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The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer....

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She's tasked with saving her Tita Rosie's failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she's the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila's left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

336 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 4, 2021

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About the author

Mia P. Manansala

6 books3,151 followers
Mia P. Manansala is a book coach and the author of ARSENIC AND ADOBO (Berkley 2021), the first in the Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery series.

She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture.

She is the winner of the 2018 Hugh Holton Award, the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, the 2017 William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, and the 2016 Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship. She's also a 2017 Pitch Wars alum and 2018-2020 mentor.

A lover of all things geeky, Mia spends her days procrastibaking, playing JRPGs and dating sims, reading cozy mysteries, and dreaming of becoming best buds with Wonder Woman and Kamala Khan.

When she’s not sassing her ever-so-patient husband, she’s cuddling her dogs Max Power and Bayley Banks (bonus points to those who get the name references) at her home just outside of Chicago.

Mia is quite the joiner, as she is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Color, Banyan: Asian American Writers Collective, the Chicago Writers Association, and the Chicago Nerd Social Club.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @MPMtheWriter

Or check out her website: www.miapmanansala.com

Represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

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5 stars
9,168 (14%)
4 stars
23,276 (37%)
3 stars
21,955 (35%)
2 stars
5,824 (9%)
1 star
1,206 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,091 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,315 reviews44.1k followers
March 31, 2022
Congrats for Goodreads Choice Awards nomination! This book is freaking gem!🥳🎈🍹

Oh no! I’m literally craving for more this fantastic Filipino family adventures! Why good things end so fast!!!

Let me introduce you the stars of this journey briefly:
The threatening, tough grandma Lola Flor, sweetest Tita Rosie, entertaining and smart Calendar Trio(sharp tongued April, negotiator May, smart June) our witty, brave, kind hearted, stubborn, tough heroine Lila who has impressive investigation and culinary skills and let’s not forget her loyal bestie Adeena who create hell of dreamy drinks and her love interests hot, sweet dentist Jae and charismatic old time crush lawyer Amir.

Riveting whodunnit cozy mystery, fantastically witty, adorable, genuine characters and lots of mouth watering foods including Japanese kitchen to American BBQ, Mexican dishes and to die for Filipino recipes: yes, I died and directly went to heaven ( which is impossible: not dying part, the latter) This book is dreamy combination of foodie, coffee addict and thriller fan like me!

Lila Macapagal’s story started like romcom cliche: cheated by long time boyfriend, summoned by aunt Rosie to return back to her hometown Shady Palms she ran from for bigger dreams in Chicago to save her family restaurant and her ex lover Derek turns into mean, vindictive food critic who does everything to destroy their business with his slandering reviews.

This part sounds like a romcom opening or Nora Ephron romance beginning, isn’t it? You think enemies to lovers theme help two ex lovers resolve their issues and fall in love again! Nope! You couldn’t be so wrong!

Because Derek passes out as soon as Lila serves him her special dessert and this is not usual pranks he throws at! He gets poisoned and wait for it : he dies at the hospital because of poisoning and Derek’s stepfather who is also their vindictive landlord blames the family to poison his son! Yes, see the transition from Nora Ephron story to Agatha Christie’s whodunnit page turners !

And Detective Perk, a skillful investigator takes the case and declare Lila as the main suspect! Lila is not only blamed to kill her ex, she’s also blamed on being the ring leader of drug trafficking in town! What???

And Detective Perk is so persistent to put her behind the bars which means Lila should conduct her own investigation to clear her name in two months ( till her court date) Thanks to Calendar Crew aunties’ suspect list: she starts talking with other restaurant owners who suffered the shitty reviews Derek has written to threat their business.

I don’t know you my friends but I would have a chance I could read at least three books belong to this captivating series at one sit. I became a true addict! As soon as I finished the book at record time and I started to cry like whining brat who craves more chocolate!

All of these characters in the book are like your own family members. Their genuineness warm your heart. They are so natural! You want to hang out with them drinking gallons of tea, munching snacks, having long conversations and observing their miraculous cooking!

I hope Ms. Manansala won’t let us wait too long for the sequel! I already started to miss this family as soon as I finished the last page!
I’m giving my five gazillion, family bonds, true friendship, mouth watering dishes, riveting mystery, best characters, perfect multicultural representation stars!

I’m telling you my friends, this is one of the best of best reads I’ve recently had! I highly recommend to all readers who are big fans of feel good fictions, laugh out loud dark comedy, unputdownable cozy mystery! This is FREAKING AWESOME!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing For sharing this fantastic digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions!
Profile Image for Ashley Lauren.
947 reviews57 followers
April 13, 2021
Well. This was disappointing.

The best part of this book is the cover. That is an amazing cover.

Well - and maybe the opening page. That was pretty engaging. After that, expect it to go downhill.

I know - I know, that's mean and as an aspiring author myself it's a bit rude but I can't help myself, this just didn't shake out. Let me point out a few key things that really grated for me:

- The concept of grief in this book is really, really appalling. None of the characters have feeling. None. They sometimes might swoon, or frown, or be mad at each other but the emotions last like... two seconds. I am not kidding that there are multiple times someone is found dead, or assaulted, and later on the same dang page we are hearing about what they are ordering at a restaurant (more of that later). For example - at one point in this story, a woman who was literally just at the wake of her adult son, and then later decides to just hang out and bunk up at the house of her son's suspected murderer. They gossip and talk about - you guess it - food. It is mind-boggling.

- The FOOD. Look, I love me a good food description and lord knows I have my characters eating all the time. Describe your surroundings, yes, but this book just doesn't stop. Everything is described and everything is described MULTIPLE times. We learn about what is on the menu, how the character orders it, when it comes, what it tastes like, what the other character's food tastes and looks like - it goes on and on. It doesn't matter and it is constantly snapping us out of the scene. I am not kidding when I say there is a FULL PAGE where a character is talking about grinding beans, then putting it in the French press, then asking about milk options... ok, I'll stop. But trust me, it's maddening.

- Honestly, Lila is pretty unlikable and yet there's a kind of love triangle thing that starts? Don't expect anything close to romance here though because there is only the barest hint of it.

- The "mystery" part is... not a mystery? I mean, I guess there's confusion but that's not the same thing. Our main characters goes to "investigate" (read: goes to different restaurants just to describe the food) and ends up asking the same questions, and getting the same answers, over and over again. It's honestly kind of bizarre - since when does a mystery reinforce the same thing literally five or six times?

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend you pick this up. Even as a "cozy mystery" where some fluff is expected, it just isn't worth it.

Read more at www.theroamingreader.com
Profile Image for Taylor Reid.
Author 22 books162k followers
May 4, 2021
This book hits the exact right spot, in my opinion. I love mysteries and whodunits but in the past few years, I’ve grown weary of all the violence and anxiety that accompany a lot of true crime or murder mysteries. Somehow—I still don’t quite know how??—Mia P. Manansala manages to create a murder mystery where nothing is too horrifying and you know everything will be okay in the end. And because of that, you just get to go along for the ride of trying to figure out what really happened when Lila Macapagal’s ex-boyfriend Derek drops dead in front of her at her family’s restaurant. I’ve heard it described as a “cozy mystery” and that’s exactly what it is, a perfectly cozy puzzle to solve. Also, it will make you very hungry for Filipino food—and then it delivers with recipes in the back!
Profile Image for Kat.
270 reviews80k followers
Shelved as 'will-not-finish'
February 9, 2022
***ARC provided through NetGalley***

I'm gonna chalk this one up to a good old case of "it's not you, it's me" because while I'm glad to see so many people are enjoying this book, it was doing next to nothing for me.

The writing and characters felt juvenile and the plot was often sidetracked by everyone sitting around at different restaurants, describing what they were eating in excruciating detail. Rather than a way to enhance the story, it felt like the focus on food was a way to fill space until we could get to the end and solve the mystery. Overall, not my jam, but give it a try if you're interested :)
DNF @ 46%
Profile Image for Katie Colson.
676 reviews6,923 followers
January 26, 2022
I feel like I'm being kind by giving this 2 stars. I don't think the author had ill intent. But the diabetic representation in this book angered me. I am speaking from personal experience, so I recognize that I am a sensitive party in this discussion, but I do not appreciate when a diabetic character dies and every other character thinks it's their business to say he deserved it because he was eating dessert. Insinuating that he asked for it. SO many of the characters mention that he was in ill health and didn't take care of himself and must have died from diabetic complications. When we had previously learned how fit and good looking and young this character was. How does that image equate to the image these characters are portraying? It's because when you have an illness, people will blame anything on it. And, more despicably, they will blame the illness on you.
I have type 1 diabetes. And it's f*cking hard. Let me tell you. I struggle with it every second of every day. It's a full time job. Just staying alive and trying desperately to be "healthy" on top of that. I am 28 years old and weight 132 pounds. That is not obese or frail. If a stranger saw me on the street they would think "what a healthy young woman that is" HA! Of course not. But invisible illnesses are b*stards like that.
But to read about a character who is described to be of similar age and build to me, criminalized for having a bite of a dessert. And told he asked to die from it. That's just too much for me.

LISTEN! I know I am harping on something that isn't the main plot of the book but coming from a diabetic, I think it's worth the time it takes to explain how it made me feel.

However, even despite those faux pas, the book just isn't good.
It's that old school trope of a good-girl getting caught up in crime and some how weaseling her way into every investigation and out detective-ing the actual detectives and somehow never admonished for tampering with evidence, crime scenes or witnesses.

It's not good. This was trying to be Finlay Donovan and thank god Finlay Donovan finally came on the scene and showed us what was what.
Profile Image for Addie Motta.
20 reviews5 followers
June 15, 2022
Not as substantive as I would have liked it to be and could be kind of cringey at times. At the beginning, it seemed like part of the narrative would be the main character exploring her identity as a second generation Filipino in the US, but that didn’t pan out.

I feel like my brain was in “editing” mode the entire time I was reading. There was a lot of dialogue and description that was very very cheesy and many scenes that I think could have been parsed way down and still gotten the same point across.

I also guessed who the killer was about 1/3 of the way through the book, which I think is too early to have that revelation. I will say I didn’t get the motive right, as I assumed Derek was somehow related to the killer (based on the adoption that is touched on) and those family ties lead to the motive.

Something that REALLY bothered me about this book is how nonchalant the main character is about everything that happens. She has to spend the night in a jail cell, sees her ex-boyfriend start to die in front of her, walks in on his murdered father, and sees her high school frenemy bludgeoned into a coma...and just goes about her day! She is able to continue to laugh, make jokes, and be overly sarcastic with the investigating detective. It seems that everyone around her was also overly nonchalant considering the events that transpire. An actual line from the book is “speaking of ex-boyfriends, seems like yours is dead.” What a casual and cruel way to reference that!

No one seemed scared or shaken up or even really that upset which I just did not understand and that really took me out of the story. If I saw a stranger die or get seriously hurt, I think it would be a life altering event, let alone people I knew well or dated!!! Everyone in this story needs some SERIOUS therapy.

I also think the author could have done more research into detective work and the legal system, because I was very confused about exactly how the police were planning to pin everything on Lila. The burden of proof lies with them, not with her, so she didn’t necessarily need to find proof she didn’t do it considering how flimsy their evidence was. So drugs were in her locker...was she in any way tied to the prescription labels that were apparently on them? Could they produce any witnesses saying she had sold them drugs? Was there anyone in the pharmacy or hospital who could say she was acting sketchy? It just seems like their case wouldn’t hold up at all, but that’s just my opinion.

Lastly, I have a lot of unanswered questions!
- Why exactly was her friend Adeena so insistent on settling in Shady Palms, and why did Lila eventually agree? The other characters paint her as selfish for wanting to leave, but I disagree!

- Also the novel mentions “Ronnie,” Lila’s cousin and former druggie and something that happened to him with the Shady Palms PD. This character never shows up and I don’t think the story line about him was actually fleshed out, unless I missed something.

- Who is Kevin’s birth family? Was that a lie he made up about why he moved to Shady Palms? That whole thing left me confused.

- Why did Cate Long not seem to give a shit about her brother?? It’s said multiple times that she only came to take care of Mrs. Long, who she isn’t related to. Why are she and Nancy so close?

- Finally, throughout the novel, Detective Park seems EXTREMELY concerned with Tita Rosie’s well-being despite also acting desperate to pin the murder on her niece? The relationship that the two of them have and why he was so obsessed with her never really made sense.

Personally I wouldn’t want to stay in the town where I witnessed multiple deaths and open a cafe in the same spot were my best friend and I were LITERALLY almost murdered. I seriously hope Lila gets some therapy by instalment #2 in this series. 😂
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
January 1, 2023
I read this in this reading vlog!

I'm not huge into mysteries, but this book seemed to be everywhere when it first came out. Then I found out it had a wiener dog and I knew I absolutely had to have it. I still was a bit unsure when going into it because it's out of my comfort zone and then I had heard some kind of mixed things, but I actually really liked this one! I never guess mysteries and this one was no exception. I liked the romance that was also sprinkled in there, and I felt like as much as this was a mystery it managed to be lighthearted and fun too, which I guess is what a cozy mystery is really. I don't think I'll become a frequent reader of cozy mysteries but I do think I'll continue with the Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery series!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,605 reviews10.7k followers
June 23, 2023
Arsenic and Adobo is a great start to a new Culinary Cozy Mystery series. I am definitely here for the long haul.

Keep 'em coming, Mia P. Manansala!!!

Following a bad breakup, Lila Macapagal moves back home to lick her wounds and try to put the pieces of her life back together.

Additionally, her family needs some help. Her Aunt's restaurant is floundering. Even though the food is incredible, the business-side is tanking. Her Auntie never focuses on those details. Lila knows she can turn it around.

When Lila's ex-boyfriend, Derek, a local food critic with a terrible reputation, shows up for dinner with their landlord, who also happens to be Derek's step-father, Lila knows stuff is about to hit the fan.

However, she would never have expected Derek to fall face first into his dessert; dead, apparently poisoned. Now the police consider Lila to be their number one suspect.

As it seems all local law enforcement are wasting their time investigating Lila and her family, Lila knows she needs to get to the bottom of what happened to Derek herself. Her family had nothing to do with it, which means a killer is still out there.

Thus begins a super fun and witty amateur sleuthing trope. It's no secret that I love Cozy Mysteries. I've read a few Culinary Cozy books in the past and this one definitely fits right in!

It's silly, it's over the top, fast-paced, funny and there's a lot of delicious food on page.

I thought this was an excellent start to a series. Manansala made me care for Lila and her loved ones. In my experience, Cozy Mystery series tend to get better with time, as each one builds out the characters you come to adore. Trust me when I say, you can become quite attached.

I'm invested and already anticipating the next release in this series. That makes me a happy girl!

If you are Cozy fan, especially Culinary Cozies, you should absolutely give this one a shot. I'm so interested to see what crazy hijinks the Macapagal family gets up to next!!
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,307 reviews28k followers
April 28, 2021
This was really cute, and I loved the family in this book and learning more about the Filipino culture and the food, but I don’t know if cozy mysteries are my thing. I loved everything about this book, except for the mystery aspect of it, I just couldn’t get invested.

Here’s the reading vlog where I read it: https://youtu.be/ByZvXPeSUB4
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,486 reviews79.1k followers
April 28, 2021
A light, fun, humorous cozy mystery featuring descriptions of yummy Filipino dishes and warm family moments. I did feel like I had a few unanswered questions regarding side plots and characters, but I'm hoping those are addressed in future installments. I appreciated the dash of romance and the delightful banter involving the aunties, and look forward to the next book in the series!
Profile Image for Anshu Sharma.
238 reviews62 followers
May 23, 2021
The saying "do not judge a book by its cover" must have been tailor-made for this book, well the cover and the synopsis. I was basically lured by those two things to start this book and oh boy what a mistake it was.

This book, to put it simply, sucks. It reads as some 14-year old wrote it. I would say it reads like a fan-fiction, but that would be an insult to all the well-written fan-fictions out there. This is nothing but the writer's self-insert fantasy with ham-fisted food reference thrown in every other paragraph that I felt sick to the stomach just having read the food and descriptions. I'm an avid foodie as they come but my god it was grating on my nerves by the third chapter.

The characters are just awful with Lila, the protagonist being the absolute worst. She is too big of a snob about everything and if she name-dropped Chicago one more time, I'd have found a way to reach into the book and smack her upside down the head. She and the women her age act more like high-schoolers straight out of Mean Girls rather than 20-something grown adults. As for men her age? They all fall in love with her on sight just as how the women hate her. Lila has a hot-shot lawyer and a dentist heads-over-heels for her while she is nothing but all-around awful to everyone. See what I mean by self-insert?

Also, everyone is just terrible at their jobs? All "working" people just sit around eating all the time? Lawyers are inept, and so are the detectives. I obviously know nothing about the American justice system but I'm sure the burden of proof lies with the police to gather evidence about the guilt rather than the guilty looking for evidence to clear them? Like what? Just utter rubbish.

And then the book ends with a sneak-peak of the next book where the aforementioned dumb detective approaches Lila to solve a case like she's the next Miss Marple or Nancy Drew. I just threw up in my mouth a bit. Please for the love of god skip this book.

Profile Image for ❀ Lily ❀.
79 reviews15.9k followers
July 23, 2021
This was kinda trash, but it still entertained me and was really messy (so points for that)
Profile Image for Jen.
135 reviews224 followers
June 25, 2021
Warning: Do not attempt to pick up this book and read it if you're hungry, or even if you simply haven't eaten in the last few hours. I had to set it down to google if I had any Filipino restaurants near me that would deliver because this book made me so damn hungry and in the mood for some lumpia...

That said, the food descriptions were unfortunately the best part. I would absolutely follow a food blog if this author were to create one. And I plan to make the ube crinkle cookie recipe that is provided along with a few others at the end of the book. But would I read another installment of this series... hmmmm, maybe? Probably not.


Update: I had every intention of coming back to update this with: "I tried the cookies, and at least those were great!" but alas... The recipe did NOT work for me. And I'm a pretty accomplished baker. I literally have a book and dessert blog. The three cookies below are, from left to right: Mia's cookies as written, Mia's cookies baked for longer than directed and left out at room temp for a bit prior to baking (which yielded the best result - I really did try to make these work), and Michelle Lopez's Ube Crinkles as a comparison. These were all baked on the same day with the same ingredients.

It was kind of expensive for me to source these ingredients, which added to the disappointment. Maybe other people will have better luck with them, I don't know? I hope so. But I feel it's important to be honest. In the end, while very dense, they were still tasty (well the fully cooked batch anyway), so that's a positive at least!


The mystery itself was kind of a let down, the lawyer and police were downright incompetent at their jobs, and Lyla's "investigation" was just plain silly. I get the whole amateur sleuth angle, but in addition to her sleuthing being ill-advised and potentially dangerous, it also was redundant as heck. I truly cannot understand why the author wouldn't have given us information a little bit at a time via each interview Lyla does, versus having every conversation be a virtual carbon copy. Not only would it help with keeping things better paced, but it simply makes much more sense than having every single person she talks to immediately spill every single bit of information they know to a stranger. A stranger with a vested interest in using that information against them no less.

I was really put off by how cavalier all of the characters were about death/murder in this book. So many crazy and traumatic things happen to our main character and she's over here going "well that was weird, let me talk to you for a few pages about this new dessert I want to try baking". What on earth? And every other character is just as bad. They go on about their day as if they haven't just witnessed someone dying in their restaurant. What is wrong with these people!? Did they skip the day feelings and empathy were given out? Have they discovered some kind of compartmentalization that would change the mental health profession forever? Are they just super self-involved and kind of awful people? It makes it tough to root for anyone or want to continue a series involving them.

The lack of concern from characters also extends to how seriously (or not) they take what becomes multiple felony charges. This was especially puzzling to me because the author clearly tried to make sure she had a diverse group of characters (yay representation! which is huge plus for this book), and also mentioned issues the family had with police in the past. I understand if the author wanted to keep the tone lighter and not get too political, but it ended up feeling off and adding to the lack of realism. Granted, I've never read a cozy (not counting Miss Marple, who seems to be an inspiration for the genre from what I can gather), so maybe some of my complaints are just markers that this genre isn't for me?

I really wanted to like this. I mean, have you seen that cover! And as one of those people who annoys everyone around me with obsessions with both thriller/mystery books and food, I thought this would be perfect for me. Sadly, it was not. Hopefully other readers will have better luck with it!
Profile Image for Mira.
392 reviews2 followers
April 10, 2021
I know this is ridiculously petty of me, but I just couldn't take the book seriously after reading this paragraph:

I sighed and nibbled on an ube crinkle, so lost in thought I couldn't even enjoy how the light coating of powdered sugar gave just enough sweetness to the subtle, almost vanilla-like flavor of the purple yam. It all turned to sand in my mouth.

Like...please don't tell me a character can't concentrate on something and then proceed to describe it in detail, especially in a first-person narration.
Profile Image for Brittany Mayes.
170 reviews13 followers
April 14, 2021
This was a pretty quick read but I hated the writing style and I thought it felt like both everything and nothing was happening at once. The food descriptions were the only substantial thing in the book and now I know I don't care about food descriptions.
August 25, 2022

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I meant to read ARSENIC AND ADOBO for AAPI month but that month went by in a blink and then I got super busy, but that's okay, since diverse books should be read and championed year-round anyway, and after several heavier books, I was in the mood for something light.

This is the story of Lila, who has just moved back home after a terrible breakup. Her parents are dead, so her family consists of her aunt, grandmother, and a group of "aunties" called the Calendar Crew because they're all named after months of the year. Lila is a baker and has been working in her aunt's Filipinx restaurant, which is a popular fixture in the community. Unfortunately, it's under attack by an evil food blogger (who is also Lila's ex) who seems determined to ruin their restaurant's reputation just because he can. Which is why it's so suspicious when he drops dead right after finishing his meal.

What at first seems like a horrible accident starts to look like a conspiracy when it turns out that the blogger, Derek, was poisoned. And to make it worse, their small suburb has a hotshot on the case from Chicago's vice squad, who seems to think that Lila is some kind of evil kingpin who has the whole town wrapped around her criminal finger. Add to that more delicious food porn than you'll know what to do with, two hot guys (a lawyer and a dentist! oh my), one cute dog, and a bunch of nosy, meddling aunties, and you end up with a pretty incredible cozy mystery that perfectly toes the line between cute and thrilling.

This has the vibe that DEATH BY DUMPLING was trying to accomplish but couldn't quite reach. I think because Lila comes across as such a dimensional character. She's both self-aware and delusional, which is a contradiction I think most of us can relate to. I felt like I really got to know her as a narrator, as well as what motivated her, and the community element of the book was really well done because of how all of the characters interacted with each other, as well as Lila. The last book I read that did this sort of chick-litty mystery this well was SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT by Meg Cabot. So I think if you find yourself attracted to cozy mysteries but don't like that the heroines often feel like "hip and sassy" twenty-year-olds as penned by someone who is kind of out of touch, you'll love how fresh this feels.

4 to 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Woman Reading .
435 reviews286 followers
October 9, 2022
3.5 ☆

In Arsenic and Adobo, Lila Macapagal, age 25, is an ordinary young woman whose trusting nature has led to very bad judgment in her romantic partners. After catching her fiancé in flagrante delicto, Lila finally ends her relationship with restaurateur Sam and returns to her hometown of Shady Palms, a small town and distant suburb of Chicago. Not only did she need to lick her wounds, but her family desperately needs her help.

Filipinos were all about family. My whole life I’d had the concept of “family first” drilled into my head, and it’s how I’d lived until I went away to college [in Chicago]... Even someone like me felt utang na loob, that impossible to quantify sense of indebtedness and gratitude, to the people who’d raised me. But where was that magical line between selfishness and independence? Between my family and myself?

Orphaned before the age of ten, Lila had been raised by her aunt Tita Rosie and her paternal grandmother Lola Flor. Both women operate Tita Rosie's Kitchen, which features authentic Filipino cuisine in a casual setting. They've fallen behind in their rent payments and their landlord Mr. Long is becoming impatient.

Lila is just a few credits short from graduating with a degree in hospitality management degree, and the food business is in her blood. She loves to experiment with fusing American and Filipino cuisines and baked goods are her forté.

But [grandmother's] refusal to try anything new and insistence on me being a “real” Filipino grated on me. As a second-generation member of a colonized country, born and raised in the Midwestern United States, what did that even mean?

It's now March and Mr. Long wants full payment of arrears by April first. He and his stepson Derek Winter, Lila's ex-boyfriend from high school, arrive for lunch. Derek has been writing very critical reviews of their eatery in his blog. Lila wants to kick Derek out but decides to act professionally. Only Derek drops dead before he has finished stuffing his face with a variety of sweets. Just desserts indeed.

"You're innocent, so there's nothing [the police] can do to you, right?"
We both paused, knowing that wasn't quite true. The law tended to work differently for people like us.

Shady Palms has a small law enforcement presence so they bring in a hot-shot police detective to solve the case. He zeroes in on Lila once arsenic is found in the scraps of Derek's dishes. Uh-oh. Lila is not even close to being Nancy Drew. She's more like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. But needs must and all. Thankfully, there's an extended community of Filipino Americans who are willing to pass along tips and relevant gossip because Lila needs to clear her name and the family needs to earn money.

Arsenic and Adobo is a cosy multicultural mystery that's geared to foodies, as recipes have been included in the book. The crimes are serious and plausible while the informal "investigation" is not. While I like the cast of characters, the lead doesn't have the investigative abilities that I prefer in my main protagonists. But I was intrigued by the diversity presented in this story, and this part had been done very well. Overall, Arsenic and Adobo is a solid debut for Mia P. Manansala and fans of this genre should be quite pleased but hungry (I'm feeling the urge to seek out Filipino restaurants).
Profile Image for Carla (Carla's Book Bits).
525 reviews124 followers
February 9, 2021
If there's one thing Filipino people are good at, it's showing up for other Filipinos' achievements. That's essentially why I jumped to get a review copy of Arsenic & Adobo, Mia P. Manansala's debut installment to a cozy mystery series featuring Filipino protagonists and food. Cozy mysteries have long been a genre I wanted to get into, but all of these factors and more were what really made me stay for the rest of the book. The things I liked:

So much diversity; our main character, Lila, is Filipina and her love interest is Brown. But we see a whole cast of characters who are all different races and they're all bonding over the love of food, which is just so nice to see because this is exactly how I bond with other cultures and other people, regardless of race.
THE FOOD DESCRIBED IS DELICIOUS. So mouth-watering and envy-inducing. We get tons of Filipino sweets, fusion desserts, but Lila and her friends also visit tons of restaurants and you better believe we get all the descriptions of those foods in all their glory. This book made me crave SO hard for a chicken adobo when I was done.
It's a cozy mystery- it's cute! Lots of food, coffee, and friendship; but the mystery itself was also really interesting and quite exciting. It's not dark in any way, but it was still a page-turner with fun twists and turns.
The characters are so funny. Lila, being a Filipina, is of course constantly hounded by her gossipy Filipina aunties. The authenticity of the experience (aka the mix between them being annoying vs them being endearing) is just so on-the-mark.

Of course, Arsenic and Adobo won't please you if you don't like the tropes that are being set out in most cozy mysteries, but it's not setting out to be that way. We're not going to any new places here, the author just wants to take us on a pleasant journey full of food and loved ones.

Filipinos are all about community. We're good at showing up for anything that's remotely Filipino because culturally, we put so much importance into family; the ones we were born in, and the ones we find, too. This was conveyed so well in this book. I came because I wanted to show up, but I stayed for all the love and delight.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A Filipina protagonist, murder mystery featuring adobo (my first love) and other Filipino foods, anddddd her Dachshund's name is Longanisa 😭😭😭 Excuse, I'm gonna go cry, this is already the perfect book for me
Profile Image for Jess Owens.
325 reviews4,560 followers
June 16, 2022
3.75. Finally a cozy that I really enjoyed !

I finally got to this one and very excited for the next one.

Lila is back home in small town Shady Palms after living in the big city of Chicago. She went home to help her family with their restaurant- Tita Rosie’s Kitchen. Her ex boyfriend is a “food critic” who has been writing nasty reviews about their restaurant and others and during his latest visit to Tita Rosie’s Kitchen, he dies after eating their food. Ruh roh, the police think they did it.

Once again, the grandma and the aunties made me laugh and smile so much! I listened to the audio and I adored the narrator’s voice. I liked Lila and her bff Adeena and their relationship. I thought there might be a romance but there isn’t one and that was fun. It was just a fun time. Their amateur sloothing felt like it could be realistic somewhat. I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery and not figuring it out until right before Lila did. Overall really enjoyed and will read the next one !
Profile Image for Mari.
711 reviews5,606 followers
August 12, 2021

3.5 stars

This was such a pleasant reading experience. I absolutely love to see food highly featured in fiction and to pair it with a cozy mystery? A delight. The best things about this work are the smooth reading experience, the bright and vibrant details and characters, and the humor.

There were a few of things that kept it from being perfection for me:

- There were times that the food details did go a little overboard, mostly because it felt like there were placed funny in certain scenes. It would feel like an odd time for someone to be thinking of a recipe.

- Because this is the first in the series, we get introduced to a few characters and circumstances that are left hanging. I totally get that, but unfortunately, there wasn't enough of those things in this book to justify their presence or make them feel at all satisfying.

- While I enjoyed our amateur sleuth, the "investigation" portion of this was barely that. She just went around asking questions, which okay sure, but then everyone gave her the exact same answer and it was like brand new information every time. It got a little bit repetitive and really didn't satisfy what I enjoy from a mystery.

I will continue reading on in the series, though, and I can imagine that depending how long this goes it, it could become one of those series that is greater than the sum of its part. This was a strong introduction and I could fall hard for these characters.
Profile Image for Veronique.
22 reviews3 followers
April 24, 2021
I really wanted to like this book and was really excited when it was offered by BOTM. I was born in Manila but lived in a Chicago suburb as a child. I then went back to Manila for high school and college, after which, I came back to live in Chicago. I now live in the Chicago suburbs. It was exciting to have a mainstream book that reflected the culture in which I was raised.

I have to give the author props for attempting to incorporate Filipino cuisine into the story and weaving cultural concepts that are exclusively Filipino into the narrative. The way she does this feels really forced, though, and the writing is extremely choppy in the first few chapters. The main character’s voice reflects a teenager’s thought process rather than a 20-something’s, which makes her a rather annoying narrator, and the peripheral characters in her family are woefully one-dimensional.

The thing that kept me reading was the story line. It’s a good plot, and it would have been a great book, had the writing been better in the beginning. It got better towards the end of the book when she stopped trying to force the Filipino concepts and concentrated on the plot.

I’d like to point out a glaring inconsistency in one of the paragraphs. The entire premise of the book is that the landlord, Mr. Long, is trying to kick his tenants (Lila’s family) out. However, on page 64, she writes, “My aunt hadn’t updated the decor since she bought the place in the late 90s...”

I believe she should have used the word “leased” not “bought”.

I rarely give bad reviews and I feel wretched about doing so in this case because I wanted to like the book so badly. But the paragraphs felt so carelessly put together and the writing did not flow, making this piece of literature such a disappointment, I felt I had to say something.

Profile Image for Lauren Clark.
1 review
April 12, 2021
It was okay, and mostly enjoyable. But, the author seems to have some prejudices against diabetics that were upsetting to read.

1. Diabetics can eat desserts. It doesn’t mean they’re not taking care of themselves. The character seemed to be insulin dependent, so they just needed to take some insulin to cover the dessert.

2. Ending up in the hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis doesn’t make anyone an “idiot” ever. There are a thousand reasons why things can go wrong and you need to go to the ER. Maybe getting the flu, or an insulin pump malfunction, or not being able to afford enough insulin because it’s incredibly expensive.

3. Eating a lot of sweet things, such as waffles and pie, isn’t what causes diabetes. It’s incredibly insensitive for the author to make jokes that a character would “have lost a foot to diabetes by now” for eating things like waffles and pie.
Profile Image for Olivie Blake.
Author 26 books10.7k followers
August 12, 2021
I will say this is a very personal and highly biased review, since there is a lot more joy than I would have guessed in seeing your cultural experience take priority on the page. Like Lila I don’t speak Tagalog fluently, so to still recognize the phrases and comfort foods from my childhood in the text was extra heartwarming. Are all lolas the same?? How oddly reassuring.
Profile Image for Kendall.
644 reviews653 followers
January 28, 2021
This was my first time reading a cozy mystery!!

For one... I am obsessed with the cover. I absolutely loved the town of Shady Palms and Miss Lila Macapagal. This was quite the cozy mystery that stands out for the importance of family, full of heart, and tons of delicious food that I wanted to eat right out of the book.

What I absolutely loved? The Filipino culture!! And the cast of characters just absolutely loved. But, I have to say my most favorite is the dachschund Longganisa. Gahhh soooo cute!!!

Mia Manansala has a fresh voice exploring Filipino-American culture and food through a cozy mystery that made me laugh out loud so many times.

This definitely was a cute and fast read!!

4/5 stars

Thank you to Berkley and Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Olive Fellows (abookolive).
614 reviews5,008 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 2, 2022
I'm really not getting along with the writing or the storytelling. I mean... I'm gonna go read books that don't make me angry now.
Profile Image for Rachel.
376 reviews178 followers
May 6, 2021
A cute, cozy mystery with lots of food descriptions. The perfect rainy day read 👌🏻
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,118 followers
May 10, 2021
Lila is helping out in the family restaurant when her ex-boyfriend dies of what looks like poisoning. Lots of Filipino food and family, and some secrets only known to the people who have stayed in the small community. I hope we see more in this series because there are some unresolved relationships at the end of this! A few recipes in the back, which will send me on another hunt for pandan leaves.

I had a copy of this from the publisher through NetGalley.
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,729 followers
January 13, 2023
Arsenic and Adobo was a nominee in the Goodreads Awards a few years ago, and while I love cozies, I was so behind in so many series, I didn't take the chance. Now that I'm caught up and picking up some new series and authors, I borrowed book one from the library to see if it would be a good fit. Billed as a cozy with a new voice and distinct cultural setting, I was intrigued... I could learn and solve a mystery all at the same time, plus they revolved around food, predominantly Filipino. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The main character has a great personality and easily catches your adoration and interest. Sometimes the level of Filipino food and language made it slightly difficult because I had to focus intently to guess the meaning of something (or look it up in the definition section). I suspect after a few books, this becomes way more natural for someone new to language or foods. I definitely found some recipes I'd like to try, and I loved the different tone the book set by introducing a new culture. I've already double-downed and bought book two. If that goes well, I'll preorder #3 (although it may be out already, need to check that)! Give this series a chance!
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