by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of the first book in a brand new series by Penny Pike aka Penny Warner. This is another fun food related series, and after the review we also have an interview with Penny about the new series. Penny will be speaking at the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters In Crime in Fresno, CA on Saturday, September 6–check out the SJSinC event page for more info.
Death of a Crabby Cook By Penny Pike
Review by Sandra Murphy
The San Francisco Chronicle, like many newspapers, feels the need to tighten the budget. As a result, restaurant reviewer Darcy Burnett is served a pink slip! Of course, the bills don’t stop just because the paycheck does so she needs a replacement gig fast.
Luckily, she’s got an in with a high class food joint. Her Aunt Abby converted an old school bus into a food truck. While Darcy writes what she’s sure will be a runaway bestseller, featuring recipes from all her favorite restaurants, she works with Abby. Part-time seems more like full time once they get started. It’s a mystery where Abby gets her energy. From prep work to serving to clean-up, the woman never stops. Changing the premise for her cookbook before it’s started, Darcy decides to go with the flow–recipes from food trucks and festivals.
The trucks gather near offices but that also puts them in front of the Bones ‘n Brew, a long-time fixture in the neighborhood. People don’t eat there often, the recipes haven’t changed, the décor has suffered and Oliver Jameson, the owner–well, he’s just not a nice man. In fact, Abby got in a fight with him, right out where everybody within shouting distance could hear it. She threatened his manly parts with a Ginsu knife. It seems Oliver thought planting dead rats near or in the food trucks would encourage the Health Department to shut them all down, leaving his restaurant the only place to eat.
Neighboring food trucks have their own problems with Oliver. Willow the Coffee Witch (try the Cara-Magical-Cino drink, recipe at the end of the book), Jake, the Dream Puff Guy (tiramisu recipe included), Masala Nachos, Conehead (garlic ice cream), Humpty Dumpling and the Road Grill (don’t ask what the special is), all have had run-ins too but none so public as Abby’s.
When Oliver turns up dead and the getting dead part happened right around when Abby was seen going into his office, well, who else are the police suspect of murder? Darcy can’t let that happen, it’s her aunt after all and besides that, she needs the job.
Just like Darcy finds out when she grabs a cake pop, things are not always what they seem. The cake pops are tiny cheese biscuits filled with crabmeat and dipped in white cheddar cheese. The other vendors all have a motive to kill, if one digs enough to it. That’s where Cousin Dillon’s hacking skill comes in.
Recipes have gone missing, a second murder occurs, there are mysterious meetings in the night, and cousin Dillon is…nobody is too sure, except there’s a warrant out for him as well. Between making sandwiches and cleaning, Darcy is able to visit the other food vendors and snoop, with the help of Jake, the Dream Puff Guy.
This is the first in a new series. The characters are strong, likable and come with secrets of their own. Readers can only hope Darcy decides to make a career out of the food truck business and that Willow, Jake and even Detective Shelton stick around. After all, Abby seems quite taken with the Detective, in spite of the fact that he’s trying to arrest her for murder. There might just be a little spark between Jake and Darcy too.
In the midst of murder and mayhem, cross your fingers that Darcy will have time to write that cookbook. The recipes are to die for.
Penny Pike also writes as Penny Warner. Her Party-Planning series includes How to Host a Killer Party, How to Crash a Killer Bash, How to Survive a Killer Séance, How to Party with a Killer Vampire, and How to Dine on Killer Wine.
Interview with Penny Pike aka Penny Warner:
KRL: How did you come up with the idea, setting & characters for this new series?
Penny: I went to my first food truck event a couple of years ago and thought it would be a great idea for a series. There’s controversy between the brick-and-mortar restaurants and the food trucks, so it was ripe for murder! I got to taste all kinds of “research” and share recipes with readers. As for Darcy Burnett, I made her a former restaurant critic, who loses her job and has to work in her eccentric Aunt Abby’s food truck–and she doesn’t cook. But she loves to eat, and she plans to write a food truck cookbook so she can get rich and quit the job…
KRL: Why under another name?
Penny: I’m not sure. It was requested by my editor. Perhaps readers like to try new names?
KRL: Food trucks are in but how did you decide to link them to the Seafood Festival?
Penny: My editor wanted to tie in the food trucks to food festivals, so it seemed natural to set the first one at a Seafood Festival in San Francisco, since the city is known for its seafood.
KRL: How can you decide which recipes to include?
Penny: That’s the hardest part! I eventually chose one recipe from Aunt Abby’s comfort food truck, one from Dream Puff Jake Miller’s Cream Puff truck, and one from Willow’s gourmet coffee truck. I hope I covered all the food groups!
KRL: Will we see more of Jake in the next book?
Penny: Oh yes. He’s complex. A former attorney who was disbarred, who loves to cook, and he’s hot…
KRL: Speaking of which, when will the next book be coming our way?
Penny: I just finished Death of a Chocolate Cheater, set at the San Francisco Chocolate Festival (yum!), and am starting Death of An Apple Fest Pest, set in the Apple Hill area.
KRL: Will the party-planning series go on or does this replace it?
Penny: I’d love to continue it. My partying days aren’t over yet…
KRL: Anything else new for you coming up?
Penny: I have three Code Busters Club books out (Agatha winner, Anthony nominee), and the fourth one, The Mummy’s Curse, will be out in October. I just finished #5, set at the International Spy Museum in Washington DC. They are so fun to write. Kids send me fan letters…in code!
To enter to win a copy of Death of a Crabby Cook, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Crabby,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 6, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
And for you foodies out there check out Alicia Lieu’s fun food column How I Met My Dinner, and get a bunch more great recipes!