cover image Soul Kitchen

Soul Kitchen

Poppy Z. Brite, Author . Three Rivers $13.95 (276p) ISBN 978-0

Chefs (and lovers) John Rickey and Gary "G-man" Stubbs (first appearing in Liquor and Prime ) are once again involved in drama and suspense at their trendy eatery, Liquor. Chef Milford Goodman, an old friend of Rickey's, shows up after a 10-year prison stint for murder (of a restaurant owner) ends, thanks to a retrial acquittal. Just then, as it turns out, the current chef, Tanker, quits in a huff. Milford takes over, and through him, Rickey meets a manipulative, pill-pushing doctor named Lamotte, who pressures Rickey to join a restaurant venture, Soul Kitchen, involving a shady local businessman-investor, Clancy Fairbairn. Rickey, hooked on Lamotte-supplied Vicodin and wanting to give Milford the break he needs to become a top chef, agrees, various complications ensue, and the deal ends in tragedy. Throughout, Brite demonstrates a deep passion for and knowledge of New Orleans' food scene, and winningly sends up the city's wealthy elite, who "were like great dark sea creatures circling below the water's surface." The novel is brisk and entertaining, and manages to deal sharply with homophobia and racism amid a frothy plot. The novel was completed, Brite notes, the night before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the city where she was born and now lives with her chef husband. An open-ended conclusion hints at another installment to come. (Aug.)