Adobo is one of the hardiest, most long-lasting— and not to mention tastiest—Filipino meals out there. The mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, beyond giving the dish a sour and savory flavor, fortifies the meat, whether it’s chicken or pork, to last a few days even without refrigeration.
It is for this reason that food poisoning cases related to this brown and saucy dish are rare (like that 2019 incident involving former first lady Imelda Marcos, where over 200 guests experienced food poisoning after eating a meal of adobo, boiled egg and steamed rice).[READ: Other than adobo: Filipino dishes to last through this extended quarantine]
Chicago-based writer Mia P. Manansala knows this all too well. A murder by way of adobo is the worst case scenario. There has to be something in the adobo that would kill off someone, and in her debut mystery novel, it’s—spoiler alert!—arsenic.
“Arsenic and Adobo: A Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery Book 1” features heroine Lila Macapagal, who moves back home to Illinois after a breakup with her fiancé. She takes over her Tita Rosie’s Filipino restaurant and in a “Ratatouille”-esque turn of events, encounters a critic who keeps giving them bad reviews. What happens next is straight out of an Agatha Christie thriller: said critic dies and the primary suspect is… Lila. Using her “tita network” and with the help of her barista best friend and a dachshund named Longganisa, she sets out to conduct an investigation of her own.
The book, scheduled for release May 4 in the US, is Manansala’s debut novel, and a widely-anticipated one at that—for good reason. In 2018, the author was awarded the Hugh Holton Award—the Pulitzer of the midwestern mystery community—as well as the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award. A year before that, she received a $2,500 grant from the William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, and in 2016, the Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship.
The 336-page mystery novel—the first in Manansala’s Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery Book series—is published under Berkley Publishing Group.
Available for pre-order at Penguin Random House USA’s website.