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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates (Chocolate Covered Mystery, #1)

Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates - Kathy Aarons

Well, this one was a surprise.  I admit I went into this one–based on it's title–with the idea I'd read a chapter or two and mark it DNF and move on.

 

Michelle and Erica share a double shop space: Michelle runs a chocolate shop on one side, and Erica has a bookstore on the other.  Michelle comes into her shop early one morning to find a fellow business owner dead in the seating area, a victim of poisoned chocolates - Michelle's chocolates.

 

I'm going to start with what I liked and what I found pleasantly surprising.  I loved the characters:  Erica is Fulbright Scholar smart, without being socially inept or awkward and Michelle is a very smart, capable business owner who dropped out of community college.  Best of all, Michelle doesn't love kids.  

 

Now, I know anyone reading this who has kids just gasped a little bit.  Michelle doesn't hate kids, and neither do I:  she just doesn't think all of them are automatically cute and adorable.  As someone who made an informed choice not to have kids of her own, it's refreshing to finally read a strong, independent MC who isn't sighing or cooing over every child, or talking about their biological clock.  Michelle has a wry wit about kids that I identified with, and when push came to shove (and she couldn't get out of it), she babysat Erica's hellion nephews and enjoyed it.

 

Erica's brother Benjamin (Bean) is, I think, the intended romantic interest for Michelle and I love him - he's shockingly smart too; a journalist and an author and not once does he try to tell his sister and Michelle to stop doing their thing.  He treats Michelle like an intellectual equal and the chemistry between the two of them is the best I've seen in a cozy in awhile.  Michelle's brother is a recurring character too and he's a veteran who left part of his leg back in Afghanistan.  These are not cookie-cutter characters.

 

The murder mystery was really well-plotted too - lots of suspects, and some ugly secrets come out:

Erica's sister Colleen finds out her husband is having an affair and she changes the locks and hires an attorney.  Most cozies would have them work it out and stay together, which yes, does happen, but it's more likely in reality that it doesn't, and it's refreshing here because it adds realism; not everyone is living in HEA-land.

(show spoiler)

The resolution was surprising and a little bit heart wrenching.  Another really nice change of pace.

 

What I didn't like is a much shorter list and nothing shocking:  TSTL moments once or twice and Michelle is a bit over-the-top about the quality of her chocolates: confidence is one thing, arrogance another.  Lastly, no one ever explains why Denise (the victim) was in Michelle's shop in the first place.

 

Overall, I identified with this cozy on a level I haven't with many others in a very long time and I had a great time reading it.  I am genuinely looking forward to the second book and I hope it's as good as this one.