Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: Fry Another Day by J. J. Cook (Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mysteries #2)



Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters, fun story
Cons: The mystery was extremely weak
The Bottom Line:
A food truck contest
Filled with murder and mayhem
And weak mystery




On Your Mark, Get Set, Die!

I always intended to get to Fry Another Day before now.  After all, I enjoyed the first book in the series, so reading the next one was an obvious thing to do.  Somehow, I kept putting it off until last week, but sadly, I found it lacking in one key detail.

Zoe Chase has entered her food truck, The Biscuit Bowl, in a food truck race.  A field of 10 food trucks will be stopping in several cities in the south east participating in challenges as they sell their signature dishes in each city.  The cash prize is $50,000, the amount that Zoe needs to really fulfill her dream of remodeling her diner.  So, with her Uncle Saul and a few friends, she packs up and drives to the starting line of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Things get off to a rough start when Reggie Johnson dies before the first morning’s challenge can begin.  His Dog House food truck, specializing in hot dogs of course, was the only other truck from Zoe’s hometown of Mobile, Alabama, but the two rarely got along.  It appears to be a tragic accident, but as the race continues with more strange things happening, Zoe begins to wonder if it was really an accident.  With the police looking at one member of her crew as a killer, she has motive to solve the case.  Can she do that and still win the race?

It had been roughly a year and a half since I read the first in the series, so I was a little fuzzy on the characters.  I remembered liking them, and it wasn’t long before I remembered why.  They are a different group from the normal in a cozy mystery, and I enjoyed getting to know them better as the book progressed.  And yes, all the series regulars are back in this book since they join Zoe on the race.  We only get to know a few of the competitors in this book, but they are a good as well.

Likewise, the race makes for a great plot.  I enjoyed seeing just what each day would bring in the way of a new challenge and how Zoe and her team would overcome it.  I’ve read several books with cooking contests in them recently, but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the device here at all.  There are some sparks in the air between several characters as well, and I loved seeing these new relationships develop.

But you’ll notice I haven’t talk about the mystery yet.  Sadly, that’s the weak point of the book.  And for a mystery, that’s a serious problem.  It truly is a sub-plot at best.  While Zoe is thinking about the strange events often, she hardly does any actual investigating.  Instead, things happen to her or to someone around her.  I was really going to give it a bit of a pass until I reached the end.  There was such a rush to wrap up the mystery that we get the briefest of explanations for most of the plot points and one remains completely unexplained.  I think the things that were explained make sense, but more time should have been spent making sure that was the case.

Being a culinary mystery, there are a few recipes in the back from the book.  We also get the recipe again for the deep fried biscuit bowl that is Zoe’s specialty.  I really do want to try some of her creations.

I completely enjoyed the book even with the weak mystery until the even weaker ending.  If you haven’t started the series, I don’t recommend you start with Fry Another Day.  I love the characters enough to give the series another try.  Hopefully, the mystery is a bit more of the focus in this next one.

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