Cinco de Murder
A Taste of Texas Mystery, Book #3
By Rebecca Adler
Author Website: authorrebeccaadler(.)com
Tex-Mex waitress and part-time reporter Josie Callahan serves up more Lone Star justice in this spicy mystery from the author of The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole.
It’s fiesta time in Broken Boot, Texas, and tourists are pouring into town faster than free beer at a bull roping for the mouthwatering Cinco de Mayo festivities. Tex-Mex waitress Josie Callahan, her feisty abuela, and even her spunky Chihuahua Lenny are polishing their folklorico dances for Saturday’s big parade, while Uncle Eddie is adding his own spicy event to the fiesta menu: Broken Boot’s First Annual Charity Chili Cook-off.
But Uncle Eddie’s hopes of impressing the town council go up in smoke when cantankerous chili cook Lucky Straw is found dead in his tent. And when Josie’s beloved uncle is accused of fatal negligence, she, Lenny, and the steadfast Detective Lightfoot must uncover who ended the ambitious chilihead’s life–before another cook kicks the bucket.
I really enjoyed this welcome #3 in the delightful A Taste of Mexico Mystery series! From the fun-tastic, colorful cover to the very last words, it is the best in the series to date. The characters are uniquely individual, with a feisty protagonist and her Abuela, and a mystery that is not easily solved. Foodies will love the Tex-Mex restaurant belonging to Josie’s family.
Preparations for Cinco de Mayo are well underway, including the first time that a chili-cook off is held in Broken Boot. It will benefit a local charity. Senora Mari (Abuela), Josie, her dancing pup Lenny, best friend Patti, and Aunt Linda are taking part in the parade in the folklorico dances. Josie is busy as ever between waitressing, trying to write for the local newspaper’s crime beat, and the added attention of two men, former college sweetheart, now football coach Ryan and Detective Quintin Lightfoot. Not to be outdone, Hillary Sloan-Rawlings is trying to get Ryan back, and is one of those ladies that the old saying “keep your enemies closer” is about.
The big day for the cook-off has arrived, and Uncle Eddie has gone to every length to garner the approval of the town council. Josie went out very early to make sure all the electricity and water hookups were in good working order. Having met several of the cooks, it is important to keep these chili artists happy. The most irritating of all, Lucky Straw, isn’t up and at ‘em yet, which is a surprise when Josie goes into his work area to check the utilities. After she disentangles herself from a mess of extension cords, she finds Lucky Straw, He won’t be serving up his prize-winning Lucky’s Naked Chili again, as he has been murdered. And it is just Josie’s luck to find him. It only becomes more confusing when vendors in town encounter break-ins, which Josie is certain are related to the murder.
From Whip, a close friend of Lucky, to Bridget Peck of the International Chili Association and many others in between, there is no shortage of suspects in this mystery. A challenge unique to small towns is finding what exactly killed Straw. While there is one apparent cause, another is much more challenging to discover. There are so many people with a grudge against him that the motive isn’t clear, either. Josie shares what she learns with Detective Lightfoot in hopes that he will reciprocate – not just due to her desire to help solve the crime, but to showing that he respects her as a journalist if they bounce clues off of each other.
The characters are very well defined; I am impressed with how real and likable they are, especially Josie and Senora Mari. Josie is someone this reader could appreciate due to changes in her career, her tenacity, being cooking-challenged, and loving her little pup, Lenny. Abuela, Mari, hides a heart of gold beneath her spicy exterior. Detective Lightfoot acts all cool and collected, but I think he might be as flustered by Josie as she is about him. Ryan becomes very attentive to her whenever Lightfoot is around. Josie gets Lightfoot to open up about more than the case and is fascinated by this quiet, crisply dressed detective.
This is one fine mess for poor Uncle Eddie, new member of the town council. The event has gone sideways before it even starts. Without Josie’s fast thinking, it would have been canceled and the ICA on its way down the road. Plot twists seem to effortlessly change focus on who the bad guy could be and what someone might have killed him for – perhaps to keep him from winning yet another cook-off? As this fast-paced novel reveals, there are several people with varying motives. Yet I was taken totally off guard with who the real killer was, someone I didn’t feel was quite all there but likewise not a killer. Yayy, Rebecca Adler, for surprising me again! I highly recommend this novel for those who enjoy well-written cozy mysteries that include fun, festivities, delightful characters, possible romance, and delicious-sounding recipes. I’m looking forward to visiting Broken Boot, Texas again!