Margaritas, spicy guacamole—and murder—are among this year’s preparations for Cinco de Mayo in the second Santa Fe Café mystery novel.
Tres Amigas Café chef Rita Lafitte is busy baking her green chile soufflés and chocolate flans for Cinco de Mayo. If only her friend Linda, the daughter of Rita’s octogenarian boss Flori, could get into the festive spirit. Linda’s cart, Tia Tamales, is losing business to Crepe Empire, the hottest food cart in Santa Fe. Napoleon, Crepe Empire’s owner, is a pompous, celebrity chef who wants to squeeze out the competition.
But when Linda gets into a heated argument with Napoleon and his corpse is later found stabbed and pinned beneath the wheels of her tamale cart, she becomes the number one suspect.
Determined to prove Linda’s innocence, Rita investigates. From Napoleon’s disgruntled former employees to a shady health inspector, the list of suspects is longer than Flori’s strings of dried chili peppers. And when another corpse surfaces, Rita must scramble to find an elusive killer with an appetite for murder…
ebook, 368 pages
Published: March 29th 2016 by William Morrow
Three and a half stars: A fun cozy mystery with terrific food, but it does follow the traditional cozy mystery recipe.
Rita tiptoes carefully around the kitchen of Tres Amigas, hoping that her latest soufflé won't fall while baking. Then her long time friend, Linda slams the oven door in frustration after she shoves in her trays of tamales, causing the soufflé to tumble. Linda isn't usually so wound up. It turns out, Linda is frustrated because the new French chef, Napoleon, is out to take her food cart spot and her business. Linda vows to fight back, but then Napoleon plays dirty, and Linda ends up hurling some insulting words at him before fleeing. The next day, Linda discovers Napoleon dead under her food cart. Of course, Linda is a prime suspect, but Rita and Flori know better. Soon Rita finds herself doing some covert spying in order to clear Linda's name. Who actually murdered the vile French Chef?
What I Liked:
- Cinco de Mayhem is the second book in the Santa Fe Cafe Mystery series, and with this latest book, the series continues to prove to be light, fun and packed with delicious New Mexican food that will leave you craving peppers, tortillas bubbly with cheese, spicy meats and beans. I love the cozy cafe setting, and the food as well as the Santa Fe setting. This is a fun series.
- Rita, the heroine, continues to be likable and believable in her role as a cafe cook and a amateur detective. She is funny and kind, and she manages to get herself into a couple of hilarious situations. I especially liked her efforts to jog. She is easy to relate to and lots of fun. Accompanying Rita with her covert activities are Flori and Addie. Flori is in her eighties, but she is spry and smart. She is the owner of the Tres Amigas Cafe and the mother of the accused. She hatches some hilarious schemes to try and track down the real killer, and she may or may not have acquired a fuzzy pair of pink hand cuffs to help. Addie is the most eccentric of the three. She pretends to be British, and her idol is Adele. She is a hoot.
- The setting is fantastic. This series takes place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I couldn't help but to fall in love. I love the rich descriptions of the buildings with their colorful Mexican decor. Santa Fe is cozy, comfortable, and wonderful.
- I love the Tres Amigas Cafe. In this little cafe, delicious New Mexican cuisine is churned out. Piping hot dishes with lots of peppers, spicy meats, hot bubbling cheese and spices. I was constantly hungry while reading about the food in this one. There are even some terrific recipes at the end, in case you want to try your hand at making one of these dishes. Just be sure to actually get New Mexican Hatch chilies. Yum!
- The murder mystery is well done. There are plenty of people with a vendetta against the deceased as he was a not so nice person. With multiple suspects with grudges, there were some red herrings to chase down. I have to admit, I didn't guess who the actual culprit was. I was taken by surprise when they were revealed. I always love a mystery that keeps me guessing, and this one certainly did that.
- Even though this is the second in the series, it can be read as a stand alone as it is a complete story, and there is plenty of recap so you won't feel lost. I would recommend going back to read the first one just so you can get more of the town and the food. There aren't any cliffhangers or nagging questions.
And The Not So Much:
- While I loved the mystery, the food and the setting, I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed when this one fell into the well worn cozy mystery tropes that are so common in this genre. You have an odious villain who stirs up a bunch of trouble before getting killed, bumbling law enforcement who can't seem to see past the set up, and they don't even appear to try to solve the murder, and of course, an amateur sleuth who outsmarts the cops and the murderer and saves the day. Yes, it is a bit unbelievable, but still it is a cozy and it is fun.
- The romance was a bit of a miss this time. In the first book, the ground work was laid for what I hoped was going to be a slow burning, hot romance. The romance is present in this one, but it is never front and center, and it doesn't develop much. I wanted more.
- The plot gets a little messy as the author is trying to throw everyone off the trail of the real culprit by including a couple of people with ulterior motives. I was left wondering a bit more about the blackmailing scheme.
- I was frustrated with the ineptness of the law enforcement. They came across as bumbling idiots which is common in this genre.
Cinco de Mayhem is a fun second installment in a light, cozy mystery series with terrific food and a wonderful setting. I love the quirky characters and the New Mexican cuisine in this series. The mystery is solid in this one, and I was guessing up until the finale. The one thing that held this book back was that it featured many of the well worn tropes common to this genre. Still there is a lot to like, and it is worth reading if you are a fan of cozies. Not to mention, there are some terrific recipes to try at the end. I will certainly be continuing this series.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.