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Mumbo Gumbo: A Madeline Bean Novel (Madeline Bean Mysteries)by Jerrilyn Farmer
Synopses & Reviews
Judgment was bearing down on the beautiful Baker sisters like a freight train. The jury looked on. Beneath deadly hot lights, the young women awaited the verdict. They were doomed. Everyone knew it. But we still loved to watch them squirm. Sydney and Marley, the two elder sisters, wore the lowest-cut designer gowns. They clung to each other for support. Emily, the youngest of the three beauties, admitted she might faint from fear.
"Can you turn the sound up a little?" asked Drew.
"The guys from Jersey killed 'em," said Philip Voron, wiping his apron. "Is it too late to raise my bet?"
"Yes," came the answer from five other kitchen assistants and chefs.
On-screen, the celebrity judges tasted the food that had been prepared over the previous half hour. Tony and Frank from Jersey vs. the Fabulous Baker Girls.
"I'll take your money," I said, giving Philip a level gaze.
"All right," he said slowly. "Another twenty."
No one knows quite how these pop culture phenoms begin, but at the moment, America's TV viewers were just crazy about "Food Freak, the show that pitted amateur chefs against one another in a hilarious send-up of feuding gourmands. Thousands of hot little office betting pools were springing up everywhere. Internet betting was also huge. For some reason, the idea of caring so much about who was crowned the best amateur chef in the U.S. had tickled us. The show was a riot for those of us who cookfor a living, television of the absurd. Sort of like the Pillsbury Bake-Off on steroids.
Judgment was at hand. We all turned to the screen. And despite the knife-wielding prowess displayed earlier by the dance instructors from Trenton, it was not to be Tony and Frank's night. I two-finger-whistled when the guest judges, pop divas Destiny's Child, admired the sisters' shimmering chiffon gowns in sherbet colors as well as their mouth-watering take on fat-free tiramisù . I cheered on Emily, Marley, and Sydney Baker and whooped as they pulled out from behind and won the show by only a scant point.
There was some teasing and settling of bets, and then we all got back to work. This is what it is like to be an event planner in the midst of orchestrating a major Hollywood party. I was working in my own professional kitchen, one I'd had added to my home in the Hollywood Hills, preparing a spectacular Mumbo Gumbo and several other exotic dishes for a party of eighty to celebrate the close of production on one of TV's most memorable new shows of the season, the one whose final episode we had just screened early since we'd be working when it aired later tonight.
We would produce this evening's wrap party for "Food Freak, but after this one last party, our schedule was alarmingly unbooked. The great blank calendar that was March loomed ahead. The country was not in a lavish, celebrating, party mood.
"We're definitely going to pull through this little slump," Wes said, looking up as he chopped a mound of okra. Throughout the past month he'd said much the same thing, each time with the same up-beat tone. It never failed to make my stomach queasy at how hard he was trying to cheer methe heck up. Wesley Westcott is my best friend in the world and my business partner in our event-planning company, Mad Bean Events.
I'm Mad Bean. Madeline Olivia Bean, actually. Twenty-nine. Single. Raised in a suburb of Chicago, trained at the Culinary Institute in San Francisco, and finally transplanted to L.A. Wes and I began our company a few years back, catering high-profile dinner parties in Hollywood, a town that rates a good party slightly higher than your average fish rates water. The top-end party crowd has come to discover that we are more than willing to be arty, outrageous, and temperament-free, a perfect combination, it turns out, to prosper here amid hothouse egos and insane party budgets.
But this town, like every town, has been changing. People are more worried than ever about the state of the world and what the future might bring. With fears about the economy, our best clients — the movie studios and television productions — seem less inclined to want to spend wildly. For the first time in, I think, ever, the Emmy Awards decided to tone themselves down, banning the jewels and ball gowns. And as for our business? No bookings. Our lack of income was something I was planning to be desperate about just as soon as this last party was taken care of.
But not right now. Now, we had to cook and put on a terrific event.
Madeline joins the staff of TV's hottest new culinary series. But when the head writer is missing and staffers are quitting or disappearing weekly, Maddie soon comes face-to-face with a murderer.
Mad Bean Events is on the job catering the glorious Hollywood season wrap party for the surprise hit gourmet game show, But when one of the key game show writers seems to have disappeared, Maddie's producer friend needs a replacement – – fast. And who better to write culinary questions than Maddie? When Maddie joins the oddball crew of game show pros, she finds she has a talent for writing clues as well as following them – – since the office she takes over offers tantalizing hints as to the whereabouts of the missing writer. And Maddie aims to hit the jackpot by answering: Who wrote off the writer?
About the Author
Jerrilyn Farmer, the author of seven acclaimed, award-winning Madeline Bean novels, is a TV writer who has written for game shows such as Jeopardy! and Supermarket Sweep, and sketch comedy specials for Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Timothy Stack, Cheri Oteri, Tim Meadows, and others. Farmer also teaches mystery writing at the UCLA Extension's Writers Program. She lives in Southern California.
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