Cook the Books by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
Publisher: The Berkley Publishing Group (Penguin)
Length: Full Length (243 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum
This Gourmet Girl has to take the heat-because she just can't get away from the kitchen.
Chloe Carter desperately needs a job, so she takes one assisting a cookbook writer. Unfortunately it stirs up painful memories of her ex- boyfriend Josh, who left her for Hawaii. While compiling a book of recipes from Boston's top chefs, she comes in contact with one of Josh's friends, Digger. Chloe manages to stay cool until later she finds Digger's apartment charred-with Digger in it.
Not believing that an expert chef would die from a grease fire, she sets about looking for Digger's killer. But things get sticky when the tragedy brings Josh back to Boston-and back into Chloe's life.
Jealousy, bad food, good food and a lot of frazzled nerves weave their way around the mystery of who cooked the cook. I never realized chefs led such frenetic and dangerous lives until I opened up Cook the Books and discovered how different restaurant kitchen life can be.
This is a mystery series that's ongoing but this is my first time tasting the adventure. I didn’t feel too lost because the author provided just enough back story for a new reader to understand that there's some serious water under the bridge between the main female protagonist, Chloe, and a man who, for a bit of the story, is in the background, Josh. I can’t label him a hero because he’s not the focus, he’s more like a side kick with romantic overtones. His character does stir the pot a bit and shakes things up so a reader can see Chloe in action.
Chloe is the eye of the storm and the winds of chaos seem to swirl about her character. The ambiance of the food world never abates and is a solid and steady theme throughout the book. The premise of finding a job to support a bad habit is believable, and having so much responsibility heaped upon one person’s shoulders is a breakdown waiting to happen. Good thing the heroine has a few good friends and some seriously effective distractions to keep her mind occupied. Unfortunately, they’re not the good kind.
The mystery is who killed one of her chef acquaintances. I don’t believe he was a true friend but he was a person in her circle who perhaps readers might have met in previous books in the series. It was interesting how the search for clues was handled. I wasn’t flooded with a lot of misdirection and red herrings. It was left to my finding out important clues when Chloe got them which made a lot of sense since this story is told in first person point of view. If the heroine didn’t get it, neither did I, until the author wanted us to.
The odd thing is how the culprit was in plain sight. So was the motive but not the means or the opportunity. I never clued in how those things tied together. It was only when Chloe was presented with crucial parts of the picture from an unexpected source that everything started falling into place. Even then it didn’t seem possible. But, human nature being its quirky self, it made sense once all was revealed. It was tragic in a way and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the criminal. It begs the question about circumstances and predilections towards an unbalanced psyche. I still say criminals make the best actors because the victims never see it coming.
The vibes between Chloe and Josh seem to be vibrant but drawn out. He made a huge mistake and he’s in the dog house. But the mystery of whodunit doesn’t allow for the silent treatment. The external conflict propels the two towards open communication that hints how all is not lost for Josh; he’s got a lot of work ahead of him but Chloe still has him on her radar. The romantic elements are there so it adds a little spice and lightness to the dark drama and suspense of finding their friend’s killer.
Cook the Books is an entertaining, light and zippy mystery with a lot of character. Most of the book is about Chloe and how she starts off doing something so basic and innocent and how it ends up spinning out of control onto a path totally unforeseen. Readers are teased with all these great sounding food dishes but the authors have guaranteed that our taste buds will join in on the fun by giving us the actual recipes so we can experience our own gastronomic adventures. I liked Chloe’s friends and found the fact that she’s still learning about herself interesting. The writing was good, the pace steady and the dialogue was insightful into the characters.
All in all Cook the Books is a fun read and it makes a person wonder just what is it going to take to iron out the relationship between Josh and Chloe. Guess I’ll have to read the next book and find out what new mayhem dogs the heroine’s steps. Should be good!