Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review: Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy

Buffalo West Wing (Book 4, White House Chef Mystery)
by Julie Hyzy
Release Date: January 4, 2011
2011 Berkley Prime Crime
Trade Paperback Edition; 310 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-425-23923-0
Genre: Murder / Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5

With a new First Family moving into the White House, executive chef Olivia Paras can't afford to make any mistakes.  But when a mysterious box of take-out chicken shows up for the First Kids, she soon finds herself in a no-wing situation...

No way is Ollie handing over a suspicious box os barbecue chicken wings to Abigail and Josh Hyden, children of the country's new commander-in-chief and her new boss.  With no clue who provided the culinary gifts for the kids, Ollie's not about to put them at risk.

Wit the First Lady giving her the cold shoulder for her decision, and the family's personal chef being brought in, Ollie starts to fear she may be plucked from the White House staff.  When it turns out the chicken was poisoned, Ollie realizes the First Kids are targets - and she'll need more than a wing and a prayer to keep them out of harm's way...

My Thoughts
I really enjoyed this latest installment of the White House Chef Mystery series and read the entire book in one sitting.  Olivia Paras is the executive chef of the White House kitchen and as always, I find the behind-the-scenes workings of the White House to be absolutely fascinating.  Ollie and her loyal kitchen assistants have access to quite a list of interesting people including a variety of Secret Service Agents, the Social Secretary and a variety of assistants, and the President and First Lady and the First Kids.  I don't think I really gave too much thought as to what it would be like to be a First Kid until I read this novel and the limitations and restrictions would be claustrophobic after a while.  Those poor kids couldn't go anywhere without bodyguards and Secret Service Agents everywhere.

The action starts up almost immediately when Ollie comes across a suspicious box of chicken wings, and trouble also starts for her when she makes the decision not to serve the wings to the First Kids, a safety issue that is not completely understood by the First Family and causes trouble for Ollie.  When a variety of the White House staffers get sick after eating the chicken wings, and become hostages at the local hospital, Ollie suspects something much more dire may be afoot.  Despite her suspicions, she is still shunned due to the chicken wing episode and a new chef is brought in to make the family meals while Ollie is relegated to working only on state dinners.  And here is where the real fireworks began.  The interactions between competing chefs was marvelous and I enjoyed every minute of the interplay between Virgil and Ollie.  

One of the things I really enjoy about Ms. Hyzy's work is her writing style.  The lyrical writing, the banter between her characters, and the witty dialogue makes the novel interesting and fun, and I never know what is going to happen, which adds an element of suspense and mystery.   Ollie is such an interesting character, strong yet at the same time vulnerable, that I connected with her almost immediately and want her to succeed and do well.  I really felt her pain and discomfort when the other chef was brought in and she thought she might be losing her job as executive chef.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who wanted to bop Virgil with a frying pan!! And her date with the other famous chef was hilarious if at the same time embarrassing, and I felt very embarrassed along with her.   There was little romance in this novel, although the set-up for a possible and interesting new romance for Ollie for the next book is definitely there and I can't wait to see how that develops. 

If you are a budding chef, each of the White House Chef Mystery novels comes with a series of recipes included in the back of the book, recipes that were mentioned in the novel.  In this novel, there is a section for kid-friendly recipes that include tzatziki, chicken souvlaki, fried chicken strips, and green beans with bacon bits and blanched almonds.  For the adults, I was salivating over the descriptions of the Nantucket sea scallops and the mixed berry cobbler, both of which are also included in the novel.  I am planning on trying both tonight.

Buffalo West Wing was a charming addition to the White House Chef Mystery series.  After visiting Washington, D.C. for the first time this past summer, this book held more meaning for me as I could visualize the places Ollie and Cyan went to and I could visualize the area surrounding the White House.  I really enjoyed the research and the descriptions that went into the scenes describing the making of the state dinners and some of the other events as it gave me more of an idea of life behind the scenes.   The action and pacing move quickly and keeps you interested from beginning to end.  I am looking forward to the next installment of the adventures of Olivia Paras.


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