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Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah by Barbara Pearson Arau

The Florida Keys at the height of the hurricane season is the setting for “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” by Barbara Pearson Arau. “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” probes the murders of two people in Webb Key, a sleepy place where everybody knows everybody else’s business. Dinah comes to Webb Key to work on a cookbook and to deal with her soon-to-be-final divorce. While settling into the home left to her by her deceased father, Dinah makes observations of the inhabitants living in Webb Key. After the murder of a drifter, then Taylor Voss, one of several interesting characters in the novel, which has everyone pointing fingers at who could be responsible, Dinah conducts her own investigation while also delving deeper into the suspicious disappearance of the father of a little girl. With assistance from her neighbor Rena Schmidt, Dinah finds out much more about the inhabitants of the island than what she expects.

“Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” starts with a prologue that seems detached from the rest of the story. Though it grabs the reader’s attention, it seems foreign to the comedic/adventurous tone in the remainder of the novel. “Someone’s in the Kitchen…” works better with the gradual buildup of the suspense without the need for the prologue.From the beginning the audience is introduced to Dinah getting a feel for her new environment after a painful divorce, which works well with her character because it allows the audience to immediately identify and feel sympathy for her. Rena Schmidt is the first of the many colorful characters including Captain Webb, an eccentric man who quotes verses from the Bible, and Joe Mears, Dinah’s romantic interest, that are in the story.

Right from the beginning, Rena exhibits her audacious and strong personality. Throughout various places in “Someone’s in the Kitchen,” Arau manages to keep a balance between suspense and comedy by having Dinah in a tense situation then having Rena come in to lighten the mood—such as when Dinah and Rena attend Taylor Voss’s funeral. Rena describes the residents of Webb Key to Dinah with lighthearted descriptions that perfectly mirror her busybody nature. Thankfully, Arau manages to successfully continue this balance throughout the work.

From the funeral, Dinah searches for any clues that might possibly reveal the killer. While doing so, Dinah meets Amanda, a little girl who doesn’t talk, a characteristic which Tibbetts uses to create a subplot after finding out about Amanda’s tragic loss of first her mother then her father a few years later. What didn’t seem realistic was the sudden need Amanda felt to open up and talk to Dinah during an especially tense situation, particularly if fear was the reason that she became mute in the first place. However, this is a minor infraction when compared to the excellent writing of the rest of the story.

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” maintains its quick and detailed pace taking Dinah through many plot twists, which keeps the novel from being predictable. The narrative flows smoothly as Dinah experiences a wide array of emotions ranging from fear to the loathing she feels from the arrival of her soon-to-be-ex-husband in Webb Key to the growing passion she feels for her romantic interest.

Barbara Pearson Arau breaks from the cookie cutter formula of the usual suspects of mystery/suspense writers who frequently dominate the New York Times bestseller list. Dinah McKinnon would definitely be the start of a much-needed fresh series of mystery novels. Hopefully, Rena Schmidt will continue to make frequent guest appearances throughout future works.

Buy this book: Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah

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