Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award-Arsenic and Adobo

Award

  • Who: Eleanor Taylor Bland, an African-American pioneer of crime fiction
  • What: for an emerging woman of color crime writer
  • When: annually since 2014
  • Prize: a $2000 grant- “This grant is intended to support the recipient in crime fiction writing and career development activities.”- from the sister’s in crime website
  • Other winners: https://www.sistersincrime.org/page/eleanor-bland-past-winners

Novel

Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #1) is written by Mia P. Manansala, a Filipina-American author. I was drawn to this book because of the title. I grew up in Hawai’i where there are a lot of Filipinos so of course I know about their chicken adobo. Fun fact: Filipinos are the fastest growing minority in Hawai’i.

The novel was too cheesy for me but I appreciated the diversity of the characters. It is something that needs to happen more often and Manansala does a wonderful job. There are Filipinos of course, but also Koreans, Pakistani-Muslims, Japanese, and Mexicans. She also has a queer character. If you want a fun and quick read this isn’t a terrible way to go. The mystery is very good and I had no idea who the murderer was until the very end but I’m not sure everyone will think the same.

I feel like it is important to talk about the genre of this novel as well. It is called a Cozy Mystery and I had never heard about it until I decided to read Arsenic and Adobo. I’m very glad I encountered it because it was part of the point of creating this project: to learn more about writing and literature. Wikipedia has a great page on what a cozy mystery is if you want to learn more. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cozy_mystery

The definition I found in Wikipedia is exactly what this book is. According to their page, a cozy mystery is “a sub genre of crime fiction in which sex and violence occur off stage, the detective is an amateur sleuth, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.” The main character Lila is the amateur sleuth along with her family and best friend. The community is a small town called Shady Palms and it is her ex-boyfriend whom the community knows very well that is murdered (he drops dead while they are arguing.) It goes even beyond a regular cozy mystery into what I will call a sub-sub-genre: the culinary cozy mystery. This novel has lots of descriptions of food and the main character works in her family’s restaurant. There are also recipes at the end which I’ve heard is common in these types of books. Another friend told me about a different culinary cozy series that takes place in Key West (the Key West Food Critic Mystery Series) in case you want to read others like this to tide you over until the second mystery in this series comes out.

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