Review: Keep Calm and Kill the Chef by Livia Day

Cover art: Keep Calm and Kill the Chef

I have previously blogged my absolute delight with the Cafe La Femme series by Livia Day (the name Tansy Rayner Roberts uses when she’s moonlighting as a writer of crime!)

The previous two novels and novella in this series came out a little while back, and I’ve been waiting not-entirely-patiently for this third novel to appear via Twelfth Planet Press’s Deadlines imprint. Whatever the delay, it’s been worth the wait.

Blurb for Keep Calm and Kill the Chef

Scones, tea, and a stabbing…

When Tabitha Darling entered Cafe La Femme in a reality TV show hosted by an infamous “bad boy” Chef, she never expected to be a suspect in his murder.

When Xanthippe Carides quit working in a cafe to become a private detective, she never expected one of her first cases would be keeping Tabitha out of jail…

These two friends have a mystery to solve, and only one of them is telling the whole truth.

The first treat in store is that the whole series been re-released with stunning covers by Cathy Larsen. Look at these pretty things! (And look for the details and some wonderful murdery symbols!)

The story is exactly the kind of delicious, crime-riddled confection of mystery, frocks, mouth-watering recipes, badassery and glitter I’ve come to expect from any story featuring Hobart chef, Tabitha Darling.

Keep Calm and Kill the Chef is structured like one of Tabitha’s more complex recipes. The viewpoint shifts between Tabitha and her best friend, newly minted private eye Xanthippe Carides, while it also flips timelines before and after the murder: and all of this with perfect ease and lightness of touch.

Like all the Cafe La Femme stories, Keep Calm and Kill the Chef is a little hyper-real, set in a heightened Hobart and full of characters who are collectively more vivid than you’d expect to find in one group of friends. From catsuit-wearing Xanthippe to frock-and-glittery Ceege, from bizarrely hip hipsters to unexpectedly knife-throwing-skilled kitchenfolk, everyone is bright and shiny. Even the villains.

And of course there’s Tabitha, who is a little manic, a lot stubborn and keeping many, many secrets. Her love life is a melange, as usual, between her actual boyfriend, policeman Leo Bishop, and her just-very-excellent-good-friend Stewart McTavish, the delectable Scot. (Kiss him Tabitha, damnit!)

(Okay, I admit it, I am 100% #McTabitha.)

Keep Calm and Kill the Chef is a delightful book, with enough light touches and enough complex notes to be thoroughly satisfying. The mystery dishes up all the clues, red herrings and puzzling twists that any reader of cosy crime could wish for. Using Hobart as a locale adds a dash of charm for those who like the setting to be one of the characters. The wonderful array of characters and all their inter-relationships add layers of reasons to care about the outcome as the chef-killer becomes less of an abstract puzzle and more of an actually-trying-to-kill-you presence.

In short, this book is fabulous, with enough fluff for fun, enough grit to make the stakes high, and enough heart for everything to matter.

Buy Keep Calm and Kill the Chef (available September 19, 2019)