A delicious blend of mystery, history, and top-notch cuisine.
Neil Flambé may be fourteen years old, but he’s also a world-renowned chef. Patrons pay top dollar and wait months for reservations at his tiny boutique restaurant. But Neil is more than a fantastic cook—he solves crime too. Ever since he used his kitchen know-how and keen sense of smell to acquit a man of murder, he’s been helping Police Inspector Sean Nakamura crack case after case
But when some of the best chefs in town turn up dead, the crime scenes turn culinary. Police are stumped, and the only clues are the scents of mysterious spices and a journal that may have belonged to…Marco Polo? Neil must find a way to connect the past with the present and solve the murders—or he could end up as the prime suspect!
Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders Chapter One Salmon or Salmonella? Neil Flambé stood in his kitchen and took a deep breath.
Was perfection too much to expect? he wondered. He spoke slowly into his phone.
“Gunter, the salmon you sent me is just this side of rotten. I have twenty people expecting a fantastic fish dinner tonight. What they are not expecting is a side dish of FOOD POISONING!” The man on the other end of the call held the receiver away from his ear. He was Gunter Lund, a famous chef in his native Germany before burning out five years ago in a pitched battle with a stubborn batch of bierwurst sausages.
He’d moved to Vancouver to escape the stress and had started his own seafood distribution business. But clients like Flambé made him wonder if it wasn’t time to go back to cooking. He felt a shot of pain in his stomach. His doctor had warned him about stress and ulcers.
It’s not any fourteen-year-old who can talk to me in that tone of voice, he thought.
That was certainly true, but Neil Flambé was not just any fourteen-year-old. He had his own restaurant, his own line of cooking pans, and his picture was on the front cover of the latest issue of CHEF! Magazine, under the headline “Is There Anything This Boy Can’t Cook?”
Neil Flambé was a star.
Another of Flambé’s talents? He could make an ordinary cell phone sound like a megaphone.
“HELLO? GUNTER? Are you still there? I need a different fish!”
Gunter wanted desperately to hang up. Instead he tried another approach. “Neil, please calm down. The man on the boat assured me that he caught the fish this morning.”
“Floating on top of an oil slick?” Neil yelled. “Listen, I have the top food critics from all the major newspapers coming for dinner, as well as the Spanish ambassador. If I serve that toxic fish to my guests, it will KILL THEM!”
“You’re exaggerating, Neil,” Lund said, struggling to stay calm. “It was fine when it left here. And it’s only a few minutes to your restaurant.”
Neil took a loud breath, prepping for another assault on Gunter’s ears.
“But if you insist,” Gunter continued quickly, deciding it was probably best just to give in, “I’ll send over another fish right away.”
There was a short silence.
“You’ll send two,” Neil said firmly.
Gunter paused. His stomach had started to churn, and he knew he’d need to pop another antacid or five when he finally got off the phone. Flambé was one of his best—or at least one of his best-paying—customers. He’d fork over plenty for a good salmon. The only problem was that he was a royal pain in the zielscheibe: the rear end.
Gunter rubbed his finger over his throbbing temple. “Yes, fine, two,” he said. The line clicked and Flambé was gone.
“He doesn’t even say danke schön,” Gunter muttered angrily. He turned in his chair and yelled out the window to his partner Renée, who was sitting on the dock fixing her nets.
“I need two fresh salmon right away!” Gunter shouted. “Still flipping, if you can find any like that.”
Kevin Sylvester is an award-winning writer, illustrator, and broadcaster. His books include MiNRS, MiNRS 2, the Neil Flambé series, Gold Medal for Weird, and Sports Hall of Weird. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.
"This exuberant culinary mystery has the behind-the-scenes panache of Disney’s Ratatouille and is held together by a kid who is as cocky in the kitchen as Gordon Ramsay (whose blurb graces the cover!). Fourteen-year-old Neil Flambé is pretty much a failure when it comes to math, chemistry, and art, but he is a genius when applying those subjects to his own recipes at his celebrated Vancouver restaurant. Neil has got a superdeveloped olfactory sense, and the police call him “The Nose” while using him to sniff around crime scenes. The latest call to detect trace evidence involves a series of murders of Vancouver’s top chefs. Neil picks up an exotic chai spice mixture on the dead chefs’ lips and a baffling “something else” that he can’t quite put his nose on. The murders continue, and Neil himself, unable to solve the crimes, becomes the chief suspect. First published in Canada in 2010, this series starter is over-the-top fun and features an intriguing link to Marco Polo’s last voyage." — Booklist
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