At a time of COVID 19 and chilling events in Armenia, a welcome respite may come in the form of a fun new murder mystery by one of our own. Tina Kashian grew up on the Jersey Shore where her parents owned an Armenian restaurant. Her inside jacket picture shows a smiling dark Armenian with curls, the type of girl you might have stayed up with chatting past bedtime at Armenian camp. A former attorney, Kashian is the author of the Kebab Kitchen Mysteries, published by Kensington books.
The mysteries come with deliciously witty and self-referential titles such as Hummus and Homicide, Stabbed in the Baklava, On the Lamb and my favorite: One Feta in the Grave. They all star restaurant owner and sleuth extraordinaire Lucy Berberian, who like Kashian gave up a career in the law to run a Mediterranean restaurant on the beach. Berberian is engaged to the restaurant’s muscly hunk of a chef, named Azad, who once broke her heart, and she must deal with prototypically meddlesome Armenian parents who want her hitched and bearing children as quickly as possible. There’s also a cat called gadoo and all sorts of ethnic references, but you don’t have to be Armenian to enjoy these mysteries.
In Mistletoe, Moussaka and Murder, local retiree Mr. Spooner is murdered during a frigid dip in the ocean. All eyes focus on the local baker Susan, but we have an inkling that she may not be the guilty party. The exact details of the plot are not important — fingers get pointed at most of the protagonists at one point or another though the ending is quite a surprise. Kashian is not trying to reinvent the murder mystery wheel and her style is conversational in nature and unassuming. There’s a lot of detail about family relationships and you get a good idea of what s mall town on the shore looks and feels like — including the gossip and stereotypes involved. Personally I cared less for the scenes where Berberian tries on bridal outfits, but they add flavor to the proceedings as well.
Kashian’s series of mysteries would make fun surprise stocking stuffers since Christmas is on its way. And the book at hand — her latest effort — Mistletoe, Moussaka and Murder, is a fun read. My biggest quibble is that at 320 pages, it could be shorter and not suffer in the process. A plus: the story is followed by recipes for “Angela’s perfect pilaf,” “Azad’s moussaka” and “Susan Cutie’s lemon meringue pie.” And if you’re headed out to the Jersey Shore this summer, why not pack a few of Kashian’s books along with some khorovats, dolma and other favorites? Just be careful when you go in the water. As poor Mr. Spooner will testify, you never know who may be standing next to you!
Kashian’s book is available at https://www.kensingtonbooks.