REVIEW: Fonduing Fathers

Note:  This review was originally written for inclusion in The Season E-Zine's January mystery section. 

Fonduing Fathers by Julie Hyzy
Berkley Prime Crime (304 pages)
December 31, 2012

Rating:  4.5/5 (Amazing) (The Season's rating scale now runs from 1 to 5.)

For fans of:  Diane Mott Davidson

White House Executive Chef Olivia “Ollie” Paras is no stranger to danger, drama, and intrigue; in the past few years, she’s helped foil terrorist plots, thwart assassination attempts, and has even survived a kidnapping. But none of the crazy situations she’s faced while in the employ of the First Family has sufficiently prepared her for her latest adventure:  the quest to learn the truth about her father, Anthony Paras, who died when Ollie was just a child. 

You’d think it’d be easy for someone with Ollie’s connections to gain access to the information she seeks; unfortunately, though, every answer she procures only raises more questions. Was her father really the victim of a homicide, and not an accident as she’d been led to believe?  If so, who killed him, and why? And if her father truly was dishonorably discharged from the military, how did he end up buried in Arlington? Can Ollie get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Anthony’s death – or is she doomed to fall prey to the same criminals who claimed his life?

Fonduing Fathers is the sixth of Julie Hyzy’s superlative White House Chef Mysteries, and it’s a riveting read from cover to cover. Hyzy quickly and efficiently establishes the mood, setting, and stakes for her tale, and then goes on to build one heckuva fabulous puzzle. Twists, turns, clever clues, and expertly deployed red herrings – Fonduing Fathers has it all and then some, the end result being (as per Hyzy’s usual) an elevation of the genre and one of the best books I’ve read this year.

In a break from form for the series, Ollie actually spends most of the book outside the confines of the White House; I’m happy to report, though, that Fonduing Fathers is no less thrilling for it. Because the subject of this particular mystery is so personal to Ollie, she’s even more invested in seeing it through to its conclusion.   Ollie’s always had moxie; it’s one of her most endearing qualities. But the Ollie of this book is not only tenacious, but, for the first time, she’s angry, too, and this fire only serves to make her all the more compelling and relatable.

That’s not to say, however, that our heroine’s gone hard; to the contrary, Fonduing Fathers offers readers the chance to see Ollie at her warmest and most tender, as well. Her developing rapport with First Kid Josh will warm the cockles of even the hardest of hearts, and the chemistry Hyzy’s cooked up between Ollie and Secret Service Agent Leonard “Gav” Gavin is nothing short of stellar. The couple’s romance has been progressing for at least a couple of books now, but it really comes into its own here. Gav’s the Frank Hardy to Ollie’s Nancy Drew (oh, c'mon – they were SO TOTALLY a thing). He treats her like a partner and a respected equal, which is a refreshing change from the stereotypical cozy (but then, nothing Hyzy does is stereotypical), and I, for one, can’t wait to see what the future has in store for these two.