Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
It is my pleasure to feature Crime of the Ancient Marinara
by Stephanie Cole today!
Crime of the Ancient Marinara (A Tuscan Cooking School Mystery)
2nd in Series
Setting – Italy
Publisher: Berkley (January 26, 2021)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Kindle ASIN: B087PLF2V6
American chef Nell Valenti’s high hopes for a successful Tuscan farm-to-table cooking school are in danger of withering on the vine in this delectable cozy mystery.
Nell Valenti is settling into her role of transforming the Villa Orlandini into a superb farm-to-table cooking school, and the time has finally come for a full taste test run. But when Chef Orlandini prepares to reveal his top secret marinara recipe for the first time to a group of American gastro-tourists, Nell realizes she might have bitten off more than she can chew.
Nell begins to suspect that one of the tourists is actually a private detective sent to spy on her by her overprotective father, and the fussy foodies are noisy and disrespectful from the very start of the Marinara Mysteriosa workshop. Even worse, when one visitor appears to be poisoned by the famous marinara recipe, Nell will have to work fast to uncover a killer and keep a lid on bad press before her fresh start is spoiled for good.
Plans are coming together at Villa Orlandini to open the farm-to-table cooking school. Their first weeklong class will bring a group of gastro-tourists from America to learn all about making marinara sauce and will include Chef Orlandini revealing his mystery ingredient in his famous marinara recipe. They hit a few bumps in the road with their plans as they work through the logistics of keeping their guests involved and happy. Nell has an inkling that one member of the group is a private detective sent by her father. Another member of the group is rude and is only there because his wife dragged him along. She is excited to be there and is determined not to let her husband ruin her trip. The rest of the group all have their flaws and are pretty disrespectful. When one of the group is rushed to the hospital and dies Nell realizes there is a killer in their midst. A murder is bad, but someone dying the first week they are open could seal the fate of the school forever. Nell knows she needs to find the killer and save the school but she could end up the killer’s next victim if she isn’t careful.
All the people we met at Villa Orlandini in the first book are back. Nell and Pete are getting closer. Chef O. is excited to teach but quickly becomes infatuated with one of his new students which causes some turmoil in the kitchen. The new characters all seem to have something to hide. The murder happens later in the story but the victim was not a surprise. I wanted to reach into the book and kill him myself. The language was still of bit of a problem but Nell is learning more Italian and is finding ways to communicate with people at the villa. It was still necessary to bring in a translator after the murder and Pete translated other times. The translations for us readers still messed with the flow of the story for me.
The murder mystery was very well-plotted and I was surprised with all the connections that were revealed. That being said I had a certain character in my sights almost immediately after the murder because I quickly eliminated the other suspects. I just needed the motive to connect my thinking and that wasn’t revealed until the end. I was a little put off by Nell’s investigation this time. Her snooping and theories were a little over the top at times.
I do enjoy Ms. Cole’s right style. She really knows how to set the scene and bring it to life, Every room at the villa was easily visualized. There was a huge flower delivery too and I could almost smell them from the descriptions. The author delivered up plenty of humor throughout the entire story. The Bari sisters are absolutely priceless.
All the talk of marinara did tempt my tastebuds. Thankfully we eat Italian inspired food often around here.
Crime of the Ancient Marinara was a nice little escape to Tuscany. The characters were entertaining and the mystery very interesting. The ending did leave me wanting to know what was going to happen next at Villa Orlandin, so I am looking forward to the next book in this series.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”