Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Crime de Cocoa by JoAnna Carl (Chocoholic Mysteries #1-3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun stories with characters you enjoy spending time around
Cons: Get rid of the Chocolate Chats! Plots are weaker then they could be.
The Bottom Line:
Light, fun mysteries
The coziest of cozies
Chocolate reading

Three Delicious Mysteries

The Chocoholic Mystery is a light, cozy series focuses on Lee McKinney, who helps her aunt run a high-end chocolate shop in the resort town of Warner Pier, Michigan. From time to time, crime finds it way into the town, and Lee winds up right in the middle of the danger, sorting things out in the end. Crime de Cocoa collects the first three volumes in the series in one large soft cover book, along with the short story that first introduced the characters.

The book starts with "The Chocolate Kidnapping Clue," a short story that originally appeared in the book AND THE DYING IS EASY. In it, a teenage Lee spends the summer in Warner Pier while her parents go through a nasty divorce. She spends her afternoons working in her uncle and aunt's TenHuis Chocolade shop. Every afternoon, another teen girl comes in and gives Lee a hard time before buying some chocolates. But then the girl is kidnapped. Who would do such a thing in the small town?

The first official book of the series was THE CHOCOLATE CAT CAPER. A now grown Lee moves back to Warner Pier after her own divorce to help her recently widowed Aunt Nettie run TenHuis Chocolade. Lee's hardly been back in town when infamous defense lawyer Clementine Ripley is poisoned with a custom made chocolate from their shop. Not wanting to let their name be pulled through the mud, Lee decides to look into murder herself.

Next up is THE CHOCOLATE BEAR BURGLARY. When Lee's stepson shows up unannounced, Lee is hardly too pleased. But she and Aunt Nettie put him to work in the shop. After all, with the teddy bear promotion in town, they could use the extra help. But then antique chocolate molds are stolen from the shop and the antique dealer who lent them out is murdered. Even more unfortunately, Lee's stepson in the sheriff's top suspect and doesn't have an alibi for the crimes. Lee's going to have to work fast to clear him.

Finally comes THE CHOCOLATE FROG FRAME-UP. Everyone fights with town crank Hershel Perkins. But Lee's boyfriend Joe had the unfortunate distinction of doing so right before he disappears. While the evidence continues to mount, Lee searches for the truth so her flame does wind up behind bars.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a light series. The plots are strong but not as complex as they might be. I often figure them out before the end. What helps pull the series along is the characters. Lee, especially, is a strong woman who doesn't stop until she finds the answers she is looking for. She does have a speech impediment that causes her to mix up words when she's nervous. While this can get annoying, it is toned down the further into the series you go. The rest of the regulars in the small town are nice people I'd love to spend time with in real life. They, combined with the setting, make for a cozy small town feel that is fun to visit. There are plenty of chocolate descriptions in these pages. I might have drool on a few of mine.

The one curiosity is the "Chocolate Chat." Several times in each book, the author throws in some chocolate trivia. It doesn't tie into the mystery at all, but is there instead of the recipes like you might expect from a book like this. I enjoy them, although the author does seem to be running out of things to say about chocolate.

This series won't tax your brain, but it will entertain you. If that's what you want, Crime de Cocoa is the place to look. If you prefer your mysteries with more of an edge, keep moving. This series isn't for you.

But if this series is for you, you'll want to move on to the rest of the Chocoholic Mysteries in order.

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