Title: Affairs of Steak
Author: Julie Hyzy
Copyright: 2012 (Berkley); 274 pgs.
Series: White House Chef #5
From the back: Assigned to work with her arch nemesis, Peter Everett Sargeant, the White House Sensitivity Director, Ollie must find a venue for an event to honor the Secretary of State. Instead they find one of the First Lady’s assistants and the Chief of Staff, both murdered — and Ollie and Peter may have witnessed the killer making his getaway. News reports suggest that the assistant and Chief of Staff were having an affair, but no one on the staff believes the rumor. Now, with their jobs–and their lives–in jeopardy, Ollie and Peter must depend on each other to learn who killed their colleagues and why–before they become the next victims of a merciless assassin with a secret agenda…
Comments: Like its predecessor, the plot worked for me. The murder didn’t take place at the White House this time, and Ollie and Peter unwittingly stumble across the bodies. They never saw anyone other than the guard on the premises, and the person that rudely bumps into them didn’t do so near the scene of the crime — he could have been anyone and neither Ollie nor Peter really got a good look at the guy. In fact, the only reason Ollie gets further involved is because of the actions of someone else trying to be useful: his actions caused the villain to target Ollie. Had he left things alone, the mystery would have been solved — though maybe not as quickly — hopefully without any more deaths. I say hopefully because there were two other people whose lives were in potential danger from the very start, and they had nothing to do with Ollie, Peter, or anyone else at the White House.
There is a secondary mystery surrounding a disoriented old man Ollie helps on the Metro. And I can tell you, as someone who took the Metro daily, I got the creeps reading that part. Fortunately, I normally rode it during the height of rush hour when every car is packed to the point you can barely move. But there were times, in the middle of the day, when a car would only have a few passengers, making it easy to feel a little anxious, especially in the underground stations.
And then there is the post-it note mystery, or “Who’s trying to sabotage Peter’s career?” Motive isn’t a mystery in this case. Thanks to Peter’s personality, there are probably dozens of potential suspects. Ollie agrees to help Peter, much to the surprise of Bucky and Cyan. Initially, Ollie wasn’t going to make an effort, believing that this was the chance to finally be rid of Peter — she is only human, after all. However, Ollie wisely takes the higher road — Peter might not have lifted a finger to help her, but she wasn’t going to stoop to his level.
By the end of the book, we’ve gotten to know Peter a little better, and he tells Ollie a bit about his past that sheds some light on why he acts the way he does. He also starts to see Ollie in a new way. He finally understands her a little better. In my review of Buffalo West Wing, I pointed out that he didn’t understand what motivates her. After everything that happens to them in this book, I think he has a new respect for her. I still think he’ll be his usual persnickety self — but less likely to gloat, based on what he says to Virgil at the end of the book. And speaking of Virgil. . .
First there was Bucky and his attitude. Then Peter. Since I’m convinced we’ll see a more mellow Peter in future books, that leaves Virgil as Ollie’s primary thorn-in-the-side — and I think another potential thorn was introduced in this book. Virgil is still there, and still the self-absorbed diva he was in the previous book. Again, Ollie handles him perfectly. I don’t know if Peter’s words to him will be enough, though, to change his attitude. Ollie has to hope the current (fictional) president doesn’t get reelected, or she’ll be stuck with Virgil for eight years. Then again, he may get himself fired in such a way that Ollie can’t, or won’t, help him. The other (potential) thorn in her side is the acting chief usher. I don’t think he’s the right guy for the position, and whether or not he gets the job, I can see problems for Ollie — and that’s not even counting her knack for getting caught up in things best left to the Secret Service. Which brings me to. . .
Ollie’s relationships with Tom and Gavin. I still think Ollie treated Tom unfairly, especially in her thoughts about their relationship, and I think part of the reason she does that is to ease her conscience about why she broke up with him. She had this thought, and it made me want to shake her (set-up: Tom recently reconnected with his high school sweetheart):
. . .and from the little I ‘d heard, she was perfect for him. A tall, pageant-winning blond. As opposite as you could get from a short, dark-haired, carb-watching kind of girl who happened across dead bodies on a regular basis. I was happy for him.
That’s really harsh, Ollie. You broke up with him, and it had nothing to do with your height, weight, or hair color. I thought it was interesting, in their first scene, that Ollie learns that Tom’s girlfriend picked out his new car. I found it interesting because Ollie didn’t seem to have any thoughts about the matter — whether they were snide, surprised, or curious — if only because the thoughts I quoted above. To me, it didn’t sound like the actions of a person who was supposedly a control freak. It came across as someone who let his girlfriend have her way because it would make her happy. And Tom’s comment that his new relationship was “great” didn’t sound very convincing. I don’t think he’s happy.
Which brings me to Gavin. He and Ollie actually go on their first date in this book and we learn a little more about him. I really do like Gavin. I’m interested in seeing how their relationship develops.
This series has continued to grow on me and I’m looking forward to the next book.
Start: 6 January 2012
Finished: 10 January 2012
“What now?” I asked rhetorically.
“Maybe he wants to put us in charge of the budget deficit.”
— Ollie, Peter
“Everybody fed. Nobody dead.”
“That isn’t funny,” Virgil said.
Bucky shrugged. “Maybe not, but it’s accurate. You’ve only been here a few months. You don’t know the trouble we get into.”
— Bucky, Virgil
“Everyone wants to help the Secret Service.”
“Take it as a compliment.”
“Not when they think we’re falling on our faces.”
— Tom, Ollie
Other Books in the Series: