A debut novel set in the competitive world of upscale restaurants in Washington, D.C. Chas Wheatley, a food critic for the Examiner, is shocked and unbelieving when her long-ago lover and longtime friend Laurence Levain, a master chef, is found dead in his apartment on the eve of the City Tastes gala, an annual event he founded. Heart attack is pronounced the cause, supposedly brought on by a sexual encounter with a hooker. But Chas knows from her brief, years-back affair with Laurence that he would never entertain a woman before a major food event. She presses Det. Homer Jones to look further, and it's soon proved that an overdose of Digoxin, Laurence's heart medication, was the culprit. Now Chas turns detective, seeking motive and killer among Laurence's friends and enemies: Chas's own ex-husband Ari, now in the catering business with his lover Paul; Laurence's older sister Jeanine; his newest girl friend Bebe; chef-restauranteurs Marcel and Marie Claire, who were scheduled to open a New York establishment with Laurence; and others galore. Eventually, Chas herself becomes a target of the poisoner, but makes it through to see her mission fulfilled. Writing with practiced assurance, the author has a fresh, blithe, sometimes raunchy style far beyond the talent needed for her real-life food critic's job at the Washington Post. A stronger editorial hand, however, would've helped tighten the plot and stem the flow of recipes, romances, and gossip that deadens suspense and threatens coherence. Altogether, then, a flawed but intriguingly different and readable first outing.