Halia Watkins is so busy running her successful soul food restaurant, Mahalia’s Sweet Tea, she doesn’t even have time to think about doing her own hair. But that doesn’t stop her from catering a small event for Monique Dupree, the famous hair product entrepreneur. One hair expo, one massive house party, and a lot of fried food later, Monique is found dead and her husband is charged. However, Halia can’t help but think the police have the wrong man, and soon she’s caught up in an investigation of all things hair and glitz.
This is the third Mahalia Watkins Soul Food Mystery book, and somehow this series just keeps getting better and better. Author A.L. Herbert infuses this series with an unparalleled level of natural humor. His characters spar back and forth with each other, trading barbs and serving up playful cheek. It helps that they’re family, with Halia teaming up with her cousin Wavonne or mother. Even when a comment might start to cross a line, it’s always tamped down in a way that only a family can manage. One minute Wavonne needles Halia’s taste in clothes and the next they’re investigating a murder.
And it’s really the investigation that makes this book jell. Sure, these characters working in a restaurant makes for fun reading, but diving head-first into a murder mystery takes this everything over the edge. Halia is a smart woman, but that doesn’t stop her from utilizing some outlandish investigation techniques. Costumes, food bribery, and extensive snooping all make appearances. The fact that she’s totally unapologetic about nosing around makes this work.
The murder itself does not take place immediately. Rather, Herbert allows readers to get close to Monique, the victim, as Halia navigates the world of hair. This is refreshing because it solidifies Halia’s need to track down the killer— she has a tangible personal connection. With that, the final reveal was surprising but oh-so satisfying. Herbert knows how to weave a compelling mystery and tie up every single loose thread.
This book is just like the food at Mahalia’s Sweet Tea: delicious.
Title: Murder with Collard Greens and Hot Sauce
Author: A.L. Herbert
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Classification: Cozy Mystery
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.