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Arsenic and Adobo: A Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery


Arsenic and Adobo: A Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery

In Mia P. Manansala’s ARSENIC AND ADOBO, Lila Macapagal’s life is in a bit of chaos. She has just endured a horrible break-up and moved back home to help her aunt with her struggling restaurant, which probably wouldn’t be failing so badly if it wasn’t for Derek Winter, a local food critic who seems to have a vendetta against several restaurants in Shady Palms, but especially Tita Rosie’s. And oh, he happens to be Lila’s high school not-so-sweet-anymore sweetheart.

But her life becomes much more chaotic when Derek drops dead in the middle of their restaurant, and the local police suspect Lila and her family of murder. With the help of her aunties, her barista best friend Adeena, and her dachshund Longganisa, Lila must solve the murder and clear her name --- but the case gets more complicated the more she investigates. There are quite a few shady happenings going on in Shady Palms.

"Expect multiple twists, a layered plot, and a light, fun and compassionate read centered on family, community and food."

I love how Manansala gives us a Filipino-American cozy, balancing diaspora tension with humor, romance and mystery. As a Fil-Am reader, we deserve this shape of joy, too. We deserve to be heroes across genres. While I love and deeply need the explorations of Filipino and Filipino-American identity through literary fiction, I’m also so grateful to find representation across the bookshelf. We deserve to witness our families and cultures through the mediums of mystery and humor, too, and Manansala does it so well. She weaves a compelling, propulsive murder mystery that’s specifically Fil-Am, and it’s so cathartic to get to see so much of myself and my family in Lila --- except for the murdered food critic ex-boyfriend, of course.

I loved so much of this adventure, and my favorite part is the characters, Lila most of all. She’s allowed to be messy --- in fact, she’s often a bit of a disaster, but that doesn’t make her any less capable. Manansala writes her with nuance, compassion and complexity, making her feel very relatable. Lila makes assumptions she has to learn to check, makes mistakes, and has miscommunications with her best friends. She has a lot to balance --- between her family, her love life and the multiple attacks within Shady Palms --- and reads so real throughout the novel.

But of course, the true star is the food! Lila prides herself on her baking skills, and her titas excel at their cooking. The novel brims with her innovative Fil-Am recipes and their tried-and-true dishes, making for a mouthwatering reading experience despite all the murder. Definitely plan to make or order Filipino food while reading, because Manansala’s writing will make you crave it. I did! Don’t worry, Manansala has us covered --- she includes several recipes in the back, and I look forward to trying them all.

Expect multiple twists, a layered plot, and a light, fun and compassionate read centered on family, community and food. There are so many characters I did have to remind myself at one point who did what, but certainly not so much that it was distracting, and they’re written with care. I believe part of this is because ARSENIC AND ADOBO is the first installment in a series, so Manansala is setting up her cast for ensuing novels, and I’m excited to read more about all of them.

Full of heart, delectable dishes and just enough danger to keep you guessing, this Fil-Am cozy is a hit, and I’m so looking forward to returning to Shady Palms.

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on May 14, 2021

Arsenic and Adobo: A Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery
by Mia P. Manansala

  • Publication Date: May 4, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0593201671
  • ISBN-13: 9780593201671