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The two young men emerged from the woods onto Highway 49. There were no street lamps, and Joseph was grateful for the moonlight. Slowly and deliberately, they walked toward the intersection of Highway 61. When they got to the Crossroads, the site was unremarkable: a small general store, a gas station, and miles of desolate blackness stretching in every direction.
“Here you go, baby.” Willy stopped a few hundred yards from the intersection and turned to face Joseph. “You on your own. Can’t take you closer than this.”
“Where are you headed?”
“As far away as I can git,” he laughed, “as fast as I can git there.”
“Thank you. I appreciate your help.”
“Well, this wasn’t no charity. You know that.”
“You got some questions?”
“What do I do? Just walk up there and wait?”
“You won’t be waitin’ long,” said Willy. “The man’ll be along shortly. You don’t need no business card, neither. Trust me on that.”
“You’ll be fine.” Willy studied him carefully. “Shoot, you look like you don’t got a care in the world.”
“I wouldn’t go that far. But I’m here for a reason, of my own free will.”
“I understand.” He patted Joseph on the arm. “You look me up when you open your restaurant, hear?”
“I will.” He watched Willy head back for the woods. “I definitely will.”
“I’ll be here,” Willy called over his shoulder.
GENRE: Thriller (Culinary)
In 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, cut a deal with the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.
Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.
A page-turner as I’ve never seen before
** I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review**
When I read the blurb for this book the first thing that got my attention was the category – Culinary Thriller. It was so intriguing I decided to give it a try. WOW! I was in for a fun roller-coaster ride!
Also I had no idea this was Mr. Spivak’s first novel. Granted he’s got writing experience but he did a superb job with his first novel.
Friend of the Devil will get your attention from the get-go and keep you enthralled up to the last page. Without giving away too much, I can safely say the story revolves around a reporter trying to write a story about a high-profile chef. I know that’s in the blurb but I shouldn’t say much more than that summary to avoid spoilers.
What I can say though is that the author weaves an intricate story bursting with drama, action, and intrigue. Characters are multifaceted while the plot is expertly developed. Has Joe really made a pact to achieve success or was it all a publicity stunt? Can David trust the people orbiting around Joe or are they trying to backstab David? You won’t know the answers to these (and other) questions until the last page. The book is that good!
Even the detailed ‘Background information’ Mr. Spivak provides at the end of the book will keep you second guessing yourself. Thanks to the internet and searching machines one can easily sort that out though. LOL
I recommend this book for its unique, refreshing approach to a traditional genre that can always benefit from a new talent like Mr. Spivak. Well done, sir!
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Mark Spivak is an award-winning writer specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and was honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on http://www.palmbeachillustrated.com. He is the holder of the Certificate and Advanced diplomas from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Mark’s work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. He is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). His first novel, Friend of the Devil, is published by Black Opal Books.