Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Chocolate Book Bandit - JoAnna Carl

The Chocolate Book Bandit
A Chocoholic Mystery
JoAnna Carl

In many small towns, there are more by-appointment positions than there are people to fill them.  There’s the library board, the building board, the board to oversee this and that.  What usually happens is that the people who are willing to serve finish a term in one job and move over to another position.  Lee Woodyard has just finished one civic obligation and is thinking about taking a spot on the library board.  From what other members tell her, there’s not much to it.
All of the board members arrive for their monthly meeting except for Abigail Montgomery.  This is odd, since she’s one of the most dedicated members.  There’s some new business, including a new library director, an outside hire, Henry Cassidy.  He goes by “Butch,” naturally.  The meeting is interrupted by a shriek from the librarian on duty: she’s found Abigail, crumpled at the bottom of the basement stairs.  After checking out the scene, the police determine that it wasn’t an accident.  The stakes are raised further when there’s a second murder in the library.
This is the latest in the long-running series (THE CHOCOLATE JEWEL CASE, THE CHOCOLATE BRIDAL BASH, THE CHOCOLATE SNOWMAN MURDERS)  that centers on Lee, who works at her Aunt Nettie’s gourmet chocolate shop in a northern tourist town.  In this case, the suspects list contains anyone who was in the library during the meeting.  From there, it’s essentially an elimination game.  There’s a bit of a melancholy feel to this installment, from a subplot concerning Lee and her husband, to a now-retired high school teacher who is a legend in town, to the librarian who discovered Abigail.  Some gentle humor serves to leaven the feeling, though.

It’s quite easy to dip in and out of this series, and new readers will have no problem starting here.  The cast is quite large, but the author skillfully moves the non-participants to a safe distance, and sketches in the backgrounds of the main players.  Longtime readers will recognize names and incidents from the past; new readers won’t be lost.  With fun chocolate trivia sprinkled through the story, this is the perfect nibble for a cold winter night.

Rating: 6
November 2014
ISBN# 978-0-451-46754-6 (paperback)


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