Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

State of the Onion, by Julie Hyzy ($7.99)

This is the first in the series Julie Hyzy started about a fairly young female chef at the White House. (The White House.)

Olivia "Ollie" Paras is one of a small group of permanent kitchen staff for the White House. The staff must plan minutely and organize excessively to feed the fictional first family and assorted diplomats and high-mucky-mucks. The executive chef, her beloved mentor and boss, is scheduled to retire and Ollie is one of the candidates to be his replacement. But first she must dig herself out of the big, big hole she seems to have created, with the Secret Service, an assassin, and a TV food star helping to bury her.

If she knew then what she knows now … Ollie certainly wouldn't have played "hero." She would never have clunked the man running away from the Secret Service with the commemorative skillet. In addition, she thinks there's an assassin who's marked her as the next target because she can identify him. Then again, maybe there isn't an assassin. (And if there is an assassin, he's a remarkably inept one.) Suspicious characters lurk around every corner and under every saucepan.

However, this is a charming book with a charming lead character. It feels like an insider's look at the White House kitchen. The talk of creating fine cuisine to match the first lady's mood or visiting foreign dignitaries makes me wish more dishes had been described. State of the Onion is served up with dollops of romance and humor.

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