by Cynthia Chow
& S.C. Perkins
This week we have a review of the the first in a brand new mystery series, Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins. We also have a fun guest post by S.C. about tacos. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Murder Once Removed, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Murder Once Removed: An Ancestry Detective series by S.C. Perkins
Review by Cynthia Chow
If you want to know who is your third cousin three times removed, Lucy Lancaster is the person to ask. Not only can she explain what being “removed” actually means, Lucy and her Ancestry Investigations creates for clients a book of family records that includes her meticulous research, photos, DNA analysis, newspapers, and census reports. Lucy’s painstaking investigation for Gus Halloran leads to the unexpected discovery that his great-great-grandfather’s death was a murder and not an accident, and the culprit possibly being one of two Texas politicians. That the descendant of one of the suspects is currently running for Senate reelection against Gus’s son makes Lucy’s findings potentially explosive, and Gus is more than ready to set off the bomb.
Unfortunately for Lucy, the combination of antihistamines and a martini lunch places her alongside Gus in TV news interview and makes a daguerreotype photo the target of a thief. The first of several break-ins is foiled by Lucy’s giving the photograph to her former boss and University of Texas curator Dr. Winnie Dell, who herself is sadly not so lucky. The arrival of a prickly and expressionless FBI agent only makes Lucy all the more curious, especially when Special Agent Benton Turner’s orders her to stay out of his business and leave the detecting to “real” investigators.
Readers who loved the genealogy mysteries of Rett MacPherson will adore this new series that enthusiastically and extensively delves into the world of family tree research. Genealogy terms and family lineage are fascinatingly explained, and even Lucy’s high school friends and officemates find themselves drawn into her research. That doesn’t mean that Jo Haroldson and Serena Vogel aren’t far more interested in setting up Lucy and finding her a hot Halloween costume, but their exuberance and humor is contagious.
Lucy is not your clichéd stodgy genealogist obsessed with tracing lineage back to the Mayflower, and she combines the latest technology with her adored tangible newspapers and records stored within libraries. Special Agent Turner becomes the nemesis who irritates her as much as he intrigues her, and it certainly doesn’t help that he happens to resemble Indiana Jones in his professor mode. As the danger escalates and Lucy finds herself torn between two very powerful and likable political figures, she sensibly refrains from acting too rashly or placing herself recklessly at risk. The interactions between Lucy and her two BFFs always deliver laughs as they good-naturedly tease one another, but the real sparks fly between Lucy and the man whose initials make him the BAT in the bureau. Ensuring the success of this fun cozy debut are the inclusion of Neal Patrick Housecat, descriptions of mouth-watering Mexican delicacies, and an elaborate mystery from the 1800s that leads to a present-day murder.
O, Tacos, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways (with a Side of Guacamole, Please)
by S.C. Perkins
It becomes clear pretty early on in Murder Once Removed that my main character, genealogist Lucy Lancaster, has a thing for tacos. We’re talking a big thing. It’s pretty much an obsession with her, actually. Whether Lucy is happy, sad, working out a genealogical puzzle, irritated at a certain FBI agent, or just plain hungry, she’s usually found at Big Flaco’s Tacos, enjoying a taco or three and getting in her guacamole and/or queso fix, whichever is more important to her cravings at that moment.
Much like Lucy, I have a deep love of tacos. Growing up in Texas and lots of tasty Tex-Mex, I can’t remember a time in my life when tacos weren’t in it. Especially in my father’s side of the family, where we’ve got both Spanish and Mexican roots mixed in with all the English (and a few other nationalities), and we eat Tex-Mex probably more than any other cuisine.
So, what are my favorite tacos? There are so many, but the two I go to time and time again and rank high on my “comfort food” list are tacos al carbón and carnitas.
In Texas, tacos al carbon are either strips of beef or chicken that have been cooked over charcoal—al carbón translating to “over coal”—and served wrapped up in a flour tortilla. Though extra toppings can be added, if desired, such as shredded cheese, sour cream, and pico de gallo—a mixture of diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and jalapeños, all marinated in lime juice and salt—the flavor and tenderness of the chargrilled meat is such that no toppings are needed. Fajitas, tacos al carbón’s first cousin (see what I did there?), is usually the taco where you add all the extra toppings. Here, the sizzling strips of meat are served separate from the tortilla and you doctor them up yourself to your own tastes.
Let me tell you, fajitas are equally delicious, and my decision to get fajitas over tacos al carbón or vice versa is usually based on my mood that day. And, while I almost never put toppings on my tacos al carbon, if I do, it’s always guacamole.
On the other hand, carnitas, my other favorite, means “little meats” and is the Mexican equivalent of pulled pork. While there’re various recipes you can find online, pork carnitas are basically cubes of pork shoulder (aka pork butt) that have been browned before being simmered in a broth of water, herbs, and an acid, such as Coca-Cola or orange juice, until they fall apart. The browning gives them a bit of crispiness on the edges, which I particularly like. Then you serve them in a warmed corn tortilla and top them various ways before trying not to shovel them in your mouth because they’re so good. The toppings I like best are cilantro, thinly sliced radishes, and a squirt of lime, but slices of avocado and a sprinkling of onions are also excellent additions.
While there are Tex-Mex dishes I have fun making myself, I usually leave tacos al carbón and fajitas to the experts at my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants. However, pork carnitas are super easy to make at home, and I highly recommend you try them if you’re new to tacos, new to Tex-Mex, or new to cooking—or a combination of the three. There are even recipes for slow-cooker carnitas that make it practically foolproof, and you can even get your grocery-store butcher to cube the pork shoulder for you. They even make excellent leftovers and the meat can be used in salads and other dishes such as nachos or quesadillas, or even on a bun like a pulled-pork sandwich. It’s darn hard to beat them in a simple corn tortilla, though. It’s always darn hard to beat a good taco.
To enter to win a copy of Murder Once Removed, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “removed,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 13, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via comment please include your email address. If entering via email be sure to include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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