Former New York Times
restaurant critic and Gourmet
editor Reichl’s (Tender at the Bone
) first foray into fiction is like an iced white cake. It follows a traditional recipe, it is really sweet, and it is dull. A young California woman named Billie Breslin (a barely disguised Reichl) lands a job at a food magazine called Delicious!
in New York City just before it is shuttered by budget-minded bigwigs. As part of an interim position fielding calls and correspondence from subscribers, Billie stays on as the lone employee in the old mansion from which the magazine was published for years. A stock character named Sammy, the fey former travel editor for the mag, leads her to a beautiful library on an upstairs floor, where they uncover letters written to the famous James Beard from a girl named Lulu during the Second World War—letters that have been hidden in a secret chamber by a long-gone librarian named Bertie. Billie embarks upon a scavenger hunt for the remaining the letters, and, in the end, on a journey to find their aging author. In order to get in as much foodie language as possible, Reichl has Billie working at a deli in Little Italy on the weekends, where she meets Mr. Complainer, her love interest. Though Reichl is a marvelous food writer, the language used here is often cloying. (May)