Monday, August 4, 2008

The Chocolate Snowman Murders-JoAnna Carl

The Chocolate Snowman Murders
JoAnna Carl
Obsidian, Oct 2008, $19.95
ISBN: 9780451225061

Lee McKinney Woodyard, manager of her Aunt Nettie’s Tenhuis Chocolate shop, is the treasurer on the committee organizing the annual Warner Pier Winter Arts Festival known in Western Michigan as WinterFest. Every year an art show is sponsored, but this year a juror breaks a leg and cannot participate. He obtains a substitute retired Professor Fletcher Mendenhall. Lee’s husband Joe offers to pickup the former academia, but when he gets tied up, she gets him. To her horror Fletcher pulls out a flask and starts drinking.

Her discomfit turns to shock and horror when her visitor turns drunk and amorous while she is driving amidst heavy traffic. She finally leaves Fletcher at a motel to sleep it off. Lee tells Joe who decides to visit the professor to inform him to leave his wife alone. Fletcher fails to answer his phone or the knock on his room’s door. Joe has the desk clerk unlock the door. They find Fletcher dead on the floor; his head bashed in and his cell phone missing. Lee and Joe become immediate suspects even before the victim’s cell phone is found in her possession. Lee concludes that someone is setting up her and Joe to keep the cops from this clever culprit. She intends to investigate in the hopes of going where the police are ignoring so as to clear her and Joe.

JoAnna Carl writes scrumptious regional amateur sleuth tale with delightful chocolates to sweeten the plot. Life in a small Michigan town especially from the perspective of a chocolate shop proprietor is vividly depicted; as everyone knows everyone; yet the key is not everything so one can still conceal nefarious felonious deeds, in this case murderous activity from their neighbors. The investigation is credible (more so than Lee’s previous inquiries) as the heroine believes the killer is playing police by leading them increasingly towards the Woodward couple with the motive being the deceased’s unwanted amorous escapade. THE CHOCOLATE SNOWMAN MURDERS is a charming cozy.

Harriet Klausner