Suspend disbelief for ‘Other Side of Night’; savor the twists and recipes of “Chantage and Bibingka” – Sun Sentinel

“The Other Side of the Night” by Adam Hamdy. Earbuds, 304 pages, $27

The phrase “suspension of disbelief” allows us to believe and follow a story, even when action seems impossible. So put your skepticism aside, suspend that disbelief and embark on British author Adam Hamdy’s thrilling “The Other Side of Night”, whatever twist comes your way.

Each plot twist foreshadows another twist in this thriller that encompasses betrayal, regret, and abandonment. Hamdy’s unconventional mystery eschews intense action while using sharp psychological principles wrapped in what appears to be, at first, regular police procedural while flirting with sci-fi snippets.

Police Detective Harriet Kealty has been fired over manslaughter allegations following the death of the man who attacked her partner as she tried to arrest him. She is also devastated when, after falling in love with Ben Elmys, he breaks off their relationship after a few dates. Harriet is embroiled in the suspicious deaths of academic physicist Elizabeth Asha and her author husband, David, particularly when Ben becomes guardian of the couple’s 10-year-old son, Elliot. “The Other Side of Night” follows Harriet’s dogged investigation, with the help of Sabih Khan, her former police partner. Harriet’s concern about Elliot fuels the plot.

Hamby uses bits of the supernatural as “The Other Side of Night” pulls towards its surprising ending. Just suspend that disbelief for fun.

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‘Blackmail and Bibingka’ by Mia P. Manansala. Berkley Prime Crime, 304 pages, $17

In just three novels, Mia P. Manansala has set the precedent for high-energy culinary mysteries that invite readers to join restaurateur Lila Macapagal, her family and friends, to learn about Filipino culture and savor the dishes on offer in her new Brew-ha cafe and aunt Tita Rosie’s kitchen next door.

Manansala, who has won the Agatha and Anthony Awards and been nominated for several other awards, continues this approach in “Chantage et Bibingka”, in which family and culture drive the lively plot. While Lila’s detective skills get lost a bit as Manansala focuses on characters and food, that doesn’t take away from the fun of “Blackmail and Bibingka.”

"Blackmail and Bibingka" author Mia P. Manansala.

Lila isn’t happy to see her cousin, Ronnie Flores, return after 15 years away, especially as she’s preoccupied with preparing for the annual Winter Bash. But Lila is also wary of returning home because Ronnie is known to gamble freely with truth and money, having earned the nickname “the king of get-rich-quick schemes”. Still, she tries to keep an open mind, especially since Ronnie’s arrival makes her mother – her Tita Rosie – so happy. Her suspicions about Ronnie are not allayed when she learns of his questionable stay in Florida and that he wants to buy a nearby winery, leading his investors and partners to visit the establishment. The plot unfolds when an investor drinks poisoned wine and Ronnie’s mother receives a threatening email.

Manansala’s affinity for creating believable characters elevates “Blackmail and Bibingka” as close-knit family and friends warmly welcome strangers into their homes and hearts. Lila, who is in her twenties, maneuvers the multi-generational characters, willing to listen to others but also not shy about expressing her opinions. Her trio of “aunts,” effectively her godmothers, have muted their interference in the pairing — at least a little — now that Lila has a boyfriend and a doctor no less.

“Blackmail and Bibingka” spins on well-crafted twists, and readers will savor myriad descriptions of Filipino dishes. Fortunately, Manansala includes many recipes in its culinary mystery.

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at

Alycia R. Lindley