Dim Sum Dead (Madeline Bean Series #4)by Jerrilyn Farmer
Yep. In hip Hollywood, that kitsch old game is fast becoming the next "new" obsession -- and that calls for a party! Madeline Bean and her charming partner Wesley Westcott are determined to throw a gonzo Chinese New Year banquet. But among the hot mah-jongg tiles, the steamy dim sum, and the frosty Singapore/p>/strong>/center>
Yep. In hip Hollywood, that kitsch old game is fast becoming the next "new" obsession -- and that calls for a party! Madeline Bean and her charming partner Wesley Westcott are determined to throw a gonzo Chinese New Year banquet. But among the hot mah-jongg tiles, the steamy dim sum, and the frosty Singapore slings, no one expects to find one of the players ice-cold dead!
Meanwhile, in one of the historic celebrity mansions that Wesley is restoring as a sideline, a well-aimed crowbar uncovers a stash of precious objects -- including an antique mah-jongg set. As Madeline pieces together how these two events are connected, she must separate the yin from the yang to uncover a killer. It doesn't take a fortune cookie to spell it out. There is always a price to pay...whether gambling at mah-jongg -- or murder.
Read an Excerpt
“I hate surprises.” I do. Hate 'em.
My best friend and partner, Wesley Westcott, had just arrived at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market to meet up and buy supplies. He pulled off his backpack and propped it up next to a dark forest of fresh romaine and a spiky rustle of gray-green endive.
“You always say that,” Wes said, “but this one is different.”
“I don't think so.”
Our breath misted when we spoke. Southern California in January. Who said we don't have seasons? But, of course, the day would warm up. As soon as the sun burned through the fog, we'd make it up to seventy degrees, warmer inland.
I put a crisp Chinese cabbage back down upon a perfect pyramid display of similar heads. “Really, Wes. I hate surprises.”
Wes began to unzip the black bag now resting on the out-doorvegetable cart. “Stop saying ‘hate.' ”
“Okay. I don't want to be negative. Negativity sucks.
But ...”A small man, examining some chard, looked up. His dark eyes gave me a once-over before they returned to their careful examination of greens.
I lowered my voice. “I just want to point out that surprises are highly overrated. In my opinion.”
“You just like to know everything ahead of time. That's Jerrlyn Farmer the control freak in you.” Wes pulled out a large package and began unwrapping it.
“Control freak? I am not.” Really.
I picked up one perfect bunch of basil from the large selection of fresh herbs on display. This stand was but one of hundreds that made up the vast Farmer's Market held near Arizona and Second Street every Wednesday and Saturday morning. All around was a feast for the eyes. Ripe andjuicy and picked at the peak of flavor only hours before up in central California's Conejo Valley, this produce rocked the senses. But then, you can probably tell I am wild for freshingredients.
Wait, now. There, on one inner basil leaf, was a teeny, tiny brown spot. I put the minutely damaged bunch of basil into a plastic bag anyway. Control freak? I think not.
The chard shopper shot another quick glance my way. I noticed the sun glint off his gold ring as he put down another tightly banded bunch of chard. I shifted my shoulder bag. I looked at the plastic bag. Quickly, I untwisted the twist tie and removed the slightly imperfect bunch of basil.
Wes caught my eye. “You were saying ...”
“I just have rather high standards for things, that's all.”
“Right,” Wes said, with his basketball-size surprise just about unwrapped.
“Excuse me. Totally different thing.” Aha! My eyes were always darting around at the Farmer's Market. Who could tell where the next treasure was hiding? Now here was the perfect basil. The rich green, purple-veined leaves were large and moist, full and soft. I raised the thick bunch of basil to my nose. The heavenly aroma of the Mediterranean was intoxicating. I popped it into a fresh plastic bag, cheerfully twisting and tying.
I looked up.
Wesley stood there looking back at me, a breeze whipping his long brown hair back. Wesley Westcott is my best friend -- my business partner, actually -- and an excellent gourmet chef. Together, we have started a catering and event-planning firm called Mad Bean Events, which Wesley insisted we name after me. I thought we should call it Made-line Bean Events, because, you know, it sounds more dignified.
He didn't think dignity “sells” particularly well here in L.A. Perhaps he's right, because we are doing just fine as Mad Bean Events, catering Hollywood parties and planning a kicky range of ultra-high-end special events.
For Wesley and me, the Santa Monica Farmer's Market is one of our Wednesday morning rituals. It's something we've done since we moved down to L.A. from Berkeley nine years ago. We both love food and we both love to shop -- so this was just about heaven for us, if you didn't mind thousands of other shoppers elbowing you aside to get the last ripe Haas avocado.
The early-morning bustle on Third Street, closed off to car traffic, was getting thicker by the minute. Tight throngs of well-dressed Westside gourmets scoured the finest and freshest fruits and vegetables of the season. One could people-watch for hours.
There were the young couples, holding hands, their heads close together as they whispered about dinners they would share. There were men, serious home cooks, who shopped in silence. There were lots of attractive women -- young moms pushing tots, and media career types, and others we like to call forty-and-holding'everyone carrying designer water bottles and dressed casually, perhaps on the way to workouts with their trainers. All over the Market, you'd see them, lifting a melon up for a quick sniff, squeezing a lemon lovingly, and tucking their dawn buys into the latest lavender Kate Spade totes.
Shopping along with the neighborhood regulars, of course, there were a goodly number of us professional chefs, and we all knew each other. The outdoor Market was a natural place to meet and gossip in the chilly, overcast mornings, and then to vie like schoolyard bullies for first pick and special buying privileges from our favored grower/vendors.
“Excuse me.” A young mom stepped up to the stall and grabbed a bunch of basil, and resumed talking a kind of baby talk to the infant she had strapped to her chest in one of those contraptions. “La-la-la-la-la” this young woman burbled to the infant. I looked closely at the baby. He or she seemed like every other baby. Big round head, that sort of thing. I know the sight of babies makes many women weak in the knees. But I guess my knees were built steadier. Like I tell people, I'm too young. I'm not ready.
Meet the Author
Jerrilyn Farmer, the author of seven acclaimed, award-winning Madeline Bean novels, is a TV writer who has written for game shows such as Jeopardy! and Supermarket Sweep, and sketch comedy specials for Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Timothy Stack, Cheri Oteri, Tim Meadows, and others. Farmer also teaches mystery writing at the UCLA Extension's Writers Program. She lives in Southern California.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Found this book a bit slow to start. It did improve as it went along and I did not guess 'who did it' until the very end.
The book itself was good. I have enjoyed all of these by Jerrilyn Farmer that I have read. But.....the formatting on the Nook was not good. The last page on most chapters seemed to be cut off. The last sentence on the page would just stop and the next page was the beginning of a new chapter.
Not bad. Enjoyed this read.
The fourth Madeline Bean mystery is the best yet. Hollywood caterer/amateur sleuth Madeline has a lot on her plate - she's catering trendy mah-jongg parties, trying to help the host's troubled girlfriend (even though she doesn't really like Quita), looking into the background of some mysterious objects found in a house her business partner is renovating, and working on some issues all her own. Like is her boyfriend Mr. Right or just Mr. Semi-Convenient? And is she willing to admit to the slightest possibility that she might want kids sometime this century? These personal issues don't overwhelm the mystery, they just add depth and emotion to the story and enhance Madeline's development as a character you care about. Neither Madeline's investigations nor her soul-searching stop her from being delightfully witty throughout DIM SUM DEAD. A little example: she points out that 'I am a huge fan of yours' is 'THE required Hollywood greeting when meeting any form of celebrity. This greeting has no actual meaning whatsoever - just like 'hello' in other parts of the country.' Madeline has plenty of time to show off her Hollywood etiquette expertise because her sleuthing involves several celebs, including some wonderfully eccentric grande dames of acting. All of Jerrilyn Farmer's mysteries are terrific, but I think in DIM SUM DEAD the plotting is the sharpest, the humorous lines and scenes the funniest, and the changes in Madeline's life the most rewarding (for her and the reader!). Quite a tasty treat.
In Hollywood, Madeline Bean and Wesley Westcott are good friends and partners in Mad Bean Events, a catering and occasion planning event enterprise. At a Santa Monica Farmer's Market, Wes shows Maddie a box found behind a wall containing a mah-jongg set, a dagger, and a red leather bound book all belonging to the recently deceased star Dickey McBride. Before Wes can return the items to Dickey's widow Quita, someone mugs her and steals everything. A few blocks away, they find the mah-jongg set, but not the book. Quita is deeply upset to learn the book is stolen. That night Maddie learns that Quita died from a fall down the stairs of her new lover¿s home. Though she never liked Quita, Maddie feels guilty that she failed to prevent the calamity. Maddie decides to learn what really happened, no knowing how much the truth will crush her emotionally. DIM SUM DEAD is an entertaining Madeline Bean catering mystery that showcases the abilities of author Jerrilyn Farmer. Cozy fans will enjoy the Christie-like mystery as violence occurs off the pages while amateur sleuth buffs will relish watching the vulnerable but strong heroine conduct her brand of an investigation. Identifying the killer is impossible until the plot provides the answer to a wonderful story line that will delight the audience. Harriet Klausner
Jerrilyn Farmer has really done it this time. She's whipped together all the ingredients that make her books so hot: memorable characters, lush setting, great gourmet food and writing that flows like butter. If you enjoy Diane Mott Davidson, you must pick up DIM SUM DEAD. It will prove as addictive as Haagen Daz. I kid you not!
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