“This appealing detective serves up nuggets of culinary trivia and wry food humor” (People).
In the days of Marco Polo, men risked their lives for spices. And in an age when black pepper was so valuable that it was sold one peppercorn at a time, there was no spice more valuable than the legendary Ko Feng. Known as the Celestial Spice, it supposedly vanished five centuries ago, and its name lives on only as culinary myth. But now a sack of it has turned up in New York City, and the leading experts of world cuisine will kill for a taste. When London’s finest gourmet detective proclaims the mysterious spice authentic, this sack of weeds becomes the most valuable substance on earth, worth thousands of dollars per gram. But soon the spice vanishes, one of his colleagues is murdered, and the detective is forced to dive into New York’s culinary underworld. His palate may be refined, but this gourmet knows how to fight dirty.
Extremely muddled plotting and sloppy explanations mar King's follow-up to The Gourmet Detective (1996). When a shipment of Ko Feng, a treasured spice of the ancient world that hasn't been seen or tasted in 500 years, arrives at JFK airport in New York, the Gourmet Detective is there to greet it and authenticate it. The food-finding Londoner has come to New York City at the request of business associate Don Renshaw. Renshaw and the Gourmet Detective tentatively confirm that the homely foodstuff is indeed Ko Feng and anticipate it will fetch astronomical prices. But the package never reaches their hotel, and theft leads to murder when Renshaw is found shot to death in his office. With the help of the NYPD's Unusual Crimes Unit, the good-natured gourmet tries to facilitate justice while incidentally lunching, dining and snacking his way through the city. Among the suspects are trendy or desperate restaurateurs encountered at an international food fair, the head of an alternative medicine foundation and a shapely high-powered executive from a pharmaceutical company. The imaginative premise gives King, a chef with Cordon Bleu credentials, ample opportunity to describe what he really loves: food and the food industry. But the plot is a tangle of snarled time frames and poorly established motive, a dull dish that doesn't do justice to King's spicy writing about food.