Truffled to Death
A Chocolate Covered Mystery #2
By Kathy Aarons
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Two best friends sell books and bonbons—and solve crimes—in this mystery from the author of Death is Like a Box of Chocolates…
Hoping to sweeten sales for their shop, Chocolates and Chapters, Michelle and Erica host a reception highlighting a new museum display of ancient Mayan pottery curated by Erica’s former mentor, Professor Addison Moody. The evening has a few hiccups, but the ladies soon smooth things over with ample servings of wine and chocolate.
Yet with the sweet comes the bitter. The very next day, the antiquities from the reception are discovered missing. The professor accuses Erica of having sticky fingers, claiming she wants revenge on him. And she’s only in more trouble after he’s found stabbed to death with one of the artifacts. Now Michelle must help Erica track down the real killer before someone else finds themselves in less than mint condition… (Goodreads)
Truffled to Death is the strong second entry in the Chocolate Covered Mystery series. I have not read the first book, Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, but fully plan to go back and catch up. I did not find it difficult to jump into the series mid-stream. Best friends Michelle, the chocolatier, and Erica, the Über smart bookstore manager, together own Chocolates and Chapters and are housemates. They are excited to host a reception celebrating a local wealthy family’s bequest of Maya artifacts to a nearby museum. All is not well the next morning when the ladies learn that the collection was stolen en route to its new home at the museum from the shop. Dr. Moody, the museum curator, is quick to accuse Erica of pinching the costly pieces. He and Erica share a thorny past, and when Dr. Moody is found murdered in a way mimicking the Maya manner of sacrifice, she and Michelle endeavor to find who is behind the theft and who cut Dr. Moody’s tenure short.
They soon discover that the collection is worth much more than its estimated two hundred fifty thousand dollars and that one piece in particular may have caught the eye of an international art trafficker. Though the pair insists they are not investigating, the town expects them to, and this keeps them in constant trouble with the local law enforcement. There are plenty of suspects, including most of the wealthy River family and a couple of dark, menacing strangers who have recently come to town.
The possible suspects kept me guessing for a fair part of the book, and the mystery portion of the tale was solid. The Maya subject matter was interesting and a bit deeper than the circumstances presented in some cozy mysteries. However, I did find the international component a little farfetched for the small Maryland town setting. The characters were realistically developed, both intelligent and flawed. Erica and Michelle make plenty of mistakes along the way, but neither comes across as taking unnecessary risks. How can you not admire a character whose favorite day of the week is Monday because that is the day she experiments with new recipes and flavors? The thought of chocolate might make Mondays a bit more palatable to me, too. I usually enjoy brainy characters, but I never warmed up to Erica. I do not dislike her, but she does come across as a bit of a know-it-all. I do think that her relationship with Michelle helps to make her more relatable, and I look forward to getting to know her better in further readings. I really liked Zane, Erica’s assistant.
I think every community needs a store like Chocolates and Chapters. What is there not to like about books and treats housed under the same roof? The only thing missing for me is a nice cuppa tea. Should I have access to such an establishment, I think all of my time, and money, would pass through its doors. I thought the addition of the litter of kittens was warm and fuzzy (and ultimately a relevant part of the story). However, I thought the flash mob was just filler and superfluous to the plot.
Ms. Aarons writes with a deft hand; the words flow easily, and I felt compelled to keep reading, sometimes to the detriment of my “to do” list. I enjoyed Truffled to Death and recommend it to fans of foodie and book themed cozies, those who like plucky protagonist teams, and those who enjoy a smart backdrop to their mysteries.