We gave it an A-
Monica Ali — short-listed for Britain’s Booker Prize for her first novel, Brick Lane — returns with the tale of Gabe Lightfoot, head chef at London’s once-posh Imperial Hotel. Lightfoot, the veteran of many a restaurant kitchen, choreographs a cacophonous staff of immigrants (Indians, Filipinos, Russians; some legal, some not) in a loud and lively daily performance. He doesn’t plan to be at the Imperial — with its pecunious management staff, who even insist on plastic flowers, not fresh, at the tables — for long; he’s amassing the backers to open his own place. But then lightning strikes — about 10 times. A night porter is murdered in the kitchen’s basement. Lightfoot’s dad is diagnosed with liver cancer. His girlfriend demands a commitment. He realizes his hairy-knuckled manager is running some kind of illegal business. And so on. Lightfoot isn’t endearingly scrappy, like Nazneen, the Bangladeshi immigrant of Brick Lane; he?s harder to crack. But once you get past his calloused, scarred exterior, you’ll find him just as mesmerizing. Few writers these days can strip characters to their very souls like Ali does. A?