Monthly Gem: ‘Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles’ by A.L. Herbert

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Title:  Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles

Genre:  Cozy Mystery

Age category:  Adult

Release Date:  February 24, 2015

Descriptive Blurb:  Welcome to Mahalia’s Sweet Tea–the finest soul food restaurant in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In between preparing her famous cornbread and mashed potatoes so creamy “they’ll make you want to slap your Momma,” owner Halia Watkins is about to dip her spoon into a grisly mystery. . .

Halia Watkins has her hands full cooking, hosting, and keeping her boisterous young cousin, Wavonne, from getting too sassy with customers. Having fast-talking entrepreneur Marcus Rand turn up in her kitchen is annoying enough when he’s alive–but finding his dead body face-down on her ceramic tile after hours is much worse.

Marcus had his enemies, and the cast iron frying pan beside his corpse suggests that at last, his shady business deals went too far. Halia is desperate to keep Sweet Tea’s name out of the sordid spotlight but her efforts only make Wavonne a prime suspect. Now Halia will have to serve up the real villain–before the killer returns for a second helping. . .

Features delicious recipes from Mahalia’s Sweet Tea, including Sour Cream Corn Bread and Sweet Corn Casserole!

Review

“Nice Bling.  Not perfect, but still shines.”

My Impressions: An African-American cozy mystery?  Being a genre-bending writer myself, I just fell in love with this concept.  And a bonus…a strong black woman as the lead character…who thankfully is not desperate to get married.  I hate it when women of any race (but particularly black women) are portrayed that way.

The Romance Angle:  Nothing notable.  Though, Halia’s mother works overtime making many amusing attempts to hook her up with a slew of ‘potentials’.  It was a running joke throughout the book and it worked well, I thought.  Funny, but it doesn’t wonder too far into the ridiculous.

The Real Lowdown:  The start was a bit slow, but once things got set up the story moved along just fine.  Halia and Wavonne play off each other well, I think.  Both are fleshed out nicely and we get a genuine sense of their personalities.  Even Jacqueline is pretty well-developed for a supporting character…I actually liked her, thought I’m not sure I was supposed to or not.  I really hope she returns in subsequent books.  The mystery was interesting…though I think the wrap up was a bit of a stretch.  The assumptions that Halia makes are kinda far fetched…and I just don’t think she had enough information to put all that together on a dime… not based solely on that one chance meeting.  The pieces were just too small.  The humor was a little hit and miss, but more hit than miss so its all good.

Minor Beefs: 1. There’s a lot of information dumping.  The author makes a small effort to weave in some dialogue to make it sound less like what it is, which is parts of a character bio.  It’s a lot to swallow all at once.  At one point, I found myself wondering, do we really need to know all this exactly right now…(or ever?)  There’s no indication if any of it will ever be relevant to anything in the storyline. Which presents a problem after a while because, the thing is…it never really lets up.  The info dumping lingers almost throughout the whole book.  This is a classic example of why I dislike first person narrative…It creates an atmosphere ripe for randomness, lack of focus, and in this case, useless information.  I couldn’t retain much because of the sheer volume of background facts continuously dumped on the reader   2. There’s also some repetitive prose that begins to crop up as well.  Ex. Marcus’s (heavily implied) dubious business dealings are mention too many times, without telling us more info.  Ok, we get it, he’s shady.  Move on.  3.  Why didn’t anyone notice that Marcus’ car is still parked outside the restaurant???  That seems strange.  Halia mentions that it’s there, and there’s no other mention.  She doesn’t move it because it’s still there four days later.  So, why doesn’t his sister see it when she first dropped by to ask if Halia’s seen Marcus??  Why has none of the other staff noticed that Marcus’s car has been parked in the same spot outside the restaurant for four days?  And if his Beemer never leaves…doesn’t that mean it’s there first thing in the morning on an empty parking lot?  And also the last car left…again, on an empty parking lot?  (which is very conspicuous).   If not the sister, then the restaurant staff at least should have noticed it.

Random Thoughts:  1. The ironic thing about the reason for Halia and Wavonne moving the body is that…a murder at the restaurant would have probably increased business not drove it away, especially since the victim was a local person known to everyone.  Murder at a restaurant is cool and interesting. In real life, there would’ve been a line wrapped around the block to get a peek at “that place where Marcus got whacked”.  Let’s face it, folks love scandal.  Now, if Halia had been running an apartment complex or a doctor’s office…then yeah, a murder would not be good for business.  Murder at your residence or where you get your healthcare is not cool or interesting, it’s scary.  2.  This is the first time that I’ve ever read a murder-mystery where I had absolutely no sympathy for the victim.  What a creep!  Good riddance.

Extra Touch: I’m afraid I must confess to being a little like Jacqueline, Marcus’ sister…I eat healthy, hit the track 4 or 5 times a week, and I’m a skinny Minnie.  But I still love the fact that the author includes soul food recipes within the book!!  It adds a layer of authenticity I think.

Cliffhanger:  None.  The mystery is solved with no loose ends.  (Thank goodness!)  While I don’t mind a cliffhanger, a mystery novel should at least solve the murder… Believe it  or not, but I have read at least one that didn’t!

The Verdict:  Good read. 

 

Copyright © 2016 by D. Alyce Domain  All Rights Reserved.

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