Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Review: Delicious and Suspicious by Riley Adams (Memphis BBQ Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fun setting and characters...
Cons: ...that over power the mystery.  Weak writing, especially at first.
The Bottom Line:
I liked the people.
The setting was fun.  But the
Mystery was weak.

BBQ Mystery Needed More Seasoning

Most of the time, I ignore requests for reviews from authors, usually because the books don't sound that interesting to me.  But I had been considering getting Delicious and Suspicious, the first in a new Memphis BBQ series, so when the author asked if I wanted a review copy, I jumped at the chance.  There were parts I enjoyed, but parts I hated just as much.

Lulu Taylor and her family run Aunt Pat's Bar-B-Que restaurant in downtown Memphis.  It's quite popular with the locals, always drawing a crowd.

It's also drawn the attention of the up and coming Cooking Channel.  They've sent Rebecca Adrian to scout out the local BBQ scene and pick the best one to feature in an up coming show.  Lulu and her family are thrilled until they meet Rebecca, who is arrogant and rude.  In the course of 24 hours, she manages to make everyone she met furious with her.  So it's not too much of a surprise when she turns up poisoned.  Unfortunately, it happened not too long after her tasting at Aunt Pat's.  Now Lulu feels the need to find out who killed Rebecca so she can clear her restaurant's reputation.  Can she find the killer?

If I hadn't been sent this book for review, I would have quit after the first chapter.  It was 32 pages long (at least twice as long as the others in the book) and was written in omniscient point of view.  At least I think it was supposed to be omniscient point of view.  The problem is it was poorly done.  We were constantly being told things about the characters and their history, usually jumping from person to person with very little warning we were switching characters.  It felt like a long data dump, even when the action was starting to move forward.

Fortunately, as the book progressed, we spent more and more time with Lulu.  This helped center the omniscient point of view and let me get into the story.

The book has tons of local flavor.  I've never been to Memphis, but I felt like I was right there with the characters, mouth watering for BBQ enjoying the live Blues music that some of the characters were playing.

Part of that flavor came from the fun cast of characters.  In addition to Lulu and her family, there were some elderly gentlemen who hang out there every day and a group of Elvis devotees who volunteer at Graceland.  While the cast was a little large to be fully developed, I did feel like I knew them all somewhat by the end.

Unfortunately, all that local flavor hampered the mystery.  The pacing was very uneven.  At times, I felt like events were happening solely to show off the area instead of advance the story.  A couple of chapters are devoted to a trip, but for all it contributes to the story, we could have stayed home and learned the same things at a picnic in the park.

The climax was logical; in fact, I had guessed it a chapter before Lulu figured things out.  However, it introduced some new twists to the story that aren't quite explained.  Again, the emphasis on the local area over the story weakened things.

If, like me, you are hungry for some of the recipes discussed in the story, you'll be glad to know that there are 7 recipes in the back of the book for you to try later.

As much as some parts of Delicious and Suspicious annoyed me, I did enjoy meeting these characters.  Unfortunately, the story was weak enough I probably won't bother visiting them again.

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