Saturday, April 19, 2014

Death of a kitchen diva by Lee Hollis

Hayley Powell is your average single mom raising two teenagers on a fixed income and practically zero financial support from her ex-husband.  To make ends meet she runs the office of the Island Times - a job she has made her own over the past four years.  When she finally works up the courage to ask for a raise she doesn't get it, what she gets instead is the opportunity to write the island food and spirits column in the Island Times.  Knowing she has big boots to fill (her predecessor was a legend) Hayley whips up a column and drops it on her boss to a lukewarm reception - but the community goes nuts for the column and Hayley soon finds herself something of a celebrity.

Of course that celebrity comes at a cost - in the form of a sudden and bitter rivalry with Karen Appelbaum, who writes the food column for the rival newspaper.  It doesn't seem like too big a deal to Hayley, Karen may have been nasty but it is not worth losing sleep over.  Then Karen turns up murdered and Hayley is the prime suspect!  As the local community speculates about what happened, things go from bad to worse and Hayley realises that it is up to her to clear her good name (or at least what is left of her good name).  With the case causing tension in her family and her friends sticking by her it is going to be an interesting ride, and if Hayley doesn't figure out who the killer is she may find herself on the murderers menu herself!

Death of a kitchen diva opens with something of a bang, with Hayley arrested just as the eligible Lex arrives to take her out to dinner - and after a quick back track to a week earlier we learn exactly why Hayley has been arrested.  It is an opening gamble that can flop sometimes, but in this case starting with now and jumping back in time lets you slip into the exciting part of the story and then catch up with what has happened in short order.  I love the character of Hayley - she is fallible, stubborn, gets talked into all sorts of things, and has the same rotten luck that seems to plague me at time.  She is not perfect, she is not a goddess of perfection, and she seems to be just keeping her head above water - but she also has a great family, friends she can count on, and a stubborn determination to solve the crime so she can clear her good name.

As I have said previously I am new to reading this kind of murder mystery, usually reading the big blockbusters that are packed with action instead, but I have found the genre to be entertaining and thoroughly absorbing.  I am coming to realise that the words "absorbing" and "addictive" are good all-round descriptors for these books - I have picked up a few and discarded them after a few pages because they lack the spark and charm of books like Death of a kitchen diva.  One unusual feature of this book is the recipes inside - because Hayley writes the food and spirits columns and these are reproduced as part of the text.  There is a full seven course meal included in the articles, and there are also some great cocktail recipes (sadly I am allergic to alcohol so didn't get to try them myself).  The humour is at times subtle and "real life situational" stuff, and at other times the humour comes from the slip ups of one of the main characters who has English as a second language.

There are laugh out loud moments throughout Death of a kitchen diva and just when I thought I had figured out who the killer was I was twisted back into the story to find out who the real killer was.  I was hooked right until the end and am eagerly awaiting the second book in the series to see if the authors (Lee Hollis is a brother and sister writing team) can keep up the tension, humour, and twists and turns in the next book in the series.

If you like this book then try:
  • Death of a country fried Redneck by Lee Hollis
  • Dipped, stripped, and dead by Elise Hyatt
  • French polished murder by Elise Hyatt
  • Books can be deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
  • One for the money by Janet Evanovich
  • Murder past due by Miranda James

Reviewed by Brilla

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