Monday, July 26, 2010

Delicious And Suspicious - Riley Adams

Delicious And Suspicious
A Memphis BBQ Mystery
Riley Adams
Berkley Prime Crime


Springtime in Memphis, Tennessee means a lot more foot traffic on historic Beale Street, outdoors blues concerts, and of course, barbeque from Aunt Pat’s. Aunt Pat raised Lulu Taylor, who now runs the place, assisted by her sons, daughter-in-law, and young grandkids. It’s a family business and a Memphis institution that some might say rivals Graceland.

The big news this spring is that the Cooking Channel – a new rival to the Food Network – is sending a scout and cameraman to find the best bbq in town. Of course, all the regulars assume that’s Aunt Pat’s. The owner of the nearby Hog Heaven, Lurlene, naturally disagrees and is anxious for the scout to taste her cooking. The scout, Rebecca Adrian, quickly makes enemies of just about everyone. She mocks the manuscript of a local bookstore owner and hopeful author who spent decades polishing her gem. She insults the folk art of Lulu’s daughter-in-law during a public exhibit set up specifically for her. She even manages to alienate the seventeen-year-old boy who has a crush on her. By the time of the tasting, she’s left a foul taste in everyone’s mouth.

Everyone is shocked, though, when Rebecca dies in her hotel room, the victim of an apparent poisoning. The suspect list is almost endless. Even Tony, the cameraman who came to Memphis with her, admits that she was not a nice person. The logical place for the police to start their investigation is, unfortunately, Aunt Pat’s, where Rebecca ate her last. That means that the finger of suspicion points at Lulu and various members of her family, much to the delight of her Hog Heaven competition. Lulu may look like a sweet, little, old grandmother, but when her family is in danger, she makes a pretty good amateur sleuth.

This is the first in what promises to be a solid and entertaining series. I’d classify this as a cozy (no witnessing the murders, no explicit violence) the mystery takes some surprising turns and never takes the easy way out of any situation. Of course, there are the requisite Southern “characters,” but their eccentricities never veer into camp, and the author takes care to make them all multi-dimensional people with real emotional lives and backgrounds. Don't let the almost too-cute title fool you: The result is a great mix of humor and tragedy. Lulu’s actions are all believable and logical, and the plot moves along nicely through several interesting twists. I look forward to future visits with Lulu and the Aunt Pat’s regulars.

Rating: 7 ½
July 2010
ISBN# 978-0-425-23553-9 (paperback)


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