B O O K R E V I E W : Homicide and Halo-Halo

In Homicide and Halo-Halo, Book Two of the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen cozy mystery series (out Tuesday, 2/8), Lila Macapagal feels unsettled after the events of Book One, and drags her feet opening the Brew-ha Café with Adeena and Eileen, straining their friendship.

Moreover, she’s agreed to serve as a judge for the newly revived Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant which she once won. Returning to the pageant environment not only reminds her of her mother’s unreasonable beauty standards, it causes friction with her cousin and rival Bernadette who wanted the position.

Just as the pageant season begins, Rob Thompson, head judge and key benefactor, is murdered. Because of a heated exchange between Rob and Bernadette the night before Rob was killed, Bernadette rises as the prime suspect. Knowing Bernadette risked her job to help exonerate Lila, she feels a duty to set aside their past disagreements to help clear her cousin’s name—and to ensure they aren’t the next victims.

This has all of the ingredients that made Arsenic and Adobo such a fun read: great banter, meddling family, and tons of mouthwatering food descriptions (with recipes included)! A beauty pageant is always a fun setting for a mystery, and I liked how the organizers tried to modernize it and make it about more than appearance. Sana Williams, a fitness entrepreneur and pageant coach, was a great new character, while Rob’s widow Beth was quite nefarious and had a, to me, inscrutable hold on Jae, one leg of Lila’s love triangle.

Although this has a slightly more somber tone (explained by the author), readers who liked Book One will want to continue the series! I like it better than some other culinary cozy mysteries because of the interesting characters and inclusion of Filipino culture.

The drink in the picture is a Sangria Slushie, made from a recipe in the Book Club Kit!

Thanks so much to Berkley Publications, Get Red PR, and Let’s Talk Books Promo for including me on the book tour and for the gifted copy of the book. We had a great time discussing it!

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