Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: The Chocolate Snowman Murders by JoAnna Carl (Chocoholic Mysteries #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery with a fun main characters
Cons: Many of our friends only have cameos
The Bottom Line:
Snuggle by the fire
And grab gourmet chocolate
Indulge in this book

Murder of an Art Judge

I love reading mysteries were the murder victim was a true jerk.  And that's definitely the case in The Chocolate Snowman Murders, the eighth Chocoholic Mystery.  This entry also marks the hardcover debut for the series.  But things haven't changed much for Lee McKinney Woodyard and the gang.  Lee is still the accountant for TenHuis Chocolade, a gormet chocolate company run by her aunt and located in a small resort town on Lake Michigan.

Every year, the town of Warner Pier puts on a Winter Arts Festival in an attempt to boost their winter economy.  This years festival is just days away, and Lee and her husband Joe are busy helping the rest of the committee put the finishing touches on events.  One thing Lee takes on is picking up Fletcher Mendenhall, the juror who is coming in to judge the art show.  When she arrives at the airport, she finds him drunk.  But the worst part is that he makes repeated passes at Lee and won't take no for an answer.  Fed up, Lee drops him off at a hotel.

But that isn't the end of things.  The next morning, Mendenhall is found murdered in his room.  Since Lee was the last person to see him, she becomes the only suspect.  That would be bad enough if key evidence didn't keep showing up in her possession.  Can Lee find out who really committed the murder before she is arrested?

The story starts rather briskly with only one or two chapters before Mendenhall is introduced in person.  As I said, he is a truly despicable character, so it's no surprise he's the victim.  Since the murder didn't take place in Warner Pier, we are actually dealing with a different police officer, so that throws a nice twist into the story.  In fact, Lee's position as a suspect made the book very hard to put down.  I missed several good clues that pointed to the killer, so the ending was a logical shock.

The book continues to be populated by warm characters.  While Lee doesn't take being a suspect well, she doesn't take it lying down either.  Her continued courage makes it easy to root for her.  She has a constant habit of mixing up her words when she is nervous; a habit that various is prominence in every book.  Here, it is kept to a minimum.  Of the series regulars, Joe, Aunt Nettie, and local police chief Hogan get the most page time.  I have always liked watching how Joe and Lee's relationship develops, and this is no different.  Aunt Nettie actually gets involved in the mystery at one point here, a nice change for the character.  And she gives Lee some much needed pep talks.  Hogan also provides some support.  The rest of the cast pretty much are stuck with cameos, which has been the case for a few books now.  I wish there were a way to include more of them.

The book also included several new characters to be the suspects.  Even though they were all introduced in the first scene, I really didn't need to refer back to it to keep them all straight.  They were well developed and interesting.

And the book continues to offer more chocolate trivia, this time focusing on some of the companies that have brought us chocolate over the years.  These one page breaks between chapters are fun this time around.

I was hesitant about jumping to hardcover with The Chocolate Snowman Murders, but I'm glad I did.  This is the perfect mystery to snuggle up with on a cold winter's night.

Can you have just one chocolate?  It's the same with this series, so here are the Chocoholic Mysteries in order.

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