4 Stars, Poppy Z. Brite, Three Rivers Press

Soul Kitchen: Rickey & G-man #4 by Poppy Z. Brite

Well, apparently chefs are just moody bastards. (Pardon my Français.) Who knew? Certainly not me. And who knew pretentious food prepared by a pompous, self-important master of “molecular gastronomy” could be cause for a few good laughs? Again, not me. At least not until I read Soul Kitchen.

Murder was afoot ten years ago at an upscale restaurant called the Top Spot, and an innocent man was robbed of his freedom because of it. Milford Goodman was the head chef of the restaurant at the time the owner met her untimely demise, and in a gross miscarriage of justice, he ended up spending that decade in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Free now after DNA evidence proved he couldn’t have possibly committed the heinous crime, Milford is trying to make a new life for himself. It’s hard to do, though, when the color of your skin and the stain on your reputation overshadows the content of your character.

But Rickey knows Milford, knows all about his brilliance in the kitchen, and faster than you can say two-hundred recipes for corn bread, Milford’s got himself a new job at Liquor, where business is slow, the kitchen’s all shook up, Rickey’s popping pain pills like candy, and somebody’s burning Popsicle stick crosses in the parking lot. Yes, you read that right—Popsicle stick crosses. I didn’t know whether to be outraged on principle or belly laugh at the mental image, see, because it made me think of the little people dancing around the miniature Stonehenge in This is Spinal Tap. But I digress.

After the disaster that was Dallas, Rickey is tempted, though reluctantly, back into the consulting biz when New Orleans businessman Clancy Fairbairn and Doctor Frank Lamotte tap him for some input on their new brain child—an upscale eating establishment on their casino boat on Lake Pontchartrain. There are several things that can be relied upon where Rickey and consulting are concerned. One, he’s always good for a gimmick, and two, when he gives into his love for creating the next big thing, something bad is pretty well guaranteed to happen. ::sigh:: Poor Milford. Just when things were starting to look up…

I’m beginning to think G-man is the only sane and decent guy left in NOLA. Oh, Rickey’s a good guy when he’s not busy being pushy, overbearing, arrogant, or is strung out on narcotics and ignoring the best thing that’s ever happened to him in his entire life. Hmph. Not to worry, though, it all works out in the end.

After the deep, heartfelt love that was Prime, I was just the littlest bit…not disappointed with Soul Kitchen, never that, because let’s face it, this is Rickey and G-man and that automatically equals Yippee! for me. But this shorter, less involved installment in the series felt a little bit like enjoying a five star meal, then being offered JELL-O for dessert. It’s tasty and there’s always room for it, but that’s mostly because there’s not a lot to it. That’s the way this installment felt to me: not quite solid, a bit wobbly, but still molded into something that was awfully pretty to look at.

Buy Soul Kitchen at Amazon and other major etailers.

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