Saturday, February 11, 2023

Chelsea Field - The Hunger Pains

Isobel Avery is on her second assignment as an undercover poison taster for Los Angeles's rich and famous. And she’s actually enjoying herself. Until her sweet, agoraphobic client mysteriously leaves the safety of his apartment and winds up dead.
When crucial evidence goes missing, investigator Connor Stiles will need Izzy's inside knowledge to help track down the killer. But despite three months of absence to make Connor’s heart grow fonder, he doesn't seem pleased to be working with her again. The LAPD commander is even less pleased to have Izzy on the case since he considers her a suspect and, even worse, a mere civilian. To top it all off, her least favorite relative in the whole wide world drops by for an unexpected visit.
Meanwhile, the killer is destroying anything that might link back to them. Including Izzy if she's not careful.
In this fun-packed romantic sequel to Eat, Pray, Die, join Izzy as she learns where she stands with the enigmatic Connor and tries to put another bad guy behind bars.

Comment: This is the second installment in the Humorous Mystery series by Chelsea Field. I was positively surprised by how enjoyable the first book ended up being, and I decided I would want to read this one too, which proved to be as entertaining.

In this second story, heroine Izzy is once again working with a client as a Poison Taster, and she is very glad with this mission, for Ernest, the client, is a sweet man, prone to conspiracy theories he blogs about, but being agoraphobic, Izzy's job is a pretty calm one. The problem is that, the night he decides to leave the apartment on his own for some reason, he is killed and Izzy follows the clues and eventually finds his body. Of course Izzy calls the authorities and her former boss Connor and they investigate what could have happened to Ernest, a task that isn't as easy as it seems because no one seemed to ill wish Ernest, even those who might dislike his blog... but the investigation has to start somewhere...

Although this might not be considered novella size, it's pretty close to it, because the story isn't very long. In a way, I liked that things were concise and straight to the point... the aim of these novels is clearly one of cozy mystery vibe which means the plots don't stray too far from what is ongoing. Nevertheless, I was glad because we also have what can be considered as some personal development for Izzy and Connor...

I had my doubts in the first book regarding Izzy. She seemed to be too air headed and a little "fluffy", despite the amount of problems she had, with the loan sharks and being away from her family. But I'm happy to say she has grown on me and now I'm quite interested in seeing what she will do next and how her life improves. I like how the author has two main issues to focus on: Izzy and her life, and the mystery plots she sees herself in. It's clear the evolution of the character, including her romantic entanglement with Connor, will be a slow paced one, but in a way that's good, to better savor it.

I'm also invested in picking new details about her life, and although this is on the light/humorous side, perhaps it's only me who sees it that way, but the little things about her life, such as how she misses her parents, how she feels about having been deceived by her ex, about losing her business...all these little things make me think of Izzy as someone with more depth and more sad emotions than the ones she projects on the page... obviously, this makes me like her more.

The romance is not yet a romance, just a possibility but, I mean, the fun is to see how they might start seeing one another though a different lens the more they get to know each other. The fact we only have Izzy's POV should be restricting but unlike in other romance novels, in here I don't mind it much, because Izzy is a charming character to follow. Plus she likes to read!
The secondary characters are all interesting in their own way, some more than others, but I think the cast is diverse enough - personality wise I mean - to make their interactions cute.

As for the plot about Ernest and why he died... I mean, this isn't one of those super complex thriller plots where the links and hints are all a maze, but the small development of why and who felt satisfying enough. I think the author chose to purposely keep things simple, the clues aren't hard to pinpoint and when we have an explanation, it makes sense, especially thinking on how Izzy and Connor went on in their investigation and tried to provoke the killer to a self exposure.

All in all, this was a cute novel, yes, with fun and cute moments, some serious vibe and tone here and there, and apart from some pacing and forced/stilted interactions, I had a great time reading this one. I will certainly carry on with the series.
Grade: 8/10

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