cover image Death Comes in Through the Kitchen

Death Comes in Through the Kitchen

Teresa Dovalpage. Soho Crime, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-61695-884-8

At the start of this dazzling culinary mystery from Dovalpage (The Astral Plane), laid-back, spiritually shambolic 36-year-old San Diego, Calif., reporter Matt Sullivan arrives in Cuba just before the 2003 Black Spring crackdown on dissidents, not to investigate human rights violations but to marry (he hopes) 24-year-old food blogger Yarmila Portal, whom he mostly knows through online interactions. But Yarmi doesn’t meet him at the airport, and in dizzying succession, Matt discovers her body in a running shower in her Havana apartment, lands in police custody, and learns from Lt. Marlene Martinez that Yarmi had a young lover, Pato Macho. In a typically rich scene, both laugh-aloud funny and bone-chilling, Matt is grilled about his email suggesting Yarmi write a report for the CIA (i.e., the Culinary Institute of America). Matt instantly understands the confusion of acronyms, but will his interlocutor believe that the almighty spy agency allows a mere cooking school to share its initials? Matt’s travails are interspersed with Yarmi’s recipe-filled blog posts, bringing her to life after death, and the procedural narrative spirals to a smoky finish involving lucid dreaming, Santeria, gender fluidity, and the ultimate magic realism of politics. Those expecting a traditional food cozy will be happily surprised. (Mar.)