Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review: Delicious and Suspicious by Riley Adams

Welcome to Aunt Pat's barbeque restaurant -- family run and located in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee.  Named in honor of Lulu Tyalor's great aunt, the restaurant is known for its ribs and spicy corn bread, but now the Taylor family will be known for murder -- unless Lulu can clearn their name... 
Rebecca Adrian came to Memphis to suss out the best local BBQ for a prominent Cooking Channel show. Trouble is, Rebecca doesn't live long enough to mention a bad review. A mystery ingredient has killed her -- and now all fingers are pointing to Aunt Pat's restaurant. Horrified that her family is being accused of murder, Luly fires up her investigative skills to solve the crime before someone else gets skewered...

The high hopes I had for this book were shaken when I said "Oh no" to myself around page 4.  Big family; lots of points of view.  I understand the need to make sure everyone had a "say," but it was overwhelming at first, almost made me put the book down and not pick it back up again.  By the midpoint of the book, however, things settled down to primarily Lulu's POV, and we're able to get to the heart of the matter -- solving a murder. 

Rebecca Adrian, Cooking Channel scout, is not a nice girl. Whoa, boy, is she the total opposite of nice.  As I continued to read about the things she would say -- to strangers! -- and her actions, I couldn't help but feel slighted on her behalf because of her portrayal.  Now I'm sure there are unkind people from New York, and I'm sure some of those unkind people work in positions of power within corporations, but I cannot believe that (1) she had never shown her vindictive side in her workplace so they had no idea how she truly was behind the fake smile and good grooming and (2) her company allowed her to scout for new talent if they did, in fact, know what she was like.  She's their in-person representative!  Wouldn't they see she's giving off a horribly bad impression, thereby reflecting horribly badly on their company? 

Truthfully, I wanted to slap her into next week.  Two weeks from now even. 

When she's found dead, it's not a big surprise, though soon everyone she's come into contact with during her stay in Memphis agrees she was so not nice (and maybe deserved her fate?).  That's what makes Lulu, her son Ben, his wife Sara, Sara's nephew Derrick, bookstore owner and budding romance novelist Mildred, member of the Graces, Flo, and a couple of others suspects in Rebecca's murder. 

I should mention that my mother-in-law is a Memphis girl born and bred, and I kept reading hoping I'd see places I'd been to.  (Part of the fun in reading, I think.  "Ooh, I've been there!")  That also makes me biased because I know Memphis.  When the Graces and Lulu go to the mall, I wondered which mall (I'd always pick Wolfchase Galleria, though it's in Bartlett).   As they talk about what's happening on Beale, I wondered what other clubs and restaurants were nearby. 

I liked the little touches about downtown Memphis: the ducks at the Peabody, Peabody Place, the pyramid, the river, Elvis and Graceland, of course.  It might have been nice to mention a baseball game, since the Redbirds are downtown, just on the other side of Peabody Place.  But I'll allow some literary license, especially since Delicious and Suspicious is the first in a series.  Perhaps we'll visit those places again.   

It would have been easy for the characters to take on that over-the-top Southern quality.  While they're quirky -- Cherry, I'm looking at you -- they're still real, still normal (relatively speaking), still funny.  Like this line Lula says to her eldest son Ben after he suggests she try to get on Wheel of Fortune rather than "audition" for the Cooking Channel scout:

"California is on the other side of the country, Ben.  I can't just pop over there, buy some vowels, and win big money." 

The one thing I'm afraid of is that for the series to continue and for Lulu to be involved (either directly or indirectly, though I have a feeling she'd stick her nose in it regardless), someone we're introduced to as a regular at Aunt Pat's is going to have to get it.  Can't keep killing out-of-towners -- it would be bad for Memphis tourism!

Despite my initial "oh no," the story really hit its stride in the final half of the book, with a somewhat surprising villian and another murder for Lulu to solve.  Delicious and Suspicious was pretty good fun for this Southern girl. 

(A very special thank you to Berkley Prime Crime who provided me with an ARC of Delicious and Suspicious.)

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