Friday, 2 November 2018

Death Comes In Through The Kitchen by Teresa Dovalpage

Death Comes In Through The Kitchen by Teresa Dovalpage
Published by Soho Press in March 2018.

Featured in This Time Last Year for Oct 2019

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Rachel's Random Resources

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Add Death Comes In Through The Kitchen to your Goodreads

Set in Havana during the Black Spring of 2003, a charming but poison-laced culinary mystery reveals the darker side of the modern Revolution, complete with authentic Cuban recipes.

Havana, Cuba, 2003: Matt, a San Diego journalist, arrives in Havana to marry his girlfriend, Yarmila, a 24-year-old Cuban woman whom he first met through her food blog. But Yarmi isn’t there to meet him at the airport, and when he hitches a ride to her apartment, he finds her lying dead in the bathtub.
With Yarmi’s murder, lovelorn Matt is immediately embroiled in a Cuban adventure he didn’t bargain for. The police and secret service have him down as their main suspect, and in an effort to clear his name, he must embark on his own investigation into what really happened. The more Matt learns about his erstwhile fiancée, though, the more he realizes he had no idea who she was at all—but did anyone?

When I was offered this Cuban-authored novel to read for its Rachel's Random Reads blog tour I leapt at the chance and I wasn't disappointed. The story is more cosy mystery than gritty crime thriller and I loved Dovalpage's descriptions of colourful Havana. A city blighted by poverty, it is a place of strong community and of entrepreneurial inventiveness despite the authoritarian oppression of the state. Death Comes In Through The Kitchen begins in quite a light-hearted manner but gradually becomes darker in tone as we begin to understand more about Cuban life.

My favourite character by far was Yarmi. She doesn't exactly speak from beyond the grave, but the narrative chapters are interspersed with lively posts from her food blog, Yarmi Cooks Cuban. If I had stumbled across that blog in real life I would certainly be a fan and I am looking forward to trying out a couple of Yarmi's recipes in due course. Novels with recipes are usually fun! I didn't actually like our journalist 'hero', Matt, very much. He is quite full of himself with unrealistic expectations of his own situation and that of the people around him. He's also rather chauvinistic and homophobic. Turning up in another country carrying a (second-hand) wedding dress is just the first of his strange decisions, especially as he's not even had the sense to protect said dress into a case or bag! However, Matt's innocent abroad role allows us to view Havana through his eyes and once he toned down the sneering at Cubans' lack of the technology and gadgets he deemed essentials, he did begin to rise in my estimation.

I would have liked some of the supporting characters to have had stronger definition. The humour of Lieutenant Martinez being defined almost entirely by the size of her bottom, for example, quickly tired and I can't believe that the secret services agent would really have been so naive. There is also a brief flashback to a sexual assault. I found the inclusion of this scene disturbing because it seemed only there to imply that having been the victim of a paedophile in adolescence would make one homosexual as an adult. I wasn't ever sure what Dovalpage was trying to say. Overall however I enjoyed Death Comes In Through The Kitchen and the unravelling of just what did happen to Yarmi and why.

Meet the author

Teresa Dovalpage is a Cuban transplant now firmly rooted in New Mexico.  She was born in Havana and now lives in Hobbs, where she is a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College.

She has published nine novels and three collections of short stories. Her English-language novels are A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004), Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010), and Death Comes in Through the Kitchen (Soho Crime, 2018), a culinary mystery with authentic Cuban recipes.

Her novellas Las Muertas de la West Mesa (The West Mesa Murders, based on a real event), Sisters in Tea / Hermanas en Té and Death by Smartphone / Muerte por Smartphone were published in serialized format by Taos News.

In her native Spanish she has authored the novels Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain), El difunto Fidel (The late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, that won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009), Posesas de La Habana (Haunted ladies of Havana, PurePlay Press, 2004), La Regenta en La Habana (Edebe Group, Spain, 2012),  Orfeo en el Caribe (Atmósfera Literaria, Spain, 2013), and El retorno de la expatriada (The Expat’s Return, Egales, Spain, 2014).

Author links: 
Blog in EnglishBlog in Spanish ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Etsy Find!
by Carmen W Designs in
Arizona, USA

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Teresa Dovalpage / Women's fiction / Books from Cuba


  1. I just finished reading Red Sparrow - a political, espionage thriller. What's surprising about this book is the incongruous recipes included in its pages. Lol.

    1. The recipes do work in the context of the Cuban food blog chapters, but they do make for an unusual novel!

  2. This sounds like a fun read, and I'm sure the recipes were tempting to try. Awesome Review
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    1. Yes! Several look like they will be fun to try :-)