Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Proof Is In The Pudding - Melinda Wells

The Proof Is In The Pudding
A Della Cooks Mystery
Melinda Wells
Berkley Prime Crime


It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Della Carmichael has a lot on her plate these days. In addition to hosting “Della Cooks” on the Better Living Channel, she’s got her mail-order fudge business to deal with (with the help of her almost-daughter, Eileen) and she teaches classes at her Santa Monica cooking school on weekends. When she’s tapped to fill in as a cook-off judge, she thinks twice. But this is no ordinary cook-off. This one is full of celebrity cooks and the proceeds go to charity. At nearly the last minute, Della agrees.

Too late, she learns that one of her fellow judges will be the odious Keith Ingram. Della has always known him as a food critic. Now she knows he’s a terrible human being, too. Eileen and Keith had been seeing each other until the night before, when Keith dumped her. He dumped her, then told her he’d filmed at least one of their encounters and would be more than happy to upload it to the Internet if Eileen makes any trouble for him. Della, who sees in Eileen the daughter she never had, takes a dim view of this. John O’Hara, Eileen’s father and a cop, sees red. John actually hits Keith during the pre-judging time of the cook-off and is removed from the premises.

Just prior to the judging, it seems that a fire breaks out. In reality, it was a smoke bomb that caused a lot of panic, but no real damage. The damage was all to Ingram, who ends up on the floor with a slashed throat. The emcee of the event and owner of the hotel (and father of Ingram’s new celebutante armpiece) immediately accuses John O’Hara. Eileen was also present. As were plenty of people who would have been fairly happy to see Ingram’s grisly end. Della has known the O’Hara’s for years and knows he would never have done this, so she rolls up her sleeves and dives into this confusing mix of a case.

If you haven’t read the first two books (KILLER MOUSSE and DEATH TAKES THE CAKE) you’ve missed a lot of fun. But you won’t feel lost here. The author nicely fills in the pertinent information regarding the O’Hara family and Della’s relationship with them. The setting is akin to a locked-room mystery, since someone must have killed Ingram under cover of smoke. And, given the quick response of the hotel’s security, that someone might very well still be there.

The celebrity participants give the author all kinds of directions to explore as Della investigates. There’s the married pair of action movie stars, the soap actress, the thriller author. All people you might feel you recognize, in the same cast of murder suspects. It makes for a fun and interesting mystery. Of course, for Della and the O’Haras, the states are very real, which keeps the story from becoming too frothy. Della is a realistic and likeable character, a loyal friend, and someone who can make great dishes using common ingredients. I always enjoy spending time with her.

Rating: 7 ½
February 2010
ISBN# 978-0-425-23311-5 (paperback)


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