Title: Fonduing Fathers
Author: Julie Hyzy
Copyright: 2012 (Berkley); 293 pgs.*
Series: White House Chef #6
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Summary: Ollie along with Gavin, pay a visit to Ollie’s mother and grandmother in Chicago. Her reason for the visit is to finally learn the truth about her father’s death. Ollie has long respected her mother’s wishes regarding the topic, but she feels the time has come for her to know the whole story.
One fact she already knows is that her father, Anthony Paras, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He had earned that right through his military service. However, the things she learns from her mother are bewildering. According to her mother, Tony was dishonorably discharged from the Army, which should have prevented him from being buried there regardless of past heroism. How did he end up being buried in such a honorable resting place? And if that wasn’t bad enough, he was suspected of selling corporate secrets by the company he worked for at the time of his death. Ollie can’t believe what she’s hearing. It can’t possibly be true.
Tony Paras was murdered and his killer never caught. Ollie is determined to solve the mystery and prove that her father was innocent of corporate espionage and that his discharge was wrong. Gav lends a hand, using his own contacts to hunt down information about the company Tony worked when he died.
But even with his experience in investigating and connections, Gav and Ollie find very few leads. Tony’s former co-workers are unwilling to talk and it seems that his death was only a part of something bigger than corporate secrets.
Comments: One of my favorite things about this book is Joe, Gav’s mysterious friend. He takes Ollie to task about her reputation. He doesn’t want to be seen with her or for anyone to learn that they’ve spoken to each other. He extracts a promise from her: at any point in the investigation, if he tells her to stop digging, she must comply and accept that she will never get the whole truth about her father.
Though Ollie doesn’t spend much time in the White House kitchen — since she’s taking time off — she does spend time with Josh Hyden, the President’s son. The little boy is still eager to be a chef. This is also a favorite part of mine. The two of them have a bond. Outsiders might think she’s doing it to curry favor with the First Lady. She’s not, of course, because Ollie’s not like that. It’s Josh’s first summer in the White House and he hasn’t adjusted as well has his older sister, who is busy with her own friends. Unlike others his age, Josh can’t just run around the neighborhood. Sympathetic, Ollie is more than happy to nurture a budding chef. Virgil’s dismissive attitude toward Josh’s enthusiasm just makes her more determined to encourage the boy. The First Lady is a witness to Virgil’s comments and Ollie’s more tactful and supportive words. Mrs. Hyden and Ollie may have gotten off on the wrong foot but it’s clear that she truly values and trusts Ollie. I wonder if the First Lady is also seeing that bringing Virgil to the White House was a mistake.
As for the change in Ollie’s relationship with Peter, it seems to be holding. They don’t get much scene time together, but none of it is antagonistic. There are some light-hearted, humorous moments involving Peter when he gets unexpectedly roped into something by the First Lady. There are some interesting developments for him as a result.
The reader learns a bit more about Gavin. Besides Joe, Ollie meets a couple of other people who are important to Gavin, and who care about him just as much. They take a special interest in the woman he seems to have fallen in love with. Even Joe’s grumpy lectures are partly based on his concern for Gavin and his future. Oh, and the book reminds the readers that Gavin’s first name is Leonard, which he hates. Well, why doesn’t he go by Lee or Leo then? I wouldn’t keep forgetting his first name if he did! Which reminds me of a scene in the book where Joe can’t understand why Ollie doesn’t call Gav by his first name — Joe does. Makes me think Gav never mentioned to Joe how much he hates his first name.
There’s not much more I can talk about without spoiling the mystery or how the book ends. The was one or two nitpicks for me. One is tied to the fact that I was raised in a military household and that I work for the Army. No one seems to mentions what Tony Paras did when he was in the military — his occupational specialty (Infantry? Signal? Military Intelligence? Special Forces?). I don’t recall in any of the books if his rank was mentioned — it wasn’t in this book. Most people probably wouldn’t even think of this when reading, but it stood out like a red flag for me. Even knowing the ending — I still don’t know the answers to these questions. And knowing what he did upfront would not have given away anything about the plot, I think.
The other nitpick was timing. As in, “what year is it?”. Since it seems this is still only the first year of the Hyden presidency, it has to be an Inaugural year. So, it’s either taking place summer of 2013 or summer of 2009. Fictional story or not, the United States presidential election cycle is pretty much established from the election of George Washington and in the Constitution. Assassinations and resignations do not change the cycle: the new guy serves out the rest of the term. I’m more inclined to say the story is set in 2009 for two reasons. First, Ollie’s appointment as the first female White House chef would coincide better with her real-life counterpart, Cristeta Comerford. Secondly, it would put Tony’s death in the early 1980s instead of the late 80s. It seems more feasible, once you start doing the math. The vagueness did have an impact on my enjoyment of the book.
On the whole, I did like the book. I’m looking forward to the next one. There were several decisions made (vague, I know, but I can’t be more specific or I’ll spoil the story) and I’m interested in seeing how those choices impact life at the White House.
* = Story ends on page 277; recipes end on page 293
Start: 1 January 2013
Finished: 2 January 2013
Cruisin’ the Cozies