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State of the Onion: 08/11/21
State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy is the start of the White House Chef mystery series. Olivia Paras is in the running to be the next head chef at the White House. She's going head to head with a reality TV chef. That should be enough to keep her busy, but there's also an assassin after the president.
The series has an exciting opening. A man is being chased by Secret Service across the White House grounds. Meanwhile Olivia is returning from an errand to pick up a gift for the retiring head chef. When the intruder spots her she has to go on the defensive.
The White House, though, is a known place. It has a history. It is constantly in the news — constantly in the public eye. Sure, presidents cycle through regularly which gives the temptation to make up a fictional one. But the building itself is still too much of a known quantity.
It's a difficult setting to stage a mystery, especially a series of them. Sure, here the theme is food and the setting is the kitchen and places where food is served in the building. But the temptation is still there to involve the First Family and international affairs.
At about a third of the way into this novel the mystery struck me as essentially being "Honey for the Prince," an Avengers episode from the 1966 series. The rivalry between Olivia and the reality TV chef brings to mind The Book Supremacy by Kate Carlisle (2019) and Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinlay (2010).
The second book in the series is Hail to the Chef (2008).