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by Don Bruns
Oceanview, December 2012
285 pages
ISBN: 1608090612

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is the sixth book in the Skip Moore/James Lessor series, though I didn't feel that I was missing out on any important history by jumping into the series at this point. In fact, since Skip and James are both twenty-somethings who have not yet figured out what they want to be when they grow up, it surprises me that there are five books prior to this one. When, in their short and mostly unformed adult lives, did these two find time for five previous capers? And the two of them make many rookie mistakes and refer to themselves as novice detectives, so it is not apparent from this book that any previous detection has taken place.

HOT STUFF opens with a dinner date between Skip and his girlfriend, Em. Police discover the sous- chef of the restaurant stabbed in the alley behind the restaurant where Skip and Em are dining, and coincidences abound when it turns out that the victim, Amanda, is a friend of Em's from long ago. In fact, Em and Amanda had been implicated in the theft of a diamond ring as teenagers, and Amanda had taken the blame for Em. Em is now quite well-to-do, a major player in the construction company her father owns, and Amanda was very much an up-and-coming star in the chef world.

Coincidences continue to pile up as the policeman who investigated the diamond theft turns up as the lead detective in Amanda's murder, and James is revealed to be a culinary school trained chef. James agrees to go undercover as the restaurant's new sous-chef, and Skip is roped into taking on the dishwasher's role. Before the mystery of who killed Amanda is solved, James has the opportunity to follow his bliss as a chef and Skip learns how jealous of Em's attentions he is (and how much he hates washing dishes).

I had so looked forward to reading this book, which is dedicated to the Food Channel. However, there was very little in the way of culinary description and a lot of post-adolescent angst about jobs, personal self-worth, and girlfriends. The writing was spotty, or perhaps it was the editing. Some of the sentences stopped me in my tracks (e.g., "If there was one thing this case didn't need was another another murder"). But then again, I'm a bit of a stickler for grammar, and I read word-for-word and like to savor authors' descriptions.

The book was a quick read, but it was not something that will stick with me. The characters were a bit too adolescent for me, the food not well enough described, the murderer fairly obvious, and the uniqueness of the location unrealized. I don't regret spending the time reading this book, but I won't be out there searching for more in the series.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, January 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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