Drop Dead Chocolate by Jessica Beck is a cozy mystery, the seventh in the Donut Shop Mystery Series set in North Carolina (available April 24, 2012).
Suzanne Hart, the wonderful donut maker in April Springs, North Carolina, is truly excited when her mother decides to run against the town’s crooked mayor, Cam Hamilton. Dorothy Hart’s ire is stirred up when the mayor wins a bid for a county job—something Dorothy clearly sees as a conflict of interest.
The smug politician thinks there’s no way Dorothy can get the required signatures on her petition to run for mayor by the cutoff that afternoon. Not only does she make the deadline, she has more signatures than she would ever need as a great many people in town are pleased to see someone honest run for mayor.
Dorothy soon becomes the front-runner, but not in the mayoral race. She’s put at the top of the list of suspects when Mayor Hamilton is discovered murdered in a building Dorothy owns. That means Suzanne and her best friend Grace Gauge will be working on their own murder investigation when Suzanne’s not making donuts at her shop, Donut Hearts. Of course she has her own conflict of interest when her boyfriend, state police inspector Jake Bishop, comes to town to handle the investigation.
This is a delightful cozy mystery, and I had only one problem with it: donuts are a weakness of mine, and I craved them mightily while reading it, especially when I read Jessica’s mouth-watering donut recipes between chapters. Baked Chocolate Sugar Bombs is something I’m going to try to make myself.
It’s a quick read, with a great list of suspects to keep you guessing until the murderer is revealed. Suzanne and Grace get some professional help from retired policeman, George Morris, while they question their neighbors, good friends, and not-so-good friends in the hopes of clearing Dorothy’s good name.
I loved the small-town life Jessica has written about in this book. It’s so easy to get to know all the people that occupy this little corner of the world by her apt descriptions of their lives amid the gossip and politics of April Springs. She has plenty of interesting conflict and a little note of love as Jake and Suzanne have to sneak around to see each other to avoid corrupting his investigation.
I think there’s also something up with Grace and her boyfriend Peter, but that’s just speculation on my part. I’ll be reading the next book to see if I’m right.
Suzanne’s normally overprotective mother usually wants her to avoid investigating crime, but this time is different.
“I don’t see the point, but very well,” Momma said. “Everyone in town must think I killed him. Why did it have to happen in my building?”
“I didn’t even know you owned it until today,” I said as I settled down on the couch beside her. “Who else knew?”
“It’s a matter of public record for anyone who wants to dig through the county books, but offhand I’d probably say that just Hannah knew for sure, since I bought it from her. Anyone else is strictly a matter of speculation.”
Momma stood and began pacing. “Suzanne, you know I don’t usually approve of you meddling into police investigations, but I’m afraid you don’t have any choice this time. You need to find out who killed the mayor.”
“I will, but there’s some good news, too: Jake’s coming to town,” I said. “He’s been assigned the case.”
“How does that affect the two of you?” she asked.
Leave it to Momma to worry more about my personal relationship than any of her own difficulties.
“We aren’t going to see each other while he’s investigating,” I explained. “It’s going to be tough, but there’s really nothing we can do about. I trust him, Momma.”
“As do I, but we both know full well that many of our fellow citizens won’t cooperate with his investigation. You need to get Grace and George and start poking around behind the scenes. Folks around here will talk to you.”
“Even if you’re a suspect in their minds?” I hated to say it like that, but I didn’t really have any choice.
Momma and I weren’t big on tiptoeing around things, and it wasn’t the time to start now.
“Don’t you see? Because of that, you’ll have an easier time asking questions. You have a stake in the matter, after all.”
Suzanne and Grace hit the ground running, often with the extra donuts from the shop in hand. Jessica Beck stirs up a good story that will keep you guessing to the end. The only problem you’ll have when you put it down is not running the speed limit on your way to the closest donut shop!
Leigh Neely is a former newspaper and magazine editor. She currently does freelance work, blogs at womenofmystery.net, and recently wrote the short story, “A Vampire in Brooklyn,” which is in the anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices. She is currently working on paranormal novels with a partner under the pseudonym of Neely Powell.
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