29 June 2011

Just finished reading...

A Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettel.*

The concept of vampires moving openly in society (though of course, not in broad daylight) is a popular one in recent times. The idea that they might want to dine on something besides blood, whether real or synthetic, is not. In Sarah Zettel's world, vampires also find nourishment in broth, eggs and milk, and "haute noir" dining is starting to become popular. Menu items for the undead in our heroine Chef Charlotte Caine's restaurant include chicken-miso broth, pumpkin soup with a foamed raw veal sauce (or crème fraiche for humans), and a Special Blend sangria.

Charlotte and her undead brother Chet have recently started the after-dark restaurant they call "Nightlife", and on the evening that we meet them, a vamp food critic by the name of Anatole Sevarin has unexpectedly come in. Charlotte is, of course, excited and nervous, so she is understandably vexed when one of the human customers complains about her meal and asks to see the chef.

After a sequence of events during which a young warlock (male witches are called warlocks in this world - hey, it's her world, she can call them what she wants!) enters and unsuccessfully tries to get the fussing woman to leave with him, then throws a fireball and sets off the sprinkler system, Charlotte looks around to find that the critic has vanished.

Returning the next morning after a visit to the farmer's market, Charlotte is somewhat surprised to find the corpse of the warlock lying inside the door. Charlotte takes this personally, since as the scene of a murder, her restaurant will be closed for an unspecified length of time. Since she has nothing else to do, Charlotte decides to find out who killed Dylan Maddox and why he was left in her restaurant.

This is a fine addition to the new-ish mystery genre of "paranormal cozies". It's easy to identify with Charlotte, and not just because the story is written in the first person from her point of view. Zettel is very good at putting the reader into the chef's skin, while at the same time, providing enough perspective to notice things that she doesn't.

The book includes a preview of the next in the series, Let Them Eat Stake, due in April 2012, but no recipes for vamp-friendly cuisine.

*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher, who sent me a copy of the book for review purposes.

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