Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Brooklyn’s sister Savannah and her former culinary school classmates all became successful chefs, especially Savannah’s ex-boyfriend Baxter Cromwell, who went on to culinary superstardom. When he invites the old gang to the gala opening of his new restaurant in San Francisco, Savannah asks Brooklyn to restore a rare antique cookbook as a present for him.
The night they all gather, Baxter is found dead, the cookbook has disappeared, and Savannah becomes the suspect du jour. But Brooklyn knows her sister is innocent, and there are plenty of old grudges simmering among this backstabbing bunch. Now she’ll have to turn up the heat on the investigation before Chef Savannah finds herself slinging hash in a prison cafeteria. (Amazon.com)
Superstar chef Baxter Cromwell has invited his former classmates from culinary school to help him open his new restaurant in San Francisco by participating in a two week long grand opening event. As a thank you, Brooklyn’s sister, Savannah, intends to return an eighteenth century cookbook to Baxter, cleaned and repaired by Brooklyn. The gift elicits a variety of reactions from the gathered chefs, and shortly after the dinner, Baxter is found stabbed to death on his kitchen floor. Unfortunately, Savannah is caught holding the murder weapon, and Brooklyn immediately feels she must get to the bottom of things to clear her sister’s name. She is also distraught because the rare cookbook is nowhere to be found. Was Baxter’s death connected to the book?
It doesn’t take long for Brooklyn to discover that Baxter was a real jackass who used people to his advantage and kept them around just as long as they were useful to him. It seems that all of the other chefs, who are Savannah’s friends, each have secrets to keep and motive for murder. With the help of her security expert (former spy) boyfriend, Derek, Brooklyn combs through photocopied pages of the cookbook and gathers information from the chefs. When Derek believes the book contains secret code, he calls upon his brother, Dalton, who is a MI6 cryptographer, to crack the code. Another chef is murdered, yet another is bludgeoned within breaths of dying, and several of the group admit to being blackmailed. The story provides plenty of red herrings to keep the reader guessing about the murderer’s identity and motivation until the very end.
This is essentially a mystery within a mystery…the murders, which may or may not be related to the cookbook, the tome’s disappearance, and the volume itself. I found the excerpts from the “book of receipts” that head each chapter to be interesting tidbits about cooking in a bygone era.
Ms. Carlisle writes character driven cozies, and I am glad to see growth in the relationship between Brooklyn and Derek. It was also refreshing to see more emotion from the private, buttoned-up Brit. I do find him a bit too indulgent of Brooklyn’s nosiness and investigating. However, I suppose there would be no story if Brooklyn was not nosy. The chefs are fairly well drawn characters, and I appreciate that they are not just stereotypical caricatures. Even though Savannah is a central to this installment, the rest of Brooklyn’s family is somewhat absent, and I missed the levity and entertainment their wackiness provides. Since there was a budding romance between Savannah and Dalton, I feel he will make an appearance in future writings.
My rating of three stars indicates that I liked it (I am relatively stingy with four and five stars). It contains a pretty solid mystery; the characters are familiar at this point in the series, but continue to evolve. Even though I found it a bit repetitive at times, it was still entertaining…a light, quick read. I recommend this to fans of the series, lovers of old books, and those looking for a slightly different culinary themed cozy.