Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Book Review: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mysteries #1)

: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, solid mystery
Cons: A few niggles, but nothing major
The Bottom Line:
Death of Lila’s ex
Book filled with delicious food
Be sure to get it

Murder of an Ex

Since I don’t have time to read every book that has ever been published (and do I wish I could), I pay attention to buzz from others on books that I might want to read.  I’d been hearing great things about Arsenic and Adobo, and I’m glad I picked it up.

Lila Macapagal is feeling like her life has turned into a romcom.  After a disastrous breakup with her fiancé, she’s moved back to Shady Palms, Illinois, and is trying to help her aunt save her Filipino restaurant.  Heck, she even reconnected with her high school sweetheart, Derek Winter, briefly.

The problem is that Derek has become a jerk in the years since high school.  He’s also the local food critic, and he is notorious for nasty reviews, including several he has lobbied at Tita Rosie’s Kitchen.  Yet he comes back for me, which is why he is there eating yet again.  Then he drops over dead in his meal.  Now the police are looking at Lila as a murderer, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen is closed until further notice, and Lila feels like the only hope of a happy ending is figuring out what is going on herself.  With her life suddenly switching genres, can she keep up and keep herself out of jail?

This is a debut mystery, but it is very well done.  Lila finds a strong set of suspects and uncovered some interesting secrets and motives as she investigates.  While Derek dies very quickly, I like how he was fleshed out as the book unfolded.  I wouldn’t say we came to truly care for him, but he definitely wasn’t a one note victim.

Speaking of characters, Lila leads a strong cast.  She and her immediate family are wonderful, and I like the friends we meet as well.  The suspects stand out from each other, and I am hoping we see one or two of them again in the next book.  I will mention that a few of the supporting players were more of a pack than separate characters.  There are hints to their different personalities, but that’s all.  Then again, they are usually mentioned as a group, so it’s on purpose, and it really didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the mystery.

I especially appreciated Lila’s relationships with some of her friends.  Over the course of the book, she reconnects with several of them, and they felt real.

We’ve also got the beginnings of a love triangle here.  It added some laughs to a couple of scenes, although I hope it doesn’t drag on too long.

There are multiple themes weaving through the book, and I didn’t feel that all of them were full resolved.  Or maybe I just didn’t like how they were resolved.  I hope these are threads that are picked up on in future books.

I will say the climax was wonderful.  It was creative and suspenseful.

No surprise since this book centers around a restaurant, we get four recipes for Filipino food at the end of the book.  Considering how my mouth was watering as I read, that’s a good thing.

Arsenic and Adobo is the start of a delicious new culinary cozy series.  These characters already feel like old friends, and I can hardly wait to find out what happens to them next.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

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