Review: Al Dente’s Inferno by Stephanie Cole
An American chef will have to serve up more than good eats if she wants to establish a successful farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany, in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in Italy.
When Nell Valenti is offered a chance to move to Tuscany to help transform an aging villa into a farm-to-table cooking school, she eagerly accepts. After all, both her job and her love life in America have been feeling stale. Plus, she’ll get the chance to work under the acclaimed Italian Chef Claudio Orlandini.
But Nell gets more than she bargained for when she arrives. With only a day to go until the launch dinner for the cooking school, the villa is in shambles, and Chef O is blissfully oblivious of the work that needs to be done before a group of local dignitaries arrive, along with a filmmaker sent to showcase and advertise the new school. The situation only worsens when Nell discovers that the filmmaker is an ex-boyfriend, and he’s found murdered later that night. Even worse, Chef O has disappeared, and accusations of murder could shut the school down for good.
As tensions reach a boiling point at the villa, Nell must throw her chef’s hat into the ring, and investigate the murder herself. Because if she fails to solve the case, her career, or even her life, could be next on the chopping block
Al Dente’s Inferno is the first book in Stephanie Cole’s new Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series. Murder, mystery and a bit of romance are all lurking on the Tuscan countryside.
Chef Neil has found herself in a unique position of being able to help open a cooking school with her idol of a chef. Neil gets more than she bargained for while trying to start this farm to table is cooking school. Neil is a hard worker with a deep sense of pride. She’s knowledgeable in what she does, and seems to handle stress better than most. But opening a cooking school and solving a murder are two completely different things.
Al Dente’s Inferno introduces readers to a beautiful setting within the Tuscan countryside. It was very easy to imagine the kitchen in which they were cooking and the olive fields outside of the house. I honestly could almost smell garlic if I tried hard enough. Along with a colorful, charismatic and tight knit group of characters Neil uses her power of observation along with a little bit of nosiness to try to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Al Dente’s Inferno had the potential to be an exceptional read, however I found a few hiccups along the way. The amount of actual Italian used in the book made it very hard for me to read. Using a word or two here or there is not an issue but when you are using full phrases and several sentences at a time, anyone who does not have an understanding of the language is going to have a hard time. I do think the use of the Italian language to give the book a more authentic feel however for myself It was almost too much and began to take away from the entire feel and mood of the book. I also felt that some of the characters were almost too much of a mystery. The characters that we got to know were very enjoyable but there is a cast we still know little about. Neil, Pete and Chef were amazing and I felt like it was because we really got to know them. Stephanie Cole has a good foundation with the start of the series. I am hoping through the next book that we will actually get to know the characters a little more, the language barrier is not so high and the story will flow a little more evenly.