Leslie Hooton's After Everything Else
Within the first few sentences I was pulled into the plot. The excellent writing, strong characters deftly developed and wonderful additions of restaurant design and scrumptious food, a unifier in the novel. It’s amazing how you can look forward to the food in a murder mystery!!
After Everyone Else is a sequel, but is a stand-alone, so that if you haven’t read the previous novel, you can still totally enjoy it. Great idea.
This novel is a deliciously complicated multi genre story, including a murder mystery, addiction in the family, an unusual post-marriage romance, and complications in family and work dynamics, from mother-daughter, husband-wife, brother-sister, boss-employee.
The structure of the story line is also complex, without a straightforward plot line. Rather the plot jumps non-sequentially from time to time: 7 years ago, Now, 23 years ago, 4 years ago, Now. The episodes are linked by emotion, conflict and food.
In the exciting opening paragraphs of the novel, main character Bailey Edgeworth, restaurant designer, is arrested for murdering her ex-husband. Her DNA is all over his apartment and they argued before his death. Her innocence or guilt is not proven until the novel’s end. Bailey’s interaction with her attorney is complicated by the many suspects whom Bailey wants to protect.
Food and cooking unite the family. No wonder I was drawn to this book! Bailey very successfully designs restaurants, her husband Griffin is a mixologist (creator of alcoholic drinks) and a chef, and co-own 3 restaurants with Bailey’s brother Harry, another chef. Intriguing details are included about restaurant design, delicious menus and drinks. Author Leslie Hooton told me she is the only female fiction restaurant designer. Love that.
I asked Leslie how she came up with the ideas for the restaurant designs. Such a personal and thought provoking answer she gave me! “In 2015 my mother was dying and my marriage of 25 years was ending. I just didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to read at night. Which is what I always did . I started flipping through magazines like Veranda and Architecture Digest. I particularly gravitated towards the Before and After Feature in Architecture Digest. it got me to thinking if rooms can be transformed, why not people?”
The family relationships and their transformations are at the core of the novel, its most important focus and theme. Bailey’s husband Griffin and her brother Harry struggle with alcoholism, as does Bailey and Griffin’s daughter, Charlotte, nicknamed Charlie. Like many families today, addiction tears into family dynamics and often rips apart the family itself. Guilt and blame lace these relationships and the fight against addiction is never over.
Bailey’s family has its dysfunctions, its pain and anger but it has its love. Healing comes from forgiveness, not easily given, and love, not ever abandoned.
There were so many fabulous meals included in this novel that it was hard to narrow down the choices! I chose Pan Seared Haddock with Strawberry Salsa as many seafood recipes are included and Leslie has an amazing ability to present colors in food and design. I think Bailey and her family would like this dish!