Robin Allen, If You Can’t Stand the Heat

Posted April 20, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

If You Can't Stand the HeatIf You Can’t Stand the Heat by Robin Allen
Series: Poppy Markham, Culinary Cop, 1
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First in the Poppy Markham, Culinary Cop mystery series revolving around Poppy who is fascinated by food with a deep appreciation for it and a good red wine.

My Take
This was good! Allen writes a good story with an interesting cast and a heroine who doesn’t take the easy, or expected, path. I almost want to say this was an intellectual book, but, in reality, it’s simply good writing with an obvious background working in restaurants and bars. Allen takes us behind the scenes in this mystery and we learn the nitty-gritty and the pain of working in a commercial kitchen. Allen provides Poppy with enough psychological issues, but also with a determination to make her own way and a good bit of the tease with her estranged boyfriend and her hot and cold neighbors.

There’s a bit of the village in this as everyone in the food business knows everyone else. It takes Poppy’s persistence and Jamie’s savvy to dig through to a truth that is most unexpected. I love that what they discover will impact so many!

You may not want to read the pages on food inspection too closely if you have too active an imagination…

The Story
After an extensive remodel, Markham’s is opening its doors again with the French Fox headlining as the celebrity chef. The fact that he doesn’t actually do any cooking and has most of the kitchen staff, including her stepsister Ursula, ready to carve him up…does not bode well when Évariste is found with Ursula’s knife in him.

Nina nags Poppy into investigating and she teams up with her old boyfriend Jamie as they discover layers and layers of possibilities as well as betrayals.

The Characters
Poppy Markham started out in the kitchen of her father’s restaurant, Markham’s. But she couldn’t take that sort of heat and she’s “betrayed” the family and moved over into public health inspection. Her dad, Mitch, understands but is still hoping to lure her back. Her stepmother Nina would prefer Poppy simply didn’t exist. Jamie Sherwood is Poppy’s ex-boyfriend and he runs a highly respected foodie website. He’s also hoping to get back together with Poppy.

Ursula is her stepsister and in charge of the kitchen at Markham’s. She thinks. Évariste Bontecou, a.k.a., the French Fox, is the celebrity chef who seems to have his claws in a lot more than Poppy suspected; his wife BonBon is not one of his fans. Will is the new general manager for the restaurant with some interesting friends and new habits. Trevor is the current sous chef with an eye to get ahead. Belize is one of the waitstaff.

Olive is Poppy’s micro-managing boss. Poppy’s neighbors are John-With and John-Without Hair. It’s an interesting couple who loves to rehab houses and run an art gallery that is achieving renown.

The Cover
It’s a brightly tiled kitchen wall in orange, yellows and teal greens with a 20-gallon stock pot simmering over open flames. The heat is on…

…and If You Can’t Stand the Heat, you’re in the wrong book!

View all my reviews

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