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Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
Renowned food writer, editor, and publisher of the magazine, Sunshine Trails, Horace Button arrives in Tucson aboard his vintage private railroad car, his small entourage in tow. He’s looking forward to co-hosting the annual Best Chef Tucson Jail-and-Bail gala with his good friend, Bunny Lorillard, but when he arrives at the police station to assume his role as honorary police chief, his presence is met with hostility from a few senior members of the police force. Ever the unwavering optimist, Horace nevertheless launches into the weekend festivities but everything soon comes to an abrupt halt when the honoree of the Best Chef title is found dead. Ironically, an inadvertent error soon has Horace in the actual role of acting police chief, much to the disgust of some members of the Tucson police force who are demanding his immediate resignation. Rather than cave in to their demands, Horace stubbornly decides to use his temporary powers of office to launch an investigation into the chef’s untimely death, convinced that foul play was involved, with little regard for the chaos he’s about to unleash on Tucson’s tight-knit culinary circles.
Eric Peterson has delivered the perfect combination of great storytelling and an irresistible protagonist in his witty whodunit, Sunshine Chief. As far as sequels go, Sunshine Chief nicely holds its own against its predecessor, The Dining Car. The well-thought-out story is made near irresistible, thanks to the lofty likes of Peterson’s main protagonist, Horace Button. Eternal optimist, social critic extraordinaire, Button is a man of many excesses who downs enough wine and spirits daily to put most mortals under the table while unapologetically devouring rich sauces and fatty foods with little care for his heart or his liver. Horace is the epitome of charm or can be as venomous as a snake if provoked, but what makes him so compelling is that he looks at the world just a bit differently than everyone else.
Of course, every good sleuth needs a trusty sidekick and in Horace’s case, he has a small entourage ready to do his bidding. His thirteen-year-old niece, Jane, temporarily suspended from school and along for the weekend with her friend, Florabelle, eagerly carry out Horace’s assignments under the supervision of his manservant, Pierre. Former college football star-turned-biographer, Jack Marshall, is Horace’s right hand, adept at driving or bartending when the situation calls for either one, while Jack’s wife, Wanda, is Horace’s chef, doling out her gastronomic delicacies and sage advice with equal aplomb. Together, they all make a colorful cast of characters that elevate Peterson’s story to the next level. A smart, witty mystery, Sunshine Chief will leave readers eagerly looking for their next fix in what will hopefully become a series starring Peterson’s inimitable protagonist.