The Chocolate Moose Motive
Publisher: Penguin Group
Line: NAL Hardcover
Release Date: Oct 2, 2012
Retail Price: 22.95
When Lee hires a free-spirited employee with a tie-dyed, troubled past, she discovers that even the counter-culture can conceal a killer…
As much as the chocolate concoctions at TenHuis can tantalize people’s tongues, Lee’s newest hire is more likely to make them wag. Forsythia “Sissy” Smith is the granddaughter of Warner Pier’s only remaining resident hippie, and lives out at the Moose Lodge—once an informal commune in the forest east of town. But the fact that Sissy is a third-generation flower child is the least of Lee’s concerns.
The previous winter, Sissy’s husband, Buzz, was found shot to death, and local talk named Sissy the number one suspect. Even though her alibi was airtight, the gossips are still pointing their fingers at her. Lee sympathizes with the young woman—even more so when Buzz’s dad, a tough retired Army colonel, threatens to sue Sissy for custody of her son.
Then the chief gossip is found dead, with Sissy on the scene. Was she lured there? Or is she the killer? Lee has a sneaking suspicion that there is someone even more sinister to blame. Someone out to keep a dark secret from coming to light. And they would have no problem killing a certain clever chocolatier who might uncover the truth…
Series: Chocoholic Mystery
Lee Woodyard is making a delivery for her family’s chocolate shop when she overhears an argument between a young woman and an older man. Lee doesn’t recognize the voices, but finds out the woman is Sissy Smith, granddaughter of local hippie and taxidermist Wildflower, and the man is Ace Smith, Sissy’s wealthy father-in-law. Ace’s son Buzz was recently murdered and even though Sissy was a devoted wife and has an alibi for the time of the crime, the town gossips think Sissy was involved in Buzz’s death. Lee hates what gossip is doing to the young woman and offers her a job at the chocolate shop. Soon afterwards, someone close to Ace dies and Sissy is the one to discover the body. Since Ace is fighting Sissy for custody of her and Buzz’s young son, the sheriff think’s Sissy is responsible for this suspicious death. Lee believes in Sissy’s innocence, so when Wildflower asks Lee to investigate, she agrees even if it puts her in the targets of the town’s gossips and maybe even a murderer.
The Chocolate Moose Motive is the latest in the long-running Chocoholic mysteries. I like the setting of a small tourist town in Michigan and what is there is dislike about a chocolate shop?! Since a chocolate shop is at the heart of the story and the entire series, some of the chapters include trivia about chocolate and there is a recipe at the pack of the book. I especially like the section on the healing properties of chocolate. It fits with the story and informs and entertains at the same time.
There is one quirk of this series that I don’t care for. When Lee is nervous, she becomes tongue-tied and mistakenly uses the wrong word, such as “You don’t snare me” instead of “You don’t scare me.” I don’t find this funny, but I am glad to see this occurs less frequently than in earlier books in this series. Even though I don’t find these slips of the tongue especially amusing, at least this time they are infrequent enough that they don’t become distracting to the story.
What I like about the book is that Lee is an average woman who is happily marries to Joe, a lawyer and boat restorer, and also has a good relationship with her Aunt Nettie and Nettie’s new husband Police Chief Hogan Jones. Lee is a believable character that is easy to connect with. The author tells the story in a relaxed pace which works well for the book and its characters. Even Ace who seems like the obvious villain in the story has more to his character than originally meets the eye. The lives of the characters aren’t perfect, but the problems they face, such as death of family members, dealing with gossip, trying to support a family, are relatable and fitting for a light, cozy mystery.
The story isn’t complex, but it is entertaining, and I passed a few pleasant hours in the company of Lee and her family and friends. I enjoyed this book much more than prior installments in the series, and I will give future books by JoAnna Carl a try. I think this book will appeal to fans of Sheila Connelly or Leslie Meier.
Reviewed by Christine K.
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