19 September 2016

Here Today, Gone Tamale (A Taste of Texas Mystery, Book 1)


Synopsis from back cover: After losing her newspaper job in Austin and having her former fiancé unfriend her on Facebook, Josie Callahan scoops up her Chihuahua, Lenny, and slinks back to Broken Boot, Texas. Maybe working as head waitress at Milagro—her aunt and uncle’s Tex-Mex restaurant—isn’t exactly living the dream, but it is a fresh start.

And business is booming as tourists pour into Broken Boot for its famous Wild West Festival. But when a local jewelry designer is found strangled outside Milagro after a tamale-making party, Josie’s reporter instincts kick in. As suspects pile up and alibis crack faster than taco shells, Josie needs to wrap up this case tighter than her tía’s tortillas—before another victim calls for the check…

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Berkley, 2015.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  When I was offered an ARC of the second book in this series, I had to rush out and buy the first book so I could read them in order. I believe these books are what are commonly called “Cozy Mysteries”, a genre I have no real experience with as of yet. But HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE was a good introduction.

The story is told in first person POV by Josie Callahan, an ex-newspaper reporter whose career pretty much went down in flames. She moved back home and works in her aunt and uncle's Mexican restaurant, and she and her dog, Lenny, live in an apartment above the restaurant. When a local jewelry maker is found dead outside the restaurant, her reporter instincts can't help but kick in, and she makes it her mission to solve the murder, despite the fact that the local police would prefer she mind her own business.

Josie is a fun, fresh and somewhat self-deprecating narrator. She describes her friends, family, and other townsfolk in vivid colorful detail, which is good because there are a lot of characters to keep up with. Her love and loyalty to both her family and the town shine through. The restaurant, Milagro, sounded like a place I'd enjoy visiting. I definitely began to crave some good Mexican food, especially tamales (and I generally prefer enchiladas), while reading.
Some people catch all the breaks, and the rest of us eat too many tamales.

I particularly enjoyed Josie's interactions with her ex-boyfriend's beauty queen girlfriend, as well as with her aunt's mother-in-law, Senora Mari. Not to mention the stoic Deputy Quint Lightfoot, who Josie's best friend practically falls all over and who Senora Mari practically tries to pimp Josie out to. 
Of course,” Senora Mari continued, “if you decide you want to try something new before you settle down and have babies, you could ask Josie. She'd give you a run for your money.”
Great. Now I was a racehorse.

The mystery at times was a little confusing to me, though I usually managed to catch up again within a page or two. That probably had more to do with me being tired all the time and only able to concentrate for short stretches at a time than with the writing and/or plotting.

Fun and breezy, despite being about a murder investigation. I'm looking forward to the second book. 

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