Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: Cook the Books

Cook the Books (Gourmet Girl - Book 5) by Jessica Conant-Park & Susan Conant

Publication Date: February 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
ISBN-13: 9780425239919

(Received for Review from Berkley Prime Crime/Obsidian)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Jessica Conant-Park & Susan Park on the WEB: Website, Facebook,

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

If you can't stand the heat...

Still smarting over the breakup with her boyfriend, Josh, who took a job as a personal chef in Hawaii, Chloe Carter knows that assisting a cookbook writer may stir up painful memories. But the Gourmet Girl is desperate for money! While compiling a book of recipes from Boston's top chefs, Chloe must deal with Josh's friends, including the loudmouthed but lovable Digger. Chloe stays cool until she arrives at his apartment the building - and Digger - thoroughly charred.

Chloe knows that Digger was too expert a chef to let a grease fire kill him. This was murder. Putting her feelings on the back burner, she sifts through suspects. But as an executive chef with a thorny love life, Digger had enemies by the dozen. Matters will get even stickier if the tragedy brings Josh back to Boston - and back into Chloe's life.


Jessica Conant-Park and her mother Susan are at it again with the fifth book in the Gourmet Girl cozy mystery series, Cook the Books. Readers are in for a look at the darker side of the very competitive restaurant business. The authors once again have honed in on a great niche, with culinary mysteries. More and more readers are becoming foodies! This book incorporates the love of all things mysterious with the love of food, including some great recipes for readers to try.

In Cook the Books we find Chloe Carter hard at work trying to complete her masters degree in Social Work. Her boyfriend, Josh has flown the coop to become a personal chef for a couple in Hawaii, leaving Chloe heartbroken. The latest addition to her best friends family, baby Patrick is costing Chloe a lot more money than she expected as she dotes on him and she has to find a way to make some extra money. Kyle Boucher, the son of a celebrity chef, is compiling a cookbook from the recipes of Boston's local chefs. His need for an assistant is obvious when Chloe takes the job and finds that he is totally unorganized. Putting the cookbook together brings Chloe in contact with many of Josh's old friends including Digger. When Chloe sets up a tasting with Digger she is shocked to find him dead from a fire in his apartment building. It's up to Chloe to figure out what really happened to Digger before it's too late...

The mother-daughter duo of Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant provide readers and foodies alike a common ground with the Gourmet Girl series. Food has become such a big draw in every type of writing right now. With many readers being exposed to new ideas in cooking from Food Network and other cooking shows it was only natural that culinary mysteries have become so popular. The authors do an excellent job of showing the reader how cut-throat and competitive the restaurant world is today. It is obvious that they did their homework and it shows in the writing. It seems believable and has a certain authenticity to it. Readers will love the recipes included in the book, making this a sort of "hands on" approach to writing.

Main character Chloe Carter is once again in hot water. As this series has progressed readers have learned a lot about Chloe and her life. Though the mystery is the focus of the book, Chloe's love life and her relationship with her best friend shows the depth of the character. The characters are very well developed and readers will find Chloe easy to identify with and fun to read about. Though I think the authors still need to find a good balance between Chloe's life experiences and her sleuthing, I believe readers will really enjoy this book and find a quick and entertaining read. It is a very fast paced book and can be read in a day or two.

I found the mystery itself very interesting and relevant. Who doesn't love to eat good food? I often wonder when dining at a fine restaurant about what goes on in the kitchen and how chefs produce such wonderful food so quickly. I thought the authors did an excellent job of giving the reader the inside scoop on what goes on in the restaurant world and I think readers will be very interested in this kind of mystery. Digger was an interesting character, who had a lot of enemies and provided Chloe and Josh with a lot of suspects to weed through. I think readers will probably flip-flop between many theories about whodunit before being surprised with by the real answer.

Cook the Books is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Jessica Conant-Park graduated from Macalester Collge and has a master of social work degree from Boston College. Se is married to chef William Park.

Susan Conant, Jessica's mother, graduated summa cum laude from Radcliffe College and holds a doctorate in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The author of the Dog Lover's Mysteries and the Cat Lover's Mysteries, she is a seven-time winner of the Dog Writer's Association of America's Maxwell Award.


Mystica said...

Sounds good, mysterious and intriguing.