Review: Delicious by Mark Haskell Smith

There's a certain flavor of crime novel that I like. I know I'm not alone in liking it, but it's one that's funny and a little absurd (or maybe very absurd) but it's never an all out comedy. It can be dark, there are actual stakes and consequences and it's not taking place in a vacuum. Carl Hiaasen is great at these books, Elmore Leonard could do this, and Mark Haskell Smith can do this as well.

The book is set in Hawaii and involves a chef who works for his uncle's catering company. His uncle has a monopoly on the catering business for local film and TV productions. Or he did, until a mobbed-up Las Vegas based company moves in. Now the business is in trouble, and it's happening at a time as our hero's relationship is uneasy and he's debating whether to take a job in New York City.

I don't want to say more than that to be honest because the surprise and the odd twists and turns in the book's plots are part of what makes the book so much fun. This is a story that involves gangsters and hit men and food and union battles and relationships. It can be very dark and also be laugh out loud funny at different points.

And the consequences and the weight of these actions are what makes it funny and what makes it dark. Because these are not cartoons, they're treated as real people dealing with serious issues. The questions of culture and identity that our hero ponder are treated seriously, just as much as the moral decisions everyone faces–and just as seriously as food.

I enjoyed but had mixed feelings about Smith's first novel, Moist. It was amusing but had problems, but with Delicious he made a big leap forward as a writer. The result is, well...delicious.

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