Murder and Mamon by Mia P Manansala

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Murder and Mamon by Mia P Manansala front cover

Murder and Mamon is the fourth book in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series by Mia P Manansala. It is a delightful culinary cosy mystery about Lila Macapagal, a baker and amateur detective. Lila is passionate about food, family and friends. Should anything happen to her family or friends, Lila will happily step into her voluntary role of amateur detective. This time around, she is investigating the murder of Davina, a young woman who recently relocated to Shady Palms from the Philippines.

Shady Palms is the fictional small town setting of Murder and Mamon, located in the Chicago region. Manansala embraces the cosy mystery trope of a small village or town where everybody knows you along with all of your relations. This is helpful when your protagonist is an amateur detective who gathers information through personal connections and gossip – because gossip, along with its negative consequences, figures strongly in this book.

Lila lives with her Tita Rosie, her aunt, and Lola Flor, her grandmother. Her attachment to them is strong as she has lost both of her parents. Rosie and Flor work together in Tita Rosie’s Kitchen. Lila provides baked goods to the restaurant. Their best friends April, Mae and June, also known as the Calendar Crew, are frequent guests at the restaurant and the Brew-ha Cafe located next door. The Brew-ha is owned by Lila, her best friend Adeena and Adeena’s girlfriend Elena. You will appreciate the female-led entrepreneurship in this series, and these are characters that don’t sit around and wait for things to happen. They make it happen.

In Murder and Mamon, the Calendar Crew are about to open a laundromat. Davina, who is April’s niece appears to have left the Philippines under some sort of a cloud, is going to be working there. Unfortunately, the business is vandalised before the planned opening. Spray painted in large letters on the wall and on the window of the laundromat is the message: MIND YOUR BUSINESS. There are many possible suspects, as the Calendar Crew have angered a lot of people in Shady Palms by spreading gossip.

With much help from the family and friends, the Calendar Crew get the place cleaned up and plan to go ahead with their opening. Their plans are put on hold when Davina is found murdered in the laundromat with the same message spray painted near her body. The local police department is not making much progress so Lila and Jonathon, a former police detective and Tita Rosie’s boyfriend begin their own investigation. They are not sure who was the intended victim. The mysterious Davina or the Calendar Crew?

One of the enjoyable elements of the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen series is the continued growth of the characters. In each book, you will learn more about each one and see subtle shifts in their behaviour or roles. Even Lila’s dachshund, Longganisa, has now taken on a marketing role for the Brew-ha Cafe. Changes in relationship dynamics between the different characters also keep the series interesting.

The diversity of characters in Murder and Mamon is refreshing to read. Representation matters. It is so important, that you will willingly suspend your disbelief that a small town in Illinois is quite that diverse and that everybody living there is accepting of other cultures. The diversity in the book and the appreciation of other cultures as something that should be an aspiration for all small towns.

It is impossible to describe the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries without mentioning food. The characters often express themselves and show their love through food. Information shared while preparing and sharing a meal helps to move the plot forward. As an added bonus, at the end of each novel you will find a selection of recipes for some of the food prepared in the book.

In addition to being a light-hearted culinary cosy, Murder and Mamon is a celebration of the Filipino culture. There are Filipino cultural references woven throughout the book, along with a glossary of Filipino words in the front and the Filipino recipes at the back. Some readers might find the characters and the community a little idealistic, but in an increasingly divisive world, it can be a nice escape. Guilt and Ginataan, the fifth book in the series, will be out on November 12, 2024.

For another book involving a multigenerational family working together, check out the Skelf series by Doug Johnstone.

Berkley Books

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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