The Series Is Waning

Author: Mia Manansala

The Calendar Crew is opening another new business in town (a laundromat) at a coveted spot. Feelings are running high, the competition is enraged, and the Aunties gossiping ways have gotten them in a lot of trouble. When Ninang April’s niece, the posh, I-can-take-your-man Divina, arrives in town, the friction just gets worse. When Divina ends up dead in the new laundromat, her broken body staged under a scrawled threat, it’s anyone’s guess who the killer is and what motived them. Is someone finally tired of the Aunties’ malicious gossip? Did Divina steal the wrong man? Did some past sin follow her? Is the business competition really furious enough to kill? With the Aunties breaking down and all their lives in danger, Lila picks up the baton one more time to clear her family’s name and find a killer.

Murder and Mamon is the fourth book in Tita Rosie’s kitchen mysteries. What started as a strong (and delicious series) is starting to wane, overwhelmed by a huge, nearly indistinguishable cast of characters (four books in and I still can’t figure out which Auntie is which) and stagnating character growth.

At the beginning, Lila is haunted by her first murder investigation, and the circumstances under which she investigates are realistic (well, as realistic as a cozy gets anyway). The way that Manansala acknowledges the brutality of the crime and its effects on all the characters brought a refreshing, if depressing, aura to the series; this realism was a catalyst for Lila to grow and start to examine past trauma. Manansala even avoided the Hannah Swenson pitfall of the never-ending love triangle, and Lila chose her man early.

But now . . . now everything has stopped, and despite all the murder and gossip, not a lot happens in this installment. It’s mostly filler, the story struggling to start and continue, the characters almost bored, interested more in daily life and less in the ramifications of Divina’s death.

Obsidian Soul, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

First: Lila. Here, she is just a narrator. We don’t see any more personal growth from her or even any introspection. Her barely started relationship with Jae remains sidelined. Do these two people like each other? Are they really dating? Do they actually talk or interact, or just tell each other how busy they are at work? I was relieved when the stereotypical love triangle over the plucky but not-too-attractive heroine was resolved early, but it went nowhere after that. She picked Jae . . . but did the two ever actually go anywhere further from there or was the competition all that mattered?

Next, the Aunties. Why is their toxic, life destroying, malicious gossip seen as just a cute personality quirk? That is not ok, and the way Lila defends them . . . come on, I get that they are family but really, really? Lila, I thought better of you.

Finally, when the murderer is revealed (the answer is just handed to the characters because the investigation starts and stops but never actually goes anywhere), it’s an unlikely, weird mélange of a motive. It doesn’t sit right with me.

Overall, Murder and Mamon was still an ok book, but the series is waning. I long for the days of character development, and I really wish that the book would focus on only a few of the family members, instead of working to give everyone a cameo. It’s too hard to keep up with so many people. I want more of Lila and Jae, more of her personal growth, more investigation, and less Aunties!

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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