Monday, June 01, 2015

Books, Cooks, and Crooks - Lucy Arlington

Books, Cooks, and Crooks
A Novel Idea Mystery
Lucy Arlington
Berkley Prime Crime


The Taste Of The Town festival is coming to Inspiration Valley and the Novel Idea Literary Agency is running a series of events called “Books and Cooks.”  Celebrity chefs and food writers will be there for cooking demonstrations, panel discussions, and to sign their cookbooks.  Lila Wilkins is thrilled to be involved, since she’s a big fan of Klara Patrick, who cooks comfort food and dispenses homespun and heartfelt advice to her viewers/readers.  Once the chefs assemble for the welcome dinner, though, Lila realizes that there can be a huge gap between a chef’s public persona and the way they act in ‘real life.’  For the most part, though, they all seem to know each other, and squabble like siblings looking for attention. 
Klara, for instance, disappoints Lila by mocking a younger chef, making him question his choices for the demonstration to be held in the morning.  He decides to conduct a practice run that night after dinner, which Klara derides as ‘unprofessional.’  The rest of the group is blocks away when they hear the explosion.  It came from the test kitchen, and investigation quickly shows that it was no accident.  An oven was sabotaged so it would explode.  Although everyone seems shaken, they all (chefs, agents, and vendors) have a lot riding on this weekend of events, so they decide to go ahead with it.  It isn’t long before another chef is dead.
This is the third installment, following BURIED IN A BOOK, and EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK.  This time around, the characters spend a lot less time in the literary agency.  It’s a bit sad, since the workings of the agency are what drew me to the series initially.  In between dealing with events, Lila does take a bit of time to read query letters and become grounded again.  There’s a subplot involving a secret admirer for Makayla, the owner of the coffee shop, that remains sweet (and not stalker/creepy) until the admirer is revealed.

Since the chefs and their families and staff and travelling companions are all from different places, there’s a lot of different personalities to deal with, many of them abrasive.  I honestly found this refreshing in the context of Inspiration Valley, which can be a little sugary for my taste.  But, here we have people who are greedy and envious and duplicitous and even murderous.  I confess, I had the murderer identified a very long time before Lila did, but getting there was half the fun.  On a personal note, I always check to make sure there’s nothing in the oven before I turn it on.  No reason, I just always do.  And now I always will.

Rating:  6 ½
February 2014
ISBN# 978-0-425-25224-6 (paperback)


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