Arsenic and Adobo is a Tasty Read, but Lacks Zest

In typical Filipino fashion, my aunt expressed her love not through words of encouragement or affectionate embraces, but through food. Food was how she communicated. Food was how she found her place in the world.

Arsenic and AdoboMia P. Manansala

My Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In Summary of Arsenic and Adobo

Categorized as a “cozy mystery”, Arsenic and Adobo tells the story of Lila Macapagal’s encounter with murder.  After she moves home to recuperate from a breakup, she works for her Tita Rosie’s struggling, Filipino restaurant. When her ex-boyfriend – a food critic – dies in her restaurant, she finds herself in the spotlight of blame. She must figure out the truth behind his death to save herself, her family’s reputation, and the future of the family restaurant from crumbling. 

Tastiest descriptions of food (the author is great at sensory imagery)The mystery was hard to get invested in and felt forced
Filipino representation depicts close family relationshipsLoses traction after the first half; feels rushed to tie up plot
Lighthearted (despite murder premise)Felt a lack of connection to characters 

So even though I was an only child, I had enough godmothers, cousins, aunties, and uncles to populate a small village. Or at least a relatively small town that began to feel smaller and more suffocating the older I got.

The Review

Warning: If you read this on an empty stomach, this book will make your stomach growl!

The Filipino aunties are adorable, the banter entertaining, the food tempting, and native language sprinkled throughout. These are the elements that made this story a delectable read for me. 

Unfortunately, Arsenic and Adobo didn’t leave much of an impression for me beyond these things. Most of the characters felt one-dimensional (give me a heaping plate of character development, please and thank you!) and the mystery itself wasn’t intriguing. I honestly didn’t care why her ex-boyfriend died (yes, just call me Heartless) because I had basically just met him and he wasn’t even a likable person. I also felt like the mystery was occasionally put on the back burner (hehe) for other aspects of the plot, like little romantic pieces that sometimes felt out of place. 

The cutesy mystery just doesn’t do much for me. If it doesn’t make me at least slightly creeped out and genuinely worried for someone’s safety, then I get bored.

Perhaps the real issue is: Me. I am not a cozy mystery person.

So don’t let me review deter you. Be aware of what kinds of mystery you like because apparently there are different kinds. This would be a perfect lighthearted, pick-up-reading-again kind of read. Maybe it’s not for me, but it could be great for you.

(All of this will not stop me from trying the Filipino recipes in the back – I can assure you of that!)

Arsenic and Adobo Book Information

  • Published: 2021
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN:  978-0593201671
  • Format: Hardback (purchased through Book of the Month)
  • Length: 336 pages

Learn About & Support the Author – Mia P. Manansala


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