by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a double header of books by Shawn Reilly Simmons from her Red Carpet Catering series. At the end of this post are details on how to win copies of both of them, and links to purchase them.
Murder on the Half Shell: A Red Carpet Catering Mystery by Shawn Reilly Simmons
Review by Cynthia Chow
Penelope Sutherland may be on Florida’s Andrea Island surrounded by beautiful Hollywood actors, but she’s not on vacation. As the owner of Red Carpet Catering, Penelope has the difficult task of producing high-quality meals for the crew filming a 1890s period movie, The Yellow Wallpaper. Tensions are high between the residents who revere their history and the descending filmmakers, but that’s nothing compared to the hostilities that arise when two teenagers Penelope hired as waitresses go missing during a crew party.
Penelope is torn between feelings of responsibilities and loyalty when the last man seen with the girls was Emilio Babineau, a New Orleans celebrity chef. He also happens to be a former culinary instructor who helped Penelope obtain her first job. Deeply troubling to Penelope is the knowledge that Emilio left their culinary school under a cloud of suspicion. Although he was eventually cleared, Emilio had been accused of having inappropriate relationships with his female students. Emilio may have planned to partner with the director Shane Guthrie to open a new Craw Daddy’s restaurant on Andrea Island, but that possibility looks slim now due to the possibility of his imminent arrest.
Penelope has her hands full timing the meals around their demanding director, in addition to ensuring that the actress who employs her as a personal chef isn’t subject to an allergic reaction to shellfish. So it’s a welcome treat when her boyfriend, New Jersey Homicide Detective Joseph Baglioni, comes to visit for a brief vacation. While sunning on the yacht of her employer’s boyfriend, the pair investigate Emilio’s past as well as the divisions growing between the insular residents, vacationing tourists, and adventurous teenagers.
It’s always enjoyable to read mysteries about a profession from the viewpoint of an insider, and here the author shares her extensive background as a wine consultant and caterer. The requirements that go into ensuring the quality meals prepped for hundreds is fascinating, down to the tiniest detail. The focus falls on the Andrea Islanders who are protective of their home, even though they survive off of their tourist industry. Penelope herself proves to be a skilled professional caterer, but her being drawn into the investigation feels entirely realistic. Penelope’s loyalties are strong, rivaled only by her protectiveness towards her staff. These two warring motives ensure that Penelope will be unstoppable until she unravels the mystery behind this compelling and thoroughly engaging read.
Murder on a Silver Platter: A Red Carpet Catering Mystery by Shawn Reilly Simmons
Review by Cynthia Chow
Ever since graduating from culinary school, Penelope Sutherland dreamed of owning a theatrical catering business. By working on commercial sets, Off-Broadway productions, and low-budget music videos, she was able to hire a crew and purchase enough catering trucks to create Red Carpet Catering. It was becoming the personal, live-in chef for rising slasher-film actress Arlena Madison that provided the last financial push, and since then Penelope and Arlena formed a rewarding professional and personal relationship together in Arlena’s Glendale, New Jersey mansion. Penelope remains a supportive friend during Arlena’s complicated romantic life, while Arlena recommends Red Carpet Catering to all of her productions.
Red Carpet Catering’s current assignment is working on the set of Arlena’s new movie being filmed in South Point, New Jersey. Their adaptation of a book is off to a rocky start when Penelope discovers a body of a teenager on Arlena’s property. The tragic young woman bore a striking resemblance to Arlena, bringing into question whether it was the actress herself who was the intended victim. When Arlena is nearly run down on the set and then sabotaged with tampered makeup, Penelope becomes alarmed that the actress is the target of plot that at the very least would shut down the movie. That Arlena is the daughter of a legendary movie actor renowned for his lothario ways and copious number of children complicates matters, as the movies seem more personal in nature.
Much of what makes this such an enjoyable new mystery is the background information on both catering and movie-making. Equally compelling is just how seamlessly author Simmons works Penelope into the investigation. Penelope never intentionally sets out to solve a murder, but her relationship to those involved – as well as her often overlooked role within the household and on movie sets – make her instrumental to the investigating detective. Detective Joey Baglioni is an old acquaintance of Penelope and seems to be as interested in her as Arlena’s half-brother, adding an additional spicy element to the novel. The relationships between Arlena, the movie cast, and her family eventually take their starring role, but Penelope’s intelligence and sharp wit continue throughout the novel. This is a fun new series for readers who enjoy their theatrical showbiz mysteries with a culinary twist.
These books are published by Henery Press, if you would like to know more about their books you can visit their website: henerypress.com
To enter to win a copy of both books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “catering,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 5, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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