If Kathy Aarons' debut mystery, Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, is any indication, cozy mystery readers are in for a delectable series. Aarons already appears to be a pro at creating likable sleuths, well-developed characters, and a surprise, but logical villain. Isn't that what we're all looking for with our mysteries?
Michelle Serrano is perfectly happy operating a combined bookstore and chocolate shop with her best friend, Erica. Michelle is the chocolatier for Chocolates and Chapters, while Erica runs the bookstore, and their lives. It's Erica, along with the mayor, who has everyone in town actively volunteering for the Memorial Day weekend Arts Festival. And, Michelle had only wanted to hold a Great Fudge Cook-off. Now, it's a full-blown event with the star of Grand Chef Network as a possible guest judge. But, everything is temporarily on hold when Michelle finds the body of one of the town's professional photographers. Of course everything is on hold. Denise appeared to be poisoned by eating some of Michelle's chocolates. So, guess who's on the top of the suspect list. Michelle is desolate when she can't get into her shop, anticipating the destruction of all of her hard work. For her, "Chocolate was food and family and friends." Is it any wonder that Michelle and Erica team up to ask a few questions and create a project plan for a murder investigation?
Aarons' cast of characters is fascinating. Michelle is in love with her chocolate, following rebellious teen years after her parents died. Her older brother, Leo, had raised her, then enlisted. He's now back from Afghanistan, a disabled veteran suffering from depression. There's the brilliant Erica, along with her hot brother, Ben, the "Bean" that Michelle always had a crush on. It's a well-developed cast of characters, from Michelle's assistants to the other store owners in town. And, of course, there's Michelle's life-long enemy, now the owner and editor of the local newspaper.
When Michelle looks at her friendship with Erica, realizing how "entrenched we were in each other's lives", she actually sums up the world of cozy mysteries. Amateur sleuths like Michelle and Erica fall into investigations because they are entrenched in the lives of their small towns. And, those investigations often uncover unpleasant secrets about friends and neighbors. Aarons' Death is Like a Box of Chocolates offers a combination chocolate shop/bookstore (heaven, anyone?) in West Riverdale, Maryland, the newest setting for crime and friendship in a small town. Kathy Aarons' debut is a sweet treat, indeed.
Kathy Aarons' website is www.kathyaarons.com
Death is Like a Box of Chocolates by Kathy Aarons. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425267233 (paperback), 294p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.