Mia P. Manansala

Books: Mystery

Tita Rosie’s Kitchen: Arsenic and Adobo, Homicide and Halo-Halo (2022), Blackmail and Bibingka (2022)

Tita Rosie’s Kitchen

Arsenic and Adobo (2021)

Arsenic and AdoboLila Macapagal has returned hom–not just to escape her cheating ex-fiance but also to help her auntie try to save their family restaurant.

Unfortunately, that means she has to deal with her family.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been stared down by an elderly Asian woman, but It. Is. Terrifying.

Even someone like me felt utang na loob, that impossible to quantify sense of indebtedness and gratitude, to the people who’d raised me. But where was that magical line between selfishness and independence? Between my family and myself?

When small-town restaurant critic (and Lila’s ex-boyfriend) drops dead in their restaurant, Lila and her family are suspects–but then so are the owners of every other restaurant in town.

First off, I loved the characters in all their variety in this story.

I almost said “just friends,” as if romantic partnership was superior to platonic friendship, but stopped myself. Adeena hated that term and idea. And I’d learned, time and again, she was right. There was no hierarchy to love.

I also loved all the food. Not just the food Lila and her family make, but the food at all the restaurants she and her friends visited.

Even though I thought with all their financial difficulties, she probably shouldn’t have been spending money dining out.

The mystery was interesting, although I didn’t quite understand why the inspector kept focusing on Lila, as there were other perfectly good suspects. I suppose he didn’t want to look like he was going easy on Lila since he seemed to have a crush on her auntie. But still.

And did I mention the food?

Publisher: Berkley

Rating: 8/10

Homicide and Halo-Halo (2022)

Homicide and Halo-HaloLila Macapagal is supposed to be getting ready for the opening of the cafe she is opening with her best friend. But instead she is guilted into judging the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant, which she won as a teenager.

And, of course, another murder.

“Look, I know the other night didn’t end well, but if you care about your cousin, it doesn’t matter who’s right. She needs your help, whether she admits it or not.”

Excuse me? It didn’t matter who was right?! In what world?

One of the things I especially liked in this book was that it forced Lila to come to terms with the events of the previous book.

“So your family taught you to not talk about your problems and throw yourself into your work to avoid dealing with them? Does that sound healthy to you?”

The mystery was fine. I was pretty sure whodunnit before the big reveal.

Although I dislike pageants I did appreciate they were trying to make it more about accomplishments rather than beauty. But still. I really dislike even the idea of pageants.

Publisher: Berkley

Rating: 7/10

Blackmail and Bibingka (2022)

Blackmail and BibingkaAs previously, I finished this story with a slight pang of disappointment.

It’s not bad–not at all–but I want it to be just a tiny bit better.

I think it was the mystery that was the issue. I guessed pretty quickly who was involved in the crime–mostly because the other suspects were written far more sympathetically. I think she doesn’t want to like her criminals, so they don’t have a ton of personality, or Lila doesn’t get along with them.

Which is fine, but it is a bit of a give away.

And we kept getting conflicting views of Denise’s first husband, and not only was that never resolved, Lila never questions it.

But it was fun and I was able to borrow it from the library, so all good.

Publisher: Berkley

Rating: 7/10