Blackmail and Bibingka

Berkley. (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery). Oct. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9780593201718. pap. $17. M
Lila Macapagal knows it’s trouble when her cousin Ronnie returns to Shady Palms after he left town 15 years earlier. He’s just in time for the Christmas holidays with all of his brash talk about his business partners, investors, and his new winery on the edge of town. Tita Rosie must also be worried, or she wouldn’t have shown Lila the blackmail message demanding $50,000. Tita Rosie begs Lila to check on the business after the message says Ronnie and his partners have blood on their hands. Lila is on the scene when one of Ronnie’s investors collapses after drinking a bottle of his wine. When Ronnie is suspected of murder, Tita Rosie turns to Lila. Despite her plans for the town’s Winter Bash, and her need to bake for her business, the Brew-ha Cafe, family comes first. Lila utilizes her friends, her godmothers, and even her dachshund to try to save her worthless cousin.
VERDICT Filipino American culture and family take centerstage in the third mystery by Agatha Award–winning Manansala (Homicide and Halo-Halo; Arsenic and Adobo). There’s an emphasis on humor, friendship, and food in this cozy that’s lighter in tone than the previous ones.
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