All throughout Homicide and Halo-Halo, Mia P. Manansala leads readers through the culinary experience of a gifted and instinctual cook. Just like her life, Lila our heroine of the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries, experiences moments of feeling lost, hurt, angry and missing spice, all of which is reflected in her cooking. What they say about how your emotions are manifested in your food (as a cook), does seem to be true and we get a clear picture of this when Lila has a disastrous moment in the kitchen. Not only does she end up with tears and burns, but her food is probably the worst creation she ever attempted.
As we follow along trying to solve this mystery, we also get to witness Lila’s healing from unresolved traumas in her life. Manansala is very successful in sticking to a cozy mystery genre with unrealistic relationship scenarios and the non-law enforcement character’s involvement with solving the murder case. Yet, surprisingly, the reader gets to also experience and connect with the characters in very real-life developments. Manansala touches on mother-daughter relationships, mental health misconceptions, family relations, friendships all with feministic undertones depicting the various struggles women deal with all the time. Issues of insecurity, powerlessness, ambition, single parenting, abuse, self-worth, trust, social and economic status, among others, can be seen in the lives of the different characters.
We quickly can see and feel Lila’s emotional battles early on in the novel. We see her struggling with her past loss of her parents, her recent trauma from the last murder mystery, her relationship connections and now a feeling of uncertain identity piled on top with the pressures of starting a new business with her friends. Even though Lila is having a hard time in life, Manansala, reminds her readers how important it is to open up, share those feelings, thoughts and make connections. As Lila works through her emotions, she finally is able to resolve her relationships in her life and be receptive of love.
This novel was exactly what I was expecting for a cozy mystery, and I am looking forward to the third book in this series. As for food fiction, Manansala, does an amazing job at enticing readers to explore food and culture. The food references just kept me turning the pages and wanting to delve into more about Filipino flavors. This is a perfect book for a bookish foodie like me!