Monday, March 31, 2008

Murder Of A Chocolate-Covered Cherry - Denise Swanson

Murder Of A Chocolate-Covered Cherry
A Scumble River Mystery
Denise Swanson


Scumble River, Illinois may be a small town, but it’s never boring. As spring begins, the cooks in town are gearing up for Grandma Sal’s Soup-To-Nuts Cooking Challenge. Skye Denison, school psychologist, was blissfully unaware of the contest until her mother, May, told her about it. And about how Skye is a finalist in the contest. And, at last, how May wanted so badly to be a finalist that she entered four different recipes, using four different family members. Now all four, including May, are competing, with various degrees of good humor.

Since Grandma Sal’s company owns a factory that employs much of the town, the contest is big news. At the press conference covering the opening events, Skye meets the other competitors. One is Cherry Alexander, who waltzes in, after keeping the rest of the group waiting for nearly an hour, wearing couture and trailing a beach bum-looking husband while issuing demands over a cell phone.

Things go rapidly downhill from there when Cherry accuses May of stealing the “secret ingredient” for her recipe and one contestant after another discovers that someone has tampered with everything from ingredients – switching salt for sugar – to kitchen timers. The ensuing chaos prompts the judges to allow a second test run the following morning before the contest begins. Before that second test run can begin, early arrivals discover an addition to the huge chocolate fountain that was a feature at last night’s dinner: a body, facedown. Death by chocolate looks a lot better on a menu than in practice.

This is the latest installment in a long-running series, but newcomers will have no problems getting up to speed. The author cleverly works in background without being obtrusive. The contest brings together a disparate cast of characters, and provides an interesting pool of suspects. There are a couple of interesting subplots going on, involving a possible teen kidnapping and the possible sale of the factory. Foodies will get an extra layer of enjoyment, as the author thoughtfully includes the winning recipes at the end of the book. As always, the mystery revolves around Skye, her family, and her interconnected relationships with nearly everyone in her hometown. Readers who enjoy small town cozies will love this series.

Rating: 6 ½
April 2008
ISBN# 978-0-451-22368-5 (paperback)


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