"Arsenic and Adobo" A Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery By Mia P. Manansala

Review by Joan Leotta

I came to this book prepared to love it—food and mystery—along with a dose of insight into a culture other than my own. Manansala brings us a taste of (literally) the Filipino diaspora. The protagonist, Lila, is twenty-five-ish, funny and smart. Ethnic restaurants are indeed a way many new immigrants enter the business world. (My own family background attests to that).

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Lila is a good niece and granddaughter and a good friend, who learns about herself and how to become a better friend and serve her own ambitions as well as help her family in the course of solving the mystery of her ex-boyfriend’s death. Lila loves food and so helping her aunt and grandmother in the family restaurant, if fun, but she struggles with how to make her own mark in the food world—with desserts. I enjoyed the mention of all of the delicious Filipino food. Lila likes giving traditional Filipino sweets a new look and twist, and I was glad to find one of those recipes among the three included at the back of the book.

However, I wish Manansala had started the book with what is Chapter Three and spread out the backstory over the next chapters. In addition, for me, there were too many characters—so many it was hard for me to keep track of them and/or their significance to the plot. Although the mystery’s plot is well laid out and the pacing well done, for the slow start, and overabundance of characters, I cannot give the book more than an average three-star rating. Manansala is a good writer and perhaps as the series continues these rough spots will be evened out. 

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Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poems, short stories, and articles are widely published, including here at KRL. Her work recently appeared or is forthcoming at verse virtual, verse visual, whenwomenwrite.com, moreorless50, and spillwords, among others. When not writing or performing you can find er at te beach collecting shells or at table with family.
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