Fans of mystery stories which pepper recipes and food references into the overall saga will appreciate the focus in Battered, Book One of the ‘Whipped and Sipped Mysteries’ series which features Alene Baron, owner of the vegetarian café Whipped and Sipped. Forced to turn amateur detective when her friend is murdered, Alene finds herself moving from being the owner of a trendy Chicago neighborhood establishment to being an uncertain sleuth who faces personal danger from her investigation.
The first thing to note is that this story is steeped not just in culinary insights, but in a focus on healthy pursuits, as a young entrepreneur faces her days: “Alene woke up groggy. She wiped her eyes with the corner of her pajama top and dragged herself out of bed at five, as usual. Through the front windows, the sky billowed lighter where the sun was about to rise over the lake. She was somewhat revived by her morning glass of apple-cider-vinegar-and-honey spiked water. After that, she pulled on shorts and a t-shirt and headed down to run on the lake path before her children or father got up. Alene was only responsible for opening the café on Saturdays. Most other days, her employees took turns opening, and she worked out or ran before going in. She could usually count on Jocelyn, who’d served in the military and was used to waking up at the crack of dawn.”
Alene’s focus on eating and cooking healthy, working out, and maintaining physical fitness and mental acuity enhances her ability to move beyond her familiar job and into realms of investigative thinking and problem-solving.
A crazy person is on the loose, and she’s personally threatened, but life—and business pursuits—goes on: “He didn’t have to speak to her as if she were a child, she thought glumly. She turned away, instead of admiring Frank’s muscular back and confident stride. She sat down and added him to her speed dial after her father, Ruthie, Lydia, and Brianne. Grabbing an apple from the counter, she headed to her office. It was the end of the month and she had to finish ordering and to work on payroll.”
This juxtaposition of investigative avenues and personal and business objectives creates an excellent, involving read that holds more realistic scenarios than most competing culinary mysteries. Alene attempts to maintain her family and its foundations even during the course of her new tasks, and this makes for excellent added value to a story in which the protagonist is only too human, juggling too much already and hardly needing to embark on a new career, as well.
Readers looking for mysteries well steeped in both culinary traditions and realistic conflicts between career and family will relish this multifaceted investigative piece, which draws readers in from the start with its realistic balance of intrigue and life challenges.
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