The Plot Thickens: Homicide and Halo-Halo

It’s hard to wrap murder, mystery, and family into a tidy bow. Mia P. Manansala, author of the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series, has successfully pulled off this feat in her latest release, Homicide and Halo-Halo.

Family ties are immediately apparent as the families of both main character of the series, Lila Macapagal, and the murder victim—and sexual predator—Rob Thompson’s relatives are integral to the story. For Lila this manifests in all aspects of her personal and professional life. She still lives in her family home, regularly contributes desserts to the family restaurant, and leans on the investigative gossip skills of her aunties to probe into answers surrounding the murder of Rob Thompson, patron and fellow judge of the town’s beauty pageant. Rob’s family is responsible for the industry in the town and have long used their wealth and influence to act in any manner they like. Because of his history of lewd and unforgivable behavior, the list of possible suspects for his murder is long. Though the Thompson family is responsible for her returning to the pageant scene as a judge, Lila has no intention of getting to the bottom of who did him in after she and a fellow judge stumble upon his body—primarily because she is dealing with PTSD from the last time she investigated a murder—until everyone begins to blame her cousin for the murder. Unfortunately, Lila’s cousin was seen openly reprimanding Rob for hitting on her teenage pageant protege before he was found dead and has motive as a former pageant contestant who lost to Lila due to an accident. Fortunately, Lila finds herself drawn into situations with people who have more motive for seeing Rob dead: his calculating wife, passed over older sister, a person he blackmailed, and some underhanded pageant moms. 

This is definitely a cozy mystery for those who want all the familiar beats of the genre along with compelling character dynamics. Yes, Lila investigates the murder like all of the protagonists in mystery series but her personal and professional conflicts are given as much time and develop in the story as the mystery itself. Her avoidance of failure mirrors the reality of how hard it is to balance everyday needs and responsibilities when you feel off balance. As a big fan of the genre, I found this a satisfying read, even without reading the first book in the series. If you’re interested in strong family/friend relationships, personal growth as an adult, town intrigue, and cozy mystery drama, you should give Homicide and Halo-Halo a try.