4 star


Books, Cooks and Crooks

A Novel Idea Mystery #3

By Lucy Arlington

ISBN# 9780425252246

Author’s Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie


The national bestselling Novel Idea Mysteries are back, as Lila Wilkins—literary agent and sleuth—is setting up a delicious cookbook fair. But the tension in the kitchen is about to boil over…

Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, is bubbling with excitement for the Taste of the Town festival, and Lila is right in the middle of it all. Along with her coworkers at the Novel Idea Literary Agency, Lila is organizing a grand celebrity chef event, featuring food television’s biggest stars, complete with cooking demonstrations, cookbook giveaways, and even a culinary writing contest.

But just as the celebration is about to start, the demo kitchen blows up, taking one of the star cooks with it. With the explosive egos of the cook’s colleagues, it’s hard to find someone who didn’t have a motive to eliminate the competition. Now Lila will have to scramble to figure out which of her clients is a killer—before someone else gets burned. (from Goodreads)


Lucy Arlington has another hit with her third book in the Novel Idea Mystery series, Books, Cooks and Crooks.  It can easily be read as a stand-alone cozy, as I had not yet read the first two.  Lila Wilkins, a literary agent and main character, has planned a special cookbook fair with the help of other agents in the office.  The first Taste of the Town Festival would honor the chefs represented by their Novel Idea Literary Agency, two of whom would have book releases during the Festival.

Lila had been eagerly looking forward to the Festival; her favorite chef from the television circuit, Klara Patrick, would be among the chefs to charm a live audience during the taping of cooking demonstrations.  Her book, based on recipes that her Dutch grandmother had taught her, was one of the scheduled for release.  It would be evident from the start, though, that Klara wasn’t the affable, entertaining chef that she saw on TV, but rather an over-critical prima donna whose tongue was sharper than her cooking knives.

Joined by Bentley, who runs the agency, Zach, the firm’s marketing manager, Sean, Lila’s police detective gentleman friend, and other agents and staff, Lila co-hosted the dinner to welcome the chefs the night before the Festival was to begin.  Before the dinner, she gave them a tour of where they would be filming the cooking demonstrations.

The delightful, passionate, yet egotistical celebrity chefs were an interesting lot to dine with!  Their personalities did not blend smoothly together, even within their own entourages.  They discussed the chef’s menus for the first day’s demonstration theme, Great Love Stories from Literature Interpreted through Food and the country represented by their choices.

As they were leaving the Center for the Arts, they were stunned by an explosion and fire.  Sean and several of the men raced towards the source of the blowup in the Culinary Arts wing.  Then the dreaded word came back – someone as yet unidentified died in the explosion.  Worse than that, as they later learned, the explosion had been rigged.

The following day, Klara’s stepchildren arrived and told their father Ryan about the affair Klara was having with another chef, Bryce St. John.  There was no love lost between Carrie and Carter and Klara, who they wanted out of their family in the worst way.  Her sous chef, Dennis, wasn’t exactly one of her fans, either.  The tension rises as the search for the murderer begins, and the chickens come home to roost in Klara’s career.

To top off the wild weekend, a creepy want-to-be writer stalks Lila.  Lila and her son Trey’s fun during this stressful time is detecting who the sweet, poetic secret admirer of Makayla, Lila’s best friend.  Makayla owns the coffee shop where the agents and others come to gather and be revived by her coffee mouth-watering caffeine creations.  The secret admirer leaves large tips wrapped around poems in Makayla’s tip jar almost daily, but nobody sees who the gentle writer might be.  Nor who Lila’s stalker is.

Althea, Lila’s psychic mother, joins the search for the murderer even as she watches the star chefs charm and entertain during question and answer panels and demonstrations.  For Althea, even a handshake can give her a clue as to the personalities she is meeting – none of whom are what they seem to be.

Lila is intelligent, sassy and savvy, yet saddened by the personalities behind the television chefs-turned-authors.  Her relationship with Sean is one of her treasures, as is her son Trey, who came home early from spring break after hearing of the death at the Festival opening.  She wants to be the very best that she can be – for Trey, for Sean, and for her authors.  I love her courage, her perseverance, her loyalty to her family, friends, and clients, and her joy in nature.  She manages every challenge, including crabby chefs, with tact and grace.

Favorite quotes:

“I was doing what I loved-changing the life of an aspiring author.”

 “The pear trees were dressed in silk white petals, and bluebirds and robins darted among their branches.”

“As my favorite Vivaldi concerto danced through the speakers…”

This is a fun read, one that I recommend for every cozy mystery lover who likes the publishing industry, cooking, or just plain excellent writing.  Each character is as fully-developed as necessary for their part in the Festival, which is not an easy feat with the number of personalities.  Lucy Arlington’s love of the arts is apparent in her delightful prose.  The story moves along at a good pace with a satisfying series of twists and challenges that keeps one guessing until the end.