Do you know how excited I got when I saw there are recipes in the back of this book? Very. I got very excited.
In Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala, Lila Macapagal has been down on her luck lately, and so has returned to her small hometown to help her aunt and grandmother run their Filipino restaurant. But when a food blogger who’s infamous for eviscerating the local small businesses (and who happens to be Lila’s ex-boyfriend) suddenly dies in their restaurant, things take a turn for the worse. Lila finds herself the prime suspect in his death, but she is determined to prove her innocence. So with the help of her friends and family, she sets out to investigate the case herself.
I honestly didn’t need to read much more than the title to know I wanted to read this book, and it didn’t disappoint!
Lila is spirited and stubborn, but in a likeable way. Watching her butt heads with Detective Park and struggle to navigate both the investigation and her own personal drama, really makes you root for her. I also really liked many of the other characters, especially Jae, Adeena, and of course the dog Longganisa!
This isn’t the most in-depth murder mystery I’ve ever read, but it’s a wonderful light read, with enough realism and detail to make it a lot of fun. The stakes are pretty high, and some of the subject matter (like drug trafficking and of course murder) are pretty serious, but Manansala never weighs the narrative down too much. It’s a cozy mystery, after all, and it really works as one.
The best part of this book, though, for me was definitely the food. Sure, the mystery is interesting and the characters’ banter is often tons of fun, but this book is clearly written by someone who has a passion for food, especially Filipino cuisine. I loved getting to learn about it, and watch Lila visit other restaurants around town. Should I have been hungry while reading about murder? Maybe not, but oh well.
In the end, Arsenic and Adobo is a delight. Though it isn’t a ground-breaking mystery, the plot is well paced and the culprit’s motive makes sense. The characters are witty and diverse, the settings vibrant, and the relationships between people are complex and well-written. If you’re looking for a light read with some excellent representation, look no further.
Overall rating: 8.6/10