by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
Enjoy some more Penguin mysteries with a food related twist this holiday season-Fat Tuesday Fricasee by J. J. Cook, Claws for Alarm by T. C. LoTiempo, Here Today, Gone Tamale by Rebecca Adler, and Bun For Your Life by Karoline Barrett (this one is in ebook only). Details at the end of this post on how to win copies of all 4 books, and a link that can be used to purchase them.
Fat Tuesday Fricasee by J. J. Cook
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s Mardi Gras time in Mobile, Alabama, and while it might not be New Orleans, it’s plenty busy. Just ask Zoe Chase. She runs a fried biscuit food truck and now is one of the few authorized vendors with a prime location for selling her tasty treats to tourists. On the other hand, her food truck isn’t big enough to cook in, so it means a lot of trips to get supplies—oh, yeah, add soda and ice—and then rush to the diner (not open as yet) to prep the food and lug it back to the truck. Could there be any more buying food, toting food, cooking food, and, every time she turns around, almost running out of food? Not really. If only she could get a little sleep now and again.
That’s not likely to happen.
Mobile has secret societies that work behind the Mardi Gras scene. This year, Zoe’s father is King Felix. No one is supposed to know who the members are—or, indeed, anything about the society. While at one of the biggest masquerade parties with her father, Zoe steps out into the garden for some fresh air… where she discovers a dead body, dressed appropriately, as Death.
Of course, before the police can arrive, 99% of the guests have vanished. Zoe tries to find out more but is stonewalled at every turn. The only notice in the newspaper says the man was found in an alley blocks away from the party’s secret location. With the help of boyfriend Miguel, Cole the cabbie, Delia who works part-time, Uncle Saul and Ollie—and maybe even her mom—Zoe manages to survive the hordes of hungry tourists and figure out who did what to who and where it got done.
This is the third book in the series. It’s a bit different, since this time readers are treated to more of the personal lives of those around Zoe and details about food safety issues when operating a food truck, cooking in another location, and trying to keep a cat hidden from the health inspector! Fun facts about Mardi Gras and the krewes are dropped into the story like beads thrown from a float, always making readers want more… just like the story will.
Recipes are included: Sazerac (a whisky drink), plum clafouti (custard over fruit, then baked), and homemade moon pies, how fun is that? Put this book on your wish list so you’ll have time to practice these recipes before Mardi Gras season hits.
Cook also writes the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade mysteries—you’ll want to read those, too.
Claws for Alarm by T. C. LoTiempo
Review by Sandra Murphy
Nora Charles has her hands full, what with running the sandwich shop she inherited from her mother, keeping track of friends, and dealing with Nick, the cat who adopted her not long ago. Since he came around, she’s been involved in solving some mysteries, always with a little feline help. It seems Nick used to belong to a PI and maybe picked up some pointers.
Nora’s shocked to get a call that Lacey, her sister, has been arrested for murder. It seems her professor demanded a lot from his students and wasn’t shy about embarrassing them in front of anyone and everyone. On his last day, he did that to Lacey. Soon after, she was found in his office, standing over his newly dead body with the murder weapon in her hand. Open and shut, the police think.
For suspects, there’s the ex-wife, the current trophy wife, her lover, disgruntled students, one or two nude models in the art class, and the man’s own mistress. That’s just for starters. To complicate things further, Zoe finds out the police detective in charge is a long ago boyfriend of sorts. They worked together on the college paper and kinda-sorta had a thing but not really, at least that’s the way she remembers it. His version may vary.
The prof had promised an expensive painting to his son, a gambler. At the last minute, he changed his mind and said no, without giving a reason. Does that give the son a motive? If the knee-breakers are hot on your trail for not paying your debts, could be. Trophy wife stands to inherit millions in artwork if she’s widowed—and nothing if they divorce.
Nora impersonates a rich and bored wannabe student, follows clues, and, with Nick’s help, figures out who-dun-what. Aunt Prudence and her friend Irene are a hoot, Lacey a pain like Nora says—but she has potential. Then there’s Chantel, Nora’s bestie, who’s is over the top and loyal to a fault; the same goes for their friend Lance. Without the two of them, Nora wouldn’t be able to leave the sandwich shop and go to Lacey’s rescue.
In addition to the current storyline, there’s the worry and wonder about what happened to the real Nick, the PI. Did he just disappear for reasons of his own, or was he killed? In his line of work, anything’s possible. And, by the way, his PI partner says Nick never had a cat. As a tease, readers are treated to a glimpse of what’s to come as far as Nick’s concerned. Between that, Nora’s escapades, and the recipes at the end of the book, I can’t wait for the next installment. It’s refreshing to see a character who has a full life, behaves responsibly, and is fun besides.
Meow if it’s Murder was the first in the series. Look for Crime and Catnip, coming soon.
Here Today, Gone Tamale by Rebecca Adler
Review by Sandra Murphy
Josie Callahan and her Chihuahua, Lenny, are back in Broken Boot, Texas, after a job layoff and a messy breakup. Making a few gazillion tamales in her family’s restaurant will take her mind off things—until she sees her archrival Hillary with the ever-so-cute football coach, Ryan. Josie and Ryan are friends and could be a bit more… if not for Hillary.
Aunt Linda and Señora Mari (the grandmother) rule the restaurant. Anthony is the newest busboy with aspirations to become a server. He’s cute enough to make a lot in tips but first business has to pick up. Since the tamales are for a contest to see who can eat the most tamales in the shortest amount of time (as a fund-raising benefit for the children’s home), the town council has volunteered to help. It’s more apt to be a hindrance since the members like sampling margaritas more than making tamales!
Dixie is a local jewelry-maker and thinks more of herself than others think of her. She feels she has the right to blurt out whatever might make other people uncomfortable and then laugh about it. She’s volunteered to donate a necklace with matching bracelet and earrings for the event. The council wants to put photos of the jewelry on its website to sell more tickets, but Dixie won’t turn over the goods. Someone might steal her designs. (It’s more likely she hasn’t made them yet!)
After she insults almost everybody at the tamale making, Dixie goes outside for a smoke and some cooler air. Frankly, she needs to sober up, and time outside at least means she won’t be drinking. Josie subsequently discovers that Dixie won’t be doing anything ever again—she’s dead.
For suspects, pick anyone and everyone, up to the mayor. Dixie’s nephew was supposed to pick her up, but no one saw him. He’s anything but grieving, since his anxiety over gambling debts override any feelings he might have. Dixie had jewelry on consignment at some stores, sold outright to others, and had more at her home. She said all her turquoise was legit—but if anybody would disrespect the rules, it was Dixie.
When Anthony is arrested for her murder, Josie can’t believe it. What motive would he have? The police seem to take the attitude of: he was there, she was dead, end of story. Josie knows better. She asks questions and must be on the right track because someone dognapped Lenny and shaved his hair!
The family created by the people at the restaurant is warm and welcoming. Small town atmosphere rings true as friends help those in need, no matter how much or little they have for themselves. Hillary is someone you’d love to hate. Ryan, someone you’d just like to look at. So, after the holidays, plan a trip to Broken Boot to hang with the townspeople, see the Wild Wild West Festival and eat a few dozen tamales. Until then, if you want to make your own tamales, Josie’s shared the recipe, plus chili pie, peachy pecan pie, chile rellenos, and Linda’s healthy tamales made with fresh fruit.
Bun For Your Life by Karoline Barrett
Review by Cynthia Chow
Molly Tyler is having dinner with her ex-husband when she discovers something almost as startling as the news that Brian wants her to move out of the apartment she rents from him: Calista Danforth-Brody and Trey Hamilton are dating, despite the fact that their respective families are the Hatfields and McCoys of Destiny, New York. Their families have been feuding for centuries, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that the couple soon breaks up following the news that Trey still disputes the ownership of Danforth Orchards and their new Calista Sugar Pink apple breed.
What is a shock is that when Calista is found murdered, it is by a poisoned donut baked at Molly’s Bread and Batter Bakery. Having recently had a confrontation with Calista regarding the location of her bakery’s booth during the Apple Harvest Festival, Molly finds herself looking into the uncomfortably attractive, but very suspicious, gaze of new detective Sean Corsino.
Nothing makes Molly happier than baking and bringing smiles to the faces of Destiny residents and the many tourists who visit Destiny Lake, so being the target of gossip linking her to murder has her worrying for the future of her bakery. Along with her best friend, twenty-eight-year-old Molly uses her love of Nancy Drew novels to help her probe the lives of the orchard-owning families, their angry employees, and the numerous jealous spouses.
This début ebook mystery series introduces an earnest and relentless young woman who loves baking, her family, and Destiny. Having married at the young age of nineteen, Molly is finally facing the end of her on-and-off relationship with Brian Adair, who has always played such a large role in her life. A charity bachelor auction may prove to be the unlikely pathway toward a more positive future, and her many friends and relatives will not be shy with their opinions. Readers looking for a light read featuring a heroine who acts a little quicker than she should, and who is motivated by her heart more than her head, will enjoy this sweetly fun mystery.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 books (Bun For Your Life is ebook only), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “food holiday,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 19, 2015. 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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