Raise your hand if you love a good holiday cozy mystery?! I’m a huge cozy mystery reader but around the holidays is when I make an except! Also if there is food featured, you can count me in!
The newest installment in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Series by Mia Manansala is Blackmail & Bibingka. It’s Christmas time and Tita Rosie’s estranged son Ronnie is back & while Tita Rosie is over the moon, Lila and the rest of the crew are skeptical. When one of Ronnie’s newest investors is found murdered, Lila and Brew Ha crew are on the hunt (again) for a murderer.
All our usual characters are back but the aunties antics felt less over the top, which was a plus for me. I love a good dysfunctional family story, but I don’t like when the support character’s antics end up overshadowing the story or our main characters. Lila’s character seems to have grown quite a bit as well, and I was happy to see that she’s a bit smarter when it comes to hunting down murderers. AKA, doesn’t just run into situations without preparing for them.
I enjoyed Arsenic and Adobo. I thought it was cute, if not a bit predictable. Homicide and Halo-Halo was a bit over the top and just a little bit too unrealistic for my taste. I was really on the fence about continuing on to the third book in the series, but I honestly think it’s my favorite in the series so far. The mystery element in this third installment was also a more complex than our last murder, which bumped this up in the ratings for me. It even took me about half the book to zero in on our suspect.
But you know what my favorite thing about this series is?? The fact that I can practically smell the food in this book. I love learning about cultures & especially learning about the food. For some people food may have been mentioned one too many times, but not for me. Manansala literally knocks food descriptions out of the park, so be warned you will get hungry.
My only complaint was that while the story takes place during the Christmas season, which makes this a holiday read, but I felt that was the most forgettable part of the story. This whole story could have been put into pretty much any season without a substantial change to the plot line. I did enjoy learning more about traditional Filipino Christmas food, but I could have used a little more of a holiday atmosphere to really tie everything together more.
If you enjoy Dial A for Aunties or The Fortunes of Jaded Women, then the Tito Rosie’s Kitchen Series is perfect for you!
Blackmail and Bibingka is out now! Huge thank you to Berkley Books for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof.books.
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