Death Is Like A Box of Chocolates is the first cozy in the new Chocolate Covered Mystery series written by Kathy Aarons.
When Fulbright Scholar Erica Russell comes home to West Riverdale, Maryland, her former high school classmate, Michelle Serrano, is surprised that Erica isn’t all snooty and stuck up. The two girls become BFFs in a flash and decide to go into business together. Michelle is a chocolatier and Erica has a love of literature, so they open a cozy little shop called Chocolates and Chapters. Doesn’t the name sound inviting? I’ll let Michelle describe it to you.
A homey, welcoming room with books lining the walls, tempting customers to pick one up and read in an overstuffed chair, and the smell of chocolate enticing them to choose from my selection of sinful sweets. Chocolates and Chapters had become an unofficial community center for our little town. Our smattering of mismatched couches and coffee tables now hosted various committee meetings, knitting circles, book clubs and, my least favorite, birthday parties.
Michelle and Erica decide to sponsor a Great Fudge Cook-off to celebrate the one year anniversary of the shop. Michelle thinks it is a great business plan because everyone who comes in to taste the fudge will surely want to buy her fancy homemade chocolates. Then Mayor Gwen “Fixit” Ficks persuades Michelle and Erica that the cook-off would make a great addition to the annual West Riverdale Memorial Day Celebration and would go a long way to helping the merchants along Main Street attract business.
Many of the locals become somewhat flustered when the photography shop next to Chocolates and Chapters is broken into and Denise the owner claimed not to know what the thieves were after. And I could see that Michelle was thrown into stage fright when Erica announced that she had gotten Hillary Punkin, “star chef of the TV show, Life by Chocolate” to act as the judge for the cook-off. Then Erica’s brother, Benjamin, who Michelle calls by his childhood name, Bean, even though he prefers to be called Ben shows up in Michelle’s kitchen. He is now a world famous journalist and used to be Michelle’s high school crush.
“Hi,” Bean said, looking not much like the hero I remembered. While his hair always had the disheveled look of a distracted writer, it now seemed to be plastered to his head in a weird “I just woke up” smush on one side. He hadn’t shaved in days, and his clothes looked as slept in as his hair.
Michelle’s life is too complicated to have a distraction like Bean around, so she tries to push him out of her mind. Still, the complications pile on when Michelle discovers Denise’s dead body in a chair in Chocolates and Chapters, her mouth stuffed with chocolate. When it is discover that the chocolate is filled with poison, Michelle’s entire supply of chocolate becomes suspect. And Michelle is afraid her business will be forever ruined and she herself might wind up in jail. Erica’s organizational skills and the help of friends lead to the capture of Denise’s murderer. Hooray! Except…there has been a second murder and Denise’s killer has an ironclad alibi. So Michelle and her friends have more work to do.
Death Is Like A Box of Chocolates is a fun and happy book, filled with the kind of quirky characters we cozy fans love. The small town vibe—everyone knows more about everyone else than they should—adds humor to even the most dire situations. I had a grand time reading it and you will, too.One other thing, I’m telling you now—keep your eye on Coco the cat.
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Twice short-listed for Best American Mystery Stories, Terrie Farley Moran’s cozy mystery novel, Well Read, Then Dead released by Berkley Prime Crime in 2014 will be followed by Caught Read Handed in 2015.