Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Finger Lickin' Dead - Riley Adams

Finger Lickin’ Dead
A Memphis BBQ Mystery
Riley Adams
Berkley Prime Crime

As the second-generation owner of Aunt Pat’s Barbeque, Lulu Taylor knows a lot about her regulars.  Memphis may be a big city, but the regulars make it seem like a small town.  At the moment, she’s mostly concerned about Evelyn, who’s been going out with her ex-husband, Adam.  The problem is, he’s still legally married to his current wife.  Also, as the Graces (a group of ladies who work as docents at Graceland) point out, Adam didn’t treat Evelyn well the first time around, and he hasn’t changed his tune this time, either.  He seems to be mostly interested in her money.  But Evelyn is a big girl, and it’s usually a mistake to try and intervene when it comes to love.

Talk quickly turns to a local restaurant critic, who writes under the dubious name Eppie Currian.  This anonymous critic has been making a game out of writing snarky reviews.  It might just be one critic’s opinion, but this critic has a large and loyal following.  A bad review can seriously impact, or even close down, a restaurant.  In fact, that’s exactly what happened to Oliver and Tudy, who spent years running their place, only to see it close down after a particularly nasty review.  And just the day before, a bad review appeared about Aunt Pat’s.  The regulars vociferously disagree, of course, and Lulu’s son, Ben, the cook, is especially upset about it.

When the news breaks that the infamous Eppie Currian is really the odious Adam, there are plenty of people who would like to at least smack him.  Ben being among those, since Adam is at Aunt Pat’s almost daily, wolfing down the food he claimed was so bad.  It doesn’t take long for someone to take action.  Lulu and her granddaughters find Adam’s body lying by the river.  He was shot and covered in baked beans.  Perhaps a post-mortem food commentary?  In any event, the list of suspects is quite long.  There’s Evelyn, who just found out that Adam was cheating on her with his wife and a third woman; the current wife, Ginger; anyone whose restaurant had been impacted by the mean reviews; and even the reviewer who lost his job when snarky reviews proved more popular than the more balanced type.  Lulu is positive that Evelyn and Ben couldn’t possibly be guilty.  And, since she solved one murder mystery not too long ago, she sets out to make sure the right person pays for this one.

Please look past the goofy title.  (Don’t judge a book by its cover, in other words.)  While this is a fairly light, cozy mystery, it’s not as camp as the title would suggest.  Lulu comes across as a real person with a deep and true connection to Memphis and Aunt Pat’s.  She’s a loyal friend, and a pretty smart amateur sleuth.  The rest of the supporting cast reads as a group of people who have known each other forever and don’t hesitate to jump in when one of their number needs help.  There are some eccentric characters, to be sure, but they always stop short of slapstick.  With so many viable suspects, the mystery is an interesting one, with several possible outcomes.  The second installment (DELICIOUS AND SUSPICIOUS) this should entertain any fan of cozy mysteries.
Rating: 7
June 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-24191-2 (paperback)


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