Al Dente's Inferno

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Mar 2020

Member Reviews

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.
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If you’re looking for a new culinary mystery series, you may want to pick up the first installment of the Tuscan Cooking School Mysteries by Stephanie Cole. The first book, Al Dente’s Inferno introduces Nell Valenti, whose career as a professional chef, as well as her love life are not the best, so she jumps at the chance to move to Tuscany and transform an old villa into a state-of-the art cooking school for a world-renowned chef, Claudio Orlandini. Nell learns that her previous boyfriend has also come to Tuscany to film what is going on at the villa. Unfortunately, he is murdered, and since the chef is the number one suspect, Nell must find the real murderer or she’ll be out of a job.

Cole’s good storytelling skills are evident in this novel, and while introducing characters, she does a good job of developing them into believable people. Nell’s command of the Italian language isn’t very good, but she’s saved by Orlandini’s son, Pete, who was educated in America and has excellent English. There are dozens of Italian phrases throughout, which are translated the first time they are used, but then when used again, readers are expected to remember what they mean; this may be helpful to some, but confusing to others. Italian isn’t the easiest language to master, and the way it’s used in this novel may make it difficult for some readers to understand. There are mouthwatering references to food throughout the novel, but the recipe at the end isn’t for any of the ones made famous by Chef Orlandini and isn’t the one that the readers most likely want (most readers actually want several recipes). 

All told, this is a cute series with a likeable protagonist. Fans of culinary mysteries will enjoy this new series, and will anticipate the next installment. 

Special thanks to NetGalley for supplying a review copy of this book.
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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.
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A solid cozy mystery, perfect for anyone who loves food or travel to curl up with.  The scenes of the Italian countryside were absolutely wonderful, and the characters were delightful.  Can't wait to read the next installation in the series.
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Interesting premise with good mixture of unique and expected character types within a culinary mystery set in Italy. Will look forward to the next one!
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This story had more cliches in it than you can shake a stick at. 

A cozy mystery involving a murder by bludgeoning. The victim was Nell's former boyfriend. There were a lot of Italian phrases in the conversation and descriptions and often there was not a translation. One has to guess at what was being said or meant. Nell plans to start a cooking school here, with the aid of the owner, a world famous chef. There is, of course, a hunky son of the chef, Pete, but that relationship just kind of hangs there.  It comes together at the end, but the action was not always clear.
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This is a GOOD start to a brand new cozy mystery series and I am looking forward to the next one in the series. While there were a few little things that bothered me about this book, I think as a whole it's a good story. Readers who are looking for a brand new mystery series to start may want to try this one! I love how it's set in Italy!
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I liked the storyline and the characters of this book, but I was confused several times by the analogies and the action. I think the tone the author was going for was a bit of a lighthearted, cozy mystery (as light hearted as murder by bludgeoning can be, that is), but a little more background information would have been helpful, especially of the main character. It comes together at the end, but the action was not always clear - the language barrier, the description of the location, even why the main character, Nell, acts and reacts to the action in the story; I was never quite certain why she automatically decided she would leave the villa as soon as she arrived, and I was not quite clear at first that her attraction to Pete was genuine. It was also not quite clear the details of Bu and Nell's relationship, and I was a little hard pressed to understand her attraction to him, or even the depth of his personality; he was a corpse, but it was hard to gather empathy for him or his death. Despite a bit of confusion, I did end up liking the story, and am glad for a chance to read and review it.
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This is a delightful beginning to a new cozy mystery series set in Tuscany with an American chef who is hired to establish a cooking school.  Cooking, romance, murder and Tuscany---what is not to love?
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