State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series:  #1 in the White House Chef series
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 301
Source: Library

The Short Version:
While vying a rival to be the first female White House Executive Chef, Olivia (Ollie) Paras also ends up the target of both an international assassin and a slimy new Sensitivity Director.

Why I Read It:
There was a lot of talk among my favorite book bloggers recently when the latest in this series was released, but it was Jenn at Jenn’s Bookshelves who convinced me to try this series because we like so many of the same authors and books.

The Book
Ollie Paras has been working as an assistant chef at the White House for a couple of years. With her boss and mentor getting ready to retire, she is one of the final candidates to take over his job. Her rival for the position is a wonderfully evil and overbearing former co-worker turned television cooking show hostess.

One morning as she arrives for work, Ollie ends up in the middle of a chase as the secret service rounds up an intruder on the White House grounds. While she manages to stop the guy in time for the agents to grab him he tells her before he’s hauled off that he has a message for the President about imminent danger. Despite the objections of her Secret Service agent boyfriend Tom (and his bosses) Ollie can’t help doing some amateur sleuthing.

Ollie has to deal with a despicable new Sensitivity Director making things difficult for the kitchen staff, her awful rival for the promotion, preparations for a state dinner that change constantly, and an international assassin that may be after Ollie herself.

My Thoughts:
What a fun new series for me. I knew I could trust Jenn’s recommendation. This is an enjoyable first in a cozy mystery series. The heroine is likeable despite her tendency to keep getting involved. I enjoyed the unique setting with the complications of political intrigue as well as the protocol and tradition of the workings of the White House staff.

The multiple story lines were all entertaining and kept the story moving. Ollie’s rival for the promotion is hilariously over the top. The Sensitivity Director who shakes up the normal routines of the staff by insinuating himself into things that are working just fine before he ever came along is a great character to dislike. I have to admit that when his new position is first described my mind went straight to C3PO from Star Wars and he became ‘the protocol droid’ in my brain for the rest of the book.

Outside the inner workings of the White House, the stories involving the potential peace between two long antagonistic Middle East countries and the hunt for the assassin were enough of a tension filled plot to balance out the cozy parts of this cozy mystery.

All in all thoroughly enjoyed this and am looking forward to continuing with the series.

Rating 4/5