REVIEW – Hail to the Chef
Copyright:2008 (Berkley); 328 pgs.
Series: 2nd in the White House Chef Mystery series
Where & When: Thanksgiving, Washington, DC
Who: Olivia Paras, White House Executive Chef
In the second book, Ollie and the White House staff are preparing for the holiday season and the First Lady is playing matchmaker. The President’s single, good-looking nephew, Sam Sean Baxter, is visiting and Mrs. Campbell asks Ollie to convince Sam Sean to spend Thanksgiving at the White House. The First Lady is unaware of Ollie’s relationship with Secret Service Agent Tom MacKenzie, who is on the President’s security detail. Ollie is gratified to know that Mrs. Campbell thinks so highly of her, but she’s stumped on how to diplomatically tell the First Lady she’s not interested in Sam Sean and keep her relationship with Tom private.
A security incident occurs and Ollie is sequestered with Mrs. Campbell and Sam Sean until an all-clear is given. She learns that Mrs. Campbell’s business partners — and life-long friends — are pressuring her to agree to sell the company they jointly own. Sam Sean, as her financial adviser, is telling her she shouldn’t sell.
With Thanksgiving and the start of the official holiday season just days away, the staff can’t afford to be held up by security threats and bomb scares. Because of the latest incident, the staff has to attend mandatory Improvised Explosive Device (IED) recognition training. Ollie gets off on the wrong foot with the special agent-in-change, and he singles her out at the first meeting. His persistence in making sure she fully understands the gravity of the situation pays off later when Ollie stumbles upon something where it shouldn’t be.
The staff receives a blow to their morale when the head electrician is accidentally electrocuted. Ollie can’t believe a man as experienced as Gene was could have made such a careless mistake. She questions a friend who comes up with a theory on what may have happened, but none of the other staff electricians want to listen to her theory.
Then, on Thanksgiving day, the First Lady receives news that Sam Sean has committed suicide. Even knowing him for such such a short time, Ollie is convinced that he wasn’t suicidal. There’s no time for her to poke her nose into things, however. Even with the recent tragedy, most of the scheduled events will go on as planned. Ollie and the rest of the staff are busy as ever. Conversations she has overheard, and a letter addressed to her written by Sam Sean, point to the possibility that maybe he was eliminated by someone who wants the First Lady to sell the company her father co-founded. All of the other partners want the sale to happen, but one is having finical and legal troubles, and that may have led to the death of Mrs. Campbell’s father as well as Sam Sean.
I liked this book more than the first one, primarily because Ollie isn’t stubbornly putting her nose into things as much as she did in the first book, and she is more confident in her new position. There is still the occasional encounter with the jerk of a sensitivity director, but she is now an equal and he has no influence over her. She’s even better at handling Bucky, the snarky assistant chef and her second-in-command. Tom doesn’t get much time in this book, because of his job, but they are still a couple.
As for the who-done-it part, I thought it was a bit far-fetched. The real draw, for me, is Ollie and the staff. I’m not a foodie, but I loved reading about the behind-the-scenes preparations. Like the previous book, recipes for the food served by the staff are provided, including one for gingerbread men.
Started: 1 January 2009
Finished: 1 January 2009