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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review - The Big Chili

Here is a new mystery series, although the author has written mysteries before... like the Teddy Thurber mysteries and the Madeline Mann mysteries.  Let's take a look at Ms. Buckley's newest mystery series, which has already garnered praise from Sue Ann Jaffarian and others.

Author: Julia Buckley

Copyright: Oct 2015 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 3rd in Undercover Dish Mystery series

Sensuality: mild kissing and situations

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth, Cozy

Main Character: Lilah Drake, 27 year old Real Estate Assistant and secret caterer to the cooking challenged

Setting: Modern day, Pine Haven, Illinois

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Lilah has always had a penchant for cooking and has built up a secret business in addition to working for her parents part time at the Realty office. She provides clandestine meals for the cooking challenged.  You are arthritic and can't make the special dish for the family anymore, or you just simply can't make a potluck dish to same your Lilah and she will make the dish for a price and do the hand off in out-of-the-way places. But when Perpetua Grandy's usual order of special chili for the St. Bartholomew's Church potluck ends up with cyanide that kills the most hated woman in the church, Alice Dixon, things start to heat up.  Not just because it was Lilah's secret chili that Pet is known for that killed her (and Pet isn't letting go of the secret), but the investigating detective has peaked Lilah's interest -- even though he caught her making a secret delivery and seems mighty suspicious of her already.

Lilah Drake, fun character who essentially works two part time jobs, is recovering from a disastrous relationship with the local Italian Don Juan, and therefor prefers her dog as the only male sharing her house. Detective Jacob Parker is a handsome arrival in town who is "hard core" about his job...intense, serious, life-time cop describe him, yet he is supposed to be the potential love interest.  Lilah's brother Cameron and Italian girlfriend Serfina are a nice addition. Mick the Chocolate Labrador is lovable and seems to nod on que, great sidekick.  Terry Randal and girl friend Brit are Lilah's wealthy jet-setting landlords that have hearts of gold.

The setting Pine Haven is fairly standard small town, with nothing special sticking out.  The plot concept of the clandestine catering is interesting, the beginning of the story was slow with all the setup, but the murder happens fairly quickly in the story and gets things moving. It is characteristically a cozy light read.  Pacing slows a bit with following Lilah on errands incessantly. But the killer confrontation had some good action and tension that I enjoy.  The wrap-up presents a new opportunity in the food realm for Lilah to be continued in the next book. 

I found this to be an overall fun read with a new premise that has plenty of potential.  I found a few things on the Mystery Bingo (click here), such as the Sidekick, a cop is the romantic interest, rather than "mom pushing sleuth to marry" it is rather mom pushing sleuth to date so she can get married, and food or hobby is featured. Luckily, Lilah thinks clearly in dangerous situations and didn't need rescuing.

Rating: Good - A fun read 

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