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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review: Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy

Time to get into the upcoming holiday - Thanksgiving. 
What better way than to read a mystery set during Thanksgiving at the White House!

Copyright: Dec 2008 (Berkely);336 pgs.
Series: #2 in White House Chef Mysteries
Sensuality: N/A
Mystery sub-genre: Cozy
Main Character: Olivia Paras, White House Executive Chef
Setting: Thanksgiving at the White House in Washington D.C.
Part of a Challenge: Fall/Winter Mystery Reading Challenge
Winner of any awards: 1st book in series won several awards
Obtained book through: Library

Amidst the flurry of activity that is the holidays at the White House, there is murder ruining the festivities. Join the new Executive Chef Olivia (Ollie) as she juggles the harried preparations for Thanksgiving and the following holiday season in the White House kitchen peppered with bomb scares and a splash of murder. Mix in some personality conflicts among the staff and you have the recipe for this original second entry in the series.

The book starts out with a bomb scare and Ollie being hustled along with the first lady into a bomb shelter. The story continues from there with the first lady under pressure to sell her share of a company by the other three owners, Ollie discovering an actual bomb, the Chief Electrician getting electrocuted and the president's nephew committing suicide. Ollie feels both the deaths are not what they seem.

The main character, Ollie, is spunky and caring. The first lady is portrayed sympathetically. Ollie’s kitchen staff comes to life including the cranky and negative Bucky, the supportive Cyan and newcomer Agda who speaks limited English but sure can cook. Other White House staffers populate the story including snarling electrician Curly, and the chief of security pit-bullish Gavin, even the temperamental pastry chef Marcel creating its own tight community with the White House.

Here we join Chief of Security with Ollie:
"There are people who things happen to. And whether you consider it a blessing or a curse, you appear to be one of them." He turned to face me. "I read your dossier."

I winced

"Don’t be embarrassed," he said. "It's not that you have a black cloud over your head – it’s that you have the ability to see and to sense things better than most.” He wagged his head from side to side. “I’m not talking about ESP or clairvoyance, although maybe describing it as a sixth sense is apt. You have a great deal of intelligence and an acute awareness – more than most people – which allows you to notice things out of place. And you have the curiosity to find out why."

"It's a curse, all right."

"I disagree. We hire people with your talents every day."
All the plot lines and subplots nicely wrap up and the sleuthing is done believably through Ollie’s natural observation skills for the most part. While the "bad guy" may not come as a surprise in the end it is nicely handled and working out the details has a few surprises. Descriptions are good without running on which I imagine is a challenge when the setting is the White House – kudos there. Pacing kept me reading. Granted, some people may not care for the kitchen operations included in the story –those people might feel the story isn’t as fast-paced as they might like. But for a cozy mystery I thought it was on par. Oh and there are recipes at the end which many cozy readers love.

For your convenience, you may purchase a copy here.

Until Monday's Musings I wish you many mysterious moments.
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