Cooking the Books: The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole by Rebecca Adler

A music festival has come to the small town of Broken Boot, Texas, and while it’s certainly good business for our heroine Josie Callahan’s family’s restaurant, she’s still a little leery of musicians after her unhappy breakup with her musician former fiancé. Her best friend, Patti Perez, however, is not of the once-bitten, twice-shy inclination, as she’s only too happy to start things up again with her ex-boyfriend, the music festival’s headliner, Jeff Clark.

Hoping to get a scoop to jumpstart her own stalling career as a reporter, Josie heads over to Patti’s house the night after Jeff sleeps over to try to get an exclusive interview. What she gets instead is the discovery of Jeff’s corpse in the living room, face down in a bowl of guacamole.

When Patti is arrested for the murder, Josie’s investigative and writing skills go into high gear as she sets out—with the aid of her adorable canine companion, Lennie—to clear her best friend’s name. But there are a lot of people who are only too happy to see Jeff gone, and information is hard to come by. Josie has to rely on all her resources in order to save her friend from a life behind bars.

The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole serves up a delightfully colorful slice of life (and death) in small-town West Texas. From the obsession with football to Josie’s grandmother-by-marriage’s political incorrectness, all the details are lovingly put together by an author who clearly knows her setting. Rebecca Adler also knows her food and provides a bountiful selection of recipes at the end of the novel. With flu season doing its worst in my household, I chose to try the following:

Milagro’s Sopa de Lima (Mexican Lime Soup)

*Makes 8 servings

Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 45 minutes


9 cups chicken broth

5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1 large red onion, quartered

5 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 green onions, chopped

1 large green chile pepper, seeded and diced

2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup fresh lime juice

½ lime

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Tortilla chips or tortilla chip strips, for topping


In a large pot, combine the chicken broth, chicken breasts, red onion, garlic, black pepper, and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken breasts are no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear. Remove the cooked chicken and shred, and then return it to the simmering pot.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook the green onions and chile pepper in the oil until tender. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking until soft. Add the mixture to the pot with the chicken soup.

Season with the salt. Return the soup to a simmer.

Add the lime juice and ½ lime. Cook 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the lime half. Add the cilantro.

Serve with tortilla chips.

In all honesty, I’ve never made a soup that took less than two hours from start to finish, and this was no exception. But it was well worth the wait and keeps beautifully for leftovers—a big deal in a household of sick mom and kids. I wasn’t entirely sure whether I ought to squeeze the lime half Ms. Adler asks us to pop in at the end, but I did because I’m a big fan of lime in soups.

The only thing I’d change in the recipe itself is the chicken breasts. I’d definitely use dark meat because I prefer the flavor—though in all fairness, this soup is bursting with flavor as it is. I also did not see a need to use any salt, as I thought it was perfectly seasoned without. Also, despite the use of the chile pepper, this soup is very mild, as my lovely assistant Karin found to her delight.

My only real criticism of The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole has to do with the fact that, while it’s the second in the series, it gives away what happened in the first, which rather reduces my interest in going back to read that novel. If the recipes here are anything to go by, however, it may well be worth checking out the ones in Here Today, Gone Tamale, as well.

Next week, I keep travelling west to Cruz, California to try my hand at a gourmet sandwich while investigating with perhaps the most delightful human-feline pairing in recent memory. Do join me!

Check out last week's Cooking the Books, a Tiropita (Greek Cheese Pie) from Susannah Hardy's A Killer Kebab!


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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.

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