Review by Booklist Review
Manansala, the winner of Sisters in Crime's 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland award, debuts with a spicy and sparkling mystery. Heroine Lila Macapagal has returned to her small hometown of Shady Palms, Illinois, after being burned by her ex in Chicago. When Lila's aunt asks her to help at the family's Filipino restaurant, she's happy to do so--until another one of her exes shows up. Derek Winters, a food critic, is the last person Lila wants to see, especially since a bad review from him could ruin the family. But instead of publishing criticism, Derek drops dead at the dinner table, and Lila is the prime suspect. In a development a bit edgier than that of a typical cozy mystery, Lila goes to jail for a night, and while there she becomes determined to find out who really killed Derek. Along with Lila's funny and feisty voice, there is a lot to love here: complex clues, mouthwatering food descriptions, and a diverse cast of characters. Fans of Vivien Chien will devour this one and look forward to more.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Lila Macapagal, the narrator of Manansala's outstanding debut and series launch, notices two unwelcome customers at Tita Rosie's Kitchen, a Filipino restaurant run by her aunt in Shady Palms, Ill., where Lila has moved after a devastating breakup with her fiancé. Ed Long, the restaurant's landlord, is trying to close the place down, and Long's stepson, Derek Winter, a steady customer, consistently writes negative reviews about its cuisine on his blog. Derek just happens to be Lila's former high school boyfriend, and when he dies of food poisoning after eating "the Filipino culinary equivalent of hygge," Lila is the prime suspect. Determined Lila and her best friend, barista extraordinaire Adeena Awan, take it upon themselves to find the real killer and unmask the conspirators targeting Tita Rosie's Kitchen. Chock-full of food lore, this delicious mystery will leave readers hungry for more of the adventures of Lila, her friends and relatives, and her chunky dachshund (who is named after a kind of short, fat sausage). Cozy fans are in for a treat. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (May)
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Review by Library Journal Review
DEBUT Lila Macapagal breaks up with her chef boyfriend and moves home to Shady Palms, IL, to help her aunt, Tita Rosie, with her Filipino restaurant. She starts dating her high school boyfriend, Derek Winter, but soon learns he is the notorious food critic who tried to ruin the restaurants in town, including Tita Rosie's. When he keels over while he and his stepfather, the restaurant's landlord, are dining at the restaurant, Lila thinks he's playing a prank. But when Derek dies on the way to the hospital, his stepfather, Ed, is quick to blame the food and pull strings with the sheriff. While her extended family of Filipino aunties and cousins rally around, Lila is arrested for murder and suspected of pushing drugs. If the local police detective is going to accuse her, and Tita Rosie's restaurant and home are at risk for her bail, Lila is going to step up and find the person who killed Derek. VERDICT This debut introduces readers to Filipino American food and culture, with its emphasis on family. There are cozy tropes (the close-knit community, the food business), but the emphasis on the Tagalog language, the culture, and drug dealing in a small town add gravity and individuality to this outstanding series kick-off.--Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Helping out in her Illinois family's Filipino restaurant backfires when a young woman is accused of the murder of a restaurant reviewer who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Maybe Lila Macapagal's Tita Rosie's restaurant isn't the fanciest, but Tita Rosie's serves up the finest Filipino cuisine in Shady Palms, no matter what online reviewer Derek Winter says. After all, curmudgeonly Derek isn't even a real reviewer; he's just a local boy--turned--man with a computer and a chip on his shoulder from his breakup with Lila years ago. And would he keep coming back if the food were bad? When Derek shows up with his stepfather, Mr. Long, the restaurant's landlord, Lila dreads serving them but can't resist trying out her latest dessert creation, ube crinkles, on them. As usual, Derek can't find anything nice to say in between ravenous bites. When he ends the meal facedown in his food, Lila admonishes him for being melodramatic. But Derek's not kidding around, and by the time Lila calls 911, it's too late. Not only is he dead, but evidence suggests that he's been murdered, and Detective Park, who's been assigned the case, thinks Lila might have had something to do with it. With the help of her resourceful best friend, Adeena Awan, and Amir, Adeena's lawyer-brother, on the case, Lila hopes to stay out of jail. But rising tensions between the friends are stoked by the romantic interest between Amir and Lila, which the families would frown on because of the cultural differences between Lila's Filipino American background and Amir's Pakistani Muslim one. Oh my gulay, as Manansala's glossary indicates is Taglish for OMG: Lila could be in real trouble. A debut that embraces its lightness. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.