Sloane Templeton is into computers, not books. But she’s recently inherited her mother’s bookstore, so in honor of her mom, she’s giving it a go. Dealing with the aftermath of her mom’s death hasn’t been easy so far. A real estate company keeps harassing her to sell the store, and her bookstore manager, Fifi, keeps saying that her mother should have left the store to her. Then there’s the zany group of senior citizens who come in for their weekly book club but never seem to read books, and Barbara, the odd woman Sloane finds sleeping in the parking lot, who is anxious about everything, cries at the drop of a hat, and claims to be an author. Oh --- and the toughest part of all --- dealing with Aunt Verlene, the world’s most dangerous chef.
On the other hand, Sloane’s personal life couldn’t be better. Forget about her past rotten choices in men, including a slimy ex-husband and an abusive ex-boyfriend who is currently stalking her. This time, she has caught a keeper. Yep, Andreas is a gorgeous Greek keeper in the sea of throwbacks.
"With her unique voice, skillful storytelling and witty writing, debut author Bonnie Calhoun has proven herself as an author to watch. I personally look forward to the next Sloane Templeton mystery and trust it will be every bit as enjoyable as the first."
Then Sloane starts receiving cyber-threats at the store, with messages flashing across her computer screen saying, “Need to listen!” and “Get out of town or die!” At first she chalks it up to pranks by harmless college kids. But when she finds out that her mother purchased a book before her death that is now worth millions, Sloane can’t help thinking it has more to do with that. But will she be able to figure it out before the culprit makes good on his threats?
COOKING THE BOOKS reads like a comedy. From the very first page, it’s clear that the reader is in for a fun ride. There are lots of memorable one-liners and phrases, such as, “Good googa-mooga” and “Red Velvet hips.” The characters are fresh and well-defined, especially the three main ones --- Sloane, Fifi and Verlene --- who are like a slapstick tag-team, each providing plenty of comical moments. Verlene could be compared to an African American Lucy Ricardo. And every time feisty Fifi (my favorite character) entered a scene, I couldn’t help picturing the hilarious Wanda Sykes. As for Sloane, she possesses a spunky strength that’s irresistible, and you can’t help but fall in love with her. Yes, you sometimes want to clunk her upside the head for some of the choices she makes. Yes, she’s sassy, sarcastic and rough around the edges. But that’s exactly why she’s so endearing.
The plot is well done, despite the fact that it takes a while to get to the meat of the mystery. Still, the story is certainly entertaining enough until then. Once it gets going, there are a few unexpected twists and turns along the way. The faith element is also there, but subtly woven throughout.
With her unique voice, skillful storytelling and witty writing, debut author Bonnie Calhoun has proven herself as an author to watch. I personally look forward to the next Sloane Templeton mystery and trust it will be every bit as enjoyable as the first. Overall, COOKING THE BOOKS is funny and fast-paced, with lots of grit and plenty of entertainment --- the perfect recipe for a good book.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on September 19, 2012