A Fudge Shop Mystery #3
By Christine DeSmet
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
It’s autumn in Fishers’ Harbor, Wisconsin, and fudge shop owner Ava Oosterling is busy preparing for the harvest festival and a visit from some royal relatives who live in Belgium. According to Ava’s grandpa, a famous divinity fudge recipe from the 1860s is hidden somewhere in a local historical church—a treat fit for a prince.
But when a fire in the church reveals the body of a murdered man, it looks like someone is willing to go to any length to possess the valuable secret to the divinity fudge. As Ava searches for the killer—and the recipe—she could use a little divine intervention, because she may have bitten off more than she can chew…(Goodreads)
Ava and her grandfather, affectionately called Gilpa, run Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers and Belgian Fudge and Beer in Door County, Wisconsin. The area has a long Belgian history, and its residents are busy preparing for the annual kermis (fall festival) and the arrival of some very special guests, Prince Arnaud Van Damme and his mother Princess Amandine from Belgium. In an effort to mutually boost tourism, Gilpa has invited the royals, who are distant relatives of his wife Sophie. Gilpa is sure that there is a divinity fudge recipe hidden in a local church by a famous nun in the late nineteenth century, and he has promised a sampling of the fudge and the physical recipe to the prince when he visits. So Ava is busy searching high and low for said recipe and not having any luck. Also, Sophie is acting strangely and is vocally opposed to her relatives’ visit but will not explain herself.
As if the all of this was not enough to keep everyone busy, a university professor, nicknamed Cherry, has been doing research for the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. He has become increasingly vocal about pollution and allegations of chemical violations in organic practices with the area farms and vineyards. These charges do not sit well with Ava’s friends, family and neighbors, and he has even taken samples of Ava’s fudge for testing. Ava’s mother finds Cherry’s body in the basement of the church one Sunday morning and insists that Ava make the call to the sheriff claiming that she, not mom, made the discovery. Not surprisingly, Sheriff Jordy feels that all is not as it seems, and Ava, because she is now involved whether she wants to be or not, takes it upon herself to unearth Cherry’s killer. But Ava must watch her back because it seems that the killer has set his sights set on her to be his next victim.
Five-Alarm Fudge is the enjoyable, action packed third installment in the Fudge Shop Mystery series. I have not read the previous two entries, but after perusing this one they are definitely going on my “to read” list. Because I was unfamiliar with the characters and location featured in the series, I found the story a bit slow going at first until I got it all straightened out. Readers familiar with the books should have no trouble following the story. The idea of Belgian royalty coming to a small Wisconsin tourist town seemed quite unlikely at first, but I became more invested in the idea as I turned the pages. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the nun, church, and surrounding towns are all based on fact (the village where the fudge shop is located is fiction). I also did not realize this area of Wisconsin has such a rich Belgian history. I found all of these interesting tidbits fascinating. And, boy, am I hungry for my grandmother’s divinity and a piece of Ava’s cherry vanilla fudge right about now.
To be honest, I was not sure how I felt about Ava in the beginning. She obviously has an impulse control problem and is stubborn, but she is also devoted to her family and friends and is delightfully sarcastic. Her antics and banter with her best friend Pauline are reminiscent of Lucy and Ethel, and they made me laugh out loud more than once. By the end of the book I found her almost endearing. My favorite parts of the story were Lucky Harbor’s appearances. I am a sucker for a friendly, loveable dog.
I enjoyed my time in Wisconsin, hanging with the Oosterlings, and look forward to seeing what other trouble they can stir up in the future. I recommend Five-Alarm Fudge to current readers of the series and those who enjoy culinary cozies with plenty of hijinks.