A restaurant owner puts her cooking aside long enough to do some sleuthing.
Mahalia "Halia" Watkins, who learned to cook soul food at her Grandmommy’s knee, is the force behind Mahalia’s Sweet Tea, one of the premier dining establishments in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Halia’s matchmaking momma makes the desserts, and her cousin Wavonne, who lives with them, waits tables, although she’s more interested in hairstyles and clothes than working. Smooth, fast-talking Marcus Rand, whose money most likely comes from underhanded schemes, has made Halia a loan to get started. Now he talks her into making some special dishes for a dinner he’s hosting. The guests include Marcus’ sister Jacqueline; his date, Régine; a business partner; and an unhappy-looking white couple. After dinner, Marcus' business acquaintances stay late enough for Halia to let him lock up while she goes grocery shopping. Halia and Wavonne return to find him dead, a cast-iron frying pan by his side. Afraid that murder will ruin the business, the pair drag his body out in the alley and go home. They await his discovery on pins and needles, but his body vanishes, turning up several days later in a pond. Wavonne, who figures that since Marcus is dead she might as well use his credit card, spends a lot of money on clothes and makeup, making herself the main suspect. Realizing that in order to get Wavonne off the hook, she’ll have to find the real killer, Halia devises ways to talk to the dinner guests, who are all, it turns out, involved in a Ponzi scheme that’s the source of Marcus’ income. The number of angry investors makes Halia’s task formidable.
This first in a planned series, complete with recipes, is funny and refreshingly straightforward.