Title: Arsenic and Adobo
Author: Mia P. Manasala
Rating: 4 Stars
The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer....
When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She's tasked with saving her Tita Rosie's failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.
With the cops treating her like she's the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila's left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…
Lila, having just had her heart broken, moves back home where she help's out at her Tita Rosie's restaurant. BUT - death, mystery, intrigue. Her ex-boyfriend is killed and just happens to keel over and die right in the family restaurant.
In true cozy mystery fashion, the rest of the book follows the characters trying to solve the mystery of how Derek died. Lila, who dated Derek when they were in high school, becomes a prime suspect in the murder investigation, and has to work throughout the story to prove that she didn't do it.
Lila and her aunts are all fantastic characters who have a great family dynamic. They all obviously really love each other and want to care for and protect each other. I think the whole family of characters were fantastic, and so well developed.
The "bad guys" in this book were predictably just horrible, but there was an excellent air of mystery over which of these bad dudes was the killer. Lila figured out a few things throughout the book that lead me to some conclusions about who the killer was, but when another big event happened near the end of the book, I was left scratching my head or a minute.
I enjoyed the pacing of this book and thought it was well written and well developed. From the get-go, this book held my attention - and I HAD TO KNOW what happened. There *was* the potential for romance with Lila and one of the male characters, but I'm glad that wasn't the focal point of this book. The mystery and intrigue behind the murder was enough for me.
I did spend a lot of time wondering why Derek's mom married his stepdad - the dude was so thoroughly unlikeable. Of course, she must have seen something in him if they got married. BUT, the story definitely shed some light on Derek's relationship with his stepdad and his mom's relationship with her husband.
Even when they were faced with death and the potential of a family member being a murder suspect, Lila's family was so kind and welcoming. They just wanted to take care of everyone, even with all the worries they had going on. It made them all very likeable and relatable. (After all, nobody likes a dickbag. I'm looking at you, Derek's stepdad!) I loved the food aspect of the book as well. Lila and her aunts and the rest of her family were obviously very into food - they have a family restaurant! I'm a sucker for books that talk about good food and the characters who love that food. Since I also don't know much about Filipino food, it was nice to read about some of the things that they eat commonly in the Philippines.
I honestly thought the tension between Lila and her best friend worked for this story as well. Her best friend was sad and upset that Lila had moved away, and they had such different ideas of what their lives were going to look like now that Lila was back in town. There was an added element to the book because of the development of their relationship, and it gave them a chance to work out what they each really wanted from their lives and from each other.
There was some great character growth and development in this book, especially from Lila. I felt like she was sort of stumbling around at the beginning of the book and didn't really know what she wanted. She learned a lot throughout the course of this book and was able to come to terms with and accept what she knew would make her happy.
Overall, this was a great mystery book that I absolutely enjoyed and would recommend to everyone who loves a good cozy!
If you've already read this book, let me know what you thought in the comments below.
If you've read it and loved it, read the author's second book, Homicide and Halo-Halo, then let me know what you thought! I'll be reading it this month!