dying for a taste book coverReviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

Who doesn’t love Italian cuisine? If you really don’t, then perhaps you shouldn’t read this very entertaining story. But for those of you who do, the author’s descriptions of the various dishes served in any of several restaurants will have you drooling, even if you’ve just left the dinner table to go read more of the story that unfolds in these pages.

Sally Solari – although only in her early 40s – suffers from hot flashes. This is surely the first time I can remember that particular sometimes uncomfortable symptom being one of the clues that leads to the uncovering of who, exactly, murdered her aunt Letta. While Sal’s father Mario is the chef/owner of Solari’s, a traditional Italian restaurant, his younger sister Letta is the owner of Gaugin, an upscale restaurant in Santa Cruz, California.

Using the traditional Italian spellings for common names (Giulia for Julia, etc.) is a very subtle way of emphasizing the Italian background throughout, as are the occasional mentions of opera: music, characters, Puccini, etc. Not over-bearing by any means, but very, very tasteful and subtle.

It comes as a major surprise to Sally to learn that while her aunt has left her current home and a vacation space on a Hawaii island to her older brother, it is Sally to whom Letta leaves Gaugin. Yikes! Now what? Sally had gone through law school and actually practiced law for a while, until she realized that wasn’t her and that she belonged in her father’s restaurant. But now she’ll have her own restaurant with which to struggle with and enjoy.

But there are strange warnings that emerge: about the environment in general, and more specifically as it applies to the raising and/or harvesting of meat and fish for the restaurant. Sally discovers an old friend of Letta’s who is now raising produce for restaurants, but Kate has a long history with Letta, and this too, is a shock.

Javier, the chef who Letta rescued from homelessness and tutored, becomes the chief suspect in Letta’s death, but Sally can’t shake the idea that Javier could never have done such a thing. But he and Tony, Letta’s supposed fiancé, have a major fight at Letta’s wake, leaving the family confused and hurt.

Using all of the skills she learned as a lawyer, Sally patiently sifts through all of the hints and clues that seem to be only-too-willing to fall into her lap in order to unmask the cold-blooded murderer. There are as many logical suspects as there are ways to make marinara, but with the help of her former pal, Eric, the culprit is apprehended. Finally.

Dying for a Taste is a tightly-written and plotted book, with no loose ends, just lots of San Francisco ambiance, and characters that literally jump off the page and demand that you pay attention to them! This may not be the best book to read when you’re hungry, but at any other time, it’s a winner!

This is another debut book from Crooked Lane Books, who are to be commended for finding such talented new authors, and bringing them to the attention of mystery lovers everywhere. There are recipes at the end of the story that will put pounds on you from just reading them! Scrumptious, indeed.

I’m looking forward to more books by this talented author.

First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Crooked Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.