Arsenic and Adobo

Berkley. (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery, Bk. 1). May 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780593201671. pap. $16. M
DEBUT Lila Macapagal breaks up with her chef boyfriend and moves home to Shady Palms, IL, to help her aunt, Tita Rosie, with her Filipino restaurant. She starts dating her high school boyfriend, Derek Winter, but soon learns he is the notorious food critic who tried to ruin the restaurants in town, including Tita Rosie’s. When he keels over while he and his stepfather, the restaurant’s landlord, are dining at the restaurant, Lila thinks he’s playing a prank. But when Derek dies on the way to the hospital, his stepfather, Ed, is quick to blame the food and pull strings with the sheriff. While her extended family of Filipino aunties and cousins rally around, Lila is arrested for murder and suspected of pushing drugs. If the local police detective is going to accuse her, and Tita Rosie’s restaurant and home are at risk for her bail, Lila is going to step up and find the person who killed Derek.
VERDICT This debut introduces readers to Filipino American food and culture, with its emphasis on family. There are cozy tropes (the close-knit community, the food business), but the emphasis on the Tagalog language, the culture, and drug dealing in a small town add gravity and individuality to this outstanding series kick-off.
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