CBR Bingo Square: Edibles
I love cooking, and I love murder mysteries, so I’m always happy when those two things coincide. Pushing Daisies had all that pie, Recipes for Love and Murder is very fun, etc etc. So I’ve also enjoyed Mia P. Manansala’s series focusing on Lila Macapagal and her Filipino family, particularly as audiobooks. Blackmail and Bibingka is the third in the series, and Lila, the baker-slash-mystery-solver, seems to finally have her life in order: the coffeeshop she opened with her best friend is doing great, her romantic triangle resolved and she’s happy with her dentist boyfriend, neither she nor anyone else in her family is currently suspected of murder. But then her ne’er-do-well cousin Ronnie returns to town after a long estrangement to run a winery with some investors, and when one of those investors turns up dead, who else but Ronnie is going to be the prime suspect? Lila might resent the way her cousin hurt his mom, Lila’s aunt (and surrogate maternal figure) when he ran off, but to make her aunt happy again, she is going to have to clear Ronnie’s name, with the help of her family and friends.
The word “cute” can be so condescending, but honestly, this is a pretty cute book/series: it’s a nice American spin on the classic cozy mystery starring an extended POC family, and while most of Manansala’s cultural signifiers are food, she’s also consistently stressed the tight family ties of Lila’s Filipino family. The Christmastime setting of this installment also lets her feature the family’s Catholicism a bit more as well as Filipino Christmas traditions.
It does occasionally veer a bit into the ridiculous/wanting to shake characters for doing blatantly silly things at times, but a little bit of over-the-top is also kind of a staple of the cozy mystery genre. The back third also struggles a smidge with pacing as Manansala piles on the misdirects to delay the conclusion a bit more, but it all does wrap up in a satisfying fashion.
Really, the biggest downside to the whole series is that there’s no Filipino restaurants within an hour of me and that is just a crying shame.