The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans
A Chocoholic Mystery #17
By JoAnna Carl
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
In the newest mystery from nationally bestselling author Joanna Carl, a dive into house flipping becomes a deadly flop….
When a house near Lee and Joe’s home goes up for sale, the couple teams up with Lee’s aunt and uncle, Nettie and Hogan, to buy it, remodel it, and resell it for a sweet profit. But after the owners of the house, the Baileys, accept their offer, a local developer, Richard “Spud” Dirk, suddenly swoops in with a higher one, and it seems their dreams might be snatched away.
Lee, never as passionate about the plan as her husband and uncle, is anxious to get back to focusing on managing TenHuis Chocolade. But when a long-hidden gun is found behind a pipe in the Baileys’ basement, she begins to suspect a mystery is afoot. And when Spud turns up dead in the Baileys’ carport a few days later, it becomes clear there’s something rotten at the foundation….
To solve the murder, Lee will have to strip away layers of secrets–that is, if someone doesn’t level her first…. (from Goodreads)
It’s October, and in western Michigan, TenHuis Chocolade is in full production of specialty Christmas chocolates. Nettie TenHuis, Lee’s aunt, has always lived in Warner Pier except when she was in Europe learning to make luxury bonbons and truffles. Her niece, Lee, moved to Warner Pier from Texas five years earlier, intending to only stay a couple years. Now she is Nettie’s business manager and wife of Joe Woodyard, attorney and wooden boat restoration expert.
They are purchasing the old Bailey house next door to the TenHuis family home where Lee and Joe live. Joe and Hogan, Nettie’s husband, plan to make repairs and updates and flip it for a healthy profit. Lee was going through the old home with Digger, a plumber, so he could prepare an estimate. In the basement, he found a bundle of rags in the rafters which was odd, since Hogan and Joe had cleaned out everything. He pulled it out and accidentally dropped it, and a bullet whizzed past Lee. There was a Colt Peacemaker in the bundle of rags, a model that sometimes misfired. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and Hogan, the chief of police, took it to run through the system.
Lee, whose “curiosity bump” was awoken, asked Joe about Digger’s question of whether a crime had ever been committed in the Bailey house. Joe was unaware of one, but he did mention a fake robbery connected with the home. It was committed 20 years earlier by members of the Shark “gang”, with fake pistols and disguises, at the convenience store one of the members worked at. While the incident had never been reported to the police, another incident occurred that night. Meyer “Curley” McWhirley, a man with a heart problem who walked every evening per his doctor’s orders, had been found dead by Dr. Davis, father of the teen who worked at the convenience store. Not much was thought of it at the time. Dr. Davis said Curley died of a heart attack, and it was only later that the widow learned his nightly walk took him to the convenience store for a Hershey bar. Twenty years later, his widow told Hogan and Lee that Curley’s nearly-new sneakers were never seen that night – he was found in stockinged feet.
The next day, Hogan and Lee went through the house so she could show him where the gun was. On the way out, he wanted to check something in the carport. Opening the door brought out a terrible odor. Hogan looked in the cabinets and found the dead body of Spud Dirk, the developer who tried to outbid Joe and Hogan after they made a deal with the owner. He had been hit over the head, the gun in the basement unrelated to the murder.
Unfortunately, a note found with Spud’s body implicates Joe in the murder, so the state police oversee the investigation rather than Hogan. Star, Spud’s almost ex-wife, says Spud claimed to have a first right of refusal letter on the property, giving him priority to buy the Bailey house. Spud seems to have had his hand in many things over the years; which of them could have resulted in his murder? The Sharks don’t know what broke up the group all those years ago, or if any of them do, they aren’t saying.
I enjoyed getting to know Lee better and being reminded of her word challenges. Thinking of Lee’s brain twists of using conflicting words, such as collarbone for collateral, brings humor to (almost) any situation! Lee is very well defined, and there is sufficient background on the characters, including Aunt Nettie, Joe, and Uncle Hogan. I enjoyed having a wife and husband working on the mystery, a nice change from boyfriend/ girlfriend situations in many cozies.
Several pieces throughout include Chocolate Lore and interesting health benefits. One thing I found ironic are the heart benefits of chocolate while poor Curley, walking for his nightly Hershey bar, lost his life due to a heart attack. Plot twists increase the number of suspects even while ratcheting up the intrigue. Discovering whether Spud’s past relationships have anything to do with his demise is an interesting twist, even as they try to discover why the gun was hidden in the rafters of the Bailey basement. A couple clues gave me an idea who had some involvement with the situation, but I still was in for some surprises. The end is completely satisfactory, with all loose ends tied up. I highly recommend this novel and successful series!