Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy
Genre: Cozy and Culinary Mystery
Series: #2 in the White House Chef series
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: 2008
The Short Version:
White House Executive Olivia (Ollie) Paras has enough to do with the holiday season at the White House, but when she adds looking into a suspicious death and keeping herself and the rest of the staff alive it gets pretty complicated.
Why I Read It:
I read and enjoyed the first book in this series after Jenn at Jenn’s Bookshelves convinced me to try it. When I was planning vacation books I quickly added this one to the stack to kick off my vacation reading.
Ollie Paras and the staff of the White House begin the Holiday season with preparing a small Thanksgiving dinner gathering for The President, First Lady and a small group of guests. A suspicious device triggers an evacuation of the Executive Mansion and an investigation by the Secret Service. The dinner goes on, but not quite as planned. The First Lady is being pressured by her business partners to sell and her nephew has advised her against it. When the nephew is found dead of an apparent suicide the Thanksgiving Dinner is definitely not a happy celebration.
The Holiday season at the White House is a tremendous amount of work for the entire staff. Both public and private events require extensive planning, preparation and coordination. When the Secret Service reacts to the bomb scare with a round of required safety training for all staff members Ollie is less than pleased because it throws a wrench in her carefully planned schedule of preparations.
When a staff electrician dies in what is thought to be a horrible accident Ollie is not convinced that the circumstances have been fully and accurately investigated. She starts asking questions and soon finds herself in danger.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series and I think I liked this one even more. The set up from the first book is certainly not necessary to read this one and it can stand on its own quite well.
The setting makes this a fun series. The inner workings of the White House from the kitchen to the other parts of the non-political staff are a unique and interesting background. Although the politics are not at the forefront of the White House activities in these books, there is plenty of high level security intrigue and the crucial protocol and publicity issues. What I enjoyed about this installment of the series was the addition of the staff’s concern for the First Family as a family separate from their political world.
Ollie has some of the typical cozy mystery protagonist characteristics. She’s smart but tends to get in over her head a little too easily but she’s likeable and I enjoy her character. Some of the returning characters from the first book are nice to see. There’s a good mix of supporting characters and although some of the kitchen staff have less of a role in this book because of the expansion of the story to more of the staff and residents of the White House than in the first book.
It’s a cozy series but the setting is unique and interesting and allows for some stories that move beyond some of the typical cozy or culinary mystery books I’ve read in the past.
The recipes included in the back look great and I’m going to make a few notes about them before I return this one to the library.
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