Chili Con Corpses
A Supper Club Mystery with James Henry by J. B. Stanley
Review: Anyone with an appetite for comfort food and a cozy read will feel right at home with Chili con Corpses, the third volume in J. B. Stanley's popular Supper Club Mystery series that features librarian James Henry, ("Professor" to some), and his four Shenandoah Valley Qunicy's Gap friends, known to themselves as "the Flab Five." Between snacking, dieting, exercising at the YMCA, attending Saturday night Mexican cooking classes and getting on with their daily lives and sometimes feisty loves, the culinary team discovers what's cooking with a murder most foul.
When school teacher Lindy Perez loudly announces to her friends that she'll kill a vivacious blonde twin if the twin makes a move on the apple of her eye, Principal Chavez, it's a recipe for disaster. Especially when the twin is found strangled on a field trip to the ghostly Luray Caverns. It's an outing that Lindy has arranged for her art students, a couple of chaperones, including Mr. Sneed, a grandparent of student Adam Sneed, and, of course, the stand-in chaperones, the ever-reliable supper club's "Flab Five." The action heats up when the police arrive, interview the students and witnesses who found the body, and discover that Mr. Sneed has disappeared and learn soon after that he's no relation to Adam or any of Adam's kin. Furthermore, the murdered twin, a veterinarian by trade, was substituting for her sister, the newly hired teacher at Blue Ridge High. As the plot does a slow simmer, Murphy Alistair, The Shenandoah Star Ledger editor-star reporter, gets into the act with some investigative reporting, infiltrates the Saturday evening cooking classes, and whips up some emotions when the romance between Lucy and James sours and she eases into the breach, saucily offering herself as le plat du jour to spice up James' hormonal appetites. Murphy has known one of the twins, and about their inherited millions, for years, and she recently met the other one. She wants the murderer sliced and diced, and she's got everyone agreeing to help her. Broiling with anger they set out to winnow the wheat from the chaff among the clues, and to sift through the past lives of three prime suspects, two veterinarians and a stockbroker, one of whom they're out to roast with a cleverly contrived ruse. In the end, they burn the killer, getting him to confess to what a rotten apple he is before he gets his just desserts at the hands of an accomplice who, in turn, ends up in the beefy paws of Sergeant McClellan and the local constabulary.
Adding to the standard fare found in most cozies, Stanley includes food references and sodium serving amounts in her chapter titles and salt shaker illustrations, tasty snacking tidbits on almost every page, and three full-blown mouth-watering recipes for Milla's Mexican Chicken Enchiladas, Milla's Mexican Wedding Cookies, and Milla's Chili con Queso. There's also a sample chapter of Stiffs & Swine, book four in the Supper Club series, included as an appetizer in the appendix. As for other ingredients before the plot boils over and the lid comes off in Chili con Corpses, there's a tastefully done bedroom scene with James and Murphy, some heated but never bitter exchanges between James and Lucy, more sugar than spice in a relationship between the cooking class chef, Milla Fields, and James' widower dad, Jackson, some nibbles at a budding romance between a library assistant and a cub reporter, and some tantalizing side bars about a lottery ticket found in the returns book bin at the library, colourful descriptions of fantastic meals and parties at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, the digestive antics of a cat called "The Dalai Lama," and dollops of comfort zone scenes between the Flab Five and their add-on friends at sites like the Dim Sum Kitchen, the Custard Cottage, Johnny Appleseed's Restaurant and Milla's Fix ‘n Freeze cooking school. A palatable concoction to satisfy the appetites of even the most discerning.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of Chili Con Corpses.
Acknowledgment: Midnight Ink provided a copy of Chili Con Corpses for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
A Fatal Appraisal
Berkley Prime Crime (Mass Market Paperback), October 2006
ISBN-13: 9780425212646; ISBN-10: 0425212645
Stiffs and Swine
Midnight Ink (Trade Paperback), October 2008
ISBN-13: 9780738712673; ISBN-10: 0738712671
Location(s) referenced in Chili Con Corpses: Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
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Chili Con Corpses by J. B. Stanley — A Supper Club Mystery with James Henry
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $13.95