Archives

Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak

by

Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak

Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak
Published by Black Opal Books on May 27, 2016
Source: Pump Up Your Book!
Genres: Thriller
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon
Add on Goodreads

In 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, cut a deal with the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.

Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano.

The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.

First a confession, I watch a lot of the Food Network, so I couldn’t pass up a “culinary thriller.” Friend of the Devil turned out to be a fun thriller full of drugs, sex and food. Not a bad combination.

David is a writer who first meets  Joseph Soderini di Avenzano while doing a story. He is then hired to write the famous chef’s biography and is summoned to the Chateau de la Mer, where the menu is amazing, the chef a brilliant, if often drugged-out, showman, and the hostess irresistible. Actually, that is my one complaint, how quickly David and Alessandra hook up. I guess they have to for the rest of the story, but it just seemed a little quick. Of course, everything at the Chateau is a little intense.

For me, it wasn’t a quick read. I’m not sure why exactly. The pacing was good and there was enough action to keep the story moving. I enjoyed the bits of history that Avenzano mused about. I guess maybe I just didn’t care about the characters. I think I was supposed to like David and be “rooting” for him, but I didn’t understand his obsession. It might just be me, though. It seems like it could be a page-turner for some people. It’s got all the right ingredients and it is a seasonal read. David heads to Florida for the winter, like so many people.

Overall, it’s a good thriller, and the food pushes it up a notch.

Excerpt:

Several years after the opening of Chateau de la Mer, the triumvirate of Avenzano,Walsh, and Ross appeared to be one big happy family, although there were rumors of strains in the relationship.

One night, at the height of the Festival of Champagne, there was an incident. Ross, a notorious womanizer, was sipping Cristal with a redhead at the restaurant’s corner table. His wife slipped through the front door of the mansion, unannounced. Walking slowly through the dining room, past the Medieval memorabilia and dramatic cast-iron griffins,she strolled up to Ross’s table, took a revolver from her evening bag, and calmly shot him through the heart.

The ensuing chaos did more to establish Joseph Soderini di Avenzano in the American imagination than his designer pasta, his Bedouin stuffed poussin, his recipes transposed from Etruscan or Old Genoese, or his library of ten thousand cookbooks.

This was more than a good meal, after all. This was sex and death in Palm Beach. Even more intriguing was the chef’s refusal to comment on Ross after his death, except for informal and effusive eulogies in his famous baritone.

“Watch that Cristal,” David’s friend Bill Grimaldi told him before he left Manhattan to do an assigned story on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Chateau de la Mer. “It’s a killer.”

About Mark Spivak

Mark Spivak is an award-winning author, specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants, and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, andwas honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 he has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, as well as the Food Editor for Palm Beach Illustrated; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on www.palmbeachillustrated.com. His work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. From 1999-2011 Spivak hosted Uncorked! Radio, a highly successful wine talk show on the Palm Beach affiliate of National Public Radio.

Spivak is the author of two non-fiction books: Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). Friend of the Devil is his first novel. He is currently working on a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq

Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

by
Curious Minds by  Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich, Phoef Sutton
Series: Knight and Moon #1
Published by Bantam on August 16, 2016
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Light Thriller
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Buy on Amazon
Add on Goodreads

Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moon thought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.

What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it.

Janet Evanovich can be hit and miss for me. I’m not sure which category Curious Minds falls into. I like Knight and Moon. He is over the top eccentric, but cute and funny. Moon follows the rules, usually, but ends of having to go along with Knight. They are a good couple, and the dialogue at times is laugh-out-loud funny, but I’m not quite buying the sparks yet. I think for the pair of them, this was a good first novel. I think I’ll enjoy them in later books, as long as the plot is a bit better.

The whole conspiracy in this one was just over the top. Brothers working together to steal money from the Federal Reserve and more or less control all the world’s economy, I think. The conspiracy reaches into the NSA and the Supreme Court. Maybe something like that could happen, but it stretched believability for me. It’s just too big for the wacko and side kick to deal with in a week. On the other hand, it is a quick read with plenty of twists and turns.

Curious Minds is definitely a light, summer kind of read. Parts are amusing, but it’s not as good as others I’ve read by the authors.

About Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Lizzy and Diesel series, twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels and Trouble Maker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, as well as the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg.

About Phoef Sutton

Phoef Sutton is a writer, producer, and novelist who has written for shows such as Cheers, News Radio, and Boston Legal. Sutton is also the winner of two Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold: Season One by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Ian Tregillis, Cassandra Rose Clarke, and Michael Swanwick

by
The Witch Who Came in from the Cold: Season One by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Ian Tregillis, Cassandra Rose Clarke, and Michael Swanwick The Witch Who Came In From The Cold: Season One by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Ian Tregillis, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Michael Swanwick
Published by Serial Box Publishing on June 1, 2016
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Spy Thriller
Pages: 382
Format: eARC
Buy on Amazon
Add on Goodreads

Through a haze of cigarettes and vodka there lies a version of Prague in the heart of the Cold War, where spies practice sorcery in their games of intrigue. While the political lines may be as clear as the Iron Curtain, the battles of magic seldom stay clean and the combating forces of Ice and Flame dance across borders and loyalties. Tanya Morozova is a KGB officer and the latest in a long of Ice sorceresses; Gabe Pritchard is a CIA officer and reluctant Ice recruit. Enemies at one turn, but forced into alliances at the next, their relationship is as explosive as the Cold War itself.

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold was first published weekly on Serial Box, although I read the whole first season as a collection. That means no waiting, but I think I might subscribe for Season 2 next year and read an episode a week, since in theory that’s the way it’s designed to be read.

This was a great mix of fantasy and espionage. Prague in the 1970s is in the midst of the Cold War, with spies from both sides keeping tabs on each other, trying to outwit each other, but there’s another war going on too, a war between Ice and Fire, and your ally in one might be your enemy in the other. Secrets and more secrets, stakeouts and safe houses, clandestine meetings and backroom negotiations. This episode centered around a scientist who was defecting from Russia to the US, but he also has great value for the sorcerers.

I like the world. It’s based in reality and adds on the magic, so we don’t have to really learn the world, more become familiar with the magic system. It doesn’t go much in-depth into how the system works, but I felt like I understood enough to follow the story.

The characters were well drawn, especially Gabe and Tanya. They are both conflicted, they have allegiances to their respective countries, but are also actually good people trying to do their best even when they know they don’t have all the information. They both have magical abilities and I think are more powerful than they have been allowed to show thus far. Actually, all the characters are good. There are things to admire/hate about most of them and several who I’m looking forward to learning more about in the next season.

It did take me a while to read. I enjoyed the story tremendously and liked the characters, but I didn’t feel drawn to pick it up. I think it may have something to do with it being episodes. Even though I didn’t notice the different writers often, the differences in their styles may have made it a bit disjointed, not as smooth as it could have been. Like I mentioned above, I’ll read next season weekly. I think I’ll be looking forward to the next installment. Overall, a great read for urban fantasy readers who enjoy a good spy novel. Hard-core espionage fans might be annoyed by the magic.

And the art at the beginning of each episode was pretty awesome, too.

About Cassandra Rose Clarke

Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a pair of local colleges. She holds an M.A. in creative writing from The University of Texas at Austin, and in 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. Her work has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults.

About Ian Tregillis

Ian Tregillis is the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych, Something More than Night, and the Alchemy Wars trilogy. His most current novel is The Rising (Alchemy Wars #2). His short fiction has appeared at numerous venues including Tor.com, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Popular Science. He lives in New Mexico, where he consorts with writers, scientists, and other disreputable types.

About Lindsay Smith

Lindsay Smith is the author of the YA espionage thrillers Sekret, Skandal, and Dreamstrider, all from Macmillan Children’s. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and dog, where she writes on international issues in cyber security.

About Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone has been thrown from a horse in Mongolia, drank almond milk with monks on Wudang Shan, and wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat. Max is also the author of the Craft Sequence of books about undead gods and skeletal law wizards—Full Fathom Five, Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, and Last First Snow. Max fools everyone by actually writing novels in the coffee shops of Davis Square in Somerville, MA. His dreams are much nicer than you’d expect.

About Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick has received the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy and Hugo Awards. He has written nine novels, 150 short stories, and countless flash fictions.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

%d bloggers like this: