Olivia “Ollie” Paras, now executive chef at the White House after her adventures in State of the Onion, returns for the holiday season in Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy. Called to see the First Lady to discuss plans for Thanksgiving, the Secret Service speeds in and rushes Ollie; the First Lady, Mrs. Campbell; and her nephew, Sean Baxter, to the bunker for protection because they’ve found a suspicious device. During the long wait, Ollie becomes privy to the First Lady’s personal business issue, whether to sell a business that she and three other people have inherited from their parents. The Thanksgiving dinner will be attended by the partners, all three of whom are eager for her to sell and putting the pressure on hard. Sean who has served as the First Lady’s advisor in this issue, is the only one to disagree with the decision to sell. With the Secret Service’s all-clear, Ollie returns to the kitchen to work on plans for the major events coming up for the holiday season at the White House. However, soon, the kitchen staff hear a loud thud, and Ollie finds the chief electrician lying electrocuted next to a power box. The other electricians just assume this was due to a careless mistake, but Ollie is not so sure.
Soon after this, as one of the department heads, Ollie gets sent to a meeting in which she learns that the suspicious device has been an inactivated improvised explosive device and that all White House employees must go through special training to learn to identify suspicious items.
But when Thanksgiving arrives, the guests assemble for dinner, but Sean does not. As the members of the kitchen staff worry about the food’s getting cold from the wait, the news arrives that Sean has been found dead, shot in the head. Many assume he committed suicide, but once again, Ollie has her suspicions.
The book is not as intense as the previous book but still gripped my attention just as much. The plot moved quickly and with a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the book, especially all the details about life in the White House. Seeing the work done in the kitchen and all that the staff in the background does to keep the White House running effectively was really fascinating. Hyzy does an excellent job of drawing her characters both realistically and as ones whom we soon become deeply invested in.
I enjoyed the narration of Eileen Stevens, who does a lot in bringing this book to life. I enjoyed the accents of the foreigners who work in the kitchen in addition to the Southern accent of Mrs. Campbell.
This book is high on my list of recommended series for all mystery lovers. It’s not gruesome or has any sex, so fans of cozies will appreciate it, while it avoids the cutesy side of things, so fans of harder core books can still appreciate it. I give this book five stars!
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