A few ifs can cause so much damage. If Hayley Powell’s office manager position paid more, she wouldn’t have felt obligated to become her newspaper’s food writer. If she hadn’t accepted the position, Karen Appelbaum wouldn’t have viciously attacked her. And if those two hadn’t entered a feud, then Hayley never would have been arrested by the sheriff—who happens to be her brother’s boyfriend. So really, there’s an immediate moral: pay employees what they’re worth and they won’t become murder suspects.
Unfortunately, Hayley is valued far less by her boss than she deserves. Fortunately, this results in a deliciously madcap cozy.
While Hayley’s boss might serve as the catalyst for her misfortune, author Lee Hollis, the pseudonym of brother and sister Rick Copp and Holly Simason, deserves credit for consistently putting her in the worst of situations. Whether she’s hunting down clues to clear her name or simply sitting at home with her two teenagers, Hayley seems to have the worst luck of any mystery heroine. She accepts this fate, practically charging into the chaos around her, attempting to focus on what she can control. In one early scene, while being arrested, she makes a point of informing suitor Lex Banfield that she’ll have to postpone their date.
It’s the kind of silly, understated joke that Hollis constantly tosses into scenes. For the most part it lands, though occasionally with a groan. Banfield himself, set up to be a potential love interest, has some uncomfortable interactions. It’s treated like a reoccurring joke, but the punchline is a man who throws a tantrum, demands, and ultimately gets a date with Hayley.
While that unsuccessful bit of humor is uncomfortable, it’s not the focus. There is, after all, a murder to solve. Hollis drops some clues and a few red herrings, but Hayley’s investigative work is fairly limited. She has a couple of quirky friends and her brother to help her out, and their own problems seep into the story, fleshing out a pretty eccentric little town.
Though a little scattered at time, Death of a Kitchen Diva serves up plenty of fun.
Title: Death of a Kitchen Diva
Series: Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery #1
Author: Lee Hollis
Publication Date: March 01, 2012
Classification: Cozy Mystery