Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hail to the Chef

Hail to the Chef
Author: Julie Hyzy
Berkley, 2008
328 pages

We last checked in with White House Executive Chef Olivia "Ollie" Paras in State of the Onion, the first book in the White House Chef mystery series. Several months have passed, and now it's Thanksgiving. Ollie and her crew are frantically trying to stay ahead of the game as they prepare Thanksgiving dinner and plan for the annual Holiday Open House.

Out of the blue, a bomb-like device is found in the White House, and Secret Service Special Agent-in-Charge Gavin wants all staff trained in new procedures. Then the chief White House electrician, a very experienced fellow, is electrocuted in a freak accident. In the meantime, the First Lady is having some trouble with some business partners who want her to sell her stake in a company. Her nephew Sean, a young financial advisor who has a bit of a crush on Ollie, is trying to help his aunt -- but is found dead of an apparent suicide.

The holiday season is obviously made somber by these events, and since Ollie's boyfriend Tom (a Secret Service agent assigned to the President) is traveling with POTUS, Ollie's pretty much on her own. She finds herself consulting with a retired electrician neighbor, who tells her about floating neutrals and encourages Ollie to bring this to the attention of the other White House electricians, lest they too fall prey to this electrical anomaly. But the electrician brotherhood is hostile to Ollie when she asks them about it. The First Lady's business partners are becoming increasingly hostile, too -- and now there are rumors that one of them is a murderer!

There are a couple of new characters in Book 2, such as Gavin (a potential rival of Tom?) and the Swedish bombshell Agda, whose excellent work in the kitchen (as a seasonal employee) cancels out her lack of English skills. (I'm hoping she'll become a regular.)

Although I figured out what was going on early, there were enough interesting twists and turns that my fingers kept turning pages. Actually, I enjoyed this book even more than the first. This series makes me want to go to culinary school and move to DC. :-)