A sharp commentary on race relations in pre-Katrina New Orleans and a fast ride through the dark side of haute cuisine.
Liquor has become one of the hottest restaurants in town, thanks in part to chefs Rickey and G-man’s wildly creative, booze-laced food. At the tail end of a busy Mardi Gras, Milford Goodman walks into their kitchen—he’s spent the last ten years in Angola Prison for murdering his boss, a wealthy New Orleans restaurateur, but has recently been exonerated on new evidence and released. Rickey remembers him as an ingenious chef and hires him on the spot.
When a pill-pushing doctor and a Carnival scion talk Rickey into consulting at the restaurant they’re opening in one of the city’s “floating casinos,” Rickey recommends Milford for the head chef position and stays on to supervise. But soon Rickey finds himself medicating a kitchen injury with the doctor’s wares, and G-man grows tired of holding down the fort at Liquor alone. As the new restaurant moves toward its opening, Rickey learns that Milford’s past is inextricably linked with one of the project’s backers, a man whose intentions begin to seem more and more sinister.
Chefs (and lovers) John Rickey and Gary "G-man" Stubbs (first appearing in Liquor and Prime) are once again involved in drama and suspense at their trendy eatery, Liquor. Chef Milford Goodman, an old friend of Rickey's, shows up after a 10-year prison stint for murder (of a restaurant owner) ends, thanks to a retrial acquittal. Just then, as it turns out, the current chef, Tanker, quits in a huff. Milford takes over, and through him, Rickey meets a manipulative, pill-pushing doctor named Lamotte, who pressures Rickey to join a restaurant venture, Soul Kitchen, involving a shady local businessman-investor, Clancy Fairbairn. Rickey, hooked on Lamotte-supplied Vicodin and wanting to give Milford the break he needs to become a top chef, agrees, various complications ensue, and the deal ends in tragedy. Throughout, Brite demonstrates a deep passion for and knowledge of New Orleans' food scene, and winningly sends up the city's wealthy elite, who "were like great dark sea creatures circling below the water's surface." The novel is brisk and entertaining, and manages to deal sharply with homophobia and racism amid a frothy plot. The novel was completed, Brite notes, the night before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the city where she was born and now lives with her chef husband. An open-ended conclusion hints at another installment to come.