Genre: cozy mystery
Cover: love it.
Includes recipes for a complete presidential menu!
Never let them see you sweat - that's White House Assistant Chef Olivia Paras's motto, which is pretty hard to honor in the most important kitchen in the world. She's hell-bent on earning her dream job, Executive Chef. There's just one thing: her nemesis is vying for it, too. Well, that and the fact that an elusive assassin wants to see her fry.
The highly trained Secret Service agents couldn’t do it. The snipers swarming the White House grounds were no help. Only Ollie Paras was able to stop the intruder – hitting him with a frying pan. She’d like to wash her hands of the whole thing, but after she witnesses a murder, there’s no going back…
Ollie’s Secret Service boyfriend warns her that the killer is a world-class assassin. And Ollie’s the only person alive who can recognize him. Still, guilt propels her to investigate, even if it means putting herself – and her relationship – in hot water…
I’ve been following Julie Hyzy on the Cozy Chicks blog and Facebook for a while now, and I liked what I read. So it was finally time to start reading her books, and I bought the first ones in both her cozy mystery series.
Olivia / Ollie Paras is an Assistant Chef in the White House, and she might just become the Executive Chef, when her friend and boss Henry retires in a few weeks. Unfortunately, she is not the only candidate for the job, and her competitor is a woman she really does not like. If she gets the job, Olivia knows she will have to look for something else herself soon. Laurell Anne Brown went to cooking school with Olivia; she has worked in the White House Kitchen before, and now has her own cooking show, Cooking for the Best. Even though Henri has recommended Ollie for the job, it is the First Lady who makes the final decision, and she shares a home state with Laurell Anne.
The book starts with Olivia coming back to the White House with the retirement gift for Henry clutched under her arm. Walking through the Northeast gate, and after being checked by one of the Secret Service agents, she continues the walk to the house itself, when she spots a man being chased by some Secret Service agents. He seems to be outrunning them, and knows enough to stay under cover from the trees so the snipers on the roof don’t have a clear shot at him. Ollie knows he has no chance to get entrance into the White House, but suddenly he turns on his pursuers and disables them, and comes running straight at her! Hiding behind a big tree, and watching it all, Ollie manages to hit him with the silver frying pan and knock him down. Still, the man does not seem to be a terrorist, he manages to tell her he needs to warn the President, before she hits him again. Then some other Secret Service agents are on them, and the man is carted away in handcuffs. But not before Ollie notices that Craig seems to recognize the man, and he is not a stranger.
Back in the kitchen, Ollie gets a visit from President Harrison R. Campbell himself, thanking her for her efforts and warning her not to speak with anyone about what happened. Which is very difficult for Olivia, as she is very curious. But she does have her Secret Service Agent boyfriend Tom she can grill about it at home. Only, when he tells her to stay out of things, that she is imagining things, like the video of the chase that was altered with a different man, she decides to find out things on her own. This makes her running into the Secret Service a few times, and witness a murder first hand.
At the kitchen, things are not going smoothly either. They get a new kind of supervisor, who really has it in for Olivia. Suddenly they have to prepare a state dinner in a week time, when normally they have months to plan such things, and the man does not even want to tell them who the guests are. How can they plan a dinner when they don’t know their food preferences and taboes? Luckily Paul, the head usher, who is just under the First Lady herself, understands their problems, and he tells them that the two guests are the Prime Minister of Salomia and the Prince of Alkumstan. Two countries that have been on war for decades, so getting those two together to talk trade, is a main coup for their President.
And so they have to plan a state dinner and have to deal with the audition by Laurel Anne, who is bringing her camera crew into the tiny kitchen as well. Ollie also has to deal with an angry boyfriend, and a world known assassin who wants her dead as she has seen him in action …
I really enjoyed this book, even though it is of course very nationalistic as it plays in the White House. The details about the workings in the White House are very interesting though, and I liked Ollie a lot. She is tenacious, and she won’t just obey orders. She is also a great chef, and a nice person.
Her boyfriend Tom though, I am not sure about that. He wants their relationship kept a secret, and at times he does not really seem to like her and what she does. Their new boss, Peter Sargeant III is a big jerk, and I sure hope he gets booted out soon. He has no idea how they work, and tries to make himself more important than he is.
The mystery part, well, it did not really read as a usual cozy mystery. The killer is known, and is now after Ollie, but she manages to thwart him time and again. More pure luck then knowledge and forethought though. It is a nice story though, and I am looking forward to reading more Julie Hyzy books.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian