Friday 11 August 2023

CBR15 Book 40: "Arsenic and Adobo" by Mia P. Manansala

Page count: 336 pages
Rating: 3 stars

CBR15 Bingo: Edibles (this book features both a lot of food and quite a few drugs)

Lila Macapagal used to live in Chicago and dreamed of opening her own restaurant, but both her business and relationship failed miserably. She's back in her hometown, helping to run her tita (aunt) Rosie run the family restaurant, where they serve Philipino food. Unfortunately, Lila's ex-boyfriend is a food critic and seems determined to come back, again and again, to sample the food and write scathing things about the food and service. Only this time, he collapses at the table and has to be rushed to hospital, where he dies sometime later. Shortly after, the police are at the restaurant and while searching the premises, they also find a bag in Lila's locker containing a large amount of drugs. Now she's not only the main suspect in the murder of her ex-boyfriend but the police think she's a drug kingpin. 

Lila is determined to clear her name and with the help of her barista BFF, said bestie's lawyer brother, and the big network of aunties who seem to know everything about everyone in town, she begins to investigate. Her tita's restaurant will stay closed until her name is cleared, not to mention that Lila risks a long time in prison if she can't find the actual murderer.

The topic for this June's Cannon Book Club was Fun in the Summertime. Three romances and one cozy mystery were selected. This was the cozy mystery. I got it in an e-book sale in July 2022, so it seemed like a good choice to read since I'd already read two of the romances suggested earlier this year. Once upon a time, I used to read a lot of mysteries, cozy and otherwise, but now it seems like I only have the patience for historical mysteries with romantic subplots, featuring Victorian ladies. Sadly, this book didn't really tempt me into continuing the series (book 4 is out in October), as I found the book rather underwhelming, and comments from other members of the book club (who have read some of the sequels) suggest that the writing doesn't really improve. So this is probably my one and only Manansala book.

One of the problems with the book is that Lila, the protagonist, is rather insufferable, and she certainly seems terrible at investigating. She keeps ignoring clues and connections she discovers while investigating, and seems to finally find the culprit more through luck than anything else (I had figured out the guilty party at least three hints earlier, not that Lila seemed to notice any of them). She's completely oblivious to the wants and wishes of her loyal best friend (who wants her to stay in town and open an establishment together), and she's judgmental about her hometown (despite the fact that she didn't really hack it in Chicago either). She seems to love her aunt and her large extended family of "aunties" and cousins and kind of resent them. It's completely baffling to me that she attracts the romantic interest of not one, but two handsome and talented professional men. It doesn't help that I'm instantly wary of love triangles in mysteries, having stuck longer than I should have with Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series (just become a thruple already, or better yet, have Joe and Ranger settle down together and dump Stephanie entirely). 

The book's redeeming feature is its focus on Philipino food and culture, which I really didn't know much about. There's a very helpful glossary (with a pronunciation guide) at the front of the book. The book certainly made me curious about Philipino food (there's a lot of cooking) and the author has helpfully included recipes at the back of the book (not sure I can get ube in Norway, though). 

Judging a book by its cover: While the book was rather underwhelming, the cover is very cute. I like the bright colours and the presence of the tiny sausage dog (not that anyone working in food service would let a dog into the kitchen). 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

No comments:

Post a Comment