributor Radhika Sharma found the book's "climax …disappointing, and the characters seem too narrowly defined by their food ideologies." Describing the novel as a "wickedly funny" debut, Reese added that How to Cook a Tart "is more than a brittle send-up of the America of Atkins and Ornish; it's an expansive satire of the ways we have become preoccupied with food."



Booklist, October 15, 2002, Mark Knoblauch, review of How to Cook a Tart, p. 386.

Boston Globe, November 11, 2002, Clea Simon, "'Tart' Is an Appetizing Mystery," p. B11.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002, review of How to Cook a Tart, p. 906.

New York Times Book Review, December 15, 2002, Jennifer Reese, "The Joy of Cooking," p. 17.

Publishers Weekly, September 9, 2002, review of How to Cook a Tart, p. 42.

San Francisco Chronicle, December 22, 2002, Radhika Sharma, review of How to Cook a Tart.


Funny Tummy, (January 23, 2003), Claire Dederer, review of How to Cook a Tart. *