Writing about chocolate naturally led to reading about chocolate. In this case, The Lady Of The House found “The Chocolate Snowman Murders”, by JoAnna Carl, at the local library.
This seems to be one of a series, so I have the disadvantage of starting at about book #8. The cover proclaims, in large happy letters, “With Tasty Chocolate Trivia!”, so I was all excited, hoping that amongst the Miss Marbles, I’d find some weird and wonderful facts.
The story, like all in the series, is set in the (fictional) town of Warner Pier on the shore of Lake Michigan. And yes, there are a few sidebars and snippets of chocolate trivia.
What struck me most though was the names of the characters. I really don’t know if the author is taking the mickey or not. She loves “CamelCase” (so called by software developers and internet hackers, BecauseCamelCaseHasHumpsInTheMiddle), so we have characters with surnames like TenHuis, VanDam and VanWinkle-Snow. The event around which activities centre is the Winter Festival: WinterFest. The name-silliness gets worse when we are introduced to Dolly Jolly, but it sank to all-time depths when Jerry Cherry appeared. One or two silly names in a sitting is OK – eccentric, understandable, even true to life. But a book full of these names over and over does grate a little.
So what about the chocolate? The main character is Lee McKinney, who works for the boutique TenHuis Chocolade. She stumbles into an illicit romance, ancient treachery, lust and revenge, strange characters, a people-rescue pipeline, a slimy reporter – you name it, we’ve got it! Chocolate comes to the rescue when used as a weapon, and we get a nice tidy wrap-up in the last few pages.
We do get a few treats along the way – a discourse on the Aztecs using cacao as money (one wonders about inflation), a little on the legend of Montezuma, and descriptions of chocolates and truffles. Four trivia snippets appear periodically between chapters. I’d been hoping for more, but I suppose four aint bad.
They are quite United States focussed – as for that matter is the whole book, where some of the language might be normal in the US but is a little strange elsewhere. Who, in normal conversation, would ever describe themselves as “a peon”? I had to look it up. It means a person of low status or who does unskilled work, a drudge. There were other examples as well.
It is an entertaining read, with little intellectual effort required. But its also a bit too cute for my taste, the mystery is all a bit convenient, and the silly names tend to irritate. I’ll score it 3 out of 5.