Arsenic and Adobo by author Mia P. Manansala is a cozy mystery featuring a murder to solve, a band of gossip-loving aunties, and plenty of nods to life as a 2nd generation Filipino-American. A whodunit paired with comfort foods and absurdly relatable references to Fil-Am culture? SOLD!
In an enjoyable and briskly paced read (think speed-walk, not sprint), we follow heroine Lila as she strives to clear her name of suspicion in the murder of her ex-boyfriend Derek. Sure, he died at her family’s restaurant, and yeah, maybe the supposed poisoning happened right after she served him lunch. But she and her family are innocent, and it’s a race against the official police investigation to not just keep them out of prison, but to save their restaurant, too.
For what I like to call a palate cleanser between heavier reads, Arsenic and Adobo will hit the spot, just like a freshly baked piece of pan de sal smothered in butter. The Macapagal family appears to favor cheese and coconut spread, but I’m on team butter!
Psst! Arsenic and Adobo was an April 2021 Book of the Month pick, which means members had the opportunity to snag this book a solid month ahead of its May 4, 2021 publication date! Get your first month of BOTM for just $5 (and get access to early releases like this) when you sign up through my referral link here: Join BOTM 🎉🎉🎉
The interspersion of Taglish dialogue from the characters was a delight. As a first-generation Filipino-American immigrant whose first language was Tagalog, I felt so seen! (Though I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone say Oh My Gulay as often as Lila does in the book— or ever, really— in any manner other than to be ironically baduy.)
Aside from very specific cultural references that paint the picture of life as a Filipino-American, Lila (pronounced LEE-lah, not LIE-lah, by the way) and the other folks in this novel aren’t the most nuanced or layered characters you’ll come across. However, the author makes up for this lack of dimension with an adequately engaging plot and a surprisingly complex mystery. This beach-worthy read is definitely more about the charming surprises and curious revelations than it is about world-building or depth-of-persona.
As for romance, the author sets us up for a love triangle, which will undoubtedly play a part in the upcoming books in Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery Series. Will she end up with sweet and open Jae, or will sparks finally fly with the cool and competent Amir? (Her titas sure have their opinions.) We’ll just have to read the next installment in Manansala’s series to find out! I’m looking forward to reading more about the Macapagal family’s antics, investigations, and oh-so-yummy eats.
P.S. Arsenic and Adobo contains a few Filipino recipes at the end of the book, and I can’t wait to see which treats and dishes Manansala adds to the rest of the series!
Content Warning (via the author — source): fatphobia, drug abuse, evidence planting, police intimidation, (implied) domestic violence, racism
Where to find Arsenic and Adobo
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
*Note that this book is published in a Paperback, with the exception of the Book of the Month edition, which is a hardcover edition.