In Toeller’s debut romance, when a food maven finds a dead body in an armoire in her hotel room, she and a handsome FBI agent are on the case—and a suitably confusing case it is.
The FBI and its German equivalent, the BKA, are desperate to find a particular, tiny computer chip before the bad guys do—one that could be used to cause global economic and political catastrophe. Layne Stevens, the attractive and endearingly klutzy star of her own TV cooking show, is in San Francisco gathering material for an upcoming episode about appetizers when she happens upon the aforementioned corpse. A crack FBI team, led by agent Ryan Cooke, swoops in and secures the crime scene. Layne and Ryan quickly fall in lust, then in love, against a backdrop of chaos and suspicion. Just who are the villains behind the killing, who are controlled by a mysterious entity called “The Employer”? Always lurking nearby is mysterious sharpshooter Sonny Wright, who’s adept at blending into crowds, and later, it appears that an agent may have gone rogue. Things come to a head when Layne and Ryan go to a safe house in the sticks, which turns out to be not so safe at all. As the story goes on, the surprises keep coming, and Toeller shows off an exuberant prose style throughout. However, this exuberance can sometimes spill over into self-indulgence, with occasional sophomoric sexual innuendos and dildo jokes. However, readers who have a high tolerance for the improbable and enjoy a traditional happy ending will like this story, which is the first in a planned series. There are some genuinely amusing scenes, such as a dinner at the Rue de Rêves restaurant with eccentric chef Philippe Degasse. Also, Toeller really does know her recipes—a plus for those who want to test their palates.
A sometimes-excessive but humorous tale for mystery lovers and foodies.