ARC Review: Mango, Mambo, and Murder (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery, #1)

Goodreads Blurb:

Cuban-American cooking show star Miriam Quinones-Smith becomes a seasoned sleuth in Raquel Reyes’s Caribbean Kitchen Mystery debut, a savory treat for fans of Joanne Fluke and Jenn McKinlay.

Food anthropologist Miriam Quinones-Smith’s move from New York to Coral Shores, Miami, is traumatic enough without having to deal with her son’s toddler tantrums and her husband’s midlife crisis. Her best friend, Alma, adds some spice back into Miriam’s life when she offers her a job as an on-air cooking expert on a Spanish-language morning TV show. But when the newly minted star attends a Women’s Club luncheon, a socialite sitting at her table suddenly falls face-first into the chicken salad, never to nibble again.

When a second woman dies soon after, suspicions coalesce around a controversial Cuban herbalist, Dr. Fuentes–especially after the morning show’s host collapses while interviewing him. But then, Detective Pullman learns that the socialite’s death resulted from a drug overdose–and an anonymous tip fingers Alma as the pusher.

Pullman persuades Miriam to ply her culinary know-how and her understanding of Coral Shores’s Caribbean culture to help find the killer and clear Alma’s name. While her hubby dallies with his ex-girlfriend, Juliet, Miriam quizzes her neighbors for answers and researches all manner of herbs.

As the ingredients to the deadly scheme begin blending together, Miriam is on the verge of learning how and why the women died. But her snooping may turn out to be a recipe for her own murder.

My Thoughts:

“Holding onto a grudge is like holding onto an anchor and jumping into the sea.”

Now that an inspiring quote has made an appearance, let’s begin!

What I liked/loved:

  • Characters! I feel like authors don’t get enough credit for creating NEGATIVE characters./ antagonists. There were a few of those in this book that made my blood boil. (Which translates to Raquel doing a fantastic job in bringing them to life!) Since I have mentioned the antagonist, I cannot take the spotlight away from the MC.
    Miriam. She was a likable character and her affection for her family and best friend seemed genuine. I admired her self-control when experiencing racism.
    Manny. What a delight!!! Are toddlers really like that? (My guess is going to be no, haha.)
    Robert. Being in an interracial marriage, it was admirable how he welcomed her culture and they worked together. I was rooting for them throughout!
    So many amazing characters, I wonder how book 2 would go about it!
  • Writing style. Despite being around 300+ pages, I was able to finish the book within a day. Written in the first person past tense, the author was able to capture my attention with her engaging plotline and dialogues. I cannot stress how much I LOVED being introduced to the Caribbean culture. It’s so beautiful. The food, history, and family structure.
  • Bilingual aspects. Mainly written in English, it included a few Spanish dialogues and words. It made it feel more authentic even when there were a few instances where I found myself trying to translate the words, haha.
  • Recipes at the end? Hell yes! That was such an added bonus! I am very keen on the papaya smoothie.

What could’ve been better?

  • Miriam and Detective Frank Pullman’s relationship. It lacked authenticity once she had turned into an informant.
  • I was hoping someone else was the “killer” though there was a good amount of information and research involved to create a good distraction. While it was expected, sort of, I wasn’t bored reading through Miriam’s thought process or the events that occurred in her life.

It took about three minutes of turning the water off and on, flushing the toilet and opening and closing the hall bathroom door to stir Manny.

Okay, not necessarily an issue, my personal opinion on here. Why was she doing this? Her husband was an environmentalist! And I thought she was too. When these lines popped up, I WAS SHOCKED! Why Miriam, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!

Overall, I loved the book! Can’t wait to read more from the author!


Meet the author!

Raquel V. Reyes writes stories with Latina characters. Her Cuban-American heritage, Miami, and the Caribbean feature prominently in her work. Raquel is a co-chair for SleuthFest. Her short story “A Star Goes Dark” is in the 15th Malice Domestic anthology.


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