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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Review: The Morning Show Murders by Al Roker

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Author: Al Roker and Dick Lochte

Copyright: Nov 2009 (Delacorte); 312 pgs.
Series: Stand alone or 1st in series – don’t know

Sensuality: Mild. Occasional swearing and a few instances of the “F” word
Mystery sub-genre: Cozy-esque

Main Character: Chef Billy Blessing, morning show personality and celebrity Chef
Setting: New York – Morning Show Wake Up, America!

Obtained book through: Library Find

Al Roker of NBC’s Today Show has written two cookbooks and a non-fiction book, but this is his first foray into mystery fiction. It can be difficult to objectively judge a book by a celebrity since I think subconsciously we immediately expect a bit more from them. So I will do my best to review this as compared to other similar genre-type books.

The basic story line starts out simple enough and quickly gets several layers. The book opens with the main character, Chef Billy Blessing, struggling over a new reality cooking school pilot that his arrogant Executive Producer Rudy Gallagher insisted on. They exchange words over the dismal prospects of the show.
I turned to survey the other nine inhabitants of the soundstage kitchen. They, like Eldon, were dressed in chef coats, with most of their hair tucked under white caps. Also like Eldon, they were all very young, the exception being a beady-eyed fortysomething gent who had the appearance and the odor of a greasy-spoon fry cook.

They’d separated themselves by gender. A male with acne was staring at me with the goofy adoration of a dependent dog. Another was nervously rubbing a mustache that looked like anchovies attacking his upper lip. I spied a brown Mohawk partially tucked under a cap, the oily bottom spikes sticking out over the collar of his coat like the tail of a dirty bird. Yuchhh!

One of the very young women – girls, actually – chomped on gum. A pretty brown-skinned sister who might qualify as a supermodel trainee seemed more interested in protecting her long fingernails than in food preparation. A girl with a sallow complexion had little pieces of metal piercing her brows and ears, and every time she nodded her head, which was often, they caught the light and reflected it into the camera, causing a flare. God help her if she was ever trapped outdoors in a lightning storm.

Breakfast was obviously the most important meal of the day for a fourth girl, judging by the tattoo of a fried egg on her neck. A fifth, another black woman, was showing more attitude than Wanda Sykes but none of the humor.
That evening at Billy’s four-star Bistro a crime boss from his old neighborhood and family friend is in the restaurant and asks Billy if, in his connected position, he has heard of an assassin coming to town from overseas. Two days later news that Rudy is dead from poisoned food from Chef Blessing’s posh Bistro restaurant puts him as the number one suspect and the police close his restaurant simultaneously putting a strain on his morning show appearances.

Billy is assaulted by somebody believing he killed Rudy and searching for what they think he removed from Rudy’s place. Billy begins investigating and becomes convinced that Rudy’s last assignment in Baghdad has something to do with his murder. A mercenary contractor meant to protect the reporters was killed one night at dinner in front of the team. As the other members of that dinner party start to all die off it seems likely, but why is Billy in danger?

The plot has several layers and Chef Blessing doesn’t take himself too seriously with some self effacing humor that made me chuckle. There is a cast of characters including international assassin Felix the Cat, the Morning Show crew including the pushy new Executive Director, Billy’s prior girlfriend who happens to be the daughter of the station owner and Rudy’s fiancĂ©e, Billy’s hard-core-New-Yorker assistant at the Bistro and then security hired to protect him who have ties to the Baghdad mercenaries, and an ex-Mossad agent coming to the show pushing his “tell all” book.

It is a fun “beach” read with a few quirky characters and an adequate storyline to keep you reading. The plot may not be memorable but it wasn’t simple or transparent either and the ending was satisfying. I classified this as a “cozy-esque” mystery because it is on par for a cozy with little graphic violence, breezy writing style and the fun cast of characters. It isn’t full-on cozy since it does involve international aspects. If you are looking for a light read that isn’t award winning high prose but an entertaining story then this book is for you. As a debut novel it wasn’t bad at all, I certainly have read far less deserving fair that had some readers raving.

For your convenience you may purchase your copy here.
 
****A little extra for you ****
 
 




Until next Monday I wish you many mysterious moments.
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