Happy Thursday! I am excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for the first book in a new cozy mystery series, Murder in the Piazza by Jen Collins Moore. Now normally with my reviews, I post a dish that I have made that was inspired by the book. This time around I got caught behind and yesterday was my birthday (and a work day) and I had no intentions of cooking. Instead, I stopped and grabbed take out from a local Italian place in my neighborhood. I'm not sorry. It was delicious and it's great to support restaurants and support local whenever you can. I'll give you my review, pictures of my Fish Piccata and Caprese Salad and link you to a couple of favorite recipes reflective of these dishes.
Maggie White, a downsized American executive stuck in Rome on her husband’s expat assignment, is finding the dolce vita isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She’s taken a job offering painting instruction to well-heeled travelers on a luxury tour and her boss—a rather unpleasant English lord—has turned up dead in his penthouse. Maggie’s left with a palazzo full of suspicious guests, a valuable painting her boss might have stolen, and a policeman who’s decided she’s the prime suspect. Now Maggie must keep the tour up and running while she tracks the killer and works to clear her name.
While I love dark mystery thrillers, I also love a good cozy mystery novel, they are great palate cleansers between heavier books and it's always fun (although usually not too difficult) to try to guess whodunnit. I like when a cozy leans to the foodie side and takes place in a different country or charming location. Murder in the Piazza has all of those things, and is the first book in a new series, the Maggie White Mysteries. (It's nice to get in on the first book of a series and not have to play catch up too!). Maggie White is a former marketing executive who gets let go and is now an expat wife when her husband is sent to Rome. Used to being busy and with two young adult children sent off to college, she finds herself at loose ends in Italy--not wanting to play bridge with the other expats. She takes a job managing luxury art tours for Lord Phillip, a not-very-likable boss and is wishing him to be a little bit dead one night. Unfortunately that wish comes true when Lord Phillip is shot while the tour guests are enjoying fireworks on the rooftop. Maggie feels like the Italian police are slacking on the case and gets herself involved and soon she's the prime suspect.
This is your basic cozy, Maggie has a natural curiosity and tends to jump to conclusions about people which gets her into some difficulties as she meddles her way to solving the crime. I had the killer figured out fairly early but I enjoyed Maggie, (although sometimes I wanted to shake her a bit--also common in cozies) ;-) her two co-workers and the group of mostly American clients she herds through the tour as Lord Phillip's attorney wants her to keep it going so they don't have to refund any money. The descriptions of Rome and the art and architecture were lovely and the food descriptions had me craving pasta and Italian dishes. If you like cozy mysteries and Italy, you will enjoy it. It's a solid first book and I will definitely be looking for the next one.
Author Notes: Jen Collins Moore is the author of the Maggie White Mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mystery Weekly, and she is the editor of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest newsletter. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, as well an established marketer and entrepreneur. A transplanted New Englander, she lives in Chicago with her husband and two boys.
It's Italy so there had to be food in the book, plus the luxury painting tour that Maggie manages has lots of delicious food cooked by Ilaria. Food mentions included; espresso, whiskey, a charcuterie platter, crispy fried artichokes, lasagna with white sauce, monkfish with brown butter, chocolate semifreddo, wine, casserole, bread, mini tarts stuffed with Chantilly cream and tiny strawberries, chocolate dipped butter cookies, nuts in chewy meringue, biscotti, and cornetto pastries with all kinds of fillings, saccottino al cioccolato, tiramisu, gnocchi, roasted vegetables like cartelized eggplant and butter-soft zucchini, olives, cheese, asparagus, dragging bread across the balsamic vinegar and bits of tomato left on plate, donuts, bruschetta--including one with artichokes pureed with white beans, cappuccino, risotto, scotch, fresh mozzarella, pickled vegetables--capers, all kinds of olives, cauliflower, chocolate gelato with cookies, and fresh pasta.
I thought I would try the bruschetta with the artichokes and white beans or some roasted vegetables but as I mentioned, time ran out. I decided to grab a couple of my favorite dishes from a neighborhood restaurant. I love fresh mozzarella and Caprese salads with fresh tomato and basil and although not directly mentioned in the book, I have to believe that a similar salad was served with balsamic.
One of my favorite versions of this salad is the Summery Tomato & Bocconcini Caprese from Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian.
He takes all of the ingredients of a good Caprese and does it with smaller versions--sweet baby tomatoes, little bossoncini balls and baby basil leaves. it is so good I can eat it as a meal. Or be lazy like me and re-plate one from your local restaurant. It's all good!
When it comes to piccata, most of the recipes on my blog are vegan versions however, if you want a simple piccata-ish way to cook fish, I highly recommend my Lemony Piccata Compound Butter on fresh fish (although it would work well on chicken too and it's fabulous on vegetables).
I make this often to add flavor to all kinds of fish and it's easy to do in the food processor. So good!
You can't go wrong with either one of these recipes. But again, there's nothing wrong with ordering up a few favorites now and again!
Notes/Results: I am an excellent orderer! ;-) Just kidding, but this dinner really did hit the spot. I love a good piccata and this was full of lemony, garlicky goodness. The Caprese salad was fresh and delicious and the balsamic-olive oil dressing the right amount. I would have liked smaller, whole basil leaves but otherwise, I have no complaints. I don't indulge in takeout and all of the calories and carbs very often, but I will happily order this dinner (and it will be dinner again today) again.
A review copy of "Murder in the Piazza" was provided to me by the
author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for
my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.