Cook the Books - Jessica Conant-Park & Susan Conant (Culinary Mystery)

Released March 2010

Hooked from the debut Gourmet Girl Mystery series novel a few years ago, I was eager to read the latest entry into Jessica Park-Conant and Susan Conant's culinary mysteries. Getting one of their collaborative culinary mysteries is always a treat and how well timed that they come out right around my birthday every year! The big 4-0 is looming, on top of winter blues, and a pick-me-up was definitely due.

In this latest offering, Cook the Books, heroine Chloe Carter is partially down in the dumps. The love of her life packed up and moved to Hawaii. On the bright side, her friend's new son is enough to make any woman happy and Chloe's been lavishing her new godson with gifts every chance she gets. Her credit card bills aren't so great though, so Chloe starts looking for a part-time job that she can balance with her college work.

She lands a great position as a writer's assistant. The son of a famous chef is working on a cookbook and he needs help. He hires Chloe, offering her more money than she was expecting, to help research and write a cookbook focusing on chefs from the Boston area. One of the chefs he wants highlighted happens to be a close friend of her ex-beau's, a character steadfast readers will already know--Digger.

When Digger is killed in a fire while cooking some of his favorite recipes for Chloe, she's saddened and not sure how to inform Josh, her ex. Instead, she puts it off. What she doesn't know is that someone else breaks the news and Josh rushes back to Boston. He's certain there's no way Digger would have created a fatal fire just by cooking a meal and he's determined to prove this was not an accidental death.

With Josh back in the picture, Chloe's torn. She misses him like crazy, but she's also certain she can start a new relationship with her new boss. While she works on the cookbook, she tries not to let Digger's murder and Josh's reappearance sideline her. However, in Chloe's life, nothing's ever quite that easy.

I loved every minute of Cook the Books. While saddened that Digger is now gone, I was happy to see Chloe start to mature that little bit more and her best friend, Adrianna, settling into motherhood while still holding onto that adventurous spark that made me like her from the very start.

Devoted readers will probably figure out the whodunnit aspect early on, I know I did, but the story still remains intriguing. And don't forget the scrumptious recipes at the end! I'm eager to make the Seared Scallops on Polenta with Red Pepper and Chive Jam and the Tiramisu, one of my most favorite desserts.


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