Book Review: Recipe for Chaos
Recipe for Chaos
When living in a beautiful, tourist-rich state such as Utah, it’s easy to draw outside influence for art. The scenic views allow for great inspiration for visual artists, but living in a unique town such as Park City can inspire a great story or two. Coupled with today’s political climate, there’s no limit to the potential narrative inspiration at play in Recipe for Chaos. In Zack Matheson’s latest work, he goes above and beyond what seemingly lies on the surface of the nearby ski town.
Recipe for Chaos is Matheson’s fourth novel, and his second to feature Park City. Readers also get another visit from protagonist Detective Lincoln Coulter (of Heatwave) as he investigates the murder of celebrity chef Renny Shepherd. Shepherd was murdered for his coveted recipe, and fingers point to a mafia-like clique dubbed the “Bald Mafia” by the slain chef. The suspect list grows thanks to a recently elected crooked mayor, who brought along the actual Russian mafia.
The book is overly bombastic for the sake of it. Much like turning on the daily news, it’s hard to believe some of the events that happen in the book, especially in a quaint, toursity town like Park City. Perhaps it’s different from the perspective of someone who has lived there longer, but to someone who has visited the town, it doesn’t seem like any of this would happen there. But that’s the point of fiction, right? To create a world that wouldn’t normally exist. At times though, it can pull the reader out of the story to hear all of these ridiculous happenings in the small town. It’s not to say the story is completely unenjoyable, just hard to reconcile with at some points.
Satire is important, and Matheson does a good job of incorporating this into his novel—you’ll find yourself laughing out loud at over-the-top characters and the things they say. These individuals are unique and interesting, especially the main protagonist, Detective Lincoln Coulter (known as “Link” throughout the novel). It’s always alluring to hear a story from the perspective of a detective trying to solve a mystery, and Link is no different. He’s a man on a mission, dedicated to the town he now calls home and to locking up the wrongdoers.
For Utah natives, it’s great to see a story centered around the state that doesn’t involve the church or simply the landscape. The novel flips a quaint ski town upside down to make readers think of what could be going on beyond the tourist attraction. It may make you look harder next time you’re walking up and down Main Street.
Overall, the book is a decent read if you’re looking for an extreme, satirical look at today’s climate that’s mixed in with a campy detective story in a small but well-known town. If you’re looking for a gritty mystery, there are better options. –Emilee Atkinson