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When a local teacher is found dead, LA’s newest pet groomer Mimi Lee finds herself in a pawful predicament—with her younger sister’s livelihood on the line.
Mimi Lee is on top of the world. She has a thriving pet grooming business, the sweetest boyfriend, and a talking cat to boot. When she arrives at the elementary school where her sister Alice works, she’s expecting a fun girls’ night out—but instead finds a teacher slumped over in her car, dead.
Alice was the last one to see Helen Reed, which instantly marks her as the prime suspect. Unable to sit quietly and let the authorities walk all over her sister, Mimi starts snooping and talks to Helen’s closest contacts, including one jumpy principal, a two-faced fiancé, and three sketchy teachers. With the help of her sassy but savvy cat, Marshmallow, and a cute kitten named Nimbus, the clock’s ticking for Mimi to get to the bottom of yet another case before her sister gets schooled.
Coconut Woman by Jennifer J. Chow
When my dad immigrated to the United States, he brought over a beloved collection of cassette tapes (featuring musical artists not native to his home country of Malaysia). Growing up, I remembered him frequently putting them into the tape player. There’d be endless hours of listening fun, and I’d bop my head along with the catchier tunes.
One of these was “Coconut Woman” by Harry Belafonte. There’s a line in the song about coconuts making you as strong as a lion. I’m not sure how accurate this is medically, but maybe my dad and other Malaysians took this idea to heart because there’s a lot of coconut-influenced food in the country. Here are a few ways that coconuts are used in cooking in Malaysia:
The classic example is drinking juice straight up from a coconut. There are now special tools that you can use to dig a hole into the coconut shell and stick a straw straight into the husk. I find these devices to be flimsy and would rather hack through the fibrous outer portion of the coconut shell with a trusty cleaver—the traditional way to break it open. This method allows for a wide opening on top of the coconut and the chance to both drink the juice and eat the coconut meat in leisure.
This coconut jam makes an appearance in Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines, since Mimi serves it to her boyfriend, Josh. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the same appreciation for the sweet jam as Mimi. Kaya is made with coconut, eggs, and caramel; it’s often spread on toast in the mornings for a sweet breakfast treat. I recall having a tin of kaya around as a condiment while growing up, right alongside the jars of peanut butter and jelly.
Although different versions of laksa exist, the common spicy noodle dish that bears this name usually contains a spicy paste, broth, coconut milk, and noodles. Extra fixings like shrimp, bean sprouts, and hard-boiled eggs can also be added to laksa.
Coconut rice is a staple base for a ubiquitous dish in Malaysia known as “nasi lemak.” The phrase can be roughly translated as “creamy rice.” Nasi lemak is coconut rice with added toppings, organized into banana leaf-wrapped packages. The most basic combo has chili paste, fried anchovies, and cucumber slices. To make the delicious coconut rice, basmati grains are steamed in fresh coconut milk. Ginger slices and a pandan leaf can also be added to the rice (as it cooks) for a more intense flavor.
My dad is Malaysian Chinese, as is my protagonist’s mother in the Sassy Cat Mystery Series. I’m certain that his tastes have influenced my food choices, both in real life and in my books. (Thanks, Dad!) Hmm, now all this coconut talk is making me hungry…
Aout the Author
Jennifer J. Chow is the author of the hiss-terical Sassy Cat Mysteries, the Winston Wong cozies, Dragonfly Dreams, and The 228 Legacy. She lives in Los Angeles, where she hunts for all things matcha. Connect with her online and sign up for her newsletter at www.jenniferjchow.com. You can also find her on social media under @jenjchow.