Picks and Pans Review: The Mulberry Tree

updated 07/22/2002 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/22/2002 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Jude Deveraux

Mystery, romance and cooking converge in the latest by perennial best-seller Deveraux. Billionaire James Manville dies in a plane crash, leaving his beloved wife, Lillian, nothing except a rundown farmhouse and a cryptic note alluding to his shady past.

As overweight Lillian, 32, gets a makeover, cooks like a gourmet for her new guy and sleuths James's secret, characters and plot points enter like a chorus line; each time you think everyone is onstage, a few more appear. Reading this is like drinking mai tais: a languidly pleasant experience till the contents make you woozy. (Atria, $25)

Bottom Line: The plot runneth over

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