Pence, Joanne

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PENCE, Joanne


Female. Born in San Francisco, CA; daughter of Robert and Rose Lopez; married David Pence; children: Aaron, Zachary. Education: University of California—Berkeley, B.A., M.A. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Home—Boise, ID. Office—P.O. Box 64, Eagle, ID 83616. Agent—Sue Yuen, Inko Inc., P.O. Box 372, Brooklyn, NY 11218. E-mail—[email protected].


Mystery writer. Social Security Administration, Richmond, CA, operations analysis manager, 1970-98.


Sisters in Crime, Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America.


RomCon Award for Romantic Suspense, Independent Booksellers Golden Scroll Award for Too Many Cooks; To Catch a Cook nominated for Romantic Times Best Amateur Sleuth, Daphne DuMaurier Best Mystery, and Golden Quill Best Romantic Suspense.


Armed and Dangerous, Silhouette (Buffalo, NY), 1987.

Something's Cooking, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Too Many Cooks, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.

Cooking up Trouble, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Cooking Most Deadly, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.

Cook's Night Out, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

Cooks Overboard, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.

A Cook in Time, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

To Catch a Cook, Avon (New York, NY), 2000.

Bell, Cook, and Candle, Avon (New York, NY), 2002.

If Cooks Could Kill, Avon (New York, NY), 2003.

Two Cooks A-Killing, Avon (New York, NY), 2003.

Courting Disaster, Avon (New York, NY), 2004.


Known primarily for her "Angelina Amalfi" series of romantic mysteries, Joanne Pence actually maintained a job as a manager with the Social Security Administration until 1998, while putting out a new "Amalfi" mystery each year. The zesty blend of romance, humor, and adventure in these titles have captivated mystery lovers, and earned the series a number of commendations along the way, including a Golden Scroll Award from the Independent Booksellers organization.

Pence first launched Angelina Amalfi into the world of who-done-its in Something's Cooking. Amalfi, a San Francisco food writer, finds her life turned upside down when a mysterious stranger who has been sending her recipes is murdered. Other deaths follow, and before long Angie Amalfi herself is on the run from arms dealers and fanatical food lovers, while she concocts a plan to catch the murderer. Not that she's entirely on her own, for handsome homicide detective Paavo Smith has been assigned to her case, and the two find themselves drawn ever closer as they work to solve the killings. "Of course, it is really not that hard to figure out the brains behind all the attempts on Angie's life, but this is a fun, tingly romantic suspense yarn to read," concluded Kay Black in the Mystery Reader online.

In Too Many Cooks Angie has landed a job with a pompous radio chef, but soon is spending more of her time "helping" boyfriend Paavo's investigation of the poisoning of a prominent restaurateur—much to Paavo's annoyance. In the next installment, Cooking up Trouble, Angie and Paavo think they have found a respite from danger when Angie takes a job creating a menu for a quiet coastal resort. But before long, the resort owner disappears and the ghost of a former owner begins to make his presence felt, as various guests begin to "check out" permanently. "With this third installment of her humourous, intriguing, not to mention tasty romantic suspense series, Joanne Pence continued her growth as an author.… Fans of An gelina and Paavo won't be disappointed," wrote Jill Smith online for the Romantic Times.

In Cooking Most Deadly Paavo is assigned to the seemingly unconnected murders of a store clerk shot over a fake Fabergé egg and a City Hall employee stabbed to death. Angelina, determined to find an undiscovered culinary gem, stumbles upon a café that is actually a front for some ex-cons planning to tunnel into the jewelry store next door. Angie is determined to give the bogus restauranteurs the notoriety they so desperately want to avoid, a determination that finds her caught up in Paavo's investigations and on the track of a killer with ties to City Hall. In Cook's Night Out Angelina, determined to create the perfect chocolate creation, donates the rejects to the newly formed Random Acts of Kindness Mission, and soon volunteers to help them organize a charity auction. At the same time, Paavo is apparently being set up by someone who is stealing evidence from his murder investigation and placing his phone number with a murdered numbers runner. As Amalfi fans might guess, the saboteur is connected to the Mission, and as the charity auction approaches, the body count grows as Angelina struggles to save Paavo's reputation and possibly his life. Reviewing the first five volumes of the series, a Bookbrowser online contributor wrote, "any fan of romantic suspense needs to read them because they are some of the best books of the nineties."

The series continues with Cooks Overboard, in which Angie and Paavo take a much-needed vacation on a Norwegian freighter, only to find themselves in the middle of a murderous hunt for a professor's alternate-energy formula. "An already fabulous series has turned into a gourmet's delight," concluded a reviewer. In A Cook in Time Angelina sets up a "Fantasy Dinners" business and is booked for a UFO-themed dinner for the mysterious Prometheus Group. Can this group be connected to the grisly murders Paavo is trying to solve? Crescent Blues contributor Patricia White found the book "A tasty morsel you can't help savor … exotically fruity, with a tangy aftertaste and just enough sweetness to make it a real delight."

In the next book, To Catch a Cook "Paavo finally gets his story and Joanne Pence outdoes herself with this intricate and intriguing novel," according to Romantic Times reviewer Jill Smith. For Christmas, Paavo gives Angelina a cameo once owned by the mother he never knew, the only possession he has of hers. When it is damaged, Angie frantically searches for a jeweler to repair it, and before long the jeweler is murdered, Paavo's foster father is shot in a burglary attempt, and Paavo comes face to face with his family's darkest secrets. "Pence shows her talent as a mighty good mystery writer and adds a great human element that turns this tale into a fabulous drama," wrote a contributor for

In Bell, Cook, and Candle, Pence returns to somewhat lighter fare. Once again, Angelina Amalfi is struggling to launch a new, hopefully murder-free, career, this time selling "Comical Cakes" for special occasions. When she is commissioned to bake a rather odd cake for the Crypt Macabre, a goth dance club, Angie is soon drawn into a web of ritualistic murder and a zany cast of suspects, including a deranged seer, various Satanists, and a family of operatic Italian Americans. Before long she is so caught up in the case that she keeps missing Paavo's broad hints and repeated attempts to propose marriage to her. "Despite the novel's chaotic organization and self-centered heroine … this light confection is sweetened by a colorful assortment of local characters and a sunny location," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. For Romantic Times reviewer Jill Smith, it "continues the high energy and high fun factor in the ongoing series of Angie and Paavo mysteries."

Pence told CA: "My favorite type of story combines humor and a little romance with an intriguing, possibly quirky, mystery, and so that's what I write. I was influenced by books such as Susan Isaac's Compromising Positions, and a number of movies, including the old 'screwball' comedies and mysteries of the 1930s and '40s, such as the "Thin Man" series.

"My writing process is a simple one: after developing an idea for a plot and characters, I write the first draft as quickly as possible to see if the idea is a good one and the characters work. This very rough, very quick first draft goes through many changes as I go along, and the end result usually bears little resemblance to what I started with. I suppose simply having a full draft—having something with a beginning, middle, and end—provides me with a sense of comfort that then allows my imagination to fly, and gives me the freedom to have fun with the story, making changes as I go."



Publishers Weekly, November 12, 2001, review of Bell, Cook, and Candle, p. 42.

ONLINE, (December 10, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Cook's Night Out, Cooks Overboard, A Cook in Time, To Catch a Cook, and Bell, Cook, and Candle.

Crescent Blues, (December 10, 2002), Patricia White, review of A Cook in Time, and Cooks Overboard., (December 10, 2002)., (February 4, 2001), review of To Catch a Cook; (December 10, 2002), Kay Black, review of Something's Cooking, Monica Pope, review of Cooks Overboard, and Wendy Crutcher, review of To Catch a Cook.

Romantic Times, (December 10, 2002), Jill M. Smith, reviews of Cooking up Trouble, Cooking Most Deadly, Cook's Night Out, Cooks Overboard, A Cook in Time, To Catch a Cook, and Bell, Cook, and Candle.