Arsenic and Adobo is a cozy mystery that will keep you on your toes and make you really hungry
In Arsenic and Adobo, Lila Macapagal is at a rough point in her life. She just came back to the small town of Shady Palms, Illinois, where she grew up, after spending years in Chicago working toward her dream of owning her own cafe. She’s back to help her tita (aunt) and grandmother save the family business. The restaurant hasn’t been doing that great after her ex-boyfriend, Derek, started writing scathing reviews of the Filipino eatery. Fortunately for Lila, the timing for that trip back kinda worked since she had recently walked in on her fiancée getting friendly with their neighbors.
The story goes from the perfect Hallmark rom-com to Lifetime mystery when Lila’s high school sweetheart collapses and dies in the middle of dessert. Because it happens at their restaurant, Lila becomes the prime (and only) suspect.
So we embark with Lila on the journey to prove her innocence. Along the way, we meet delightful, well-rounded characters and enjoy the most delicious descriptions of Filipino dishes. In her quest to identify other people Derek (the town food critic) might’ve wronged, Lila takes us on a diverse and entertaining food tour that will leave you with all kinds of cravings and inspiration to get creative in the kitchen. That’s one of the most beautiful things about this book— Manansala wrote a book that explores and celebrates diversity and multiculturalism in a fun and heartwarming way.
I also loved and found comfort in the many Filipino language and culture references that closely resemble my Caribbean upbringing. Because the Philippines was a Spanish colony for hundreds of years, many Spanish words are part of their native language, Tagalog. But it wasn’t only about the longganisa, meryendas, and ensaymadas, in Lila’s world, friends are family, everybody is always in your business, and they all live on “brown people time” (always late). Most importantly, they all drink coffee at all times of the day. Welcome to my life.
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala is a dynamic and lighthearted murder mystery you will not want to put down. It’s, I’m sure, one of the best stay-in-bed-all-day-reading books you will have the pleasure of reading this year.