Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 320pp
(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mysteries)
Excerpt from A Taste of the Nightlife
Charlotte Caine isn't called "the vampire chef' because she's a member of New York's burgeoning undead community - she just cooks for them.
Together with her brother, Chet - the fanged one in the family - Charlotte runs Nightlife, a new restaurant that's poised to take the top slot in the new world of "haute noir" cuisine. And the arrival of the city's top food critic in their dining room could mean a review that secures their success with the after-dark crowd.
But when a drunk customer causes a scene, casts a spell, and almost buns the building down, a five star review doesn't seem likely. And when that customer turns up dead with fang marks in his neck, Chet falls under suspicion. Aided by a powerful - and handsome - warlock, and pursued by the city's best paranormal detective. Chef Charlotte has to clear her brother's name, get her restaurant reopened, and - oh yeah - stay alive...
Popular fantasy author Sarah Zettel begins her own paranormal cozy series based on a human chef who caters to an after dark crowd. In A Taste of the Nightlife readers will get everything from a great whodunit to a hint of romance and even some political haranguing. Paranormal enthusiasts and cozy readers will have a field day with this book. Werewolves and warlocks and vamps... oh my!
Now that the paranormal crowd has decided to come out into the open, vampires, werewolves and witches are commonly seen interacting with humans. In response to these societal changes all kinds of interesting hot spots are popping up around town, including a new restaurant called Nightlife. Human chef Charlotte Caine and her vampire brother Chet are just getting started in the business, catering to the after dark vampire clientele when they get a visit from renowned food critic Anatole Sevarin. This review could make or break the success of Nightlife. Things go from bad to worse when a warlock has a few too many and casts a spell that nearly destroys the restaurant. Charlotte says goodbye to a good review but hello to murder when she finds Dylan, aka the drunken warlock dead in the foyer. It's up to Charlotte to prove her brother Chet had nothing to do with the crime and she gets a little help from Dylan's brother and the all important food critic.
Sarah Zettel has created a interesting alternative world that includes many legends and folktales come to life. Her world brings the creatures of the night into the light of day so to speak. It is no longer speculation, the paranormal element is out in the open and living among the humans. Which creates any number of interesting situations. It is possible to say that Zettel is trying to cash in on the vampire wave that has hit publishing since Twilight, and that may be true, but I definitely like the way she has chosen to go about it. Creating a restaurant or hot spot that caters to the vampire crowd may not be a completely original idea but Zettel puts her own spin on it and cozy readers and paranormal fans alike will love it.
Zettel's characters are really what sets this one apart from the other vampire wannabe books. She introduces the reader to a human chef who seems to understand the paranormal culture. Probably because her brother is a vampire and she has had to learn to adapt to his sensibilities. Who better to bridge the gap between the human population and the vampire crowd? Charlotte is a very interesting character. She is not your typical chef. She definitely knows how to cook, but she also quick witted, intelligent and very observant. I liked the fact that Zettel doesn't tell the reader about Charlotte, she lets them learn about her through the action of the book.
Being the first book in the series Zettel has a lot of background to put down, because this isn't Kansas anymore. It takes a lot for an author to create an entire culture and try to interest the reader in it and Zettel pulls it off with style in this one, which makes me appreciate her fantasy roots. Fantasy writers often create whole new worlds and I think that served her well here. The political upheaval she describes in the book has a tendency to remind me of out own governmental woes at the moment with the debt limit and self-serving politicians who can't see beyond their own pride and the money coming out of their own pockets. The vampires and the warlocks are having their own power struggle that seems to have spilled over into the streets in this book. It's a very interesting idea and I look forward to where Zettel takes us from here.
The mystery aspect of the book is very well written and I liked the way Zettel subtly unfolded it. The suspects are quirky and interesting and Zettel also employs some humor and comical situations that make the book lighter in nature and more typical of a cozy. I liked the fact that the author played on the chef and foodie idea. With the advent of the Foodnetwork and other food related shows I believe Zettel has hit on a very current theme with a paranormal twist. I had a hard time trying to figure out where she was going to go with the murder investigation next and the introduction of the love triangle between Charlotte, Brendan and Anatole added some spice to the mix. I didn't have this one nailed down to the very end and I'll have to say that Zettel really surprised me. The hallmark of a good mystery writer!
I recommend this one to cozy readers and paranormal enthusiasts. This series has a lot to offer and I think the author has done an excellent job with the first book. A preview of the second book in the series is included and will definitely peak the readers interest. I look forward to reading more from Zettel and finding out where she intends to take the intrepid Charlotte and her friends.
A Taste of the Nightlife is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Sarah Zettel is an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author. She has written eighteen novels and multiple short stories over the past seventeen years in addition to practicing tai chi, learning to fiddle, marrying a rocket scientist and raising a rapidly growing son. She is very tired right now.
The publisher has been gracious in offering a copy of Sarah's book, A Taste of the Nightlife for giveaway.
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