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    Review of TWO COOKS A-KILLING by Joanne Pence (see her website)

    An Angie Amalfi Mystery

    Avon Books, October 2003

    Career-challenged chef Angie Amalfi has been hired to cook a sumptuous Christmas dinner for a TV show, and she couldn't be more thrilled. Not only will she get to meet the stars of her favorite nighttime soap as they reassemble for a holiday reunion show, but she'll get to show off her cooking skills to Hollywood and maybe become the next TV celebrity chef. But when she arrives at the winery where the "Eagle Crest" reunion is to be taped, reality falls far short of her expectations. The actors are a bunch of self-absorbed, bitter people who seem to be obsessed with an "accidental" death of a young actress that took place on this very set 11 years ago. Angie decides that if her feast is to be anything but a disaster, she must solve the mystery of what happened to Brittany Keegan and get people focused again on holiday cheer and her wonderful cooking.

    Meanwhile, Angie's fiance, detective Paavo Smith, is off solving a series of gang-related killings and the disappearance of a "little person."

    While this mystery series endures and plucky Angie is always likable, I can't say this is the strongest book in the series. For one thing, now that Angie and Paavo are engaged, the sexual tension that marked the earlier books is completely absent. Angie and Paavo are rarely even together, and the subplot with Paavo and the gang killings is not connected in any way to the main mystery--and altogether superfluous. The mystery itself, however, is clever, the various suspects are colorful. I particularly liked the scruffy tabloid reporter, Digger, who was one of the more fleshed-out characters. And the climax scene when Angie finally serves her elaborate dinner is a real hoot.

    In short, fans of the real nighttime soaps "Falconcrest," "Dynasty," and "Dallas" will enjoy this homage to the genre, and die-hard Angie Amalfi devotees will also enjoy it. If you're new to the series, however, you might try the earlier books, particularly the first two, which are still available.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 11/20/03

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