Cook's Night Out: An Angie Amalfi Mystery

Cook's Night Out: An Angie Amalfi Mystery

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by Joanne Pence

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Foodie Angie Amalfi has decided to make her culinary name by creating the perfect chocolate confection: angelinas. Donating her delicious rejects to the Random Acts of Kindness Mission in San Francisco, Angie meets the jittery minister in charge. Soon she volunteers to help organize their first fund-raiser, despite the fact that her beau, police detective Paavo


Foodie Angie Amalfi has decided to make her culinary name by creating the perfect chocolate confection: angelinas. Donating her delicious rejects to the Random Acts of Kindness Mission in San Francisco, Angie meets the jittery minister in charge. Soon she volunteers to help organize their first fund-raiser, despite the fact that her beau, police detective Paavo Smith, has warned her away from the place. Before Paavo can stop her, he finds himself facing charges that he's a murderous cop on the take. He suspects a "reformed" sinner at the mission is setting him up but Angie refuses to believe it. Then, faster than you can beat egg whites to a peak, she discovers that the mission harbors more than the needy, and that it's up to her to save not only Paavo's reputation--but his life, too.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Angie Amalfi Series , #5
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Chapter One

Angelina Amalfi flung open the window over the kitchen sink. After two days of cooking with chocolate, the mouthwatering, luscious, inviting smell of it made her sick.

That was the price one must pay, she supposed, to become a famous chocolatier.

She found an old fan in the closet, put it on the kitchen table, and turned the dial to high. The comforting aroma of home cooking wafting out from a kitchen was one thing, but the smell of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory was quite another.

She'd been trying out intricate, elegant recipes for chocolate candies, searching for the perfect confection on which to build a business to call her own. Her kitchen was filled with truffles, nut bouchees, exotic fudges, and butter creams.

So far, she'd divulged her business plans only to Paavo, the man for whom she had plans of a very different nature. She was going to have to let someone else know soon, though, or she wouldn't have any room left in the kitchen to cook. She didn't want to start eating the calorie-oozing, waistline-expanding chocolates out of sheer enjoyment-her taste tests were another thing altogether and totally justifiable, she reasoned and throwing the chocolates away had to be sinful.

She'd think of something to do with them soon.

Right now, though, she had to air out the apartment. She didn't want Paavo distracted by the heavy, cloyingly sweet odor.

Leaving the gale-force breeze whipping through the kitchen, she went off to shower and dress for his visit. He was working late at the Homicide Bureau but had promised he'd stop by.

After a liberal splash of Fleur, shewriggled into a slinky purple silk jumpsuit. Ah, Inspector, she thought, taking a look in the mirror, tonight we do some serious soulsearching.

Along with whatever else they might decide to search.

She combed and fluffed her hair, then put on long, dangling amethyst earrings. Recently, she'd spent nearly two weeks living at Paavo's house trying to get over a truly frightening experience. Since coming back to her own apartment, she often thought of that time with him and how wonderful having him come home to her each night had been. The possibility of a permanent arrangement along those lines was exciting. It was getting-down-to-business time about their relationship and their future.

Paavo's loud rap sounded at the door.

She smoothed the jumpsuit over her hips. No time like the present.

With a big smile, she swung open the door. One look at him, though, and her smile vanished.

Usually, Paavo was a man adept at not showing his emotions. He was tall-at six-two almost a foot taller than she was in her bare feet. Of course, she was rarely barefoot, since she loved shoes, especially those with high heels and platform soles. He was broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped, and high-cheekboned, and he had the lightest, most beautiful blue eyes she'd ever seen on a man. To her amazement, most people looked at him and saw a tough cop. She suspected that perception had more to do with their guilty consciences than with his looks.

At the moment, though, the cop was frowning fiercely. Even as he stepped into the apartment, shut the door, and kissed her, she knew all was not well. "What's wrong, Paavo?"

"Nothing worth talking about." His gaze might have been admiring her jumpsuit and all it covered, but his mind was clearly elsewhere. "It's been a long, ugly day."

"Come and sit." She led him to the sofa. "Have you eaten?"

"I'm not hungry. Just some coffee would be fine."

She knew him better than that. He was the type to become so engrossed in his work he would forget to eat. If she were that way, she wouldn't have to be perpetually watching her diet. Her philosophy was that food helped make big troubles into little ones-and she did all she could to avoid big troubles.

She prepared a sandwich for him of ham, turkey, Sonoma jack, and avocado overflowing on thickly sliced sourdough French bread, with a glass of Dos Equis amber beer. When they first met, she never bought beer. But then she learned that sipping a glass of chardonnay or pink zinfandel wasn't exactly his cup of tea. Now she always kept a six-pack in the refrigerator.

She poured herself some coffee and sat in the antique yellow Hepplewhite chair beside the sofa. After he took a couple of bites, she could almost see him realize how hungry he was. Maybe all he needed to put aside thoughts of the bad day he'd had was a little food in his stomach. She was anxious, after all, to begin talking about their living arrangements ... and then some.

"Better?" she asked, eying the almost demolished sandwich.

He finished the last bite, then nodded. "Much better."

"That's good." She smiled. "You looked so upset when you first arrived, I thought something really troubling had happened at work."

He took a long swallow of the beer. "It did."

That was not good news. "It did?"

"I can hardly believe it." He leaned back against the sofa. "You might remember a few weeks ago I arrested a guy, Peewee Clayton, for the murder of his girlfriend. Nice guy ... if you like the type who gambles, does drugs, and kills women with beer bottles."

"That horrible little man! Of course I remember him." She shuddered at the memory of lurid newspaper articles about the murder. "You tracked him down fast. It was an open-and-shut case, as I recall."

"Everything but an eyewitness," Paavo said. "We had good evidence. Great evidence, in fact. Until today. Today was the preliminary hearing, All I had to do was swear to the fact that the blouse the victim was wearing--the one stained with both her blood and Peewee's-- plus the beer bottle that he'd used to kill her were found and tagged by me at the crime scene."

Meet the Author

Joanne Pence was born and raised in San Francisco. A graduate of U.C. Berkeley with a master's degree in journalism, Joanne has taught school in Japan, written for magazines, and worked for the federal government. She now lives in Idaho with her family, which includes a multitude of pets.

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Cook's Night Out 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Even if there were nothing else in the book, the evolving intrigue in the character of the reverend would surge my interest through the book. Is he a good guy is he a con artist? Is he a comical, off-brand, visiting deity, a spinoff of little guy in the movie, with the cigar and the Brooklyn accent? Pence must have been giggling as she was typing, tweaking this character¿s fun fluctuations. I relished every flicker of sunlight and shadow, all the way to the end of the story, which sizzled with a more creative resolution of Reverend Hodge than many writers could have conjured. In this plot, Paavo was forced to dredge the depths of his self-esteem sludge, plummeting to the hairy roots of his professional position, fighting like Serpico against internal corruption, presenting a foil against Angie¿s continued dedication to his soul balance. I appreciated the way Pence¿s characters were sorted so cleanly by their responses to the tarnishing onslaughts to Paavo¿s professional integrity. Angie¿s continued all-out support of Paavo, without losing a Quantum or Quark of her personal integrity, develops further in this plot as she chooses to remain within a bad situation in Hodge¿s program, going against Paavo¿s repeated demands that she stay away from there. If you want the cozy ¿same ole routine¿ which we all look for in genre expectations, you¿ll get satisfaction from Pence¿s series. But you¿ll get more than you hoped for, because Pence¿s talent pushes her to take the ¿norm,¿ do justice to it, then spin it around in a fast circle in her mind until something uniquely, honestly refreshing takes shape in a slightly shifting surprise. This # 5 in the series does that slight surprise a bit more than the other books, especially in resolutions of ongoing questions about, is it/he/she ¿this way¿ or ¿that way¿ ... a good or bad guy or deal? The twists are so numerous they become entertaining labyrinths, and sometimes the points become circles rather than zigs and zags. But ... what about the numerous varieties of ultimates in gourmet chocolate slathering this plot? They made me hungry for the exPENSIVE, freshly original, leading-edge types of confection! ¿Chocolates are us¿ will never be the same. Lifting my goblet, swirling a dark red Merlo, please allow me to toast a master of gently stepping the toe of a high-heeled sandal through the ultimate barriers of intrigue ...