The first in the Chocoholic mystery series takes Shakespeare’s adage, “first kill all the lawyers,” to heart. Clementine Ripley, a high-profile defense attorney, takes a fatal bite of chocolate and then promptly falls over a balcony landing at Lee McKinney’s feet.
In her first full-length appearance (see this entry about the short story), Lee McKinney has once again returned to work for her Aunt Nettie’s TenHuis Chocolade shop, this time as business manager. Now twenty-eight, Lee is newly divorced and looking to build a life for herself. Instead, she becomes involved in the aforementioned Clementine’s death when the poisoned chocolate is discovered to have come from TenHuis Chocolade.
Who could have laced the chocolate with cyanide? The ex-husband? The house guest? The devoted personal assistant? The chief of police? The town’s mayor? There really aren’t a lot of suspects. Many had reason to despise Clementine, but few were actually on the scene to do anything about it. Then the suspect pool dwindles as Joe Woodyard, Clementine’s ex, is developed into a love interest for Lee.
This cozy mystery does keep the reader guessing for a little while between the remaining suspects, but really, it’s more about the story here. Lee serves as narrator, commenting on characters’ appearance and apparel—including her own. Her little foible of saying the wrong word (‘goon’ instead of ‘guard’) adds humor and isn’t overused. Making excellent use of descriptions—without bogging down the narrative—Author Carl breathes life into her characters and the fictional Warner Pier.
All in all, an enjoyable read. Certainly a good foundation for this continuing series. And I’ll admit it; I ate chocolate while reading this book!
JoAnna Carl is the pseudonym for Eve K. Sandstrom, author of the “Down Home” mystery series, featuring Sam and Nicky Titus, and the Nell Matthews mysteries. View her website here.