Even though her boyfriend Dave Zeeger, ace investigative reporter for the Washington Examiner, has been so morose over repeatedly getting scooped by a rising twinkie that Chas Wheatley has asked him for a trial separation, things are looking up for Chas. Her boss Bull Stannard has announced the syndication of Chas’s restaurant-review column and green-lighted a new series that will give her the freedom to review restaurants outside D.C.—and enable her to report on the sleazy service and marketing practices diners rarely see (though Washington Post restaurant reviewer Richman knows their every last detail). Chas’s life would be just about perfect, in fact, if only (1) Dave would come crawling back to her, (2) somebody who feels threatened by the new series would quit leaving her threatening E-mails, and (3) Ottavio Rossi, the blind date whose personal ad she answered, hadn’t excused himself from dinner to feed the meter and never returned. Unlike the gentle reader, Chas doesn’t know that Rossi’s dead, the first ingredient in a ragout of culinary skullduggery that will simmer for two hundred pages before getting connected, with mind-boggling sangfroid, to India’s A-bomb, the Federal Reserve, and Monica Lewinsky. The mystery, in other words, is from hunger. But although voluptuous, engaging Chas hasn’t slimmed down from The Butter Did It (1997), Richman has wisely sweated pounds off her debut’s chitchat and recipes, and the half a hundred feasts that parade briskly in review will whet your appetite for more.