Friday, July 11, 2008

Chocolate to Die For

After giving up her career as a Texas trophy wife, Lee McKinney finds herself in a Michigan resort town, keeping the books for her aunt Nettie's luxury chocolate business. But she soon discovers that her new life isn't all truffles and bonbons...

Clementine Ripley, the defense attorney everyone loves to hate, is throwing a party that calls for several thousand dollars worth of custom chocolates- some made in the image of her champion cat. Lee jumps at the job, but sweet success takes a bitter turn when someone adds an extra ingredient- cyanide- to one of their delicious chocolates and it finds its way into Ms. Ripley's mouth. Now it's up to Lee to figure out who tampered with the family recipe before she and her aunt end up behind no-so-chocolate bars.

Includes Yummy Chocolate Trivia!

Title: The Chocolate Cat Caper
Author: JoAnna Carl
Series: Chocoholic Mysteries, Book 1
Start & Finished: 3/25/08- 3/26/08
Published: 2002
Publisher: Berkley Signet
Pages: 240
Genre: Culinary Cozy Mystery

The author of the Down Home and the Nell Matthews mystery series, Eve Sandstorm was asked to add to the cozy mystery genre by her agent so once she picked her pen name JoAnna Carl (which is the three middle names of her children) and the beautiful setting of a small resort town where many wealthy people vacation, she then decided to add chocolate into the series (because who doesn’t love chocolate?) and thus The Chocolate Cat Caper, the first book in the delicious series, was created.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the good cozies lately have some kind of extra little something. For example: in a Joanne Fluke book, because the heroine owns a cookie shop you get all kinds of good recipes. In JoAnna Carl’s series however you get chocolate trivia which although I would love to know how the TenHuis Chocolade makes their truffles, the “Chocolate Chat” (which is mostly about chocolate origins and other random trivia) is a pretty original and interesting idea.

Lee “tangles her tongue” (kind of like Doc from Snow White) but other than that I really liked her and Warner Pier seems like it would be such a nice place to visit… when murders aren’t being committed of course! Oh and the Chocolade shop aunt Nettie (whom I adored) owns made me wish I had a similar shop around here since I’ve been craving a non-lethal truffle ever since I finished the book. I was very pleased to learn that all of Aunt Nettie’s chocolate is based on a real chocolate shop called Morgan Chocolate- and you can order from them online.

A properly done cozy mystery is truly a work of art. The author has to balance between giving only just enough clues away so at the vital moment the killer is revealed, the reader understands how and why the author came to that conclusion. At the same time, it’s incredibly easy to give either too many clues (to throw off the sleuth and the reader) or so many really good ones that the reader figures the whole thing out too early. If I know who the killer is without a doubt, and even the why before I reach 100 pages like I did with this one, then I’m usually disappointed. Thankfully there were still plenty of surprises, even a few red-herrings that almost threw me off. Not bad for the author’s first cozy debut!

After leaving her bad-news husband back in Texas, Lee McKinney moved up north to a quaint resort town. Now she keeps the books for her aunt's luxury chocolate shop. But Lee soon finds that Michigan winters can be murder...

Lee and Aunt Nettie can’t believe their luck. A teddy bear promotion will have tourists flocking to Warner Pier, which could mean skyrocketing sales for TenHuis Chocolade. To help decorate the scrumptious store, Gail, an antique dealer, lends them a collection of valuable chocolate molds. But after a burglary at the shop, Gail meets with a grisly fate- and the main suspect in her murder is Lee's troubled teenage stepson. Lee sets out to clear his name, but awakening long-hibernating secrets might be more than this daring crime solver can bear...

Includes Tasty Chocolate Trivia!

Title: The Chocolate Bear Burglary
Author: JoAnna Carl
Series: Chocoholic Mysteries, Book 2
Start & Finished: 3/29/08- 4/3/08
Published: 2002
Publisher: Berkley Signet
Pages: 225
Genre: Culinary Cozy Mystery

Set six month’s after JoAnna Carl’s debut mystery The Chocolate Cat Caper, the little resort town of Warner Pier is getting ready for their winter tourist attraction in the second Chocoholic Mystery, The Chocolate Bear Burglary. Before the Teddy Bear Getaway even begins there is a burglary and a murder in the little town and Lee McKinney is right in the thick of it.

After the first yummy story I couldn’t wait to venture back to Warner Pier and find out what kind of trouble Lee would land herself in next so I got the second book as quickly as I could. As soon as I got over the fact that she even had a stepson; since (although her ex-husband was mentioned, and even called her in the first book) the fact that she was a stepmother was never even brought up before now, I had to push all of Jeff’s drama aside to be able to get into the story.

I can’t say I really liked Lee’s love interest in this book either. Joe Woodyard (the guy whose ex-wife was killed in the first book) and their whole weird relationship annoyed me. So did all the “tongue-tangling”, also known as malapropisms, that the heroine does (but hers are more painfully embarrassing than funny) - even if it’s not as bad as in the first mystery.

Again, I was fairly certain who the killer was early on in the story but I wasn’t positive if that person had an accomplice or not. I did guess correctly about some things but others completely came as a shock to me like who was really on that snowmobile that tried to kill Lee.

The “Chocolate Chat” in Bear Burglary is mainly about mysteries that feature chocolate this time. Everything from Joe Morelli’s chocolate- colored eyes to a short story about a man poisoning his wife with chocolate through an ingenious way. Just a warning: make sure you have some chocolate of your own on hand when you start the book!

The Chocoholic Mystery Series: The Chocolate Cat Caper, The Chocolate Bear Burglary, The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up, The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle, The Chocolate Mouse Trap, The Chocolate Bridal Bash, The Chocolate Jewel Case, The Chocolate Snowman Murders (Oct. ‘08)

An interview with the author


  1. Sounds like a wonderful series! And who'd say no to chocolates?! ;P

  2. Haven't heard of this author, but really love that cover.

  3. Chocolate cats! I wonder if they taste anything like chocolate bunnies. ;-)

  4. these sound the cover.
    now I'm craving



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