A fresh career choice and hometown spell trouble for a newly minted chef.
Now that Tish Tarragon has rented a shop in the lovely old Virginia town of Hobson Glen, she plans to open Cookin’ the Books Café, a literary-themed restaurant and catering business, with help from two old college pals who live nearby. Tish’s first break comes when her landlord, handsome lawyer Schuyler Thompson, recommends her for a catering job. Local library queen Binnie Broderick, whose other firm has cancelled their contract with her, wants Tish to cater a big fundraising dinner for an impossibly low price. Knowing that Binnie is difficult, Trish stands firm, and all goes reasonably well until Binnie douses her prime rib with hot sauce, chokes, and expires before the guests’ eyes. Since Tish knows that having someone die at a dinner you cooked is bad for business, she starts a campaign to deliver feel-good treats around town and decides that a little sleuthing can’t hurt. She soon realizes that Binnie’s habit of using her money and family influence to get her way made her the most hated woman around. She’d purged the library of many books she didn’t like, openly insulted many townsfolk, including her own daughter and son-in-law, feuded with the town’s well-known romance writer, and wasn’t above blackmailing people whose secrets she’d discovered. Tish’s initial worry about her legal liability for food poisoning is ended by the news that Binnie died from arsenic, not a trace of it found in any of her food or drink. Sheriff Reade, who witnessed it all, is remarkably tolerant of Tish’s snooping, but she finds it difficult to question her helpful new friends, all of whom have motives to kill Binnie.
Meade (Well-Offed in Vermont, 2011, etc.) introduces a series that breaks no new ground but offers pleasing characters and a reasonably challenging mystery.