Here Today, Gone Tamale
A Taste of Texas Mystery, Book #1
By Rebecca Adler
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Reporter turned Tex-Mex waitress Josie Callahan is about to go from serving queso to solving cases…
After losing her newspaper job in Austin and having her former fiancé unfriend her on Facebook, Josie bookCallahan scoops up her Chihuahua, Lenny, and slinks back to Broken Boot, Texas. Maybe working as head waitress at Milagro—her aunt and uncle’s Tex-Mex restaurant—isn’t exactly living the dream, but it is a fresh start.
And business is booming as tourists pour into Broken Boot for its famous Wild West Festival. But when a local jewelry designer is found strangled outside Milagro after a tamale-making party, Josie’s reporter instincts kick in. As suspects pile up and alibis crack faster than taco shells, Josie needs to wrap up this case tighter than her tía’s tortillas—before another victim calls for the check…
This is a non-stop feast for cozy mystery lovers! First in a new series, Here Today, Gone Tamale is a fast-rising star on the cozy mystery ‘foodie’ horizon. I thoroughly enjoyed it in spite of – or maybe due to – various eccentric characters. The characters pulled this reader in from the beginning and didn’t let go until the bad guy/ gal was revealed. Josie Callahan was invited to leave her young career as an investigative reporter from an Austin newspaper and she finds out by Facebook that her fiance was now an ex. She returned to the home of her aunt and uncle with Lenny, her chihuahua, in Broken Boot, Texas where she grew up after losing her parents when she was twelve. Josie and Lenny moved into the upstairs apartment of Uncle Eddie and Aunt Linda’s Tex-Mex restaurant, Milagro, and became the head waitress, having worked there through her teen years.
Josie is a personable, witty, intelligent young woman who seems to enjoy the restaurant even more than the newspaper! That was evident when the story opened to a tamale making party, a tamalada, to serve at the Wild Wild West Festival’s tamale-eating contest to benefit the county Children’s Home. Josie enjoyed being part of the activities, from refreshing everyone’s beverages to catching up with the people she hadn’t spoken with for a while. There were only a couple dampers on the evening, the first being that her college boyfriend came in, looking better than ever, with Hillary, the snarky former beauty queen who had applied for the same position in Austin that Josie was chosen for until she was let go. The second and worst was finding the dead body of Dixie Honeycutt, the outspoken artisan who created the special necklace and matching accessories to be auctioned off at the Festival. She had become so drunk at the tamalada that she had been outdoors waiting for her nephew to pick her up, where last Dixie had seen of her. Later, the tamalada over and almost everyone gone for the night, Josie finds her dead body behind the restaurant by the dumpster.
Josie, not keen to stay by herself after the Sheriff and Deputy Lightfoot were finished with her, took Lenny to stay with her uncle and aunt. She didn’t stay long, as there was a restaurant to run when the police allowed them to re-open. As a wannabe investigative reporter, Josie had another job to do. She knew that the young man jailed on suspicion was not the killer, for young Anthony was their busboy who hoped to become part of the waitstaff. He was a hard worker, supporting and caring for his younger siblings. There were so many suspects, so little time…the nephew who seemed eager to get what money was left for him to help with his various habits, or maybe the person who had the missing jewelry she designed for the auction. Sure, most people didn’t like Dixie but one doesn’t just kill someone simply because they are obnoxious, does one? But then, how many people would take poor Lenny to send a message to Josie to stop seeking the killer?
Josie is someone that I would want on my side if I were in trouble! Her tireless efforts while working at the restaurant and the festival were admirable, a reflection of the kind of friend and investigative reporter she is. It was great fun to get to know her and see the townspeople through her eyes. Everyone had some kind of secret, secrets that kept this reader from eliminating them as suspects or get to know them better. Josie and her family members were three-dimensional, as was Anthony. Those who were part of the tamalada are seen throughout the story, including Elaine and her daughters, and the Mayor and his wife. Most were likable, except of course Hillary, the current queen of Josie’s ex-boyfriend. Lenny, the brave little pup, is Josie’s delightful little co-star.
The plot was like an onion, in that every time Josie had a lead, it had masked yet another lead, another suspect. There had to be a heart to the onion…but how many more layers could there possibly be? It was full of excitement and suspense, and the conclusion was so satisfying that I can’t wait to see the next one – and a possibility of romance for Josie! I heartily recommend Here Today, Gone Tamale for those who enjoy well-written ‘foodie’ cozy mysteries with an irresistible protagonist and surprising ending. Red herrings aside, it has the right amount of wide-awake suspense, fun and friendship to make it a must-read!