Have Yourself a Fudgy Little Christmas
Candy Coated Mysteries #8
By Nancy Coco
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
In Nancy Coco’s eighth Candy-Coated Mystery, Christmas on Mackinac Island brings a flurry of festive activity for fudge shop owner Allie McMurphy–but also a body in a snowbank. With fun recipes, cute pets, quirky characters, and an endearing young protagonist, the Candy-Coated Mysteries have the perfect ingredients for cozy mystery fans!
All Allie wants for Christmas is for renovations to be finished on the Historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop so she can move back home for the holidays. But for now she’s staying in her friend Frances’ apartment, busily baking batches of holiday fudge. After someone leaves a mysterious note on the door to meet up, the curious fudge maker goes to the rendezvous with her Bichonpoo, Mal–only to discover a woman facedown in a snowdrift. With her dying breath, the woman gasps, “Frances.” The police suspect she named her killer, but Allie knows that’s impossible. She needs to wrap up this case before the trail runs cold–and give her friend the gift of freedom this Christmas season…
It is so exciting to be back at the McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop on Mackinac Island! It sounds like a gorgeous time of year for those who love snow, especially when celebrating Christmas. While I have read most of the series, I am impressed that I still learn new things about our regular characters. They are three-dimensional and engaging. The mystery is challenging and complex. It can be read as a standalone as the author skillfully includes sufficient backstory for ease for the first-time reader. Once one meets Allie, Frances, Rex, and the gang, the rest of the series will look extremely appealing!
This is the first winter that Allie McMurphy, fudge maker extraordinaire, will spend on Mackinac Island. It isn’t for just anyone, as the second wife of Rex, the guy she had been dating, had left him due to the isolation of the island throughout the cold, snowy winter. Since inheriting the McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop from her grandfather, Allie has renovated where needed. She hopes to attract winter guests who come for various festivals.
Allie is staying at the apartment owned by Frances, her manager, who recently married their handyman, Douglas. Someone left a note on the door to meet someone where the light displays are being set up for one of the pre-Christmas events. Allie took Mal, her adorable pup, and left a little early, then will help set up the display for the McMurphy. Nobody was waiting for her at the designated spot, and nobody came to see her. Mal dragged her in a different direction. She saw a body lying face down in the snow and called for help. Someone helped her turn a young woman over, another started CPR, and the EMT’s took her to the clinic where she later died after saying Frances’s name, making her the primary suspect in what became a murder investigation. Kayla, the young woman, had been poisoned.
Allie has helped with several murder investigations on the island since moving there, but Frances does not want Allie involved with this one. Frances doesn’t want to put Allie at risk one more time, as has occurred before, and seems to be holding something back. Frances had been manager at the McMurphy for several years and has been a big help to Allie since she inherited it. Douglas, her husband, would do anything to see Frances not be hurting over the situation, and he will do what he can to help Allie find out who the killer is, as long as Frances isn’t pulled into it.
During a blizzard that knocked out power to Mackinac Island, Allie heard crashes in the upstairs neighbor’s apartment. She and the other ladies living in the building went to see if Manfred was okay, and found him very ill, nearly dead, in his apartment, and it had nothing to do with the power outage or the window that had been smashed in from the storm winds. He, too, died after being taken to the clinic. Frances had been his downstairs neighbor for years until her recent marriage, and he played in a snooker tournament at the bar and grill where Kayla had worked.
The characters are very well defined; I enjoy learning something new each time about the regulars! Descriptions of the new or short-term folks were also well done. It made me yearn for a Mackinac Island Christmas, where there are never too many Christmas trees. Meeting a potential new friend who reminds Allie of the joy of sledding was fun. Learning Frances’s secret made her a more of a woman of grace to me. I could have happily gone through the next eight novels without getting to know Melonie better, however.
There are plot twists that shine a spotlight a red herring or two as well as serve to let Frances look even more like the bad guy. Against the elegant Christmas-card like setting, we enjoy the days leading up to Christmas even while there is a murderer loose on the island. Descriptions of the setting are so perfect that I could imagine being there. I was surprised by who the real bad guy. I thought I had the right one, but … this author has proved me wrong again! All loose ends are tied up, and while one issue is not quite resolved yet in Allie’s life, I highly recommend Allie’s latest adventure! The author has included recipes for holiday fudge and other sweet treats for your enjoyment.