Beef Stolen-Off (A Clueless Cook Mystery, #2)

Beef Stolen-Off (A Clueless Cook Mystery, #2) - Liz Lipperman 3.5+ starsNot quite as good as the 1st book, but still loads of fun...Jordan's caught up in trying to help promote the Texas Cattle Ranchers Association (TCRA) at their annual charity ball. Cattlemen are losing on the price of beef - folks just aren't buying it as often. And then there's the cattle rustling... Yep, modern day cowboys are rustling expensive Wagyu cattle and getting away with it.Jordan's date to the charity ball is Rusty Morales - suave, dark, sexy - the cover of the GQ, Cowboy edition. But Jordan's still hoping things will work out with Alex, despite Alex being deep undercover in El Paso. Although it doesn't hurt to look or flirt a bit, does it? Rusty escorts Jordan to a limo that also contains Lucas Santana and his assistant Maribella Kensignton, aka Bella.While rare beef isn't Jordan's thing, the event is serving the infamous Beef Daddy's barbecue, provided by Cooper Harrison and his business partner Blake Graham, both of whom are sitting at their table with their dates. Jordan senses a lot of tension at the table. Rusty is known to be a ladies' man - has he dallied with one or more of these ladies? Carol Anne Summerville, Cooper's fiance, seems very interested in Rusty; her daddy owns the North Texas Beef Distributors at Lake Texoma, near where Jordan lives.Just as Jordan is about to relax and enjoy herself, Rusty starts sputtering... and choking... and runs for the exit, with Jordan right behind. Rusty can't feel his tongue or teeth. And suddenly, Rusty's foaming at the mouth. Jordan runs for help, but by the time she gets back to Rusty, he's having convulsions. Another woman whom Jordan suspects of being involved with Rusty is Brenda Sue Taylor - crying her eyes out in her husband's arms while Rusty's being taken to the nearest hospital.At first, Rusty's death is taken as an accident... that is, until the coroner detects a potential poison in his system. Who slipped Rusty the poison at the ball?Danny, Jordan's brother - youngest of her 4 eldest brothers, shows up on her doorstep, proclaiming himself the new TCRA agent, here to investigate the cattle rustling. And soon, Alex is back for a few days - pulled from his case in El Paso to assist in finding Rusty's murder... which seems to tie in to the cattle rustling, since rumor has it that Rusty was the mastermind behind it all.But Danny still can't figure out how the rustlers are getting away with all of this... And what does Rusty's mother, Maria, have to do with any of this? She obviously knows a secret and is afraid, but her recent stroke prevents her from speaking. And then there's Sandy, a colleague of Jordan's at the paper and the mystery of her grandfather's haunted cabin out near Lake Texoma.How do all these things tie together? Do they? That's the fun of the read!=====================Maybe cattle rustling doesn't do it for me... maybe, IMO, the author pulled the usual "mystery cheat" here that irks me: authors let the reader know that there are pieces of the puzzle missing and then never fill in the missing pieces until the very end reveal. While we know there are secrets and we suspect who holds the key to those secrets, it's impossible to figure out what the secret it or why it's so important until the very end.But it's not the worst thing an author can do, and many authors in the mystery genre use this device - some overly. While it's a bit irritating (to me), it doesn't completely spoil the book for me. But the author laid down so many possibilities and so many red herrings, my head was spinning. I can *always* figure out whodunnit, even if I don't know the WHY. This time, I had too many suspects to figure it out.I'm glad that we saw Alex again in this book. I really like Alex and Jordan together. I'm hoping they're a regular couple, although I know that Alex's job will likely keep them apart more than together.The author even set up the next book by telling us how the entire Empire Apartments gang is going on a Cook-off Cruise! A little hokey, sure, but a good way to introduce it and get us thinking about the next book.The recipes seem good - better than the last book. I have to admit that I'm a cook and somewhat of a foodie. So these "down home" recipes don't always appeal to me. The recipes in this book aren't all casseroles, but they're still recipes you could likely get from other sources - like your grandma, your church friend, your neighbor, or a good ol' Internet search. Even so, they're fun.And I definitely want to try Sandy's Almond Balls - not a dessert, but a dessert DRINK with Bailey's Irish Creme!!!