HOT STUFF is the latest in a series that began with STUFF TO DIE FOR and another very well done mystery read. This one finds Skip and his longtime girlfriend, Em, out for the evening at L'Elfe in Miami. The French restaurant on Bayshore Drive is quite famous as its owner is Chef Jean Bouvier. Known for his signature television line, "But can you do this?" on cooking shows on the Food Network, his line of cookbooks, spices, cutlery, etc., Jean and his wife, Sophia, are celebrities and envied by many. Including James, Skip's friend and business partner who, despite his own culinary degree and cooking promise, works for a fast food chain when he isn't helping with security installations or investigations.
Both guys are still going nowhere fast and money is always an issue. That is until Em's friend, Amanda Wright, is brutally killed by a dumpster at the back of L'Elfe while Em and Skip are inside having dinner. In fact, they had just seen her minutes earlier when Amanda had stopped by their table to tell them her great news. Amanda was the sous-chef and was being promoted to take over as executive chef at Bouvier's new restaurant on South Beach, La Plage (The Beach). Now she is dead as a result of numerous stab wounds to the stomach using some sort of knife.
For various backstory reasons that gradually become clear over the course of the book, Em arranges with Chef Bouvier and his wife Sophia to put the investigative team of Skip Moore and James Lessor on the case. For six grand over two weeks, they will work the case with James going undercover in the restaurant to replace Amanda. His skills are a little rusty, but his culinary degree will gain him admittance and acceptance by a staff of suspects that will also be told that James "shows promise" and might be the new executive chef at La Plage. Em is to provide online research help and liaison with various contacts while Skip is to provide support as needed. It isn't long before Skip is also inside working undercover at L'Elfe trying to find a killer and clearing James from being a murder suspect himself.
In a complicated book that spends plenty of time inside the restaurant and out, James, Skip, and Em have their hands full with the case and other matters. If you have read this series from the beginning, you know that is how Don Bruns keeps things going as he piles complications upon complications upon complications. Such is true here while also creating a read that once again is funny at times and suspenseful most of the time.
While HOT STUFF could be read as a stand alone, the book works much better if you have read the preceding books in the series so that you understand how the characters have evolved to this point. Billed as a thriller by the publisher, author Don Bruns takes readers on another very complicated mystery ride featuring some humor, plenty of suspense, and a long list of suspects. If it is not clear already, HOT STUFF is another very good book in a series that is consistently well done and worth your time.
ARC was supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.
"Don Bruns' Hot Stuff is the kind of wonderful book that grabs and embraces you from the beginning. Bruns writes with a style that immediately makes you a part of all the action --it's like hearing a tale from a friend that's filled with mystery, suspense, twists, turns, and everything else that makes for a great read. Don't miss it--a true delight!"-- Heather Graham, New York Times best selling author of The Unseen
"Witty, gritty, and filled with brilliantly realized characters, the book is a pure delight."-- Jeffery Deaver, New York Times best-selling author of Carte Blanche
"This quirky engaging mystery is a buddy novel as funny as the movie Dumb & Dumber."-- Library Journal
"Don Bruns keeps on getting better with each book. And his latest effort is nothing short of a home run."-- Strand Magazine