Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Book Review: The Big Chili by Julia Buckley (Undercover Dish #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters, unique set up for mystery
Cons: Plot slow at end; romantic sub-plot doesn’t work
The Bottom Line:
Lilah must clear food
She secretly created
Promising but flawed

Who Poisoned the Chili?

I couldn’t pass up on the idea behind the Undercover Dish series.  Actually, I’m a bit surprised that we haven’t seen it done before with all of the culinary cozy series out there.  However, I unfortunately found that The Big Chili wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped it would be.

Lilah Drake works part time for her parents at their realty office.  However, her real dream is to be working with food, and she supplements her income with a quiet catering business.  She makes dishes for clients and lets them pretend that they made it themselves.  While it doesn’t allow her to gain a well-deserved reputation for her hard work, she has a loyal client base that is extremely happy with her work.

One of those happy clients is Pet Grandy, who has become well known for “her” chili, which she always brings to the parish’s bingo night.  However, the latest batch has some poison in it, and a woman dies before the bingo night begins.  Now Lilah has a dilemma – should she break her client’s confidence and make herself a suspect to the police.  Or should she find the killer herself so her secret doesn’t matter?

As I said, this book has a unique premise and a fun twist on the motive for the main character to get involved with the investigation.  The murder happens fairly early in the book, and the plot moves forward at a steady pace for most of the book.  I did feel it got bogged down as we were approaching the end, which is a bit surprising, although we do get a logical and satisfying climax.

The book is populated with a variety of fun characters.  They are a bit on the caricature side, especially at first, but as the book progresses and we get to know them better, they are fleshed out and feel more real.  They are always fun, and I enjoyed spending time with them.

Unfortunately, I felt the romantic sub-plot weakened the book.  I was okay with what was happening and where it was going until the end.  Heck, I’m even okay with what happened at the end since I found one character’s reaction to things perfectly believable.  However, I felt the other character overreacted to things.  The effect was that the entire thing felt rushed and forced to me.

Of course, we get some delicious sounding recipes at the back.  They are mainly for casserole type dishes, the chili of the title being an obvious exception.  They sound delicious, so if you are looking for some new choices to try, you’ll love them.

I wanted to like The Big Chili, and I liked it for the most part.  Unfortunately, the flaws kept me from liking it as much as I thought I would.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.


  1. I'd probably read this one for the recipes. When the murder happens so early, sometimes the story gets lame halfway through. I dunno, but this is pulling at me to feel that way.

    1. I've read plenty of books where the murder happens early and the book was wonderful. It was more the personal stuff that hurt this book, in my opinion.

  2. Thanks for the review Mark. Too many books out there to read one that isn't great.