In Death Comes in through the Kitchen by Teresa Dovelpage, Matt, a food journalist from San Diego, goes to Cuba to try to marry his girlfriend, Yarmila. It is 2003, and Fidel Castro is still in power, and regulations control everything. Yarmila writes a food blog that led Matt to discover his girlfriend. Now, he is determined to get Yarmila to marry him, even bringing along a ring and a wedding dress. But when he arrives at the airport, Matt can’t find Yarmi waiting for him, so he gets a ride to Yarmi’s home and then goes in with Yarmi’s neighbor. The apartment smells rancid, and then the pair open the bathroom, from where they hear flowing water. Yarmila lies fully dressed in the tub, dead.
At the police station, Matt is detained for a while as he gets interrogated, even though it is obvious that Yarmi was murdered before Matt arrived in Cuba. However, Matt is stunned and at first refuses to accept the news that Yarmi has had a longtime, steady lover, nicknamed Patomacho, Spanish for the macho duck. Until the murder gets solved, the police intend to hold onto Matt’s passport, so he is stuck in Havana until Comrade Marlena Martinez, the detective in the case, finds the truth.
Death Comes in through the Kitchen is full of the flavor of Havana, taking us back into the 1950s, where the city has stagnated technologically without legal Cuban access to new developments. Filled with images of the city, the culture, and the people, this book positively gives a taste of Havana, especially as Matt, as a good writer, experiments with various restaurants and new Cuban foods. Further, the book is sprinkled liberally with Cuban phrases that the book teaches us in translations, adding to the flavor of Havana that we experience as we listen to this book. In addition, the plot is interspersed with frequent posts from Yarmila’s blog, which gives recipes from Cuba and commentary on her family and life in Cuba.
The book is less one of solving a detective mystery than of discovering who Yarmila is. We go along with Comrade Marlena Martinez as she interviews various people who knew Yarmila, getting a different story from each one. And what about Patomacho? What is the reality of Yarmila’s relationship with him?
Death Comes in through the Kitchen turned out to be a fascinating book that kept me drawn to it and made me keep listening. I appreciated learning about Cuba and getting a sense of the culture and people. The experiences of Matt and those he encounters kept my interest despite the fact that the book is not the cozy mystery I expected. But it was very special and deserves the five stars. I give it.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free to review, but that had no influence on the content of my review.
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