Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Lure of Chocolate, in DANGEROUSLY DARK, by Colette London

The second in the "Chocolate Whisperer" series by Collete London releases today, and it's another lively mystery at the "unsweetened" edge of the cozies field. Despite the foodie orientation and abundant chocolate puns, DANGEROUSLY DARK piles up the risks and threats, until it's close to a traditional mystery, with recipes added at the end.

Hayley Mundy Moore is a professional "chocolate whisperer" -- that is, she helps chocolate manufacturers, especially the upscale ones, work out the kinks in their processes and even their marketing. She gets paid well for her expertise, as introduced in the first title, Criminal Confections, and has two assistants: hunky Danny, her bodyguard (who knew you needed that in kitchen-related work?!), and mysterious Travis, managing her trust fund and giving her financial guidance, as well as making her plane reservations and keeping her calendar up to date.

Which is why it's Travis's delicious voice that sends Hayley up the West Coast to Portland, Oregon, for her college friend Carissa's engagement party. Unfortunately, Carissa's fiancé is the first casualty of the trip, and although Hayley doesn't quite grasp why her college buddy, long out of touch, wanted her on hand for the party, she quickly realizes that it's going to be impossible to turn down Carissa's immediate request: that Hayley take on the leadership of the dead fiancé's "Chocolate After Dark" tour. It's also not long before Hayley realizes that Carissa isn't really the simple cuddly sweetheart that she projects so well, as needed.

I enjoyed London's fast-paced mystery, but got frustrated with Hayley's crime-solving style after a while: Think out loud to the reader (and anyone else nearby) about who's got motives and who could have opportunity, take some risks in trying to catch that person, decide it's the wrong candidate as murderer, switch to the next one ... But it's a style that works well with page-turning, and with Hayley's repeated assurance that it's chocolate where her expertise lies, not sleuthing.

The series continues next fall with The Semisweet Hereafter -- a publishing schedule that allows London (a pseudonym for a very busy author) to tackle some other writing projects. I'll let you do the sleuthing to track who this "really" is behind the writing desk! Meanwhile, the tasty chocolate recipes from this series are stacking up nicely. I think I need to try out "Chocolate Un-Cinnamon Rolls" from DANGEROUSLY DARK. Very soon!

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