Monday, August 22, 2022

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala


I meant to read ARSENIC AND ADOBO for AAPI month but that month went by in a blink and then I got super busy, but that's okay, since diverse books should be read and championed year-round anyway, and after several heavier books, I was in the mood for something light.

This is the story of Lila, who has just moved back home after a terrible breakup. Her parents are dead, so her family consists of her aunt, grandmother, and a group of "aunties" called the Calendar Crew because they're all named after months of the year. Lila is a baker and has been working in her aunt's Filipinx restaurant, which is a popular fixture in the community. Unfortunately, it's under attack by an evil food blogger (who is also Lila's ex) who seems determined to ruin their restaurant's reputation just because he can. Which is why it's so suspicious when he drops dead right after finishing his meal.

What at first seems like a horrible accident starts to look like a conspiracy when it turns out that the blogger, Derek, was poisoned. And to make it worse, their small suburb has a hotshot on the case from Chicago's vice squad, who seems to think that Lila is some kind of evil kingpin who has the whole town wrapped around her criminal finger. Add to that more delicious food porn than you'll know what to do with, two hot guys (a lawyer and a dentist! oh my), one cute dog, and a bunch of nosy, meddling aunties, and you end up with a pretty incredible cozy mystery that perfectly toes the line between cute and thrilling.

This has the vibe that DEATH BY DUMPLING was trying to accomplish but couldn't quite reach. I think because Lila comes across as such a dimensional character. She's both self-aware and delusional, which is a contradiction I think most of us can relate to. I felt like I really got to know her as a narrator, as well as what motivated her, and the community element of the book was really well done because of how all of the characters interacted with each other, as well as Lila. The last book I read that did this sort of chick-litty mystery this well was SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT by Meg Cabot. So I think if you find yourself attracted to cozy mysteries but don't like that the heroines often feel like "hip and sassy" twenty-year-olds as penned by someone who is kind of out of touch, you'll love how fresh this feels.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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