Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Review: You Cannoli Die Once

You Cannoli Die Once (Italian Restaurant Mystery - Book 1) by Shelley Costa

Publication Date: 05/28/2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Pocket Books
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 336

(Received for an honest review from Pocket Books)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, itunes

Shelley Costa on the WEB: website, twitter, goodreads

Excerpt from, You Cannoli Die Once, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.


At Miracolo Northern Italian restaurant, one can savor brilliantly seasoned veal saltimbocca, or luscious risotto alla milanese, but no cannoli. Never cannoli. Maria Pia Angelotta, the spirited seventy-six-year-old owner of the Philadelphia-area eatery that’s been in her family for four generations, has butted heads with her head chef over the cannoli ban more than once. And when the head chef is your own granddaughter, things can get a little heated. 

Fortunately, Eve Angelotta knows how to handle what her nonna dishes out. But when Maria Pia’s boyfriend is found dead in Miracolo’s kitchen, bludgeoned by a marble mortar, the question arises: Can a woman this fiery and stubborn over cream-filled pastry be capable of murder? 

The police seem to think so, and they put the elder Angelotta behind bars, while Eve, sexy neighborhood attorney Joe Beck, and the entire Miracolo family— parenti di sangue and otherwise—try every trick in the cookbook to unravel a tangle of lies and expose a killer.


Finding a man in your dumpster and a body in the kitchen might seem unusual, but not for Eve Angelotta and the crew from Miracolo Italian Restaurant. Shelly Costa's, You Cannoli Die Once will have readers laughing, right along with solving the whodunit, in this well written cozy mystery. With an over-the-top Italian family, a ban on cannoli's and a murdered boyfriend it couldn't be anything but... eccentric and exciting!

What I liked:

The Italian Restaurant mystery series starts off with a bang, in You Cannoli Die Once. Shelley Costa's wit and humor take center stage as she creates an Italian American family that will have readers laughing one minutes and crying the next. Eve was once a dancer, but now she's the head chef in her families Italian restaurant outside Philly. She not only has to contend with her customers, but her formidable Nonna, Maria Pia and let's just say she's a hand full. 

Costa does such a good job building this family, from their eccentric grandmother, right down to the last cousin, and there are a ton of them. Each character was well defined, even if they were a little hard to sort through. With all the customers, friends, new acquaintances and everybody else that stopped into the restaurant it took me a while to keep them all straight. One of the hazards of a large cast in the first book in a series. But once Costa gets the reader through that it was mostly smooth sailing into the mystery. 

When Eve's grandmother's boyfriend ends up dead, she has a hard time trying to figure out a way to keep her out of jail. In fact she gets herself into a situation that could land her there as well. I liked all the hustle and bustle of the restaurant and the way finding the body was almost anticlimactic after finding out Eve's cousin might have been banging a married man. The whole dynamic of the family was just as interesting as the mystery. I thought Costa used the idea of what American's think of as an Italian family to her advantage here. It added a great element of humor to the story and kept the mystery light and fun.

I found myself a little concerned about how they described the jail in this one, only because it reminded me a little bit of Mayberry instead of Philly. You don't usually get to talk to prisoners through the bars in a big city and I found that slightly disingenuous compared to the rest of the book. I found most of the situations in the book believable other than that and I thought Costa did a good job of making parts of the mystery hard to figure out and other parts kind of self explanatory. A good tactic overall.

Bottom Line:

Overall this was a good read. The big Italian family was a hoot and I found them very endearing. I did have some trouble figuring out who was related to who, who was a friend, who was one of the musicians, who ran the business next door and so on, but once I got that down I liked this one a lot. I liked the idea that some parts of the mystery were easy to figure out while other parts were more complex and took some time. A good start to the series!

You Cannoli Die Once is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

About the Author:

Shelley Costa’s stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents 13 Tales of New American GothicThe World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best Short Story category, and she chaired the Best Paperback Original category for the 2011 Edgar Awards. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Edgar Allan Poe, and she has lectured on Poe at various events. She has a PhD in English and is on the faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where she teaches fiction writing and screenwriting. A former New Yorker, she lives in a Cleveland suburb.