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Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles by A L Herbert

Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles” is the first in “A Mahalia Watkins Soul Food Mystery” series. The sleuth in this cosy “food” mystery is Mahalia Watkins, owner of purportedly the best restaurant in Prince Georges County, Maryland.  The book contains mouth-watering recipes for what can only be described as gourmet soul food such as “Halia’s Sweet Corn Casserole.”

Halia, not surprisingly, also becomes a sleuth to solve a murder that takes place in her restaurant after she finds out that her cousin is the prime suspect.  Halia knows that her cousin did not commit the murder but the police seem to stop investigating once they focus on the cousin, Wavonne.  Halia also has a vested interest in turning the heat away from her kitchen because she and Wavonne are guilty of tampering with the body and other evidence when they decide to move the body to the back alley and away from the restaurant.

The Mahalia-Wavonne pair remind me of Stephanie Plum and Lula in the Evanovich series in the zany relationship between the two main characters and the hair-brained capers they engage in.  Somehow, though, I mind more that Watkins and her cousin skirt on the other side of the law and try to justify their law-breaking, than I do when Plum and Lula rationalize similar brushes with the law.  I really do not buy Mahalia’s justification for tampering with evidence, let alone covering up her cousin’s theft of the dead guy’s credit cards and use of those cards to buy expensive goods.  I lose empathy with characters who skate that far outside the law, frankly and it significantly detracted from my enjoyment of the book.

Nonetheless, the writing and characters in “Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles” are engaging, and I anticipate I will pick up and review the next book in this series when it comes out.  There will be many others who will be enthusiastic about this new food mystery/cosy series.  This series is particularly significant in that I cannot recall another where the main characters are black and it is set in an area that is primarily African-American.  It is about time!

Liz Nichols

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