Blackmail and Bibingka
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Author Mia P. Manansala has infused her latest book, Blackmail and Bibingka, with diverse characters, a death, an amateur sleuth, and some suspense.
There’s a focus on food, family, and friends. This cozy mystery features Lila Macapagal, owner of the Brew-ha Café with her friends and business partners Adeena Awan and Elena Torres. The story is set in Shady Palms, Illinois and takes place near Christmastime. It’s the third book in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series.
As the Brew-ha Café and the family restaurant, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen, prepare for the town’s winter bash as well as their own holiday celebrations, Lila’s cousin and Tita Rosie’s son, Ronnie, returns to town after 15 years. He and his business partners have bought the old Shady Grove Winery and plan to operate it. However, Ronnie has always meant trouble. When a death occurs and Ronnie is one of the murder suspects, Lila goes into sleuth mode for her family’s sake and starts investigating.
This novel contains characters with a variety of ethic and cultural backgrounds as well as those of different faiths. They have their flaws just as we do. Lila’s family comes from the Philippines so there are lots of Filipino foods and terms. A handy glossary is included at the beginning of the book so be sure to bookmark it. The characterization is well done. Readers get well-developed main and reoccurring characters as well as secondary and tertiary characters. If you enjoy cute dogs that like to dress up, then Longganisa (Nisa) and Poe will steal your heart.
This book has a solid plot with some twists and turns. This novel is creative and it will keep readers guessing. Family, friendship, family dynamics, starting over, lies, secrets, jealousy, romances, helping others, and food are at the heart of this story. While it’s descriptive, it doesn’t slow down the pace. There are references to previous cases that Lila has been involved in, but there aren’t any details so there didn’t seem to be any spoilers if one reads this book first. However, I recommend reading the series in order. My one quibble was that the final chapter was somewhat rushed and was more telling than showing.
Overall, this engaging mystery has great characterization as well as some intense moments that kept me turning the pages. Those who enjoy cozy mysteries with diverse characters, great food, and a subplot of budding romances will likely enjoy this book. At the end of the book are several recipes for items mentioned in the book. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.
Berkley Publishing Group and Mia P. Manansala provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for October 4, 2022.
More Cozy Mysteries
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What is cozy crime?
Cozy Mystery History
The Evolution of the Cozy Mystery Genre
Amateur Detectives in the Clergy
The Appeal of the Cleric as Amateur Sleuth