Friday, November 25, 2011

From the table of the Iron Duke, by Meljean Brook:

One of the many things I liked about this book was the food, and how it, along with the rest of the world, had been ingeniously thought out. In a book set after privation and war, it makes sense that a fresh orange would be the most indulgent of delicacies. I like to see that type of thinking from an author. It's clever.

Take, for instance, the first lines of the book:

Mina hadn't predicted that sugar would wreck the Marchioness of Hartington's ball; she'd though the dancing would. Their hostess's good humor had weathered them through the discovery that fewer than forty of her guests knew the steps, however, and they'd survived the first quadrilles. But as the room grew warmer, the laughter louder, and the gossiping more vigorous, the refreshment table set the First Annual Victory Ball on a course for disaster.

Which meant Mina was enjoying the event far more than she'd expected to.

On the other hand, I completely agree with The Book Smugglers about the Iron Duke's cover. Gah headless man-titty.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Review: "Death by the Glass" (2003)

"Morales is going to fucking ruin me," said Osborne, puffing as he settled his briefcase and groped for the seat belt. "He's trying to destroy my restaurant." He waited for a response but didn't get one. "Who eats Moroccan food, anyway? Who wants to eat Moroccan food?"

"Moroccans?" said Nick.

Synopsis: Luminous foodie murder set entirely in the overheated, incestuous world of high-end restaurants, with an interesting accidental sleuth and a panoply of interesting supporting characters. Minor hiccups with plotholes and strings left dangling at the end.

Grade: A-

High-stakes wine fraud and murder disguised as a heart attack compel Sunny McCoskey to again toss aside her chef's apron and don the role of sleuth. When the list of suspects includes her new lover, the celebrity chef at a posh Napa Valley eatery, the personal risks of her investigation rise dramatically.

That's the official blurb and it's both accurate and terrible. Here's what really happened.

(For all of you who've ever worked in a restaurant, lots of this will sound familiar. Although if that involves murder, yikes. Talk about your dead-end jobs...)

Sunny McCoskey operates a small gourmet restaurant with her friend Rivka when they're not gossiping with their effeminate heterosexual winesnob friend, Monty, who in my head was both looking and sounding like fashion designer Michael Kors. Go with it. I watch a lot of Project Runway.

Sunny and Rivka hop across the street to do a charity dinner at Vinifera, mainly because of the hunky chef there, Andre. There's some talk about getting back on a relationship horse because Sunny's kind of a wiener. But she's also well-actualized and complicated and an insomniac, so of course Andre leaps at her like a dog on a bone.

However, and this was a little weird, right after her date with Andre (not her dinner with him, thanks) Sunny gets consumed by finding the killer of Vinifera's owner. Who no one thinks got murdered. It's safe to say that Rivka's right on with her assessment of Sunny's honking big intimacy issues.

It's a great book. Sunny and Rivka are fantastic and funny friends and there's food everywhere in this book, mostly being prepared rather than eaten, but also wrapped delicately into such descriptions as "Near the front, parked under a tree, was a Mercedes sedan the color of vanilla ice cream. A black 911, too new to have license plates, sat nearby showing a tease of cherry-red disk brakes through the silver wheel covers."

There are gorgeous descriptions of the Napa Valley throughout, although you do have to roll with the fact that Napa's the kind of place where you can belly up to the bar and talk to the bartender about what kind of red wine to take on a booty call...while eating deep-fried olives stuffed with anchovies. Which I think we all agree are totally a bar-food.

Napa's a very upscale boondocks, or as Rivka and Sunny put it, "Les Boondocks".

There are a couple plotholes, like a scene with a villain menacing early on that's oh, you know, never mentioned again, and we never do find out if Sunny gets her act together with Andre, even by the end of the book. And there are references to things in a previous book but hello, it's a series, so I should just calm down and get over it.

Or just read the rest of the other books.