With another failed business behind her, dilettante chef Angie Amalfi is cooking up a new scheme: Pairing up her best friend Connie with a handsome professional football player who just happens to be related to the owner of her favorite Italian restaurant. Soon Connie takes more interest in a suspicious loner than Angie's "dream man" and her despondent friend decides to recreate herself as a restaurant consultant. But when police begin to suspect that Connie and her new love interest are connected with a brutal murder and robbery, Angie and her homicide detective fiance Paavo must try to track down the real killer. And when the trail of clues begins to lead back to Angie's favorite restaurant, it's up to Angie to set things right -- or the only recipe on the menu may be one for disaster.
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
If Cooks Could KillAn Angie Amalfi Mystery
By Joanne Pence
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Joanne Pence
All right reserved.
Connie Rogers glanced down at herself to make sure her brand new black lace Wonderbra was still doing its job and her boobs hadn't sagged as low as her spirits. She'd fixed herself up pretty hot for tonight's date in a leopard-print Lycra top with plunging V-neckline, short black polyester skirt, black diamond-patterned nylons, and sky-high patent leather heels, size 7 narrow. She normally wore a medium, but the narrow looked a lot better, and it fit. Almost. Not to mention that she'd risked razor burn by shaving her legs and underarms even though she'd last done them just three days earlier. Okay, so maybe that was overkill, but a girl could hope, couldn't she?
She sat alone at a window table in the Wings of an Angel restaurant. Her feet ached and her skirt seams screamed. She wriggled in the chair trying to stop the waistband from digging in quite so tight. She'd worn it to make sure her date liked what he saw. If he ever showed, that is.
If her willpower alone could have caused him to enter the restaurant, he'd have bounded in doing handsprings. She'd already smoothed the white linen tablecloth, straightened the silverware, and twirled the single rose in the milk glass vase so many times half the petals had fallen off. The oversized gold-plated Anne Klein watch she'd splurged on at Costco showed 7:20 p.m. Not only was her date twenty minutes late, but since she'd arrived ten minutes early, if she were a thumb-twiddler, she'd have nothing left but stumps.
It wasn't as if she'd twisted his arm to go out with her. In fact, she'd never even talked to him, but she was a victim here. A victim of a blind date who'd stiffed her. What was with that?
Earl White, one of the three owners of the Wings of an Angel and the one who acted as both maître d' and all around waiter of the small restaurant, caught her eye. He was short and barrel-shaped, with hair resembling a shellacked brown helmet atop a face crisscrossed with wrinkles. He, too, glanced at his watch, then back at her with a shrug.
Being stood up was bad enough; the last thing she needed was an audience. She bet Earl had never been stood up. He was in his sixties, and not only single, but still bringing in a paycheck instead of living off Social Security, which made him one of the most sought after men at the North Beach Senior Center. She once heard there was a knock-down-drag-out over him between Gina DiGrazia and Beatrice Pikulski. Plus, he was straight, which in San Francisco, was not to be assumed.
Connie's best friend, Angie Amalfi, had helped Earl and his partners, Butch Pagozzi and Vinnie Freiman, build Wings of an Angel into a pleasant, albeit small, restaurant, and they'd grown close in the process. As a result, whenever Connie showed up, she, too, was treated like family. Maybe that was why Earl had taken such an interest in her plight a couple days ago.
She'd been talking with him about getting herself a dog. A little dog, nothing big or troublesome, but just something warm and alive to greet her when she went home after work. Something that needed her, that would love her unfailingly, through good times and bad.
Okay, so she had a goldfish. It was alive; it needed her, but it wasn't anything she could give a big hug to. Talking to it, watching its flat eyes and lack of reaction as it went around in circles no matter how heartfelt her story was, was an exercise in futility.
Earl had suddenly -- rather rudely, truth be told-- asked how her love life was going. She asked if zip, zero, nada was a clear enough answer. Before she knew it, he'd talked to his partner, Butch, who was also the restaurant's cook. Butch had called a nephew--apparently the only one in the family who'd made a name for himself--and arranged tonight's turkey of a blind date.
Excerpted from If Cooks Could Kill by Joanne Pence Copyright © 2005 by Joanne Pence. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The ethereal blue cover highlighting a plate of surreal spaghetti was a perfect indicator of the rich reading experience ahead. This novel¿s featuring of The Connie Character goes beyond conjuring praise, as her scene-one opens in a cozy Italian restaurant as Connie fidgets with uncomfortably tight, female-attraction-trappings, in anticipation of the arrival of a blind date, a nephew of one of the ex-con, geriatric café owners. Pence does capturing character studies, of both male and female types. They often begin as colored-ink caricatures, conning the reader, cajoling smiles and chuckles. Then the cartoons flesh out and flit through pages, sometimes slipping off flat edges of print, landing on the arms of my easy chair. They sweat they smell like roses. They strut and stumble. It¿s mesmerizing to watch those transformations, the way the author accomplishes them with graceful, subtle touches. What a skill. I wondered at one point if Pence was hiding a magic Frankenstein wand (or electrical jolt stick). I don¿t mean to imply that her characters are like Frankenstein, just that they are brought a distance almost as far as from death to life. This # 10 novel in the Angie series might be my favorite. The slip from scene to scene was seamless. This one deserves multiple awards it may be the keystone of Pence¿s talent which is so cohesively complex it melts like butter over croissant pages. Slurp the twisting, tangy noodles!
Angie is in Heaven. She has finally gotten her beloved cop, Paavo, to commit to an engagement, and now has visions of the perfect wedding dancing in her head. Meanwhile, Paavo is ready to just elope and have done with it. Now, Angie wants to share the love. She constantly devises romantic, tasty concoctions that are ruining the waistline of the local police precinct, and is doing her best to make sure everyone, best friend included, have the same joy she has with love. Unfortunately, all her plans are being continually interrupted with job offers and a murder.What makes it worse is that someone close to her may be involved, as in the killer. **** With the typical, loveable madcap antics we have come to expect, Ms. Pence tickles our funny bone as we revisit beloved characters once more. Though the suspense and plot may be light, they are ever refreshing, and as a bonus, some of Angie's favorite treats have recipes in the back of the book. ****
In San Francisco, Angie Amalfi feels love is in the air after SFPD Detective Paavo Smith proposed so she arranges a date between her best friend Connie Rogers and a football star, but the jock fails to show up at the café where they were to meet. Instead, nervous rumpled Max Squires, a former financial guru, plops down at Connie¿s table. He desperately needs help to clear his name and regain the money embezzled by Veronica Mapes from his clients. Unable to resist the pathetic looking shlump, Connie agrees to assist him. However, Connie soon finds she needs aid too, as the police make inquiries into her connections to a jewelry robbery, a murder, and Max. Angie knows she must help her buddy so she begins investigating even while her beloved Paavo tries to persuade her that there are already too many cooks on the trail. Her show of friendship places Angie in danger from unknown assailants. IF LOOKS COULD KILL is a fun culinary mystery that amusingly cautions the audience on the dangers of a friend in need is a pest at least for the Good Samaritan lead cook and her pal. The two women try to help, but jump into pots of dangerous situations. The story line never takes itself too seriously yet master chef Joanne Pence provides fans with a solid amateur sleuth investigation. IF COOKS COULD KILL is the latest five star gourmet delight that will send readers seeking other entrees from Ms. Pence. Harriet Klausner