Arsenic and Adobo (A Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery) by Mia P. Manansala
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
"The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes--one that might just be killer....
When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She's tasked with saving her Tita Rosie's failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.
With the cops treating her like she's the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila's left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block..." - Penguin Random House
Before Arsenic and Adobo, I'd only really read two other "cozy mysteries." They were cute stories but I felt like, either, they were missing something or cozy mysteries just weren't my style. Mia P. Manansala made me rethink this assessment.
I felt at home in this book, almost immediately! Lila, her family, and friends are warm but have such unique personalities and experiences. For half of the book, I thought I knew who was behind the murder and I was really happy to be wrong. Manansala does a great job of layering the details into this story, bit by bit, like a decadent dip.
The Filipina representation is wonderful and the author does not try to soften the edges of racism, classism, and xenophobia that is connected to the town and law enforcement. In the past two cozy mysteries I read, these elements were barely mentioned within the anxieties of the main character which made it harder to relate with them, as they felt too removed from reality. The complexities of these intersecting identities are what made this story deeper. Like Tita Rosie's Chicken Adobo recipe, this book developed more flavor because the ingredients marinated.
*Big ups to Manansala for including a glossary and recipes! Some folks may not favor this but, since I'm fairly knew to Filipine culture, these elements helped me connect even more.
A wonderful choice for everyone! Folks who like mysteries will likely enjoy Arsenic and Adobo.