Mango, Mambo, and Murder: 11/26/21
Mango, Mambo, and Murder by Raquel V. Reyes is the start of the Caribbean Kitchen mystery series. Food anthropologist Miriam Quinones-Smith has moved home to Florida with her husband and their preschool aged son, Manny. While she's from Miami, they've moved to nearby wealthy white enclave, Coral Shores, where the Smith name means something.
Miriam expects to be spending her time unpacking, setting up her office, maybe getting a part time job, and mostly, avoiding as best she can her horrible mother-in-law. Frankie Corzo's performance of her mother-in-law made me picture Emily Gilmore from the Gilmore Girls. During a women's club meeting a woman ends up dead right after drinking a custom tea. Miriam's long time friend and self made real estate star is arrested, accused of poisoning the woman.
Mango, Mambo, and Murder builds a narrative around the path Miriam has to take as a Cuban American woman married into a wealthy white family. While her husband is onboard with raising their children equally in both cultures and bilingually she has to face the racism and micro-aggressions of her neighbors, relatives and strangers in Coral Shore. She also has to learn how to wield her privilege — one not earned through her education (she has a PhD) but gained through marriage.
Her investigation into the death, though, also gives Miriam a way to establish herself among the Latinx community. She's able to parlay her knowledge as a food anthropologist into a new career, one that is her success and hers alone — something her mother-in-law can't take credit for. She's able to provide for her family while still being an active parent in Manny's life.
Finally I loved how Spanish is used in the novel and left primarily untranslated. You either understand it or you don't. The way it's rolled into the narrative and the dialog is natural and helps to world and character build.