Saturday, March 14, 2015

Evil in the 1st House; Topped Chef

Reviews by Jeanne 

Evil in the 1st House by Mitchell Scott Lewis
David Lowell is a number of things: former musician, shrewd investor, detective, and astrologer.  The latter has made him independently wealthy and helps him solve his cases as well. This time he has an interesting one indeed:  a man has given him a case containing one million dollars.  He wants Lowell to find his son, no strings attached.

There’s an odd feel to the case, but Lowell isn’t quite sure what it is.  Meanwhile, he’s also trying to identify the employee who embezzled from the employee pension fund of a marshmallow company.  Throughout it all, Lowell uses both technology (he has a computer hacker on payroll), good old fashioned detective work, and astrology to find out the truth.  This particular entry has an emphasis on medical astrology, i.e. using a chart to predict possibly areas of physical disease.  

This is the third in the Starlight Detective Agency series and to my mind the best so far. Lewis has a surprising twist or two in the plot which made the pages turn a bit faster.  Lowell is becoming more fully developed as a character. His wealth allows him to take only those cases which intrigue him, regardless of payment. This installment delves a bit more into his past, giving us some insight into his failed marriage and his relationship with his daughter. The astrology aspect is the draw for me, as Lowell uses it in unexpected ways:  to figure out where someone might be hiding, to decide when to buy or sell various stocks, or who might be tempted to steal.  I’m almost tempted to drag out the old astrology books, but one look at the math required and I let them sleep quietly on the shelf instead.

You don’t need to read the books in order.

"I find a catnip garnish adds a bit of zip to any dish!" Flora, gourmet

Topped Chef by Lucy Burdette

Food critic Hayley Snow loves most aspects of her job, but she doesn’t enjoy giving bad reviews.  Still, when a particular eatery has failed multiple times to give satisfaction, she has to write an honest review.  That’s uncomfortable when you’re living in a relatively small community like Key West, when you’re likely to run into the unhappy owner of the restaurant in question.   Then Hayley is volunteered to be one of the judges on a new cooking show, along with Sam Rizzoli, the aforementioned owner.  It soon becomes obvious that it’s not just the contestants who are at each other’s throats—there’s no love lost between the judges as well. When Sam Rizzoli turns up dead, the list of suspects is long. . . and some might count Hayley as one of them.

I was underwhelmed by the first book in the series, An Appetite for Murder, but as I noted at the time first books in series usually have to spend a lot of time setting up characters and situations.  Topped Chef is the third book and is a much more enjoyable read as far as I'm concerned .  The Key West setting was used to better advantage and I found the food descriptions and analysis to be more interesting.  Also, there was not so much whining/obsessing over the ex-boyfriend—granted, he was more of an integral part of the first book, but he was such a sleazy character I found it difficult to understand why Hayley fell for him in the first place.  It made me really question her judgment and dragged the book down for me. I had doubts about continuing with the series, but I’m glad I gave it another try. The next book in the series is Murder with Ganache. I hope ol' whazzisname won't even be a passing memory by then.

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