When Serving Food to Monsters and Demons, the Secret Ingredient is Humor

prideWhat if the title of the cooking show Hell’s Kitchen was to be taken literally? If the cooking challenges came not from the mind of Gordon Ramsay but were based on the peculiar and singular dietary habits of demons, faeries, and even stranger beings? Where a slip-up in the salad course means something far worse than going home a loser?

This is the world of Sin du Jour, Matt Wallace’s novella series following the staff of the titular catering company to New York City’s secret supernatural population. It’s a high-pressure job to be sure; they must liaise  with the government to keep the otherworldlies happy and fed during demonic festivals and fae rituals.

It’s a difficult business, but the Sin du Jour team’s job is to operate in secret, making truly unforgettable (and often unpalatable, at least to humans) meals amid chaos, confusion, and the frequently unexpected. The catering crew is well compensated for what they do, but it’s not like they’re going to get their ownTV show out of the job, assuming they even survive it. Their on-the-job exploits, and the tone of the novellas, tends toward demented comedy, a flavor that has only grown more pronounced as the series continues.

Envy of Angels begins the sequence, introducing us to two new recruits to Sin du Jour. Longtime friends Darren and Lena don’t want to miss their shot; they are recruited to join the exclusive catering company, and somehow undeterred when they learn of its rather exclusive clientele (probably has something to do with the fat paychecks). Being introduced to this weird world through Darren and Linda’s eyes gives us a chance to uncover its secret oddities at the same time as they do. And the job-of-the-week is a cooker: a banquet fit for the tables of hell, with divine flesh serving as the main course. The slings and arrows of the culinary life are leavened with humor, memorable characters, and a top notch concept. Guaranteed: you will never look at chicken nuggets in quite the same way. 

Lustlocked continues to follow Darren and Lena as they continue, doubts and all, to integrate themselves into the team at Sin du Jour with a gig serving up a meal to the Goblin King (yes, he does look like the late David Bowie) and Queen, who are celebrating the marriage of their son to a human bride. A celebration beyond the extraordinary is required for this momentous and unique occasion. Love is in the air, but the consequences of supernatural ardor run amok provide a challenge even for the Sin du Jour team. Lustlocked widens the scope to other members of the catering crew, and it proves to be a deep bench of quirky talent while growing the universe in intriguing ways. 

The newest volume, Pride’s Spell, is blessedly more of the same (emphasis on the “more”). The consequences of Lustlocked ‘s surprise ending, and fallout from the events of the first book, combine in the most dazzling place possible: a Hollywood film party. What happens when Sin du Jour meets Tinsel Town and the supernaturals of the West Coast? Plenty—Wallace mixes up culinary delights with an unexpected dash of violence and action, as the staff both in L.A. and back in New York find themselves in the crosshairs of supernatural assassins, and, perhaps, quite literally on the menu. Did I mention that one of the supernatural assassins is none other than the Easter Bunny? (Did I mention Wallace has a demented sense of humor?)

Individually, these stories are perfect appetizers: devoured quickly, leaving a rich taste in the mouth; they’re perfect for a weekend binge. Together, the ingredients mix to create something wholly other, a tasting menu of fantasy fiction with flavors that build upon each other into a more complex dish. Wallace has plans for seven of them (do the deadly math), and I can’t wait to see what’s for dessert.

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