Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Cake On A Hot Tin Roof - Jacklyn Brady


Cake On A Hot Tin Roof
A Piece Of Cake Mystery
Jacklyn Brady
Berkley Prime Crime
 
Mystery
 
Growing up in Albuquerque did nothing to prepare pastry chef Rita Lucero for the experience of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  It’s one thing to visit as a tourist; quite another to be in charge of your own bakery, Zydeco Cakes, and working crazy hours to fulfill party orders while the party is just outside the door.  Rita inherited Zydeco Cakes from her almost-ex-husband, Philippe, when he died.  (Details of that story can be found in the first book of the series, ASHEETCAKE NAMED DESIRE.)  She also inherited his obligation to host a huge party at Philippe’s social club.  Being new to New Orleans, new as a business owner, and new to the upper crust social life that was Philippe’s is making for some very tense times.
 
In New Mexico, Rita was raised by her Uncle Nestor and Aunt Yolanda.  Working in their restaurant, she learned her love of food and cooking.  She hasn’t been back to see them in months, so imagine her surprise when they turn up in New Orleans without warning.  Aunt Yolanda says they just missed her.  Rita knows that it would take something very serious for Uncle Nestor to leave his restaurant in other hands (even if those hands belong to his sons) but he’s not forthcoming about the reason for the visit.  Or anything else.  In fact, he seems more angry than anything else.  Of course, Rita takes them along to her party, hoping to show them some of the fun in the city.  Unfortunately, Uncle Nestor gets into a fist fight with Big Daddy Boudreaux, a local personality.  When Big Daddy ends the evening face-down in the pool, fingers point at Nestor.  His odd behavior aside, Rita knows it’s not possible and dives into another murder investigation.
 
Those who read the first installment will recognize many returning characters.  Since taking over Zydeco, Rita is still struggling with being ‘the boss’ to people who were once her friends.  Juggling authority, local traditions, and an almost overwhelming demand for King Cakes (traditional for Mardi Gras) is really starting to wear on her.  Her temper wears thin and she’s exhausted.  She’s also torn between some feelings of guilt for ‘leaving’ Nestor’s restaurant – even though it’s clear that it will go to one of his sons – and her justifiable pride at having started a new life in a new city.  All of these things give Rita’s character depth and realism, making her seem like someone you might know.

The murder victim was a bigger-than-life type.  A given, since he called himself “Big Daddy.”  He’s much less relatable, but that doesn’t seem terribly important.  What is important is that there’s an entire party full of people who might have wanted him dead.  The suspect pool (pardon the expression) includes at least one ex-wife and one current wife; Uncle Nestor, who punched him in the face during the party; and any number of business and social associates.  The answers kind of fall into Rita’s lap in the end, but the journey is what matters.  The author does a wonderful job of portraying New Orleans during party season.  The book includes a recipe for the traditional King Cake, among other things.

Rating: 6 ½
February 2012
ISBN# 978-0-425-24622-1 (paperback)

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