Author: Julia Buckley
Genre(s): Mystery| Cozy
Page length: 304 pages
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Author's website: http://www.juliabuckley.com/
Caterer and cook Lilah Drake is up to her elbows in deadly trouble in the latest mystery from the author of The Big Chili... The Christmas holidays are one of Lilah’s favorite times of the year, filled with friends, family, and, of course, tons of food orders for her Covered Dish clients. But Lilah’s Yuletide cheer ends when she sees a most Grinch-like crime: the murder of a Santa in a school parking lot. It turns out the deceased Kris Kringle was a complicated tangle of naughty and nice, with a long list of people who might have wanted him dead. And whoever did the deed wants to make sure that Lilah keeps quiet. Now, Lilah will have to team up with her former fling, Detective Jay Parker, to unwrap the mysteries of a deadly Christmas killer and stay alive long enough to ring in the New Year... Goodreads
The second book in the Undercover Dish series (first book reviewed here) continues the adventures of Lilah Drake and her frustrating love interest, Detective Jay Parker. I didn't care much for his character in the first book, and though he's got more of a personality now, I'm still not sold on him. However, the wider cast of characters are much more complex and interesting.
The book opens up with Lilah dropping off a delivery for her friend Jenny, a teacher at the local elementary school. It's the school holiday party, complete with a Christmas clown (yeah, I don't know what that is either) and jolly old Saint Nicholas. Lilah is feeling down after her fall out with Jay, and chats up St. Nick on a whim. Santa is oddly philosophical (which was initially very off-putting until I found out more about his character), but gives Lilah a bit of a pep talk and she leaves feeling a bit better. Until she sees Santa being gunned down in the school parking lot, that is. The sole witness to the crime, Lilah has to go into hiding and cooperate with her ex-fling if she wants to make it through the holidays.
Most of the tension of the first book was due to the fact that Lilah's side business caters to those who either don't have the time or skill to cook, but still want to be known as a great cook to those in their circle. Her client list is completely confidential, and the main source of conflict was whether or not her secret would come out. It's not a factor in this second book, which I found rather odd, but there's still plenty of tension as some of the danger directed towards Lilah starts hitting a little closer to home.
A very enjoyable read and great addition to the series.
Final bite: Good food, good fun, and murder. What more do you want in a holiday read? Recommended.