Hail to the Chef: White House Chef Mystery
by Julie Hyzy
Cover Artist: Ben Perini
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425224991
Date: 02 December 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Ollie Paras is settling into her new position as White House executive chief. She's finding that it's more administrative and less hands-on than she'd like but the Christmas menus and specials are shaping up -- that is until the bomb threat locked Ollie, the First Lady, Mrs. Campbell, and her nephew, Sean, together for several hours. Ollie learned the First Lady was trying to fix her up with Sean and that the First Lady was being pressured to sell the company her father had started with his partners years ago. When Sean turns up dead, an apparent suicide, hours after visiting Ollie in the White House kitchen, she thinks something is just a bit off.
The second book of the White House Chef Mysteries, Hail to the Chef is even more satisfying than the first entry in the series. Ollie has more depth and assurance but is still someone that any reader can relate to. She's observant, quick thinking, good at her job, and confident of her abilities. When the chief electrician is electrocuted shortly after talking to Ollie, she takes it hard and asks a friend, who is a master electrician, about possible ways it could have happened. Asking the temporary head electrician about the possibility, she's roundly criticized and ridiculed. But she continues to push for answers.
Suddenly, the White House gains a new security training expert, who insists that his schedule take precedent over all other considerations. Ollie pushes back while complying and manages to surprise him with her observational skills and detail oriented memory.
Meanwhile, many of the plot items are in what is not written but inferred from what happens in the background of the story. The characters have the information necessary at the same time as the reader -- no tricks here. But it's watching them try to figure things out when they're learning it over days while the reader gets the information over several chapters. It's frustrating when you're trying to guide the characters to putting it together, and yelling at the pages just doesn't seem to work. The fact that you care enough to try to talk the characters into realizing the problem before the author has them learn it, is an indication of just how involving the storyline is.
The characters are interesting and realistic. The setting, the White House Kitchen, just couldn't be better for putting Ollie Paras in interesting and challenging situations. Staff hear things because important people tend not to notice them. This series is certainly off to a good start. Then to add icing to the stories, there are some seriously good recipes at the end of the book. Since I love to read recipes, cook, and I love to eat -- there's additional incentive to love these books.