When an important guest dies after eating a meal prepared in the White House kitchen Executive Chef Olivia (Ollie) Paras and her team are banned from the building while an investigation takes place. As Ollie’s mother and grandmother have come to town for a visit she is particularly upset that she won’t be able to show them her exciting workplace but at least her family are on hand to help her out. Ollie, of course, can’t seem to help from getting involved in finding out how and why the guest was killed.
The main reason I have read these books in the past is for their insider perspective on the running of the White House but that element was largely lacking during this outing as Ollie and her colleagues were banned from the kitchen. The Washington setting is still very evident as Ollie and her family take in some of the more interesting tourist sites but I did miss that ‘insider’ element of the book.
I did enjoy the introduction of extra characters in this book, particularly Ollie’s grandmother who is the kind of fun elderly character I like that doesn’t stretch into the unbelievable territory of Janet Evanovich’s Grandma Mazur. One of Ollie’s colleagues was also shown in extra depth which added an interesting element to the book.
Unfortunately though Ollie annoyed the pants off me in this outing as she seemed completely incapable of understanding why her Secret Service boyfriend might want her to stay the heck out of dangerous situations which she has neither the training nor the skills to be anywhere near. I love seeing strong female characters portrayed in fiction but it does annoy me when stupidity is disguised as strength or independence.
I suspect the hardest thing about writing these amateur sleuth kind of books is achieving the necessary balance between credibility and entertainment and at a few points this book failed to do that for me. The plot contortions that Ollie went through to become involved in the investigation just didn’t ring as true as had been the case in the earlier books. However it’s a light, fun read that I sped through in a single sitting and I did enjoy the few ‘insider’ details such as the work the White House crew undertook to prepare for a children’s easter party on the White House grounds.
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My rating 3/5
Publisher Berkley Prime Crime ; ISBN 9780425232033; Length 310 pages
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