Thursday, February 27, 2020

Al Dente's Inferno by Stephanie Cole

Welcome!  It is hard to believe that February is almost over.  There are some wonderful new books coming out in March.  The list includes The Crow's Call by Wanda E. Brunstetter (Amish Greenhouse Mystery), Am Amish Picnic by Amy Clipston, Vannetta Chapman, Kelly Irvin and Kathleen Fuller, Lavender Blue Murder by Laura Childs, Mouse of Cards by Erin Johnson, The Happy Camper by Melody Carlson, and Revenge is Sweet by Kaye George.  I have twenty-nine books I am scheduled to read and review for March (wish me luck).  Now for your pun--I am reading a novel about anti-gravity.  It is impossible to put down!
The best viewpoints in Tuscany for snapping postcard-worthy photos. #italy #tuscany #travel #traveltips
Al Dente’s Inferno by Stephanie Cole has Nell Valenti relocating to Tuscany.  Nell has been hired by her culinary hero, Chef Claudio Orlandini to take his small farm-to-table cooking school and make it a premiere cooking school that will attract a larger clientele especially American’s.  She is surprised upon arrival to see that nothing has been done to the aging villa.  There is to be a launch dinner the next evening and it will take all hands on deck if they are to make splash.  It does not help that Nell speaks minimal Italian.  Chef Orlandini seems more focused on bocce ball and truffle hunting than on the cooking school (plus his appearance needs as much work as the villa).  Nell garners the troops (nuns from a nearby convent) and sets about preparing for the launch dinner.  They are also expecting a filmmaker who will be making a documentary will be used to help advertise the culinary school.  Nell gets a shock when she discovers that the filmmaker is her former boyfriend (much to her mortification).  He treats everyone terribly until Nell gives him a kick in behind.  That night the filmmaker is found dead and Chef Orlandini is missing which makes him the prime suspect.  The cooking school could be over before it begins if Nell does not sniff out the killer.
Annamaria Bari--the "sous chef"
Al Dente’s Inferno by Stephanie Cole is the beginning of A Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series.  I enjoyed the word imagery of the Tuscan countryside and the dilapidated Orlandini villa.  I had to laugh when Nell found mold and a critter in the public rooms.  Nell thought she was just upgrading a farm-to-table cooking school.  Instead, it seems she is starting from scratch.  Unfortunately, the launch dinner for the local dignitaries is the next evening.  Then someone kills the filmmaker which could put the kibosh on the cooking school before it opens.  While I enjoyed the Italian setting, I was not a fan of the multiple Italian words and phrases in the story.  Some of them are explained, but many of them are not.  I quickly tired of them as it disrupted the flow of the story plus I had no clue what they meant (unless I used the translation feature on my e-book).  The clichés were another annoyance (way too many).  I believe they were meant to be humorous.  There are some interesting characters in the story, but I found background information to be lacking.  I thought Al Dente’s Inferno was a slow starter.  The murder does not occur until you are a third of the way into the story (way too late).  If you are a frequent reader of cozy mysteries, you will have already identified the killer by the time the dufus (i.e. the filmmaker and Nell’s ex-boyfriend) turns up dead.  There are good clues to aid readers in solving the crime and I liked Nell’s approach to the investigation.  It was straightforward with a Jessica Fletcher type reveal at the end.  I liked that most of the focus of Al Dente’s Inferno was on cooking and the whodunit.  I did not like when it delved into a new romantic interest for Nell.  Considering her recent breakup and taste in men, Nell needs to wait before diving into a new romantic relationship (she needs to keep her focus on the school).  I did enjoy Nell’s snarky comments.  Al Dente’s Inferno could have used a little more work before it was published (in my personal opinion).  Al Dente’s Inferno has a crumbling cloister, a pesky porcupine, a curious conveyance, mouthwatering meals, and a frustrating filmmaker.
The olive harvest in Italy (near Rome)
Pete's Olive Grove
Al Dente's Inferno is available in e-book and paperback*.  I appreciate you stopping by today.  I will be back tomorrow as part of the Great Escapes Virtual Book tour to review On the Lamb by Tina Kashian.  It is the fourth novel in A Kebab Kitchen Mystery series.  I hope you have a captivating day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
Girl Reading Under Birch Trees on a Hillside. Alexander Köster (German, 1864-1932). Oil on canvas. Köster’s work shows a consistent development from a very realistic, detailed account in the 1890s to an ever freer, more generous painting style of the...
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