The character-heavy mystery of a murdered chef.
Poppy Markham’s latest visit to Good Earth Preserves has nothing to do with her role as a Special Projects Inspector with the Austin/Travis County Health Department. The Feast in the Field is a yearly fine-dining dinner that promises pure pleasure. Poppy’s glad to be accompanied by her date Drew Cooper, even though the presence of her ever-demanding stepmother puts a damper on the evening, which becomes significantly more dramatic when Dana White, head chef and newly elected president of Friends of the Farm, collapses before the dinner’s over. In spite of Poppy’s best efforts, Dana doesn’t survive. Poppy’s convinced that she can make the best progress by investigating the potential murder while all suspects are still at the farm. Her usual partner in crime-solving, Jamie Sherwood, shows up unexpectedly to offer Poppy a hand, though Poppy isn’t sure she should accept help from the man who once again wants to anoint himself her only boyfriend. Given the grocery-sized list of potential suspects, Poppy wonders whether there’s anyone who didn’t have opportunity and motive to kill Dana and whether she should be seeking help from Jamie or from Drew—for this case and for the future.
So many characters that a cast list might have helped. Though many of them pass through without leaving much of an impression, Poppy’s boss, Olive, and the quirky Trevor, each of whom appears only briefly, are worth savoring; Allen (Stick a Fork In It, 2012, etc.) should take note.