Monday, June 10, 2024

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: The Accidental Joe: The Top-Secret Life of a Celebrity Chef by Tom Straw

In the June 2, 2024, issue of the Washington Post, librarian and reviewer Karen MacPherson named The Accidental Joe: The Top-Secret Life of a Celebrity Chef by Tom Straw one of five new mysteries to read this summer. Published on 14 May, just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend, this clever book melds the knowledge of a long-time television insider, which Straw certainly is, with the conventions of the standard spy novel, yielding a fun and absorbing read with series potential.

Tom Straw is a television screenwriter working on comedies such as Night Court, then serving as head writer for Whoopi, Nurse Jackie, Dave’s World and Grace under Fire. When the television series Castle came along, with its lead character crime fiction author Richard Castle, Straw ghost-wrote seven detective novels under Castle’s name. In his latest book he’s taken a composite of the tantrum-throwing, globe-trotting superstar chef and turned him and his television show into a front for a CIA undercover operation.

Sebastian Pike is in Paris, filming another episode in his travelling culinary show. He is aghast to see an unknown and unplanned interview as part of his new producer’s schedule for the next day. He has no background on Victor Fabron, no knowledge of why he should be interested in Fabron. Pike largely ad libs an interview that is disrupted by the noise of the cop show being filmed nearby. When Fabron crumples to the ground, the bullet wounds in his back demonstrate the fire from someone’s gun had been live.

A few hours later Pike is pulled into a chat with a member of the CIA who tells him his new producer is a plant from the agency and she had been on site to receive intelligence from Fabron who was an agent. The news revealed that a highly placed mole in Russia was in danger and needed to be extracted right away. The CIA representative twists Pike’s arm into providing cover for the agency to bring their undercover man to safety.

The story goes into full-blown espionage mode at this point. Every secret agent convention, every bit of tradecraft, I don’t think Straw missed many of the spy traditions. He’s created a fast-moving cohesive story with an entertaining set of characters, leaving the door open for a potential sequel. Immensely readable. Recommended.


·         ASIN: B0CPL158T2

·         Publisher: Regalo Press (May 14, 2024)

·         Language: English

·         Hardcover: 296 pages

·         ISBN-13: 979-8888452950



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Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2024


Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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