Arsenic and Adobo

Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery, Book #1

By Mia P. Manansala

ISBN #9780593201671

Author Website: miapmanansala(.)com

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele


The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block.  (Goodreads)


Full of family, humor, murder, and food, Mia P. Manansala’s debut mystery Arsenic and Adobo is a great read.

Even though Lila has big culinary dreams of her own in Chicago, she puts them aside to move back home to help her aunt Rosie save the family restaurant.  However, she does not expect her high school sweetheart to turn into enemy number one with his scathing restaurant reviews published on his blog and the local newspaper.  When he becomes ill while eating at Tita Rosie’s Kitchen and subsequently dies, the police quickly turn their eyes to Lila as the prime suspect, not only for murder but also for drug charges.  Every day the restaurant remains closed for the investigation, the closer Rosie gets to losing her livelihood and family legacy.  Lila sets out to clear her name and save the restaurant even as the body count rises.

First of all, reading this book makes me hungry and my mouth water.  It is a culinary cozy in all the best ways with fabulous descriptions of Filipino, Japanese, Mexican, BBQ, and gourmet coffee foodstuffs.  Seriously…delicious.  Luckily the author includes recipes in the back of the book and a glossary of (foreign to me) Filipino ingredients and terms in the front.  Manansala’s love of food and her heritage shines through on every page.  As a self proclaimed foodie, I find it educational and entertaining.

Though food is obviously the main attraction, culture and family are also greatly emphasized throughout the story.  The multi-generational and multi-ethnic characters are well developed and jump off the page.  The cozy mystery genre is often lacking in diversity, but Arsenic and Adobo organically weaves different heritages into a Midwestern small town setting seamlessly.  I enjoy all of the characters and feel like I am well on the way to making new book friends.  The characters feel like real people with relatable lives, hopes, and problems.  The mystery of Derek’s death and the drug subplot are well thought out and executed.  There are plenty of suspects and motives to be found in the other restaurateurs attacked by Derek’s reviews.  I guessed whodunit rather early on but, just like Lila, had to work out the means and motive.  
Arsenic and Adobo sets a firm foundation for the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen series with its quality writing and storytelling.  I look forward to reading more.  Highly recommended to any cozy reader but especially to those looking for glorious food descriptions and multicultural characters.