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Al Dente's Inferno

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An American chef will have to serve up more than good eats if she wants to establish a successful farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany, in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in Italy. When Nell Valenti is offered a chance to move to Tuscany to help transform an aging villa into a farm-to-table cooking school, she eagerly accepts. After all An American chef will have to serve up more than good eats if she wants to establish a successful farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany, in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in Italy. When Nell Valenti is offered a chance to move to Tuscany to help transform an aging villa into a farm-to-table cooking school, she eagerly accepts. After all, both her job and her love life in America have been feeling stale. Plus, she'll get the chance to work under the acclaimed Italian Chef Claudio Orlandini. But Nell gets more than she bargained for when she arrives. With only a day to go until the launch dinner for the cooking school, the villa is in shambles, and Chef O is blissfully oblivious of the work that needs to be done before a group of local dignitaries arrive, along with a filmmaker sent to showcase and advertise the new school. The situation only worsens when Nell discovers that the filmmaker is an ex-boyfriend, and he’s found murdered later that night. Even worse, Chef O has disappeared, and accusations of murder could shut the school down for good. As tensions reach a boiling point at the villa, Nell must throw her chef's hat into the ring, and investigate the murder herself. Because if she fails to solve the case, her career, or even her life, could be next on the chopping block.


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An American chef will have to serve up more than good eats if she wants to establish a successful farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany, in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in Italy. When Nell Valenti is offered a chance to move to Tuscany to help transform an aging villa into a farm-to-table cooking school, she eagerly accepts. After all An American chef will have to serve up more than good eats if she wants to establish a successful farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany, in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in Italy. When Nell Valenti is offered a chance to move to Tuscany to help transform an aging villa into a farm-to-table cooking school, she eagerly accepts. After all, both her job and her love life in America have been feeling stale. Plus, she'll get the chance to work under the acclaimed Italian Chef Claudio Orlandini. But Nell gets more than she bargained for when she arrives. With only a day to go until the launch dinner for the cooking school, the villa is in shambles, and Chef O is blissfully oblivious of the work that needs to be done before a group of local dignitaries arrive, along with a filmmaker sent to showcase and advertise the new school. The situation only worsens when Nell discovers that the filmmaker is an ex-boyfriend, and he’s found murdered later that night. Even worse, Chef O has disappeared, and accusations of murder could shut the school down for good. As tensions reach a boiling point at the villa, Nell must throw her chef's hat into the ring, and investigate the murder herself. Because if she fails to solve the case, her career, or even her life, could be next on the chopping block.

30 review for Al Dente's Inferno

  1. 5 out of 5

    Berit☀️✨

    A cozy comfort read filled with food, fun, and fabulous characters. Nell Heads to Tuscany to help revitalize a farm to table cooking school. She is excited for the new environment as well as the opportunity to work with one of her idols Chef Claudio. But when she reaches the Italian Villa she finds it in a state of major disrepair. To make things even more complicated there is a documentary crew there to film a series on farm to table cooking schools. And of course one of the film makers is Nel A cozy comfort read filled with food, fun, and fabulous characters. Nell Heads to Tuscany to help revitalize a farm to table cooking school. She is excited for the new environment as well as the opportunity to work with one of her idols Chef Claudio. But when she reaches the Italian Villa she finds it in a state of major disrepair. To make things even more complicated there is a documentary crew there to film a series on farm to table cooking schools. And of course one of the film makers is Nell’s ex-boyfriend. When he is found dead Nell wants to prove her innocence. Now Nell needs to trade in her chefs hat for a detective cap. This was a fun story I loved the setting and all the food. There is a great cast of characters that I am looking forward to being further developed. My only tiny gripe is there might have been a slight overuse of Italian (not sure if I missed anything or not). The mystery was cleverly plotted and I enjoyed trying to solve it right along side Nell. Looking forward to many more installments in this clever new culinary cozy series. This book in emojis 👩🏻‍🍳 🍲 👨🏻‍🍳 🔪 🔍 🇮🇹 *** Big thank you to Berkley for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chatting About

    This debut cozy Mystery has a nice Tuscan, Italy setting in a vineyard. When Chef Nell Valenti moves there from the U.S. to help revive Italian Chef Claudio’s image, she’s unprepared to find a rundown old villa and a Chef who forgets how to cook. I figured out the murderer before halfway through the story so the mystery is somewhat weak. While I feel some of the characters were people I could grow to like; the frequent use of foreign language was difficult for me to understand. There is some humo This debut cozy Mystery has a nice Tuscan, Italy setting in a vineyard. When Chef Nell Valenti moves there from the U.S. to help revive Italian Chef Claudio’s image, she’s unprepared to find a rundown old villa and a Chef who forgets how to cook. I figured out the murderer before halfway through the story so the mystery is somewhat weak. While I feel some of the characters were people I could grow to like; the frequent use of foreign language was difficult for me to understand. There is some humor sprinkled throughout which I enjoyed. Overall, I simply had problems connecting to the storyline and characters. Recipes included. I reviewed a digital arc provided by NetGalley and Berkley Publishers for an honest review. Thank you.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mark Baker

    Nell Valenti has turned her love of food and her training as a chef into a career helping establish farm to table cooking schools. When she is offered a job setting up a school for Chef Claudio Orlandini in Tuscany, she jumps at the chance. Not only is she looking for some changes in her life, but Chef Claudio is her culinary idol. However, Nell is shocked upon her arrival to discover that the villa Chef Claudio owns is in worse disrepair than she expected, meaning the transformation is going to Nell Valenti has turned her love of food and her training as a chef into a career helping establish farm to table cooking schools. When she is offered a job setting up a school for Chef Claudio Orlandini in Tuscany, she jumps at the chance. Not only is she looking for some changes in her life, but Chef Claudio is her culinary idol. However, Nell is shocked upon her arrival to discover that the villa Chef Claudio owns is in worse disrepair than she expected, meaning the transformation is going to be more work than she’d expected. Then comes the news that a kick off dinner with some local dignitaries is scheduled for the next evening. Even worse, the dinner ends with some of the guests dead and Chef Claudio missing. What has Nell gotten herself into? I picked up this book with high hopes. It’s fun to see a cozy in a new setting, and Tuscany appealed to me. Unfortunately, the language barrier made the book hard to get into initially. Yes, we need bits of Italian, and not all of the characters are going to speak English, but it felt like too many Italian words and phrases were thrown out, and we had to wait for the translation to appear or figure out what was meant in context. While it took a bit longer to be hooked than I would have liked, it did happen once the plot kicked into high gear. We are treated to a great mystery with plenty of suspects. As Nell pieces things together, I was in awe of just how well the clues were laid out for us. Nell is a good main character, and the core cast also comes to life for us as well. There are some laugh out loud funny scenes here, and, of course, we get a delicious sounding recipe at the end. The characters, plot, and setting make this a fun debut. NOTE: I received a copy of this book. Read my full review at Carstairs Considers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    Al Dente’s Inferno by Stephanie Cole is the beginning of A Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series. I enjoyed the word imagery of the Tuscan countryside and the dilapidated Orlandini villa. I had to laugh when Nell found mold and a critter in the public rooms. Nell thought she was just upgrading a farm-to-table cooking school. Instead, it seems she is starting from scratch. Unfortunately, the launch dinner for the local dignitaries is the next evening. Then someone kills the filmmaker which could p Al Dente’s Inferno by Stephanie Cole is the beginning of A Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series. I enjoyed the word imagery of the Tuscan countryside and the dilapidated Orlandini villa. I had to laugh when Nell found mold and a critter in the public rooms. Nell thought she was just upgrading a farm-to-table cooking school. Instead, it seems she is starting from scratch. Unfortunately, the launch dinner for the local dignitaries is the next evening. Then someone kills the filmmaker which could put the kibosh on the cooking school before it opens. While I enjoyed the Italian setting, I was not a fan of the multiple Italian words and phrases in the story. Some of them are explained, but many of them are not. I quickly tired of them as it disrupted the flow of the story plus I had no clue what they meant (unless I used the translation feature on my e-book). The clichés were another annoyance (way too many). I believe they were meant to be humorous. There are some interesting characters in the story, but I found background information to be lacking. I thought Al Dente’s Inferno was a slow starter. The murder does not occur until you are a third of the way into the story (way too late). If you are a frequent reader of cozy mysteries, you will have already identified the killer by the time the dufus (i.e. the filmmaker and Nell’s ex-boyfriend) turns up dead. There are good clues to aid readers in solving the crime and I liked Nell’s approach to the investigation. It was straightforward with a Jessica Fletcher type reveal at the end. I liked that most of the focus of Al Dente’s Inferno was on cooking and the whodunit. I did not like when it delved into a new romantic interest for Nell. Considering her recent breakup and taste in men, Nell needs to wait before diving into a new romantic relationship (she needs to keep her focus on the school). I did enjoy Nell’s snarky comments. Al Dente’s Inferno could have used a little more work before it was published (in my personal opinion). Al Dente’s Inferno has a crumbling cloister, a pesky porcupine, a curious conveyance, mouthwatering meals, and a frustrating filmmaker.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Reads Books

    This is a cozy mystery series I've really been looking forward to reading. I don't think I've ran across Tuscany or cooking schools as settings for any mysteries, yet, and both had me very intrigued. However, while parts of the book I enjoyed, overall I was left wanting more. The setting was fairly well described and was a nice change of scenery from my usual American and British cozies I usually read. It came complete with descriptions of small villages, Vespas, and groves of olives. The characte This is a cozy mystery series I've really been looking forward to reading. I don't think I've ran across Tuscany or cooking schools as settings for any mysteries, yet, and both had me very intrigued. However, while parts of the book I enjoyed, overall I was left wanting more. The setting was fairly well described and was a nice change of scenery from my usual American and British cozies I usually read. It came complete with descriptions of small villages, Vespas, and groves of olives. The characters were decently described where the main characters were concerned. Nell, Pete, and Rosemarie (Chef's assistant) seemed realistic and likable. The character of Chef Orlandini was slightly less developed since he was absent for a large part of the story line. Perhaps he will be a larger character in subsequent books. There were a group of nuns that seemed to play a decent role in the story, yet they were difficult to distinguish from each other. This was unfortunate simply because if there had been more characters that the reader could get to know the murderer wouldn't have been so easy to identify so early in the story. The reason I gave the mystery novel a 3 star was I simply didn't enjoy the writing style. The author added quite a bit of Italian phrases, and at times entire sentences, often without subtly letting the reader know what was being said. After the first chapter or two this began to get tedious and I started not caring what was said enough to look up the meanings. Also, the book is fraught with cliches. TONS and TONS of cliches. I won't begin to suppose why the author did this, but I suspect it might be to inject humor into the story. I love a snarky main character, but this was just too much. Between the two of these, the book lacked a consistent flow to the story which made the book disjointed. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy of the book given in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Wanted to like it but sadly didn't.Too much italian. I loved the premise but did not understand what was going on. Could not relate to the characters. Wanted to like it but sadly didn't.Too much italian. I loved the premise but did not understand what was going on. Could not relate to the characters.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tari

    With the setting this book was in and the very unique idea of a chef going around developing different cooking schools for various areas, I was excited to read and love it, but I have to be honest and say that I was disappointed. The use of too much Italian really put me off for one thing. I've read books before where a language is simply sprinkled in for a nice, local feel, but this was a bit of an overkill. There seemed like a lot going on at once, and I felt confused quite a bit. I couldn't q With the setting this book was in and the very unique idea of a chef going around developing different cooking schools for various areas, I was excited to read and love it, but I have to be honest and say that I was disappointed. The use of too much Italian really put me off for one thing. I've read books before where a language is simply sprinkled in for a nice, local feel, but this was a bit of an overkill. There seemed like a lot going on at once, and I felt confused quite a bit. I couldn't quite warm up to any of the characters like I normally do within the first few pages of cozies that I rate much higher. Even Nell's dad--and usually I love silly dad characters--fell short. I felt like I never quite understood just who these sisters were that came in to get the house more ready for filming...nuns or actual sisters to Rosa, who I think might have been a nun. A little more background on some characters would have been nice. I hope I'm not the only one who missed the boat on the sisters! I enjoyed the occasional humor like the car ride in the little Ape. Pete and Nell made a nice sleuthing team, but at some points, again being honest, I stopped being interested in who offed the guy, because I hadn't really liked him to begin with, but I did want to see how Nell caught the person. That was a plus point, at least someone nice wasn't killed. I hadn't guessed the killer, so that was good. I may or may not give the second book a read. Again, I love the premise and Tuscany setting. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley, and my opinions are my own.

  8. 5 out of 5

    LORI (Dollycas) CASWELL

    Dollycas’s Thoughts American chef Nell Valenti needs a break from her family, job, and love life in the States so she jumps at the chance to set up a farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany. The icing on the cake is that she will be working alongside acclaimed Italian Chef Claudio Orlandini. Her arrival is a little bumpy but she is finally picked up and transported to the villa where the cooking school will be located and where she will be staying. It is nowhere near what she imagined and clearly Dollycas’s Thoughts American chef Nell Valenti needs a break from her family, job, and love life in the States so she jumps at the chance to set up a farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany. The icing on the cake is that she will be working alongside acclaimed Italian Chef Claudio Orlandini. Her arrival is a little bumpy but she is finally picked up and transported to the villa where the cooking school will be located and where she will be staying. It is nowhere near what she imagined and clearly sees she has her work cut out of her. Sadly, she seems to be the only one that sees the disorder around them and all the repairs and renovation needed to fulfill the needs of a cooking school. Chef Claudio is so excited he has invited a group of dignitaries for a launch dinner. There is also a filmmaker coming to film the school to use in future advertising. As the guests arrive Nell is shaken to her core. The filmmaker is her ex-boyfriend that she left back in America. The dinner is filled with fits and starts but after it breaks up, the filmmaker is found dead and Claudio is nowhere to be found. Nell knows her history with the deceased could make her a prime suspect so she decides to investigate the murder herself. An American in the country for only a few days she does her best to find the killer because even with the school in disarray she needs the job and hopes to stay. That is if she survives. Stephanie Cole has introduced some interesting characters in this story. Nell is a character I could grow to love. She sees she has a mountain to climb in turning an old rundown villa into a cooking school and she doesn’t run off at her first chance, especially when everyone else seems to be wearing rose-colored glasses when they look at the place. She also hides her shock when meeting Chef Claudio Orlandini. Her hero certainly does not look or act as she expected. Nell becomes attached to the Chef’s son as he gives her the tour of Villa Orlandini, introduces her to all the staff, and translates as needed. They do make a good sleuthing team. We also meet the staff but the author has left plenty of room for growth for all the characters in future stories. I loved the Tuscan Cooking School theme of the book/series but it is not without a couple of pitfalls. Setting the series in Tuscany does present a language problem. Most of the characters are going to speak Italian as their first language which means the book is full of translations. This really messed with the flow for me. Sometimes the translations immediately followed in the text, other times we were on our own. I wished I was reading it on my Kindle instead of in paperback because I would have been able to highlight the words and have them quickly translated. As with most first books in a new cozy series, a great deal of time is spent introducing the characters and setting the scenes for the story, so the mystery is not too complex. There were twists and turns but I figured it out pretty early. I did enjoy the way Nell took on the case. Ms. Cole’s descriptive talents were on her full display as her words illustrated the villa and everyplace Nell went masterfully. I did enjoy the liberal use of humor throughout the story. A couple of times I caught myself laughing out loud. The food descriptions were fantastic too. I wish there had been more recipes at the back of the book. Italian dishes are my faves. This story had good bones and with a few tweaks, I can see this being a long-running series. Nell and Chef O. are characters I want to get to know better. I also can’t wait to see Villa Orlandini become all it can be. I hope the author takes her time developing a romance for Nell although we can see where it is headed. Nell has enough on her plate without taking on another man. If the filmmaker, Buford Kaplan is the typical man she gets involved with, the girl needs a good long break. 🙂

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Nell has gone to Cortona, Italy to help her idol, Chef Claudio, to start a farm to table cooking school. She is excited for the new experiences, but upon arrival finds that the villa is in a terrible state of disrepair and the chef seems uninterested in much other than playing bocce. What's more, somebody is poisoning the olive trees. Realizing the enormity and cost of the task ahead of her Nell decides she needs to resign. However, the news that a documentary team and a group of dignitaries are Nell has gone to Cortona, Italy to help her idol, Chef Claudio, to start a farm to table cooking school. She is excited for the new experiences, but upon arrival finds that the villa is in a terrible state of disrepair and the chef seems uninterested in much other than playing bocce. What's more, somebody is poisoning the olive trees. Realizing the enormity and cost of the task ahead of her Nell decides she needs to resign. However, the news that a documentary team and a group of dignitaries are arriving the next day for dinner spurs her in to action. Nell was an endearing character. She was smart, determined, and kind. At times she was a bit naive and she occasionally lacked a bit of subtlety, but that just made her seem more human. The other characters at the Villa were also very likable. The murder didn't happen until fairly far in to the book, somewhere around page 94. As a first in the series, I realize that there was a lot of background information being provided to set the stage for what is to to come. Normally having the murder show up so far in to the story is frustrating for me, but I found that I enjoyed meeting the characters and getting to look around the villa was enough to entertain me. There was a good sized pool of suspects with some interesting motives. Enough clues were sprinkled through the story that allowed the reader to make a good guess at the murderer. I wouldn't say there was a lot of humor, but there were definitely a few moments that made me laugh out loud. One involved a porcupine. There were hints of romance or at least romance to come. Also, the descriptions of the villa were detailed and I was able to visualize myself there. The food sounded delicious and there was a great recipe at the end for ricotta stuffed peppers that I plan to try this weekend. It is a great addition to the cozy genre. There was occasionally Italian used that wasn't translated. None of what was said in Italian was ultimately critical to understanding the story. If you have basic travel Italian or know Spanish, you can likely work out what is being said. If you really feel the need to know exactly what people are saying at all times, keep google translate nearby. Will definitely get the next in the series

  10. 4 out of 5

    Minx

    Al Dente’s Inferno is the first book in the Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series and this book introduced readers to the most beautiful setting, I loved it. Having never been to Tuscany I feel like this story would give me a good idea of what to expect if I were ever to travel there and venture into the countryside. The characters in this story were developed reasonably well, I just wish there had been more background information on many of them. I did like Nell Valenti and her reason for invest Al Dente’s Inferno is the first book in the Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series and this book introduced readers to the most beautiful setting, I loved it. Having never been to Tuscany I feel like this story would give me a good idea of what to expect if I were ever to travel there and venture into the countryside. The characters in this story were developed reasonably well, I just wish there had been more background information on many of them. I did like Nell Valenti and her reason for investigating the crime that took place was sensible and I very much liked how she approached her investigation. She had a straightforward approach and wasn’t based on feelings and a-ha moments. While I did enjoy parts of the story, the author did choose to sprinkle the text with many clichés and the inclusion of Italian language and phrasing was disjointing. Mainly because sometimes there was no explanation of what the sentence or phrase meant. There were other times where things were explained but, overall, I felt confused more that I would have liked. There was also an attraction that was sort of developed between Nell and another character but honestly after seeing how terrible Nell’s choices in men were, I was not really interested in anything to do with her love life. Luckily, most of Al Dente’s Inferno was focused on cooking and the murder that took place, which was very entertaining and exactly what I was looking for in a foodie cozy mystery. This review is based on a complimentary book I received from Berkley Prime Crime. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Suspense Magazine

    When Nell Valenti is offered an exciting job opportunity to start a cooking school and work with one of her idols, Chef Claudio Orlandini, she eagerly accepts. It’s a perfect way to bounce back after a recent disastrous love affair. So she packs up her trusty Italian dictionary and off she goes. It doesn’t take too long for Nell to figure out that this career move probably wasn’t her best decision ever. Not only is the chef’s villa a falling down wreck, the appearance of the chef himself is a rea When Nell Valenti is offered an exciting job opportunity to start a cooking school and work with one of her idols, Chef Claudio Orlandini, she eagerly accepts. It’s a perfect way to bounce back after a recent disastrous love affair. So she packs up her trusty Italian dictionary and off she goes. It doesn’t take too long for Nell to figure out that this career move probably wasn’t her best decision ever. Not only is the chef’s villa a falling down wreck, the appearance of the chef himself is a real shock. What happened to the handsome, rugged man Nell was expecting? The one bright spot in a motley cast of supporting characters is Chef’s handsome son, Pete. At least he speaks English. The next shock for Nell is when she’s told that there’s a big dinner planned for the following night to kick off the cooking school plans, and the invited guests include the president of the local chamber of commerce, a contessa, and one of the most prominent food critics in Italy. Plus, the whole event will be filmed for a Netflix special. Nell squares her shoulders and decides that she’s up to the challenge, and that right after the dinner, she’s quitting. With the help of local nuns, a truffle-hunting dog, major rearranging and reconfiguring, and a menu to die for, she’s ready. Then the film crew arrives, and the documentary filmmaker is none other than her former boyfriend, the man she fled to Italy to escape. On the bright side, Chef and his culinary cohorts have risen to the occasion and the delicious meal is going beautifully. Until the filmmaker is found bludgeoned to death later that night, and Chef has disappeared. “Al Dente’s Inferno” is a delightful cozy mystery filled with wacky, likeable characters and a fast-moving plot. Open a bottle of chianti and settle in for a terrific read. I can’t wait for the next title in this series

  12. 5 out of 5

    Annie (Under the Covers Book Blog)

    AL DENTE’S INFERNO really caught my attention because of its title and blurb. I have never read anything from this author but I found that I’m a big fan of series that have a big culture emphasis in it. The first that I’ve tried was Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop Mysteries series and also Julia Buckley’s Hungarian Tea House Mysteries. I feel like this new series kind of fits that mold but with an Italian emphasis. It was so nice to see the culture be played out throughout the novel. You get to e AL DENTE’S INFERNO really caught my attention because of its title and blurb. I have never read anything from this author but I found that I’m a big fan of series that have a big culture emphasis in it. The first that I’ve tried was Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop Mysteries series and also Julia Buckley’s Hungarian Tea House Mysteries. I feel like this new series kind of fits that mold but with an Italian emphasis. It was so nice to see the culture be played out throughout the novel. You get to experience the language and culture almost as if you have traveled there so I really thought getting to experience that world through an American’s eyes was nice to have. It made Nell’s character a lot easier to relate to. Along with a great mystery, there’s an easy-to-follow writing style which makes it easy to read through and also have fun with. I know that I will be eagerly anticipating the next book in the series. I am really in love with this world and can’t wait to see more!

  13. 5 out of 5

    OpenBookSociety.com

    https://openbooksociety.com/article/a... Al Dente’s Inferno Tuscan Cooking School Mystery, Book #1 By Stephanie Cole ISBN 9780593097793 Author Website: stephaniecolebooks(.)com Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie Synopsis: An American chef will have to serve up more than good eats if she wants to establish a successful farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany, in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in Italy. When Nell Valenti is offered a chance to move to Tuscany to help tr https://openbooksociety.com/article/a... Al Dente’s Inferno Tuscan Cooking School Mystery, Book #1 By Stephanie Cole ISBN 9780593097793 Author Website: stephaniecolebooks(.)com Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie Synopsis: An American chef will have to serve up more than good eats if she wants to establish a successful farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany, in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in Italy. When Nell Valenti is offered a chance to move to Tuscany to help transform an aging villa into a farm-to-table cooking school, she eagerly accepts. After all, both her job and her love life in America have been feeling stale. Plus, she’ll get the chance to work under the acclaimed Italian Chef Claudio Orlandini. But Nell gets more than she bargained for when she arrives. With only a day to go until the launch dinner for the cooking school, the villa is in shambles, and Chef O is blissfully oblivious of the work that needs to be done before a group of local dignitaries arrive, along with a filmmaker sent to showcase and advertise the new school. The situation only worsens when Nell discovers that the filmmaker is an ex-boyfriend, and he’s found murdered later that night. Even worse, Chef O has disappeared, and accusations of murder could shut the school down for good. As tensions reach a boiling point at the villa, Nell must throw her chef’s hat into the ring, and investigate the murder herself. Because if she fails to solve the case, her career, or even her life, could be next on the chopping block. (Goodreads) Review: What do a dead cow, a murdered filmmaker, and a missing, bocce-playing chef have to do with each other? Al Dente’s Inferno is a fun, witty first in a new series set in the lush beauty of Tuscany. The characters are likable, quirky, and defined as needed. The mystery is confounding; I had a hard time choosing a suspect. Chef Nell Valenti’s re-created life as a cooking school start-up designer is going well; she has been offered a position to help set up a farm-to-table cooking school for her hero, Chef Claudio Orlandini, an acclaimed Italian chef. She successfully directed a start-up farm-to-table cooking school in the Berkshires at the Prajna Retreat Center and had an unsuccessful relationship with Bu, who she thought was someone seeking Buddhist enlightenment. The first thing she sees of the future cooking school is the Villa’s vehicle, an older three-wheeled enclosed Vespa with a flatbed. Chef’s son, Pete, arrived in it to pick her up at the train station. Hopefully Pete, who has lived in various places around the world and now cares for the olive grove on the vast 50-acre property, better represents the Villa than the Vespa. Or the neighbor’s dead cow in Pete’s olive grove amidst a small area of trees that look blighted. Nell’s tour of Villa Orlandini is lacking. It is a 16th century convent that includes an old cloister, a crumbling fountain, a mossy common area reeking of mildew, and a dormitory with an invading porcupine that hasn’t been lived in for decades. The former chapel is beautiful with its original stained-glass windows and is now used as an elegant dining room. At dinner Nell learns that the chef and his sous-chef, Annamaria, are preparing dinner the following evening for three dignitaries to celebrate the beginning of work on the cooking school. Joining them is a Netflix documentary filmmaker and his assistant to add the Villa to a documentary on European school start-ups. The common area, where they wish to entertain, is a complete disaster. Oh, and one other little glitch. The renowned filmmaker is none other than Bu, the guy Nell had the unfortunate fling with at her last job. The next day is a flurry of Pete and others calling in favors – rental furniture for the common area, removal of the porcupine, removed moss from the wall and many other details. Annamaria, who with Pete ensures that anything worthwhile at the villa happens, does not speak English, and Nell speaks little Italian. Watching them converse in charades is hysterical, especially with many misinterpretations! Bu greeted Nell enthusiastically. He and his assistant, Ember, film throughout the villa. In the kitchen during meal prep, Bu trash-talks to everyone in an insulting manner as he films them, especially Annamaria’s sisters who are nuns, there to help wherever needed. Nell kicks Bu, knocking him down, not wanting her new working family insulted. Pete tells Bu that if he harasses any of the guests or the Villa family, he would personally take care of Bu. When the dignitaries – Ernesto, international food critic, the Contessa, a wealthy Roman socialite, and Benedetto, the local chamber of commerce director arrive, Nell hears Bu have less than cordial private greetings with each as if they know each other. The dinner starts well, then Nell notices partway through that Chef has disappeared. After dinner is complete and the guests are gone, Nell goes outdoors, and finds Bu lying on the ground. He isn’t drunk as she suspected – he is dead, clearly murdered, and nobody has found Chef yet. We learn enough about Nell’s background to like her and enjoy her dry humor. It takes courage and determination to travel over 4,000 miles and live in a country with a different language and customs! On the plus side, she will work for her hero and expand her start-up experience. Pete is very personable and does his best to interpret for her with everyone else. We learn a bit of Annamaria and Chef’s backgrounds, but little of anyone else. Nell and Pete are determined to find the killer and get Chef – then Nell – off the suspect list. They clearly have minimal experience even reading mysteries, as their initial attempts to solve the murder and disappearance of Chef are almost painful at times. They learn the cause of death of the cow in the olive grove. The reader is treated to beautiful descriptives of the countryside and laugh-out-loud humor. Plot twists slowly reveal suspects and motives, but it seems a very slow process. I was unsuccessful at selecting the real bad guy until seconds before she was identified, showing me how well-plotted the mystery is. For now, cooking, and even preparing the school, are not front and center; the mystery, the characters, and even the truffle dog are the heart of it. This first in a new series may have a slow start but overall is a solid start. I highly recommend it! *OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Al Dente’s Inferno earns 5/5 Italian Delights...Entertaining Cozy Fun! First-in-a-series treat! American chef Nell Valenti is offered a chance to transform a Tuscany villa into a farm-to-table cooking school, but it’s more rundown, ok more like dilapidated, than expected, and Chef Claudio, Nell’s culinary hero, may be quite a challenge. Buon Appetito! Stephanie Cole has penned a delightful new series in a first-person narrative sharing Nell’s perspective giving me a vicarious role in the drama. C Al Dente’s Inferno earns 5/5 Italian Delights...Entertaining Cozy Fun! First-in-a-series treat! American chef Nell Valenti is offered a chance to transform a Tuscany villa into a farm-to-table cooking school, but it’s more rundown, ok more like dilapidated, than expected, and Chef Claudio, Nell’s culinary hero, may be quite a challenge. Buon Appetito! Stephanie Cole has penned a delightful new series in a first-person narrative sharing Nell’s perspective giving me a vicarious role in the drama. Cole’s writing style was very entertaining filled with descriptive language of the dreamy Italian countryside, the villa, and cuisine and expressive dialogue adding humorous interactions and illustrating the various personalities and tone of the drama. However, I found the use of Italian phrases may have provided authenticity, but was overused and often without some assistance understanding its meaning; fortunately with the digital copy I was able to highlight and translate most incidents. The murder mystery was engaging with a karma-approved victim, plenty of suspects and motives, well-written discovery of clues, and a final conclusion that had tentatively been on my radar midway through the story...but the murder occurred later in the story than I prefer. The characters are fun, some quirky, but more background and connections would have provided a clearer picture; I like Nell, her snarky repartee, and see an enjoyable personal journey in the future. Bonus, of course! An easy-to-follow recipe for Peroni al Forno Ripieni di Ricotta (Baked Peppers Stuffed with Ricotta) with helpful Tips and Secrets. I did enjoy the book, and look forward to more from Nell. Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley and Berkley. My review is voluntary with honest insights and comments.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeanie

    While it took me a little while for to warm up to the characters and story line in this first in a new series, I did grow to appreciate Nell and the folks at the Villa Orlandini in Tuscany. The mystery is a challenge, the characters are overall an eclectic mix of American and Italian folks, and the Tuscany countryside is described so well I felt as if I were there. There is much potential for the future of the series. Nell arrived in Cortona, Italy, for the second job of her new career of directi While it took me a little while for to warm up to the characters and story line in this first in a new series, I did grow to appreciate Nell and the folks at the Villa Orlandini in Tuscany. The mystery is a challenge, the characters are overall an eclectic mix of American and Italian folks, and the Tuscany countryside is described so well I felt as if I were there. There is much potential for the future of the series. Nell arrived in Cortona, Italy, for the second job of her new career of directing start-ups of farm-to-table cooking schools. Her first was at a Buddhist retreat in the Berkshires, where she had a fling with “Bu”, a guy staying at the retreat center. She never expected to see him pull into the Villa Orlandini in Italy with his assistant, filming a documentary for Netflix about cooking school startups in Europe. A filmmaker? Chef Claudio Orlandini has long been Nell’s hero. As a young chef, she idolized the internationally acclaimed chef and his creations. Chef Claudio is going to open his home and convert part of it into a farm-to-table cooking school. She was thrilled to work for Chef, at least until she sees the reality of his current situation. Chef’s handsome son Pete picked her up in a Vespa that looks like an enclosed tricycle with a flatbed. The 50-acre compound includes Pete’s olive grove and the buildings of the former convent built in the 1500’s. The only usable buildings are currently lived in. Those for the future school need serious work. It is a shock to learn that Chef and his sous-chef, Annamaria, will prepare a classic Italian dinner to kick-off the future school the following evening for visiting dignitaries, who will include the director of the local chamber of commerce, a wealthy socialite from Rome, and an international food critic. Oh, and Bu and his assistant will be there to film. They all work like madmen the next day trying to get what is needed to make the common room presentable and hide what they don’t have time to work on. The chef disappears in the middle of preparing the osso buco. They make excuses, and finally figure out where he might have gone. Then Bu’s murdered body is discovered by Nell. An anonymous tip puts Nell on the hotseat, as well as the missing Chef Claudio. Pete and Nell decide to work together to figure out whodunit. The humor, at times irreverent and once even a tad offensive, mostly brings fun into the situation. The flip side is Annamaria’s very real grief when Chef disappears. The knowledge Pete and Nell have regarding how to solve a murder can be summed up on the head of a pin, but they make up for it with determination. Traits that characterize Nell include perseverance and courage, enough to move thousands of miles to a sight-unseen destination for a job – and to work with her hero. Those traits will serve her well in setting up a school while finding a killer. The mystery is hard to solve, even though Bu didn’t have a good word for anyone at the dinner that evening. It seemed on the surface he had not met anyone before the dinner except Nell, but she overheard his snide comments to several. Even that didn’t prepare me for the real whodunit as I barely figured it out when the killer is ready to claim the next victim. The ending is satisfactory, with all loose ends tied up. I recommend this to those who appreciate hard-to-solve mysteries, engaging characters, and a European setting.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    Nell arrives in Tuscany as an American chef. She is hired to work under the Italian chef, Claudio Orlandini. She is going to start a cooking school but to her surprise the villa is in shambles. There are lots of interesting characters and she does become friends with many. Peter is her friend and he does help her when a shocking murder takes place. A phone call puts Nell down as the killer. However after much sleuthing her and Pete discover there are a few other people that may have wanted to ki Nell arrives in Tuscany as an American chef. She is hired to work under the Italian chef, Claudio Orlandini. She is going to start a cooking school but to her surprise the villa is in shambles. There are lots of interesting characters and she does become friends with many. Peter is her friend and he does help her when a shocking murder takes place. A phone call puts Nell down as the killer. However after much sleuthing her and Pete discover there are a few other people that may have wanted to kill Bu. Bu was her former boyfriend back in the states and it was not a good relationship. However in the end luckily Nell figures out who is out to get her and wants to kill her to hide her own identity as the actual murderer..... Took awhile to get into the story and there was much Italian language being used, so was hard at times to follow, even though they did explain most of it. Long time to get to the end, but a good mystery all in all.

  17. 5 out of 5

    PugMom

    A fun first in series!! I really loved the unique setting and the Italian characters made this cozy really stand out from others. The main character Nell was likable and the author included enough twists and turns that had me guessing until the very end. The tantalizing recipes at the end of the book were a welcomed bonus!! I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I like this book, even though parts of it dragged a little for me. Overall, it was a fun read in an interesting location. I like that the mystery was the center of the book, not the simmering romance. Loved the blips of Italian in the book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    2.5 Not as good or exciting as I thought it would be

  20. 4 out of 5

    Judie

    Her life in the US in shambles, 29-year-old Nell Valenti decided to accept a six-month job offer from famed chef Claudio Orlandini to help him open cooking school in Tuscany, Italy. Her enthusiasm quickly wanes when she discovers that not only is the building for the new school woefully inadequate (it had been build as a convent in 1587 and the rooms had been seriously neglected) but the chef had invited a group of local dignitaries and filmmaker to a special dinner to promote his project the n Her life in the US in shambles, 29-year-old Nell Valenti decided to accept a six-month job offer from famed chef Claudio Orlandini to help him open cooking school in Tuscany, Italy. Her enthusiasm quickly wanes when she discovers that not only is the building for the new school woefully inadequate (it had been build as a convent in 1587 and the rooms had been seriously neglected) but the chef had invited a group of local dignitaries and filmmaker to a special dinner to promote his project the next night. Her next big shock was seeing that the filmmaker Orlandini had hired to document and promote his project was Buford Kaplan, the man she had been involved with in the US and the ending of that relationship leading to her fleeing the country. But that problem didn’t last very long. During the dinner he wandered outside where he was murdered. That event made her job even more complicated. First, she worried that the notoriety might kill the chances of that school even opening and her job may be over before it has really begun. And, possibly more important, Orlandini disappeared and became the first of several suspects. Despite her despite her lack of ability to speak Italian, Nell quickly became a lead investigator. As the title implies, AL DENTE’S INFERNO provides very witty dialogue. It also offers wonderful descriptions of locations and characters. Examples: “Overhead a Plexiglas awning was cloudy with age, and the clock mounted high on the brick wall, which is missing its minute hand, said it was noon. Maybe the guidebooks were right: In beautiful Tuscany, time stops”. “Mi chiamo Nell Valenti. I gave myself a B+ for inflection in Italian, every phrase needs to sound as though you’re announcing the week’s Powerball winner.”. Description of Tuscan light: “It was original light, when everything quietly shown. Not in a harsh brightness, but in the simple clarity. Almost as if each tree and creature and rock was a source of light itself. The forks fire, smog, imperfect lanterns, and evil.” “Rituals can be a kind of default behavior when we don’t know what else to do.” Description of the Countess closing her suitcase: “Still raging, she attempted to close her overstuffed Louie Vuitton suitcase by slamming the halves together like she was a cymbalist who had failed anger management.” The book includes a recipe for Peperoni al Forno Ripieni di Ricotta (Baked Peppers Stuffed with Ricotta). Stephanie Cole’s writing is reminiscent of Shelley Costa, another cozy mystery author, whose stories also have an Italian theme. Well-written, great descriptions, interesting characters, witty.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robin Leslie Coxon

    Going to Italy is on my bucket list as well as other countries. Al Dente's Inferno the first in the Tuscan Cooking School Mystery by author Stephanie Cole gave me the opportunity to live through the main character, Nell Valenti. An invitation to travel to Italy to assist in the establishment of the Tuscan Cooking School, Nell finds herself being handed more than just plans to set up the school. We are allowed to see the life of Chef O, who is world famous but not so professional when he is in hi Going to Italy is on my bucket list as well as other countries. Al Dente's Inferno the first in the Tuscan Cooking School Mystery by author Stephanie Cole gave me the opportunity to live through the main character, Nell Valenti. An invitation to travel to Italy to assist in the establishment of the Tuscan Cooking School, Nell finds herself being handed more than just plans to set up the school. We are allowed to see the life of Chef O, who is world famous but not so professional when he is in his own residence. The Villa is in need of a lot of repairs and there is only one day before the dinner to host dignitaries to announce the plans for the cooking school. Of course when in Italy there is romance to expect but when Nell's former boyfriend, who comes as a film maker to film the dinner of the announcement, is found dead...... Stephanie Cole has provided wonderful characters in this story and the description of the villa and the countryside will draw you to want to visit. I am looking forward to reading the next installment of this new series.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    When Nell is given the chance to move to Tuscany to help establish a farm-to-table cooking school, she jumps at the opportunity, especially because it will give her the chance to work with one of her favorite chefs. When she arrives, however, she is dismayed to learn that the villa will need major work to accommodate a cooking school, and Chef is oblivious to the situation. Add to that the arrival of a group of local VIPs and a filmmaker sent to feature and promote the school, and Nell is ready When Nell is given the chance to move to Tuscany to help establish a farm-to-table cooking school, she jumps at the opportunity, especially because it will give her the chance to work with one of her favorite chefs. When she arrives, however, she is dismayed to learn that the villa will need major work to accommodate a cooking school, and Chef is oblivious to the situation. Add to that the arrival of a group of local VIPs and a filmmaker sent to feature and promote the school, and Nell is ready to admit defeat and return home. When one of the film crew is found murdered and Chef disappears, she sets out to prove that her beloved Chef might not be what she expected, but he is not a killer. I love reading cozy mysteries whose focus is food and cooking/baking, so I was really looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, I found the book to be slightly disappointing. The biggest drawback for me was the frequent use of Italian words and phrases that weren't translated or defined. While that might work for those who speak Italian, it left holes in the story for me, and I eventually just stopped caring. In addition, there were too many characters to keep track of, especially those whose stories weren't completely fleshed out – many of the dinner guests, the nuns and even some of the villa's staff. I did suspect the character who was ultimately revealed as the killer, but not as quickly as other readers might come to the same conclusion. I'm intrigued enough by some of the relationships begun in this book to read the next in the series, but with lower expectations than I had going into this book. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    K.A. Davis

    3.5 out of 5 AL DENTE’S INFERNO is the first in the new Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series by Stephanie Cole. I love the premise of this cozy mystery in which the protagonist, Nell Valenti, packs up and moves to Tuscany to help establish a cooking school for a famous Italian chef. The author provides lovely descriptions of the country and its delightful food, enticing the reader to visit. Ms. Cole also inserts pockets of humorous moments plus dialog that zings with laugh-out-loud repartee. Ther 3.5 out of 5 AL DENTE’S INFERNO is the first in the new Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series by Stephanie Cole. I love the premise of this cozy mystery in which the protagonist, Nell Valenti, packs up and moves to Tuscany to help establish a cooking school for a famous Italian chef. The author provides lovely descriptions of the country and its delightful food, enticing the reader to visit. Ms. Cole also inserts pockets of humorous moments plus dialog that zings with laugh-out-loud repartee. There are several well-developed characters that keep the reader entertained with their antics. And the mystery itself is well thought out with suspects to keep the reader guessing. Al Dente’s Inferno has all the ingredients for a great read but somehow falls a bit short with the overuse of the Italian language, especially where the phrases aren’t translated or the meaning isn’t obvious. While the use of foreign language may add a feeling of authenticity to the setting, for me it slowed the pace of the story down too much. I’ll definitely try the second book in the series when it’s released with the hope that the flow will be better. I was provided an advance copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Me

    I was sent this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I usually love "cozy mysteries" like this, but there were a few things that stymied my progress through the book. The first concerns the characters. All the characters with the exception of the murder victim are quite likable BUT there are too many minor characters to the point where it's hard to keep track of everyone. Secondly, her use of Italian phrases throughout the book gets old especially if you have no experience with I was sent this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I usually love "cozy mysteries" like this, but there were a few things that stymied my progress through the book. The first concerns the characters. All the characters with the exception of the murder victim are quite likable BUT there are too many minor characters to the point where it's hard to keep track of everyone. Secondly, her use of Italian phrases throughout the book gets old especially if you have no experience with the language. On the other hand, I can easily see where readers who love Italy and/or have traveled there will love the setting of these books.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Iain

    Certain styles of novels lend themselves to certain styles of prose, character-development/description, plot-development, and such, whether by choice, or by the nature of the style itself as it has evolved over time. From its opening pages, this novel has all the prosaic nuances of a Harlequin romance, and if that is the author's intention, fair enough (this is, admittedly, the first novel of hers I have read); however, it wasn't what I would want in a mystery. As well, inconsistencies in narrat Certain styles of novels lend themselves to certain styles of prose, character-development/description, plot-development, and such, whether by choice, or by the nature of the style itself as it has evolved over time. From its opening pages, this novel has all the prosaic nuances of a Harlequin romance, and if that is the author's intention, fair enough (this is, admittedly, the first novel of hers I have read); however, it wasn't what I would want in a mystery. As well, inconsistencies in narrative detail toward the end of the novel left it in dire need of a final edit. The title is a clever one-liner; the novel doesn't live up to it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

    I assume I am one of the few that won't complain about the Italian phrases as it's my mother tongue :) I found this cozy mystery a fun and engrossing read. I appreciated the cast of characters, not a lot of stereotypes, and the descriptions of the setting, not overly turistic. The mystery was interesting but I guessed the culprit quite soon. I am curious about the next instalment and I recommend this one. Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine I assume I am one of the few that won't complain about the Italian phrases as it's my mother tongue :) I found this cozy mystery a fun and engrossing read. I appreciated the cast of characters, not a lot of stereotypes, and the descriptions of the setting, not overly turistic. The mystery was interesting but I guessed the culprit quite soon. I am curious about the next instalment and I recommend this one. Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine

  27. 4 out of 5

    Smart Bookaholics Inc Bookstore

    What a great first book! The mystery was intriguing and I really loved Nell, she was a smart and delightful character! Although I dont speak italian, I still enjoyed this very much! Thank you Berkley Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    AlDente’s Inferno, the first in the new Tuscan Cooking School mysteries, is a treat of Italian cooking and living. The series protagonist is Nell Valenti, a young woman who has arrived in Cortona, a small village in Tuscany, to organize a farm-to-table culinary school for her idol, Chef Claudio Orlandini. Much to Nell’s chagrin, the villa is in shambles, the Chef is more interested in playing bocce than in cooking, and there is a gala dinner to launch the school the day after she arrives. To add AlDente’s Inferno, the first in the new Tuscan Cooking School mysteries, is a treat of Italian cooking and living. The series protagonist is Nell Valenti, a young woman who has arrived in Cortona, a small village in Tuscany, to organize a farm-to-table culinary school for her idol, Chef Claudio Orlandini. Much to Nell’s chagrin, the villa is in shambles, the Chef is more interested in playing bocce than in cooking, and there is a gala dinner to launch the school the day after she arrives. To add insult to injury, a film crew from Netflix arrives to film the launch, and it is headed by none other than Nell’s former flame, Bu Kaplan. When Chef disappears in the middle of the dinner and Nell, while looking for him, stumbles onto the murdered body of Bu, she reluctantly investigates in order to save the school’s reputation. This was an enjoyable debut. Nell is an interesting protagonist. She suffers from low self-confidence, partially due to an overprotective father. She also has a very dry sense of humor. To be honest, it took me a while to warm up to Nell - I felt distant from the character for about the first half of the book. I started to warm up to her when she realized that she wanted to stay and solve the mystery for the sake of everyone involved with the cooking school, and that she really did feel a kinship with them. At that point, I was invested in the story and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Nell. Speaking of every one at the villa, author Stephanie Cole has created a rich cast of supporting characters, from the mercurial Chef Claudio Orlandini, to his sous chef AnnaMaria, the farmhand Macy, and the “sisters”, a group of Italian women who assist in getting the villa prepared for the launch dinner. The sisters are nuns from the nearby convent, and it is not clear if they are also AnnaMaria’s biological sisters. In any case, they are a delightful bunch, especially when they spontaneously burst into Billy Joel songs. And then there is Pierfranco, (Pete for short), Chef Claudio’s son who teams up with Nell to solve the mystery, and who may be a love interest in future installments. The mystery itself in intriguing, but almost takes a backseat to the Tuscan countryside and the strong Italian personalities that populate the story. I didn’t figure out who the killer was before the big reveal, despite the fact that the clue was in plain sight. The author sprinkles Italian phrases throughout the story. Some are translated, some can be guessed at from the contest of the conversation. All in all, I think the author did a great job of accurately depicting the chaos and color of a small Italian village and the people who inhabit it. Now that Nell has gained some self-confidence, I am looking forward to the second installment, The Crime of the Ancient Marinara.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Gatling

    Nell Valenti has flown to Italy to turn a Tuscan villa into an international cooking school. She’s eager for the fresh start, after her last assignment, at a Buddhist monastery/meditation center had involved an affair with an unsuitable partner, one Buford Kaplan. But Nell has her work cut out for her, as the villa is crumbling, with a porcupine living in the common room, and literal moss growing on the walls. And world-class Chef Claudio Orlandini has let himself go. Gap toothed and scruffy, he Nell Valenti has flown to Italy to turn a Tuscan villa into an international cooking school. She’s eager for the fresh start, after her last assignment, at a Buddhist monastery/meditation center had involved an affair with an unsuitable partner, one Buford Kaplan. But Nell has her work cut out for her, as the villa is crumbling, with a porcupine living in the common room, and literal moss growing on the walls. And world-class Chef Claudio Orlandini has let himself go. Gap toothed and scruffy, he spends his time playing bocce. Nell has to make the place look good, because a Netflix documentary crew is coming to film a celebratory dinner. Worst of all, that Netflix filmmaker is her ex, Buford Kaplan. He turns out to be an ass, insulting everyone he meets. The dinner is a triumph, except that in the middle of it, Kaplan is found dead in the garden, and Chef is found… missing. Of course the police are called, but Nell also takes it upon herself to solve the murder. She makes a list of everyone who was at the dinner, and who went in and out, and at what times. Then Nell, with the help of Chef’s handsome son, Pete, go and talk to people. Details accumulate, without any obvious conclusion appearing, until the killer is identified somewhat abruptly a few pages from the end. I did not find the book very exciting. I did find it funny. There are a few scenes that are slapstick funny, but mostly there is a breezy tone, and the narration is cute. There are also beautiful scenes of the golden Tuscan light, and the silver-green leaves in the olive groves, and the old stones and stained glass of the villa that used to be a convent. There are Italian expressions well-sprinkled throughout, and descriptions of fine cooking, so that you may fall in love with the idea of being at a Tuscan cooking school. It was not a bad book, although I moved through it somewhat slowly. I found the book workmanlike and satisfactory.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hilary (A Wytch's Book Review)

    This is an interesting start to a new series, although I did find it fairly easy to guess who the murderer was, the story itself was fun. Nell has escaped from her overbearing parents and trained as a chef, she has then taken on a number of short term contracts the latest of which has landed her in Tuscany to help set up a cookery school.  When she arrives though she discovers the job will be a LOT harder than she was led to understand, the villa is basically a shambles and will need extensive wo This is an interesting start to a new series, although I did find it fairly easy to guess who the murderer was, the story itself was fun. Nell has escaped from her overbearing parents and trained as a chef, she has then taken on a number of short term contracts the latest of which has landed her in Tuscany to help set up a cookery school.  When she arrives though she discovers the job will be a LOT harder than she was led to understand, the villa is basically a shambles and will need extensive work, but the worst is that in 24 hours they plan to hold a small launch party which will be filmed!  To add to her stress the film maker (from Netflix) turns out to be her ex, but even that is nothing to the stress of discovering him dead part way through the party, with Chef Orlandini having gone missing! Now Nell and Pete Orlandini (Chef's son) will have to track down the missing chef, a murderer and get the work started on the cookery school - the heat of a kitchen has nothing on this!

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