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Homicide and Halo-Halo: 03/04/22
Homicide and Halo-Halo by Mia P. Manansala and Danice Cabanela (Narrator) is the second book in the Tita Rosie's Kitchen mystery series. Lila Macapagal is hesitant to open her new cafe and she's distracted by being asked to judge the revamped Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant, an event she won as a teen. The event, though, is plagued by threatening notes, some sabotage, and of course, a murder.
The novel opens with two useful things: a glossary of words and phrases used in the book and a list of trigger warnings. Lila is hurting from unwanted memories of her mother at the pageants when she was a teen. She's also dealing with undiagnosed PTSD from the events of Arsenic and Adobo (2021). Her emotional state informs some of her actions and can be painful to watch.
Structurally the mystery is similar to Sugar and Iced by Jenn McKinlay (2014). Both protagonists have trauma associated with pageants, though for very different reasons. There's even a dig about the appropriateness of cupcakes at a beauty pageant in this book.
A big difference in Homicide and Halo-Halo is the pageant's updated rules. First, it's open to any female identifying teen. Morality clauses are removed meaning that dating and teen motherhood are no longer excluded from participating. There is also a frank and positive discussion of polyamory, something I haven't seen before in a cozy mystery.
The third book Blackmail and Bibingka. It's scheduled for release on October 4, 2022.