Priscilla Royal. Favas Can Be Fatal (2006) [tpo]
Alice McDoughall is living a quiet life with her two cats, her garden, and memories of her dead soul mate. Her best friend and neighbor is the proprietor of a restaurant about to be reviewed by a prominent critic known to pan restaurants run by women, which has everyone in a state of high anxiety. There is every reason to expect a very bad review until the critic keels over dead in the middle of the meal due to a heart attack possibly encouraged by an allergic reaction to fava beans in the burrito stuffing—a stuffing that no one at the restaurant admits having prepared, but which appeared mysteriously appeared that night before dinner and disappeared just as mysteriously afterwards. That same night, the head chef, who has a sketchy past, is stabbed under mysterious circumstances. Alice can’t help being drawn into an investigation of the suspicious connections, hoping to clear her friend’s reputation, expose any wrongdoing, and, perhaps, ingratiate herself with the police inspector to whom she is attracted.
Setting: “Livorno” (fictional town north of San Francisco); Daly City