Deboning the chef.
Flown in from Monte Carlo to Austin, Texas, to add sizzle and spice to the redesign of Markham’s, a beloved local restaurant, Chef Évariste Bontecou antagonizes everyone from the dishwasher to the sous chef. So it’s no big surprise when he turns up dead, impaled on a large butcher’s knife. Unfortunately, that knife belongs to the restaurant owner’s stepdaughter Ursula, who is thrown in the slammer. Poppy Markham, who used to work in the restaurant before decamping to become a public-health inspector, decides to save the day, the restaurant and even Ursula with a bit of supersleuthing. She’s helped by her former beau, the deliciously handsome food critic Jamie, and the pair turn up a few secrets: that three mystery men who dine at Markham’s weekly are treated to complimentary bottles of lavishly expensive wine; that several deals were in place to reassign ownership of Markham’s; and that a certain waitress may have been romancing not only the roly-poly, married Bontecou but Ursula’s sometime boyfriend and even the restaurant’s new manager. Poppy’s home will be torched, her dad hospitalized and her hormones reattuned to Jamie before just deserts are served up.
First-timer Allen delivers a breezy and likable menu with perhaps a tad too much panting after Jamie.