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  • Wendy Sand Eckel

The Philosopher Cook



Death at the Day Lily Cafe, the second in the Rosalie Hart mystery series, begins with Rosalie celebrating the grand opening of her new restaurant. The café is buzzing with activity on their first day and Rosalie and her employees are ready for action. In addition to Rosalie, there are three other workers. Two wait staff who include her dear friend Glenn, who at 72 is able to keep orders in his head and pour cup of West African blend without spilling a drop, and twenty-something Crystal Sterling, who is light on her feet and sports a Celtic tattoo behind her ear. The third is Custer Wells. The cook.

Tyler Wells leases Barclay Meadow, the farm Rosalie has adopted from her late Aunt Charlotte, and has become a close companion and dear friend. When he asks Rosalie to hire Custer as a favor, she can’t say no. After being fired from his previous job, Custer is unemployed and in desperate need of steady work. The only glitch is Tyler mentions a little problem with probation.

On Custer’s first day, Rosalie asks about the probation. Always a curious person, finding out what he has done gnaws at her. But Custer’s answer is simple and short. “Nobody was wronged. Nothing got stolen. I guess that’s all you need to know.”

Custer is a mystery to Rosalie. Twenty-four and illegally handsome, he has chiseled features not unlike his Uncle Tyler. While back in the kitchen he traditionally wears a black bandana on his head, his brown hair jutting out the bottom. His eyes are mesmerizing, with light-colored irises centered in a pool of deep green.

A native to the town of Cardigan, Custer and Tyler’s family have lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for generations. They are a hard-working clan comprised of farmers who cherish the land they work and value effort and loyalty. But as most of the Wells family will tell you, there are a few bad eggs. And Custer’s father, Butch Wells, is one of them.

The first time Rosalie mentions Butch to Custer, his demeanor changes from light to dark. And out of nowhere he quotes Lao Tzu, “He who knows how to be aggressive, and yet remains patient, becomes a receptacle for all of Natures’ lessons.”

Lao-Tzu was a Chinese philosopher and the author of the Tao-Te-Ching. He is believed to be the founder of Taoism. Dáo or tao literally means ‘the way.’ These writings on man and nature focus on humility over pride, simplicity over complexity, patience over aggression.

On the day of the grand opening, Annie, Rosalie’s only daughter, discovers Custer in the kitchen and the two become infatuated, causing Rosalie to become even more driven to understand the mystery surrounding Custer.

When Rosalie learns from Tyler that Butch Wells is a narcissist, she does her research. She learns that the impact of being a child of a narcissist is multifaceted and profound. Custer, having been traumatized by his father, has chosen to study the Tao Teh King to find ‘his’ way.

But has he been scarred beyond repair? Is his study of Lao Tzu enough? Can his understanding of his powerlessness over his father enable him to practice self control?

When Butch Wells appears at the café unexpectedly and uninvited, Custer’s will is tested. Rosalie encounters the two in a face off. Custer’s forearm is tense, his muscles defined as he grips the handle of a butcher knife.

Custer’s father is after something and he thinks his son is the way to get it. Will the Lao Tzu enable Custer to persevere, or will his father’s provocation and condemnations take its toll?


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