Basil Instinct

( 28 )

Overview

In this second cozy mystery series that started with You Cannoli Die Once, a chef and her cousins launch their own investigation when a new sous chef turns up dead in their Italian restaurant.

When Chef Eve Angelotta’s grandmother, Maria Pia, is invited to join Belfiere, a secret all-female Italian culinary society, Eve is concerned. Rumor has it that membership is lifelong—whether you like it or not. Eve and her cousin Landon try to research Belfiere, but all they come up with ...

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Basil Instinct

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Overview

In this second cozy mystery series that started with You Cannoli Die Once, a chef and her cousins launch their own investigation when a new sous chef turns up dead in their Italian restaurant.

When Chef Eve Angelotta’s grandmother, Maria Pia, is invited to join Belfiere, a secret all-female Italian culinary society, Eve is concerned. Rumor has it that membership is lifelong—whether you like it or not. Eve and her cousin Landon try to research Belfiere, but all they come up with is a two-year-old blog entry warning against the two-hundred-year-old society that centers around meals inspired by famous female poisoners.

Soon after, Eve’s new sous chef turns up dead just inside the front door of Miracolo, Eve’s restaurant. When they discover the sous chef had connections to Belfiere, Eve and her Italian cousins start a mission to find out what happened—before Maria Pia is made an offer she can’t refuse.

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Editorial Reviews

RT Reviews
“Costa brings a secret cooking society to light in this fascinating outing in her food-centric cozy mystery series. With Eve in charge, the characters—and readers—learn that people aren’t always who they appear to be. A great second entry!” (Four stars)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476709369
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 6/24/2014
  • Series: Eve Angelotta Series, #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 484,674
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Shelley Costa’s stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents 13 Tales of New American Gothic, The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best Short Story category, and she chaired the Best Paperback Original category for the 2011 Edgar Awards. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Edgar Allan Poe, and she has lectured on Poe at various events. She has a PhD in English and is on the faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where she teaches fiction writing and screenwriting. A former New Yorker, she lives in a Cleveland suburb.

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Read an Excerpt

Basil Instinct


  • 1

At 9:41 p.m. on June 16th I uttered those fateful words: “How bad can it be?” If you didn’t tumble out of your crib just yesterday, surely you know that the universe hears those words as a challenge. So it sends you a hurricane or a tax audit or a new man who still lives with his mother. Even so, I didn’t see it coming.

As the head chef at Miracolo Italian Restaurant in Quaker Hills, Pennsylvania, I had just been plating an order of vitello alla Bolognese when our best server, Paulette Coniglio, one of those sturdy middle­-aged women with wedge cuts and expensive highlights, handed me a violet envelope. Telling me someone had left it on the table, wedged between the salt cellar and the ornamental bamboo, she arched an eyebrow, smirked, and flipped the envelope at me the way a cop hands you a ticket for speeding. Not that I would know.

Our eyes met.

I took the envelope gingerly between my slightly greasy thumb and forefinger and gave it a look. Navy-blue calligraphy on card stock. Back flap sealed with a round blob of navy-blue wax ­embossed with the letter B. Addressed to Chef Maria Pia ­Angelotta— my nonna (Italian for annoying grandmother), who owns Miracolo.

“So who left it?” I asked.

Paulette rolled her shoulders to get the kinks out. “Two well-dressed women who knew enough to get the Barolo with the veal.” I like this woman for a couple of reasons. First, she used to date my father Giacomo (Jock) Angelotta, and she stuck around even after he didn’t. Second, she is the field commander you want in all the battles of daily life.

“Ah,” I said ruminatively, “foodies.” Wine selection is always the giveaway.

Paulette’s gaze swung to my cousin Landon, my sous chef, who was garnishing an order of his profiteroles—think cream puffs—and doing the famous two-handed hat lift from the Bob Fosse number “I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man.” Her eyes narrowed. “Mm,” she hummed, shaking her head slowly, “something more.”

“More than foodies? What could that be?” I was at a loss since I had been so busy during the dinner rush that I hadn’t peeked my head out of the kitchen even once. I wiped my hands. “Did Maria Pia recognize them?” She’d been swanning around the dining room all evening. My grandmother ­sincerely believes our customers come because of her. The rest of us believe they come in spite of her.

“I don’t think so.” Paulette is my ally in my ongoing effort to keep the dragon (Maria Pia) at bay in the business of the restaurant, which is why she always keeps me in any loop reassuringly ahead of my wild-card granny.

I brought the violet envelope next to my ear, squeezed it between my fingers, and then held it up to the overhead lights. “Well,” I said philosophically, “it’s not ticking, oozing white powder, or holding cash, so I think I’m losing interest.”

She held out her hand. “I’ll give it to Maria Pia.”

Which is when I said with a shrug, “How bad can it be?”

I found out just two minutes later, when my grandmother flung open the double doors and stood there dazed, the opened envelope hanging loosely between her fingers. Out in the dining room the regulars were tuning up, trying to find an A they could agree on. They’re amateur musicians who several years ago decided Miracolo is the perfect place to try out their stuff. In public. To get the picture, think squatters with musical instruments. Maybe none of them has a garage.

Landon and I turned to our grandmother. “It’s happened,” she croaked, her arms pushed quivering against the double doors like she was trying to launch a lifeboat from the Titanic. Her face was ragged.

“What?” I asked her, as I plated an order of risotto. “You finally been invited to a baby shower?”

“It should only be yours,” she answered kind of automatically, in a strange voice, staring past me. On my nonna, it’s hard to tell the difference—just by looking at her—between alarm and ecstasy, which must have somewhat complicated her love life with my grandfather, the sainted Benigno.

At seventy-six, Maria Pia Angelotta is pretty much what you’d call a babe—with wrinkles. These she slathers nightly with half a dozen different creams labeled “crèmes” to jack up the price. She looks a lot like Anne Bancroft, those big, wide-set dark eyes, that broad and sensuous mouth. From her I got my good legs, something she never lets me forget, although hers are shorter, something I never let her forget.

“Then what, Nonna?”

“It’s Belfiere.”

“Who’s that?”

“It’s Belfiere.”

Which didn’t clear it up. “And Belfiere is—?” I prompted her slowly.

Nonna got testy. “Have all your pants cut off the circulation to your brain?” She believes I’ve ruined all my chances at a niceItalianboy by preferring pants to skirts. I resist telling her that niceItalianboys have no trouble getting past garments of any sort. And I do mean getting past. “Belfiere is the oldest culinary society in the—the—world.”

Landon and I exchanged a look. His said: Do you think it’s time to take her in for an evaluation? Mine said: I thought this blessed day would never come. Then Landon cranked up his help-me-to-understand manner. He leaned in toward her and said, “Kind of like the American Culinary Federation, Nonna?”

I crossed my arms. “Or . . . The American Cheese Society?”

She hit us both with the violet-colored invitation. “No, you ninnies, not at all like those.” This was followed with a spray of sentiments half in ­Italian that—from what I could follow—­compared Landon and me to that traitor Little Serena, her other granddaughter, whom she likened to bread made with expired yeast and then taken off to the woods by non-Italian wolves. (But then, my Italian is a little rusty.) All Little Serena had done was to come out of the closet and declare her kitchen ­orientation—“I don’t cook”—upon which she blew town to work a ride at Disney World.

I held out my hand. “Can I see the invite, Nonna?” Nonna, a soft little nursery rhyme kind of word. Makes you picture some mild-mannered smiling human cushion that shells peas, slips you five dollars if she thinks you studied your catechism, and uses her loose dress as a dish towel. But this would be somebody else’s nonna, not mine.

She glared at me. “Of course you can’t see it. It’s not for the uninitiated.”

Landon went for logic. “Well, you’re uninitiated.”

She gave him the look she usually reserves for overcooked pasta. “Yes, but I am among the chosen.” And then, as Landon and I stood there, Maria Pia Angelotta got intense, which is definitely her default setting, clutching the invitation to her generous breast. “Belfiere,” she explained in the hushed tones usually reserved for deathbeds, “is two hundred years old. It’s a”—she slanted a suspicious look at Li Wei Lin, our young Chinese dishwasher, as though she couldn’t be absolutely sure he wasn’t a spy—“secret society of no more than fifty chefs—all women, no men—and you can’t apply to become a member. You are selected by a secret process.” Her already large, expressive eyes widened. In awe, I thought. Maybe fear. Hard to tell. “And inducted in secret.”

It took a lot for Landon not to roll his eyes. “We get it, Nonna, it’s very hush-hush.”

“Well, what do they actually do, these Belfiere ladies?” That was me.

“Do?” Nonna gasped. “Do? They don’t have to ‘do’ anything. They just”—and here she exhaled reverently—“are.”

“Well,” I said, scratching my head, “are you going to have time for this—this—secret cooking club? I mean, the restaurant kind of, well, needs you.” Was I crazy? Maybe Belfiere was the perfect excuse to get her out of my hair . . .

Chef Maria Pia Angelotta pulled herself up straight and gave me a stony look. “You don’t understand. This is not some little club for”—her fingers twiddled the air in the Italian gesture that says You are so inconsequential, even my fingers are bored—“tap dancers or hairdressers.” Are there really such things? “Belfiere is the greatest honor in all the world for a woman chef. If you are called,” she said, rippling an eyebrow at me, “you go.”

Landon got alarmed. “What do you mean you go? Is it a commune? Do you have to sell all your stuff and go live with them?” He was winding himself up, all right, but it was alarm I happened to share. “If so,” he finished with a self-conscious little laugh, “I get the art deco blue mohair armchair. Please, oh, please. Just remember I’m your oldest grandchild.”

He pursed his lips and I elbowed him in the ribs.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said imperiously. Then she lifted the invitation and scrutinized the printed instructions. “That’s not how it works. Tomorrow will be busy. I start preparing for the special meal I cook as part of my initiation—so we’ll be needing extra help.”

Landon groaned. “Extra help?”

“Cooking? Serving? What do you mean?”

She waved us off, lost in a daydream about hobnobbing with her fellow wizards. “Belfiere,” she said, choked up, “I can hardly believe it. I only wish Benigno had lived to see it,” she finished with a magnificent sniff. Then she bit her lower lip and stared at a far corner of the ceiling. “So much to do,” she said, turning away, tapping the invitation against her hand. “First thing tomorrow,” she announced, “I get my Belfiere tattoo.”

Tattoo?

Maria Pia Angelotta?

The woman who, on the subject of body art, runs the gamut from nausea to horror?

Little did I know that before the week was up, I’d be seeing another Belfiere tattoo—on a corpse.

*   *   *

If this Belfiere cooking society was enough to get my squeamish grandmother ready to run off and get inked, already I didn’t like it. Neither did Landon. I could tell by the fact that in the last thirty seconds he had left traces of mint leaves and chocolate shavings in his otherwise perfect hair.

We followed her back into the dining room, where the last of the evening’s customers were weighing the effort of pushing themselves off their chairs against hanging around for the first set played by the late-night regulars. Our cousin Choo Choo Bacigalupo, the maître d’, dimmed the lights and smiled suggestively at his crush, our server Vera Tyndall.

Paulette and Mrs. Crawford—a mysterious pianist who I suspect was named Mrs. Crawford at birth—could tell something was afoot from Landon’s hair and the fact that my black toque had fallen over my eyebrow. The two of them shot us questioning looks. Jabbing my finger at the violet invitation in Nonna’s hand, I mouthed, Get the card at them.

Paulette improvised. “Is that a cockroach?” she exclaimed loudly, stalking over to a dark corner behind the bar, where our octogenarian bartender, Giancarlo Crespi, was slicing lemons with manic ferocity.

“Where?” gasped Maria Pia. She quickly glanced around to see what effect this discovery was having on business—zero—so she headed ­toward the corner still clutching the violet invitation from the good crackpots at Belfiere. There was a chance she was planning on using it to address the problem, but I looked pleadingly at Mrs. Crawford. Which was when, without a ripple of change in her ­expression—courtesy of a theatrical supply house—our pianist performed the arpeggio that routinely opened my grandmother’s favorite song, “Three Coins in a Fountain.”

All interest in an alleged cockroach evaporated.

Maria Pia fanned herself demurely with the invitation, acting as though her nightly mad interpretive dance to the fountain song had been vigorously requested by the crowd. There was no crowd. There was a red-nosed businessman hoping another split of champagne would cure the eye-rolling boredom of the young redhead with him. There was a table of five flashy women who kept trying to top each other’s bad-boyfriend stories but had dressed with enough dazzle that they were probably secretly hoping those boyfriends would walk in. There was a very pregnant gal thumbing through a baby name book and disagreeing with everything her husband actually liked.

No one was clamoring for my nonna’s expressive whirling that made me have to increase our insurance coverage. But, with a theatrical flourish, Maria Pia set the invitation down on an empty table and launched into the song. She got as far as “Three—” and was sucking in a big breath when our singer, Dana Cahill, came motoring up to her, shouting, “No, no, no!” At that moment, Landon oozed by the table, snagged the violet card, and disappeared into the kitchen. I knew he was heading to the office at the back, where he’d make us a copy of this piece of mail from Belfiere that was already smelling like five-day-old mackerel.

Dana smiled indulgently at Maria Pia and drew her aside, out of earshot of the late-night regulars, who appeared to be moping. “Don’t you remember what week this is, M.P.?”

To which my bemused grandmother said, “Heh?”

Dana smoothed her bobbed and dyed black hair (as if it ever got wayward) and licked her vampirish red lips. At that point I noticed she was wearing a sleeveless black sheath I think I saw at Saks in the Donna Karan collection—and a black armband. Who died? Knowing Dana, it could have been the death date of some obscure Russian poet—anything to throw out there if someone asked her about the cloth around her upper arm. She chooses her dramatic effects and then digs up a plausible reason for them.

“It’s Grief Week,” she said in a way that reminded me of a nun in fourth grade when some poor boy couldn’t name the ninth Station of the Cross.

My grandmother looked puzzled.

Dana spoke up, enunciating each syllable as though my nonna’s singing her signature song was second only to the problem of her ear wax. “Setti-man-a do-lo-ro-sa, M.P. Grief Week.” For someone wearing a black armband, she was also sporting about two pounds of gold jewelry.

I could tell Maria Pia Angelotta was close to strong-arming the slight Dana Cahill out of her way with a rebuke for keeping my nonna from her following. “I must give them”— she slapped a hand on her breast—“what they want.” (In that case, Nonna, grappas all around.)

But Dana hung on to her, and went on to remind my thwarted grandmother that the third week in June honors the losses suffered—in a bizarre coincidence—by the regulars during that week. Different years, same week. It all came back to me. It was the third week in June when the clarinet’s wife left him, the mandolinist’s son died in a road accident, the drummer’s mother succumbed to a bee sting, Giancarlo Crespi’s father died on Okinawa during World War II, and Dana Cahill’s basset hound, Booger, died (probably just to stop answering to that name).

So, in a show of solidarity, which annually drives away customers, the Miracolo late-night regulars take the opportunity during the third week in June to play maddeningly mournful music. If the song features justice gone awry or star-crossed love, they were all over it. And if it wasn’t already down-tempo, they’d work their antimagic on it until it was.

Maria Pia glowered at the hangdog regulars who were no doubt thinking that “Three Coins in a Fountain,” while full of longing, was still not appropriate for Grief Week. “Oh, all right,” she spat, graciously. At which Mrs. Crawford lifted her fishnet-­gloved hands from the keys and we watched the regulars launch into their first number. I had just identified it as a dirge probably played for wailing crowds at state funerals in Kazakhstan, when Dana leaned in to me. “I love what they do with ‘Teen Angel,’ ” she whispered, scratching underneath her black armband.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Landon slipping the invitation from Belfiere back to the spot our Nonna had left it, just as she—with no coins to toss in a fountain, due to Grief Week—seemed to remember she had set it down, and turned to retrieve it. Landon patted his pants pocket, which I took to mean that he had stashed a copy there, and I looked at him quizzically. Blinking, he mouthed a big exaggerated “Wow!” at me. So he had read it.

I wasn’t reassured. “Not sticking around for ‘Ode to Billie Joe’?”

He pushed behind our grandmother and did a tense head shake at me as he headed toward the kitchen. “Wait till you see it,” he whispered.

“That bad?”

Staring, Landon kept walking. “No good can come of it,” he intoned.

*   *   *

Between us, Landon and I managed to clear ­Miracolo out by 11:52 p.m., well before its usual closing time. Grief Week was just going to have to be a tad less grief-filled this year. Landon and I had crazy cooking societies to discuss before collapsing into our beds. Dana was sitting hunched on a bar stool clasping a cordless microphone and singing the final strains of her spin on “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” (her third splatter platter in a row), sung as what I can only call a breathless lullaby. When one of the drummer’s sticks slid off his plaid Bermuda shorts, I saw he was fast asleep.

Leo, the electric mandolin player—and the only musician regular I knew by name—was gathering up the pictures of the subjects of Grief Week from the end of the bar, which had become a shrine. Pictures of a swaybacked basset hound apparently wondering what the hell was wrong with the human who would name him Booger. A young marathoner. An out-of-focus shot of a crew-cut GI caught mugging for the camera on a beach in the South Pacific. A stiff wedding shot of the clarinetist and his bride, who had eyes for the best man. A long-haired girl in a purple miniskirt holding her young son in one arm and pointing out a zoo giraffe with the other.

Maria Pia was carried along with the rest of the staff, who warbled their good nights, and I finally gave Dana a little shove, which she interpreted as some kind of Girlfriend Gesture and responded ­affectionately with “Oh, you!” But at least she went out the door. Landon killed the lights, I locked up, and together we headed across Market Square to Jolly’s Pub, which stays open until 2 a.m.

The downtown commercial district in Quaker Hills, Pennsylvania, consists of shops and businesses lined up on all four sides of the three-acre green space called Providence Park. Right across the street from us is Jolly’s Pub, owned by a second-generation Brit named Reginald Jolly, who, if you happen to come during the slow period, between lunch and happy hour, you might catch trimming his pencil moustache. I think of him as the anti–Maria Pia—he’s as inscrutable and self-controlled as she is generally Out There. They approach each other warily, which is wise, and not often.

Landon flicked open the top two buttons of his shirt as we loped across Market Square and headed straight across the park. My little hemp tote slapped against my right hip as I dodged benches and playground equipment. “Hi, Akahana,” I called to our wandering Japanese philosopher, who was stretched out on the kiddie slide, reading by the halogen light of a headlamp. I could tell by her grunt that she was pondering the origins of consciousness, her favorite late-night activity.

The entire front wall of Jolly’s Pub had been buzzed up and out of sight, like a garage door, and the drinking crowd had spilled out to scattered tables fronting Market Square. Inside was a long bar that gleamed like a grand piano and café tables holding battery-op candles that even flickered like the real thing. No Grief Week on this side of the square. Glasses clinked. Voices topped each other. Late-night laughter sounded like surf. The scent of Scotch perfumed the summer air. Floating close to the tin ceiling was the sound of Bob Dylan singing “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Maybe I could just hang out at Jolly’s for the rest of Grief Week.

Landon and I grabbed a table, signaled two short ones to Jeanette, the bartender, and we sat. Listing over to one hip, he teased the copy of the Belfiere invitation from his pants pocket. Landon is probably my best friend and the closest thing I’ll ever have to a brother in this lifetime. After my mom died when I was nine and my father—Maria Pia’s oldest son, Jock—took off for parts unknown when I was fifteen, Landon’s dad gave me a home, partly to keep me out of his mother’s clutches. It almost worked.

He slid the paper across the table to me.

My fingers walked over to it and slowly drew it back toward me.

After about three seconds, Landon erupted into fits of exhaled air and pulled his chair around so he was shoulder to shoulder with me. I smiled at him. Bullets leave guns slower than my beloved cousin reaches the limits of his patience. “Oh, here,” he cried, as if I’d bungled the unfolding. In what looked like one motion, he unfolded the copy of the Belfiere invitation, smoothed out the creases, and spun it to face me.

Centered across the top was what looked like a coat of arms. To me, the shield was shaped like a funnel, which I suppose made more sense than something you’d carry into battle. Even on the worst days, the kitchen at Miracolo didn’t get that bad. In the upper-right quadrant were three ­silver knives with identical ebony handles laid side by side. A carmine-colored slash ran diagonally from there down to the lower-left quadrant, where a black mortar and pestle was pictured. Running below the funnel-shield was a scroll with the words Numquam Nimis Multi Cultri. Possibly Latin for Crazy Cooking Club?

And then I read:

The Society of Belfiere

~ honoring the gustatory delights of life and death ~

welcomes you as a member

You will first undertake to receive the traditional 3cm B tattoo in Bastarda font on the wrist of your stirring hand

You will prepare an exclusive evening meal for 50 guests on Friday, June 20, at 9 p.m.

You will provide yourself with the traditional Belfiere gown in midnight-blue satin for your induction

on Sunday, June 22, at 10 p.m.

at 7199 Gallows Hill Drive

Pendragon, Pennsylvania

You must arrive and depart alone

You must perform all instructions faithfully

and

In all things pertaining to Belfiere you must observe omertà

We are 200 years old and our traditions are known only to ourselves

In matters of our history we are Clotho

In matters of ourselves we are Lachesis

In matters of food we are Atropos

We are Belfiere

I shuddered.

“I know!” whispered Landon, his green eyes wide. Then he waved the paper under my nose.

Our Scotch arrived—Laphroaig for me, Oban for Landon. We were staring at the amber liquid while Dylan sounded so close he might have been at the very next table, and for sure he was the only one at Jolly’s making any kind of sense. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Whatever this whole Belfiere thing was, Maria Pia Angelotta had unquestioningly bought into it, so the prosciutto was about to hit the fan.

“Our fortress has been breached,” I told Landon moodily, picking up my drink.

“The barbarians are at the gates,” said Landon, lifting his drink, adding, “and they are so wearing last year’s fashions.”

“Dwelling on the line about the midnight blue?”

“Well”—he lifted his elegant shoulders—“coupled with the satin . . .” and he punctuated his scorn with a little sound that went something like “Puh!”

I took one sip I let slosh from side to side, then knocked back the rest. As I winced and writhed, I got out, “I mean, what’s their brand? On the one hand, bastard tattoo fonts—”

“On the other,” said Landon, sipping, “an elegant dinner for fifty. I agree. And girlfriend”—he slipped an arm around me—“let’s not even touch the”—here his voice dropped—“omertà line.”

Omertà is the code of silence. Usually reserved for certain Italian neighborhoods. Usually understood as the cost of doing business with certain Italian businessmen. Or getting the business from certain Italian businessmen. Violating omertà is usually punishable by listening to Dana Cahill sing Motown. But the fact that Belfiere members were bound by this code of silence gave me the kind of creeps that had nothing to do with Sandor the toothless floor mat delivery guy offering to try out the mat together. “And then,” he always finishes with a leer, “let’s see what happens.”

I signaled for a second shot. “There’s a lot of death talk in this invitation,” I pointed out to my cousin. “Omertà, the Three Fates—”

Landon snatched the paper. “ ‘The gustatory delights of . . . death.’ ” He shivered. “What are they talking about? What are those?”

Indeed. I waved around my empty shot glass.

Landon went on, “Is it some kind of depression support group?”

“Or do they believe in some kind of epicurean afterlife, or—”

Landon caught my drift. “Or . . . does Belfiere ‘help’ you on your way? Is it an assisted suicide cult?”

My eyes roamed the walls of Reginald Jolly’s pub, which featured framed map reproductions of England all the way back to when it was called Anglia and centurions only dreamed of a future that held pizza. Why all the enforced silence, the secrecy, the mystery, the lonely initiation ceremony out somewhere in the boondocks? What had Nonna gotten herself into? Yes, there were times when I wanted to kill her, but that was my own rightful fantasy, not anyone else’s.

When I fell off the stage of the New Amsterdam Theatre on October 23, 2009, where I was in the chorus of Mary Poppins, and I broke my leg, I needed a living. And Miracolo is like a hereditary obligation. We Angelottas have been pounding veal senseless for the past eighty years. That alone is the “miracle”—that we’re still cooking, still making money, still not throttling each other. So I caved. And I cooked. Caved and cooked. Nonna purred for weeks.

Finally declaring the Miracolo culinary tradition safe in my hands, she announced she was retiring. The rest of us—which included vendors, customers, and neighboring shop owners—feigned everything from disbelief to operatic distress at the news. Little did we know that my nonna’s idea of retirement pretty much meant having none of the actual responsibilities of the restaurant while still being every bit as annoyingly present as before, telling Landon he chops like a girl, or Choo Choo that goatees are all fine, well, and good for quadrupeds, and me that I could sell my gnocchi to anyone in the mob looking for the perfect thing to tie to, oh, something they want to keep from floating.

But she was our nonna. She gave me a job when my whole dancing career fell off the stage right along with me. And to this day I am still pretty sure she didn’t push me. But late that night on the day Maria Pia received a command—for that’s really what it was, not an invitation—to tattoo herself with the sign of allegiance, to feed fifty all dressed alike in a Belfiere costume, to show up alone and friendless for a strange initiation ritual, and to understand the absolute need for ­secrecy . . .­ danger prickled my skin like the humid June night. I didn’t like any of it. Not one bit.

Finally, without looking up at Landon, I spoke slowly. “Or is Belfiere . . . a murder club?”

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 29, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Basil Instinct by Shelley Costa

    Eve and the gang from Miracolo are back in Shelley Costa's, second book in the Italian Restaurant Mystery series. This time Maria Pia has been given the opportunity to join a very selective and secretive group of female chefs, but murder may be in the offing. Costa has an innate ability to write a good mystery with tons of eclectic characters and more humor than a good slap stick comedy. Readers looking for a great offbeat family will find the Angelotta's more fun than a barrel of monkeys! What I liked: The first book in this series, You Cannoli Die Once, was funny, but nothing like Basil Instinct. Shelley Costa has really amped up the humor in this one and readers will have some serious "Weekend at Bernie's" moments. I love that old movie and when Eve and Landon try to hide a dead body to save Maria Pia's dinner and then try to move it, you can't help but belly laugh... a lot. I think Costa's use of humor was spot on here. It took all of the tension out of the murder and managed to still keep the mystery right on track. The secret society of chefs and their interesting traditions and rituals were entertaining and had me thinking Masons or some sort of underground community. It gave this addition to the series a sinister sort of quality that wasn't present in the first book. Maria Pia going out to get a tattoo was both funny and a testament to how far these kinds of societies can stray towards cult like behavior and I thought Costa did a fantastic job of developing this very unique group. There was a lot of humor involved with it, but also that underlying manipulative energy. Good stuff! There were still an inordinately large amount of characters in this book, but it was easier to follow the second time around. This is a large family and I understand that, that is an Italian trait, but it gives the reader too many people to have to keep up with and if the characters only appear now and then it's easy to forget who they are or how they have been incorporated into the story up to this point. I think the author would have benefited from spending more time on a few characters then so much time on so many. I continue to be impressed with how Costa is able to get the family dynamics so accurate in her writing. This is exactly what I expect from a big Italian family. There is a lot of love, a lot of tolerance and good times and bad. I love Eve as the main character and the way she goes about investigating the strange things that seem to keep happening at Miracolo. She is gutsy, funny and very inquisitive. I didn't figure this one out right away, but when I did, it was easy to look back and see how the author led up to everything and provided plenty of clues if the reader was paying attention. Bottom Line: This was a good second book in a series. The author brought in a double dose of humor and kept the reader interested from the beginning to the end. With secret societies, murdered sous chefs, culinary students, a corpse to hide and plenty of clues, this was one intriguing mystery. Can't wait to see what happens next with this big ol' Italian family.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2014

    To Lucas

    Niiicccce. As an avid Star wars fan i now ask you this:......... THEN WHAT HAPPENED??? Lol XD

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2014

    Ritveesh

    Side republic

    Weapons lightsaber blaster explosives

    Species lasat male

    Looks green with big robes

    Anything else ask

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2014

    Cash

    Name. Cash starstruck

    Looks: curly hair. Hawaian. Has a blue crystal with a red and black hilt. Jedi. Age:12 and kind of has a crush on Raven.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2014

    Hold up

    Hold up a second. Got to think.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2014

    Lucas' Complete Star Wars Bio

    Name: Lucas Stone. Age: Clone age. Species: Human 89%, Robot 10%, Kaiber Crystal 1%. Looks: Brown and shiny blonde hair mixed, Blue eyes, Muscular, and Mostly tall for my age. Clothes: I am normally in my unmarked newbie clone armor (when I am promoted I get colors and I will update my armor at the res titled Basil the Great. But IF I am not then I am wearing a midnight blue (the color) shirt and black khakis. I wear running shoes made of bendy rock/metal formed from Mustafar's lava/magma. I also wear a sky blue camo cap. Homeworld: Kamino technically, but read the next info thing. Stationed on: Alderaan and it felt like home...... Personality: The rule follower, kind, quick to his weapons, but fun loving. Character traits: Hardworking, Responsibility, Bravery, and Integrity. Friends: Maybe Tyler and Horus. Probably. Likes: Friends, Clones, Work, Weapons, Fighting, Ewoks, Jango Fett, and Jetpacks. Dislikes: Death, Hutts, Rodians, and Nukes. Weapons: A laser pistol like Queen Amidala's in episode 1, an electrostaff, and a silver handled blue bladed lightsaber (Yet I am not a Jedi). Crush: None. I am a clone. Girlfriend: None. I am a clone. Homeworld now: Endor, where my underground house is. I see Wicket a lot. Cause/Goal: To help every planet in at least one way. Past/Backstory: I was cloned in the cloning facility on Kamino and then sent out to Alderaan. I fought very few battles there, because it was a relativly peaceful planet. I then got the order to kill all Jedi. I ignored it. I went off to see Endor once and that is when the Death Star blew it up. Later when the republic fell apart, I set off on my own. Everyone forgot about me. Other: When I was copied the Kaiber Crystal was put in with the clone I was duplicated from,, causing me to have different features and undiscovered powers than other clone troopers. I also work for my own cause because I have no respect fo the Jedi or the Sith. To all patient people who read this: THANK YOU!!! -Lucas

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2014

    CharacterBios-C-3P0,Silver,Echo,Mira

    C-3P0 (from Star Wars).A goldplated humanoid protocol droid that can be a bit nervous.Counterpart is R2-D2,astromech droid.History:Seen Star Wars,have you?Mostly neutral but keeps getting tangled up in Rebel/Senate matters.Resident planet-None...But keeps going back to Tatooine for some reason...:) Arms-just detatchable humanoid ones."And I am C-3P0,human-cyborg relations,and this is my counterpart,R2-D2"-Star Wars(A new hope) <p> </p> Name: Silver Foxx,aged around twelve to thirteen. Nickname-"Fox "or "Falcon". Species:human female. Appearance: Golden brown stringy hair with a hint of red, with blue/gray eyes and pale skin. Attire: An old brown or black dusty cloak with pockets and patches.Wears brown gloves and black boots with a white shirt and black pants. Hides a brown coat with gold and green shoulderpads in bag. Personality-A tiny bit streetwise,okay with tools,"so-so" with technology.No real sense of identity, although a bit of a scoundrel and brave.Armed with:an old blaster and light-sword/saber.Homeworld-possibly Alderaan.Starship-an old Corellian model,not huge,just habitable.Finds old Holocron tapes and data (especially reading material) to sell,trade,or keep-in short a salvager.An orphan. Might have jedi potential... <p> </p> Name:EC-23/E3-2C or "Echo". Species-feminine protocol droid. Personality:Brave for a droid,but hesitant,nervous, a little shy.Loyal,slightly polite,but knows how to take care of herself. History:Made/programmed by Silver.Anti-memory wipe-Silver saves her memory every once in a while, for fear of Imperial or something takeover.Homeworld-Corelian starship "The Silver Fox."Arms-possibly could wield a saber if obtained.<p> </p> Mira Zerrra -a young female wookie.Very brave,looks fierce and is a bit untrustful but once an organism is trusted,it stays mostly trusted.Wears scratched green mandalorian breastplate and black boots and pants.Understands most human/basic,a smuggler with a blaster.<p> </p> |Rper info- I am a relatively old rper and new Star Wars fan. My favorite movie is Star Wars (later retitled-Episode IV-A New Hope).My favorite fanfictions are Han Solo triology:the paradise snare (first chapter),and the Origami Yoda series. My favorite noncanon video is the Muppet Show episode,"The Stars of Star wars."Almost prophetic at the end and very silly.:) Feel free to ask me questions about that and OY.My must-see list-Revenge of the sith,Clone Wars series,Disney Rebels series.Favorite characters:Droids,especially C-3P0 (who deserves more credit for his wit and importance), and Han Solo along with Chewbacca is a good character.Princess Leia Skywalker,played by Carrie Fisher,is a hero for her braveness in my eyes,although I don't approve of her Return of the Jedi Tatooine outfit.*Shudders.* I like the puppets, though like Yoda,Jabba,the Rancor,Salacious Crumb, the dianoga...I am a bit rusty at knowledge of the prequels,though.Thanks for taking the time to read this!-Em/emeraldstar/C-3P0 Additions may possibly be posted at "star city" or "droid."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2014

    Blaze

    Rouge stormtrooper, last of the clones from the clone wars. Mk 1 armor with red flame patern strike rom top of mask down his left arm armor is all red and he has three red stripes on this left gauntlet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2014

    Garretts bio

    Oh. Same old gar.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2014

    Baylee's Bio

    Name: Baylee Violet Florrissian

    <p> Age: 15

    <p> Clothing: Tan jedi robes and a grey hood thats usualy pulled up.

    <p> Looks: Reddish brown hair with gold tips, brown eyes, 5'4 97 lbs.

    <p> Weapons: A voilet lightsaber and the force.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2014

    Tyler

    Age 30

    Rank master

    Blade dual blue bladed lightsaber

    Scar across hus face and right hand robotic

    Mechanic in 1st platoon

    Robes tan

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2014

    Savos Aren

    Gender: Male <br>
    Age: 47 <br>
    Appearance: Human, white, tall, well-built, brown eyes, long brown hair <br>
    Clothing: Jedi robes with the hood pulled up <br>
    Personality: Reserved, elusive, decisive, quick-thinking <br>
    Weapon: Blue lightsaber, vibrosword, mandalorian blaster pistol, the Force <br>
    Rank: Jedi Master <br>
    Rumor: He is a Sith Lord in disguise.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2014

    Sinon de la croix

    Age: 16/ height: 5'4"/ weight: 90 pounds/ species: cathar/ clothes: an old clone trooper armor set or a blue tunic with white tights and brown boots/ appearance: short light blue hair with long bangs, the sides braided, a pair of indigo eyes and a tail as well as cat-like ears/ history: sinon was once a clone sniper. Jango fett's gen<_>es were mixed with a cathar's in the cloning process, and as such a female clone was created. During the battle of utapau, an explosion threw her into a wall, causing her to pass out as well as miss the order 66. Her helmet radio picked up a rebellion alliance station, talking about the oppression of the empire. Hearing of the destruction of the republic, she set out to help destroy the empire. She still has no idea about order 66./ class: sharpshooter/ rank: liutenant/ weapons: sniper rifle, pistol, auto turret, thermal detonators, and a dc-15 blaster./ personnality: sinon is a quiet soldier who takes orders as trained. She is very shy and prefers to keep her armor on. She has had her armor padded so that noone could tell she was a woman beneath the armor. She is afraid of men, though she will never admit it, and avoids them unless it is necessary she does not. She feels her duty is that of a frontline soldier, knowing quite well she will die on some forgotten battlefield. She has never touched alco<_>hol, but has felt preassure to dri<_>nk. She has a small case of po<_>st trau<_>matic stre<_>ss diso<_>rder, and will happily draw her gun in these cases. While she will never admit it, she enjoys being pet and scrat<_>ched between the ears, as well as good food and a warm embrace, things that are more rare to her than a jedi counsel member. Anything else, please ask.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2014

    Sunny

    Age- <br> 21. <p> Name- <br> Sunny Mcentire. <p> Gender- <br> Female. <p> Apperance- <br> She has holden hair that falls against her back, wirh bright eyes that are tinted with gold. <p> Done.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2014

    Kymi

    - Name - <br>
    ^^ *points up.* Look! Up! There! ^^
    <p>
    - Gender - <br>
    Femme.
    <p>
    - Rank/Position - <br>
    Jedi-In-Training
    <p>
    - Weapon/Lightsaber - <br>
    Unlike other young people training to be Jedi[Younglings, I believe. ] hers is self-designed and unique; the crystal is a rare violet, and the hilt is silver with a beige and gold design.
    <p>
    - Appearance - <br>
    She has long dark hair, usually pulled back into a ponytail, and she is about 5'4. Her eyes are a strange ember-y gold, and a mischievious grin is oftentimes planted on her face.
    <p>
    I think that's all.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2014

    Diantria

    Name: Diantria Cloud. Might not be her real name, but it's all you'll get. <br> Race: Human <br> Rank: Oh, you know. Just your average person. <br> Apperance: Light brown hair and dark brown eyes. Very easy to miss in a crowd. <br> Personality: Difficult to read, even more difficult to get information from. She has quick wits and a sharp tounge.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2014

    Comander

    Name: General Hunter Nathenial Thayer.
    Age: unkown
    Helmetless face: stern. Dark brown hai and eyes. Tan.
    Wepons: a standard blaster with a 2x power scope that flips down for clos range standard iron soghts. 2 handguns. A few regular and cuncussion grenades.
    Armour: standard stormtrooper armour modifie to be more protective. Green markings below the shoulder, ring aroun the edge bottom of the helmet, and on the hip areas to signefy the 1st infantry platoon. Purple markings on sides of helmet, on shoulders, elbows, cheast, and knee caps to signefy my rank, general.
    Leader of the 1st Infantry platoon. On a organization where w hacke storm troopers systems and used them to rebel aginst the empire.
    Rpers in my platoon. I will hav hem put it in their bios.
    Specialization: battle strategy, and first aid.
    I AM NOT A CLONE? add ons will be at comander res on if I hav any.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2014

    Astrids bio

    Name:Astrid Michaelson
    Age:15
    Gender: &female
    Rank:training to be jeti
    Looks:tall maybe 5'11" blonde hair blue eyes and usually wears black tees jean and boots

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2014

    Raven

    Name: Calls herself Raven. ~ Age: 12 ~ Looks: Waist length black hair usually in a braid over her shoulder. Dark brown eyes. Shoft, skinny. ~ Wears: Light brown robes that sort of hang from her body. ~ Lightsaber: Black hilt with a blue crystal. ~ Teacher: Link Solo.

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