Cover Image: Crime of the Ancient Marinara

Crime of the Ancient Marinara

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Member Reviews

I love cooking, and I love Italian food, so this book was perfect for me! American chef Neil is helping get a new cooking school up and running when a member of the a group of aspiring cooks is poisoned by a mushroom.  My only complaint about the book was that it felt like it had an unneeded sub plot or two.  

But overall, very enjoyable - like I said, it’s hard for me to resist Italian food and the lovely country side. Highly recommended - I’ve already got the previous book in my TBR pile, and am looking forward to the next in the series.
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CRIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINARA is the second book in Stephanie Cole’s Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series. After enjoying the first book of the series, I was very much looking forward to this one.

In this book, Nell has begin to settle down and she has gotten a better grip on things. Or so she thinks. When things start happening around her, I found that the book started to pick up a bit more. That being said, it was a little slow in the beginning, but thankfully, it does get a bit better.

Honestly, I was expecting a little bit more in terms of the mystery. However, I didn’t think it was terrible either. I guess it could be the fact that I enjoyed the first book so much that my expectations were higher. Nevertheless, I look forward to Cole’s second book and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys culinary mystery books!
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The second book in this series.

Picture a Tuscan countryside and this is where Nell is setting up a cooking school for the Orlandini family.  

On the menu is the secret sauce of Chef Orlandini and a murder.  One of the students ends up poisoned by the sauce so it’s up to Nell to catch a killer before she ends up on the menu.

The love this series, the description of the countryside and the food make you want to visit.
Looking forward to the next book in this series!
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I didn't like this book. Something about the writing style. I did enjoy the ending more that the start. #CrimeoftheAncientMarinara #NetGalley
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I thought the premise of a farm-to-table cooking school was interesting. I felt like I was in Tuscany enjoying the Italian food along with these characters especially Nell. The author's writing was very descriptive and enjoyed the plot being a cooking contest with the Americans. I was surprised who the actual killer was. My favorite character had to be a chef because he was so over the top. I did like this book more than the first one. I hope to read more in this series.

Thank you Netgalley and Berkley for the ARC of this book. This was an honest review.
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You know a book is engaging and has hooked the reader when dinner plans are changed based on what you are reading.  That was me with this book and it was totally worth it.
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American chef Nell Valenti is anxious for the Tuscan farm-to-table cooking school she is helping create to host its first chefs at the Villa Orlandini. Chef Orlandini, who is well known around the culinary world for his marinara recipe, has promises the participants of the inaugural class that he will actually share the secret with them.
Eight “gastro-tourists” show up to visit several sites and taste Tuscany’s delicious cuisine, but when one of them is poisoned, Nell is terrified that their school is going to be blamed and that the subsequent bad press will end their project before it’s begun. She is determined to help the local law enforcement out by finding the killer.
Deliciously funny book.
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When Nell Valenti transforms the Villa Orlandinito a superb farm to table cooking school. The time has come for a full taste test run by Chef Orlandini as he prepares to reveal for the first time his top secret marinara recipe for the first time to a group of American gastro-tourists. Nell suspects one of the tourist is a private detective to spy on her sent by her father. The tourists are nosy and disrespectful from the very start of the Marinara Mysteriosa workshop. One visitor appears to be poisoned by the marinara recipe. Nell has to work fast to catch a killer, keep a lid on bad press before her fresh start is spoiled. An enjoyable story start to finish with enjoyable characters you can relate to.
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I have not read the first book in this series and while I confess that might have been helpful, I do not think it would have made me like this book any better.

I found myself struggling to follow the plot lines. I was also a little baffled because Nell mentions how expensive this cooking school is along with round trip air faire and a barista and a waiter can afford this? She said it was a last minute event so I doubt these people were saving to be able to go to this thing that just happened to pop up. 

There were too many inconsistencies for me to follow and the plot seemed to meander too much. Doubt I will read any more in the series.
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I feel a touch lost not having read the previous book. What I did read I found quite enjoyable though. The characters made a lasting impression with their quirky nature. I plan on reading the first in the series.
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This was a fun story. The beginning was great and the ending was awesome! The killer reveal was very clever! The middle dragged a little for me. I felt bad for Nell and they way she was being treated, I thought she deserved better.  Still a fun story and the ending was great.
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Not having read the first book in the series, I was alittle lost for awhile. The plot is good with quirky characters and keeps you guessing as to who committed the crime. #netgalley #Berkley  In exchange for an honest review I received a digital copy.
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American Nell Valenti is hired to develop a world-class cooking school requiring a move to Cortona, Italy. She is now living and working in a villa owned by renowned Chef Claudio Orlandini. His Cornell-educated son, Pete, as well as a cast of female family members also reside at the villa.

Nell has her work cut out for her. The Orlandini family is quirky and set in their ways. Trying to organize them is like herding turtles, one or more of them frequently wander off to do his or her own thing creating chaos instead of the organization Nell is striving to achieve.

The first class of students in the cooking school is a group of Americans that have arrived excited to learn the recipe for Chef Orlandini’s famous marinara. It is to be the highlight of the final day. Unfortunately, an unruly chef and the murder of one of the Americans waylays any plans that Nell made.

Unsatisfied with the suspect the police have in custody, Nell begins her own investigation with a man she thinks is a private detective – but is he really? Between the lies, secrets and a language barrier Nell is ready to throw in the towel – but can she ever forgive herself if someone gets away with murder?

Quirky characters fill the pages of this mystery. The chef is over the top Italian and his son is a sexy olive pressing hunk. The Orlandini women range from nuns to a talented sous chef. The Americans add an interesting mix along with the elements of surprise. Almost all of the book is set at the villa. I would have liked more adventures away from the villa, to give me more of the taste of Italy. Other than the problems in communication between characters speaking Italian and others speaking English, the setting could have been anywhere. I wanted descriptions of the town, really bringing the reader into the beautiful country of Italy.

Crime of the Ancient Marinara is the second book in this cozy mystery series. I did not read the first book and was a bit lost in the first few chapters as to the relationships between the characters. Overall, this was an enjoyable cozy mystery.

Author Stephanie Cole is also known as Shelley Costa. She has been nominated for both an Edgar and an Agatha Award as Shelley Costa. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Cole or Ms. Costa.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman
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I loved this book from start to finish. It's the second in the series, but I didn't feel like I missed anything by not reading the first. Great book if you love culinary cozies. I loved the setting and the characters and the whodunit kept me guessing until it was revealed. There were perhaps a few too many characters to keep up with, but the author did her best to make them different enough so they were not too difficult to keep track of. I will definitely be reading more from this author.
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It’s only been a month or so since murder threatened to derail the fledgling Villa Orlandini cooking school, but school coordinator Nell Valenti is determined to put all that behind them and focus on making a success of their Tuscan farm-to-table concept. With the impending arrival of five American gastro-tourists for a culinary dissection of the classic marinara sauce -- complete with celebrity Chef Claudio Orlandini’s unveiling of the secrets behind his own world famous marinara at the end of the multi-day course -- Nell has her hands full planning and prepping, even as she worries that having only five students will barely cover opening costs. Still, a successful inaugural class will no doubt kickstart more through word of mouth, so Nell is determined to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Unfortunately, Chef O, as he’s known, has his own ideas as to what constitutes success, and so Nell must constantly improvise around him, with the help of his adult son Pete and the irrepressible Bari sisters, a convent-attached mix of sprightly middle-aged women with indifferent English language skills, led by the serenely beautiful sous chef Annamaria. The school’s new students include an eager businesswoman and her boorish husband, an outdoor education teacher, a young barista, and a handsome waiter whom Nell secretly suspects is actually a private investigator hired by her own rich, interfering parents. But when one of the students is poisoned, seemingly by Chef O’s special marinara recipe, everything goes sideways, and Nell finds herself once more in the thick of solving a murder and saving her school.

Stephanie Cole builds on the promise of the first novel in this series to present a truly absorbing -- and occasionally laugh out loud hilarious -- murder mystery with excellent misdirection as well as a lot of surprisingly deep character development. I loved Nell’s growing relationships with the Orlandinis and the Baris, as well as the, if you’ll excuse the pun, rather saucy ending. I was genuinely worried that the Tuscan Cooking School aspect of this series would come to an end, and am very eager to see what happens next, especially with poor Annamaria. Her sisters were delightful as always, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out!

This installment included the following recipe, an Italian classic by way of Argentina!

Mirta’s Marinara Sauce

(serves 4) 
Preparation time: 15 minutes 
Cook time: 40–45 minutes 

1 large can (28 ounces) of good canned tomatoes (diced, whole, or puree)—I prefer Hunt’s Fire Roasted 
1 medium white onion (peeled and diced)  
1 small green pepper (diced) 
2 whole garlic cloves (minced) 
2 tablespoons dried oregano 
2 tablespoons cooking oil 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 tablespoon fresh basil (chopped)
1 dry bay leaf 
1 tablespoon sugar  
Pinch of salt and black pepper (to taste) 

In a large saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil until it shimmers.  

Add minced garlic first and cook for a minute.  

Add onion and green pepper (diced in small pieces) and cook until translucent (about 3–4 minutes). 

Stir in tomatoes with all their juices and mix all. 

Rinse the can with a tablespoon of water and add to the sauce. 

Add dried oregano and bay leaf. 

Add the sugar. 

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for 40–45 minutes. 

Stir occasionally. 

Using a wooden spoon, you can crush the tomatoes as you like. 

Lastly, add chopped fresh basil. 

Keep the sauce covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze it for up to 6 months.

I freely admit that I used a teaspoon of salt instead of a pinch, which I think was the perfect amount to really bring out the flavor of this sauce. I also used Cento brand San Marzano tomatoes: I’m sure Hunt’s Fire-Roasted would have been delicious but I’m rather partial to the Italian classic. I kept waffling between whether or not to cover the sauce as it simmered: I would recommend leaving it uncovered if you prefer it chunky, but to add a lid if you’d rather a smoother sauce. I served the sauce with meatballs and fresh mozzarella slices over thin spaghetti -- I’d wanted capellini but couldn’t find any at the store, oh well -- for a delicious family meal.

Next week, we head to the American Northwest to make the quintessential American dessert while solving a murder in a paranormal cozy series debut! Do join me!
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This is one of those series where you will need to start at the beginning or you are going to feel lost for about half of the story. I was unable to get a feel for the characters and was really confused as to what sort of relationship Nell had with Peter, Chef O's son. About halfway into the story, the flow seemed to increase and the mystery got started. There was a nice variety of characters and plenty of guilty-looking parties with reason to want do in the deplorable Bob Gramm of Gramm's Lams, least of all is his cheated on wife. I thought that the Billy Joel loving Bari sisters were a nice touch, and honestly, who could possibly believe that Annamaria could have possibly killed Bob, after all, what was her motive? My last bit of critique is that one cannot review a recipe when it isn't in the ARC.
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Crime of the Ancient Marinara is the second Tuscan Cooking School cozy mystery by Stephanie Cole. Released 26th January 2021 by Penguin Random House on their Berkley imprint, it's 304 pages and available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is an engaging cozy mystery set in the Italian countryside around gastro-tourism and a high end cooking school which the expat American main character Nell Valenti is setting up at a villa/convent. Five Americans show up for the first run and it's not long until murder shows up to complicate things for Nell & co.

This is one of those books with a punny title, outlandish setup, strong romance subplot, clean language, non-gory murder, and some recipes included in the back of the book (not included in the early eARC provided for review - so I can't comment on the specific recipes, but they're usually pretty good). It's undemanding and well paced and written, professionally edited and polished. I confess I was hindered in my reading enjoyment because I didn't find Nell a particularly sympathetic or relatable character. She seemed very prickly and petty throughout most of the book. 

Well written with a satisfying denouement. Three and a half stars. I would recommend it to fans of the first book in the series and to readers who enjoy the genre. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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Nell Velenti has relocated from the United States to the town of Cortona, Italy in the region of Tuscany. Her job is to design a world-class cooking school at the Orlandini family villa, a 500-year-old former convent. The school is run by renowned chef Claudio Orlandiini, his son Pete, and sous-chef Annamaria Bari. The job is more challenging that Nell expected due to the condition of the grounds and the language barrier. Now that it’s time for the first weekend of the cooking school, Nell is nervous but excited they’ll be hosting five students from America for four days. There are moments of chaos, but then things get even worse when one of the guests dies, an apparent victim of poisoning. Now it’s up to Nell to solve the crime and save the school from closing before it gets started.

This is the second book in the Tuscan Cooking School series, but the first I’ve read. The premise of a cooking school in Tuscany sounded wonderful and I was excited to read the book. The setting is as great as I had hoped and I enjoyed the Italian phrases that are sprinkled throughout the story to add authenticity. The set-up with a small group of students coming over for the class is also perfect for a mystery. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with Nell, the main character. The first book may have explained more about why she took the position in Italy to begin with, but she complains about the job throughout the book. However, she also complains about her wealthy family back in the U.S., so I can’t tell if she wants to be in Europe or not and it’s hard to feel sympathy for her.

The investigation itself is interesting with Nell asking good questions to get to the truth of the murder. Between the setting and the premise, all the elements are there for a great cozy read, but I didn’t get a cozy feeling from the book. There is too much negativity from Nell, the chef, the sous-chef, and a few of the guests. The story is sometimes hard to follow and I don’t know if it is the writing style or the fact that I didn’t read the prior book. Most of the loose ends of the plot are wrapped up by the end of the book, but even when things are wrapped up, I was still confused about a few of the details. I think readers who liked the first book will enjoy reading about the cooking school’s first set of guests. However, I found the book promising, but ultimately disappointing.

~ Christine
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This is such a fun series, and I had a great time with this cozy mystery. I loved the plot, the twists and turns, and the characters!
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The time has come for all of Nell Valenti's hard work to pay off. The inaugural class is due to Villa Orlandini soon, consisting of five American students. During the introductions, Chef Orlandini surprises everyone by indicating he will be revealing his secret marinara sauce to the class, Nell, and everyone else in the household is shocked. Nell also discovers her father sent another private eye to spy on her and is intent on calling her father out. Revealed secret marinara sauces and private eyes become back-burnered, the least of Villa Orlandini's worries, when one of the class members is poisoned. In a group full of suspicious characters, Nell must now figure out what and how the poisoning occurred and who is responsible, before their inaugural class becomes Villa Orlandini's only class.

Crime of the Ancient Marinara was an interesting story with likable characters and a believable mystery. Nell is a hard-working American trying to get a culinary school in Italy off the ground. She takes her job seriously, sometimes too seriously it seems. She's doing her best to learn the language and for only a month in, I think she's doing a fine job. Nell is written with realism and her interactions with everyone fit the way a professional in a less-than-perfect situation would act.

The mystery surrounding the poisoning of one of the attendees was well thought out. The suspects were plenty, even if unlikely and/or not plausible. The lead up to and reveal of the murderer, along with the means and motive, were plotted well and I wasn't sure who the culprit was until closer to the reveal. Nell's amateur investigation produced far-fetched theories and her snooping around was borderline illegal, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment.

The story itself was rather slow-paced and it took me a bit longer to read Crime of the Ancient Marinara that other books I've read lately. I still found the story interesting and engaging, with good character development and wonderful world building. I was able to visualize every element of the story including the mouth-watering recipes. I'm excited to see what happens at Villa Orlandini in the next book.
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