Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Book Review: Christmas Cocoa Murder by Carlene O'Connor, Maddie Day, and Alex Erickson

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Three fun Christmas mystery novellas
Cons: Doesn’t come with hot cocoa to sip while reading
The Bottom Line:
Christmas novellas
With some holiday murders
You’re sure to enjoy

Snuggle Up for this Christmas Novella Collection

Christmas seems to be becoming increasingly popular for cozy mysteries.  While I don’t normally associate murder with Christmas, I do find it a super cozy time of year, so it fits from that standpoint.  If you find the holiday season too busy to read a full-length book easily, then you can easily pick up Christmas Cocoa Murder.  This book has three novellas in it, so you can more easily fit one of them into your busy December schedule.  As a bonus, all three of them are delightful.

The book starts off with the title story from Carlene O’Connor.  I’ve never read anything by her, so this was my introduction to Siobhan O’Sullivan, the main character in her popular Irish Village Mysteries.  This story finds Siobhan a few weeks from joining the local police department in her small Irish village.  Even though she’s not supposed to officially join until after the first of the year, she finds herself getting involved in a case just before Christmas.  First, her family’s dog goes missing.  Then the intermission entertainment at the holiday panto goes horribly wrong.  Paddy O’Shea, the village Santa, has been obsessed over how to top the Santa from the neighboring village, and he’s come up with what he thinks is the perfect way.  He’s had a custom-built dunk tank made, and he’s going to challenge people to dunk him in hot chocolate.  However, before the show is over, Paddy is found floating face down in the hot chocolate.  Who killed Santa?

As I said, this was my introduction to the characters, and I did struggle a bit keeping Siobhan’s family straight, and there are some references to things going on in her personal life that I didn’t get.  However, these were very minor issues in an overall fun story and easy enough to ignore.  As you might have guessed from the description of the story, there is some humor involved in the events, but it does have plenty of serious moments as well.  These were balanced perfectly.  I really enjoyed getting to know Siobhan and the suspects were all strong enough to be believable as the killer.  The plot kept me engaged until we reached the great climax.

Next comes “Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse” by Maddie Day.  With how much I love her books, I’m sure you’ll find it no surprise that this is the reason I picked up the collection.  It features the characters from her Country Store Mysteries, so we travel to Indiana to catch up with Robbie Jordan.  It’s the week before Christmas, and business is booming at Robbie’s restaurant, Pans ‘N Pancakes.  However, not everyone is in a festive mood.  Local businessman Jed Greenburg is found dead on the sidewalk while he was out walking a Chocolate lab puppy, the spilled contents of a mug of Robbie’s special hot chocolate blend next to him.  What happened?

Since I love this series so much, it’s no surprise to me that I enjoyed this novella.  Several of the series regulars are away for the holiday, which actually works out very well since this is a novella.  We are able to focus on the characters important to mystery.  Robbie’s boyfriend’s family are actually key to the events as they unfold, and it was great to get to know them a little better.  The mystery was strong, and I enjoyed watching it unfold.  As always, the scenes in the restaurant made my mouth water, and I am now craving breakfast foods.

Finally, we get “Death by Hot Cocoa” by Alex Erickson featuring Krissy Hancock from his Bookstore Café Mysteries.  Krissy has been talked into doing a Christmas themed escape room by her friend Rita.  The game starts out with the participants being placed in separate rooms, but when they all meet up in the second room, they find the body of their host, Lewis, lying in a pool of spilled hot cocoa.  Is Krissy locked in a room with a killer?  Can she figure out the clues to the crime and the clues to escaping the room?

I read the first book in the series, but I haven’t made it back to the series again.  As a result, I really didn’t remember much about the characters in the series, but that is okay because almost the entire story takes place at the escape room.  With Krissy trapped in a room with all the suspects, it is easy to get to know them.  I haven’t tried any escape rooms yet, but I appreciated how this modern trend was used to update the locked room staple of the genre.  It was well done with the clues to both parts of the mystery layered in to the events.  This one definitely kept me turning the pages.

All three stories feature plenty of Christmas atmosphere to put you in the holiday spirit no matter when you read them.  And there are a couple different recipes for hot cocoa as well as another couple Christmas treats in the book to make part of your Christmas traditions.

These stories will entertain you and leave you with a warm Christmas feeling.  So make yourself a cup of hot chocolate (or maybe not given the theme of this book) and snuggle in with Christmas Cocoa Murder.

If you enjoy the story here, you'll want to read the rest of the Country Store Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

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