Death By Devil's Breath - Kylie Logan
Berkley Prime Crime
Maxie Pierce, her half-sister Sylvia, and the whole Chili Showdown are in Las Vegas for a cook-off. On the line is a national title. That may seem small, but to the savvy cook, a national win like this can be publicized and spun into a cookbook deal, or a signature chili mix, or even a stint as a TV cooking star. The contest will be held in a hotel/casino. The judges will be celebrities. Well, fairly minor celebrities, really. There’s Hermosa, the single-named lounge singer; Osborne a magician; Yancy, the blind pianist; the Reverend Love, who runs a large wedding chapel; and Dickie Dunkin, a comic who performs insult comedy. He insults everyone. He insults the heads of the Chili Showdown, he insults various audience members; even his fellow performers don’t escape his taunts.
The first cook-off event is for Devil’s Breath chili. The hottest of the hot. The kind of chili that burns your nasal passages if you get a whiff of it from the next room. The kind that Maxie loves best. During the tasting, a judge keels over, dead. It’s Dickie. Obviously the Showdown crew is tops on the list of suspects, because they had access to the scene and the ingredients. It soon becomes clear that Dickie had a very long list of potential enemies, up to and including anyone he randomly insulted during his act. Despite several warnings to stay out of it, Maxie’s fired up, and decides that she’s going to get to the bottom of this.
Maxie is a bit of a different kind of amateur sleuth. She’s no pro, so she makes mistakes, but it doesn’t slow her down at all. Her personality allows her to be comfortable barging into conversations or situations, and asking pointed questions of anyone and everyone. She’s completely unafraid of confrontation, verbal or physical. It makes her an acquired taste, and it also makes her deliciously different than the normal run of fictional investigators.
In this second installment of the series (CHILI CON CARNAGE) the main mystery is an interesting idea, peopled with the sort of odd and eccentric characters you’d probably only find in Vegas. It feels like the author could have made so much more of this. As it is, the story is a bit thin, and turns on a series of coincidences. There are subplot involving a couple of the cook-off contestants, and, of course, Maxie is still looking to find out anything she can about Jack, her still-missing father. I like Maxie, and I’ll be following her and the Chili Showdown to the next stop on their tour.
ISBN# 978-0-425-26242-9 (paperback)