"Irene Deep in Texas Trouble" An Irene in Chicago Culinary Mystery By Judy Alter: Review/Giveaway

Review by Kathleen Costa

Enter to win a copy of Irene Deep in Texas Trouble by Judy Alter by making a comment below about the culinary arts: (1) favorite cooking show, (2) French or down-home cooking, or (3) any anecdotes about food serving at a wedding. Details on how to enter via email below and a link to purchase it. MAKE SURE IF ENTERING VIA COMMENT TO INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS.

Henrietta James, “Henny” to close friends and family, is a Texan residing and working in Chicago, married to assistant astronomy professor Patrick O’Malley, owner of a rambunctious Labradoodle Beau, star in her own cooking show, From my Mom’s Kitchen, and has a hard time saying “no” to her mentor, Irene Foxglove. Henny realizes her mentor is an acquired taste with a diva personality, fancying herself a Cordon Blue-trained chef although she only completed one-year in the culinary program at Kendall College (which is how Irene was fired, moved to France, and Henny got her TV job). Irene’s demanding manner may rub people the wrong way and her expectation to be treated special is more of a demand, but she’s a mother, curious, kind, and a fierce friend … definitely an enigma!

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Image Source Alter Ego Press
Irene Deep in Texas Trouble
Earns 5/5 Green Stockings … Engaging Cozy!

Irene is coming for the holidays? Henny didn’t remember who actually made the invitation, her or her husband, but knowing Irene, she had one of her feelings and decided to show up. This, of course, complicates an already busy Christmas since Henny and Patrick are heading to Fort Worth. Will Irene even enjoy Texas? Henny’s long-time BFF, Charlene “Charlie” Fitzgerald, is getting married two days before Christmas, and although Henny would have liked to have been matron of honor, family trumps friends in this situation. She is excited, instead, to cater the affair. Maybe having Irene there will be a blessing, she is a chef … oh, this is going to be interesting!

Charlie is on an emotional high, as most brides are, but Henny is there to help any way she can. However, the biggest challenge is Nora Scott, the soon-to-be mother-in-law, whose pushy personality and demanding manner has her dubbed a “wicked witch.” Since she’s footing the bill for the nuptials, she also feels entitled to closely scrutinize everything, including Henny’s culinary choices. Irene is eager to help, but insulted when Nora refers to her as “the help,” and her own efforts to show-up Nora just gives her motive when Nora ends up dead! Ding! Dong! The wicked witch is dead!

Ok, I love Irene! I love the dynamic between the two women although it seems difficult to define. Are they friends? colleagues? a Sherlock and Watson duo? It may be all of the above, but they do work well together, especially since Henny doesn’t challenge Irene’s dominance. The victim is a good karmic choice, and further investigation into Nora’s behavior proves there were many former employees, business associates, clients, and even family with murderous motives: vengeance, greed, even just plain anger. Henny knows Irene is innocent, there are other more reasonable candidates, but it puts Irene at the center … again. But, it’s all exciting with despondent newlyweds, shocking secrets, evidence that doesn’t add up, a missing woman, and a surprise arrest. Of course, Judy Alter makes sure to include a dramatic ending and a clever wrap up. The drama was well-written with ample twists, diverse cast, a few happy endings, and some treats for any family chef!

Enjoy these complete menu suggestions and specific recipes from Henny’s mother for (1) Family Dinners (Doris’s Casserole), (2) Wedding Supper (Lobster Newberg, Texas Caviar in Lettuce Cups), and (3) a Traditional Christmas Dinner (Cheeseball, Green Bean Casserole, Cranberry Relish, Texas Sheet Cake). Down home with Mama!

I was very lucky to also get a copy of the third book in the series. So here are some of my thoughts on Finding Florence.

Finding Florence Earns 5/5 Cozy Surprises … Clever Gem!

Henny was shocked to read the headline: “Heiress Dies Unexpectedly.” She knew Florence Sherman was Irene’s close friend, and her passing would upset her. Should she call her? Well, she doesn’t, but Irene has one of her feelings and immediately comes to Chicago learning about her friend. She’s disappointed Florence’s daughter, Alice Robbins, didn’t notify her of her mother’s death or show any interest in having Irene’s support in her hour of need. Then, the grieving daughter makes no plans for a funeral or memorial, and worse yet, the cause of death is still a question. Although the daughter seems resistant to any help, Irene is not waiting around, and makes sure Henny is there to help. What happened to Florence?

I started the series with book three, so without previous experience, I wasn’t sure who the main character was … Henny? Irene? The story’s narrative is told from Henny’s first person perspective, it’s her sense of humor, her inner thoughts, and her opinions, but it’s the connections to Irene, her focus, her directing the action, and her ingratiating herself into every situation which tends to make her the center of attention. It’s an interesting dynamic with Henny and Irene entertaining opposites in personality, culinary style, and method of investigating, and although Henny seems to not hold the upper hand in the relationship, they work well as a team joined often by Henny’s husband and Irene’s re-engaged ex. The mystery was complex with some shocking twists, clever “oh my” moments, greedy revelations, a nail-biting multi-state showdown and arrest, and a nice wrap up for closure. So, despite my initial confusion, the book turned out to be a delightful read with fascinating characters, couples, partners, friends, and an eclectic set of culinary treats!

The recipes included blend Irene’s and Henny’s culinary style: from Irene’s French Kitchen (Coq au Vin, Chicken Cordon Blue, French Potato Salad, and Cold Turkey with Tonnato Sauce) to Henny’s Mom’s Kitchen (King Ranch Chicken, Seven-Layer Overnight Salad, Crab Canapés, her Grandmother’s Onion Soup Toasts, her Mom’s Pickled Shrimp, and Chocolate Sheet Cake). Délicieux! Yum!

Chicago Culinary Mystery series

Saving Irene (2020)

Irene in Danger (2021)

Finding Florence (2022)

Irene Deep in Texas Trouble (2023)

Be a Big Judy Alter Fan!

Judy Alter was involved with TCU Press, a small academic publisher, for near thirty years, most as the director, and after retiring, she turned to writing her own mysteries. She, too, thought reading mysteries could be translated into writing them, and to date, she has penned four multi-book series (Kelly O’Connell Mystery series; Blue Plate Mystery series; Oak Grove Mysteries; and Irene in Chicago Culinary Mysteries), several standalone historical nonfiction and historical novels, and a few cookbooks. Quite the eclectic author!

The Official Site of Author Judy Alter

Facebook Friends: Judy Alter

Judy Alter Blog: Gourmet on a Hot Plate

Enter to win a copy of Irene Deep in Texas Trouble by Judy Alter by making a comment below about the culinary arts: (1) favorite cooking show, (2) French or down-home cooking, or (3) any anecdotes about food serving at a wedding. Or enter via email by simply emailing KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "irene,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 6, 2023. US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. If entering via comment please include your email address so we can contact you. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. 

 Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode goes up next week.

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Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. I don't know much about French cuisine, but I like Creme Brulee!

    1. So do I. And Henny can make a good creme brulee!

  2. Sounds like a good read. I watch a lot of
    Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri. I was a good cook
    in my cooking days. Don't do as much unless
    I have a healthy eater coming to my table. Then
    I can cook up a feast. Love to see people enjoy
    the food I make. thanks txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

    1. I know that feeling, Mary. I love to cook as long as I have an appreciative eater at the table. When I eat alone, it's leftovers or a grilled cheese or something unimaginative. That's why Henny likes her TV show--she can create new recipes all the time. Of course, her Patrick is always an appreciative eater.

  3. Sounds like a great series, adding to my TBR list. My favorite cooking show is Ree Drummond's show The Food Network. I don't know much about French food or cooking.

  4. Down-Home Cooking for me, though I wouldn't turn down a croissant (especially if it's stuffed with chocolate 😋)

  5. We have a winner!
    Lorie Ham


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