JoANNA CARL – The Chocolate Cat Caper.

Signet paperback original; 1st printing, March 2002.


   It’s not clear to me how many murder mysteries can take place in one small town in Michigan, but that’s the only possible drawback I can see to a long successful run to this new series, just started. All of the ingredients are there: an blonde ex-trophy wife trying to restart her life, an aunt who owns a chocolate shop in a resort town along the Lake Michigan shore, assorted townspeople of various ages, character and temperament, and of course I mentioned chocolate, didn’t I?

   According to the copyright page, the author is better known as Eve K. Sandstrom, who earlier wrote the Sam & Nicky Titus series, all of which took place (if I’m not mistaken) in Oklahoma, and more recently, another series of paperback originals featuring a newspaper reporter named Nell Matthews and her boyfriend, cop Mike Svenson.

   In this book, after only a couple of days back in Warner Pier, Lee McKinney watches as an unliked (unlikable) criminal defense attorney falls to her death before a party at her home begins. The lady did not die of the fall, however — someone poisoned the platter of chocolate cats Lee’s Aunt Nettie furnished for the affair.

   Smoothly written and adeptly plotted, the book is a pleasure to read, with just enough suspects to make the mystery interesting, if not challenging. There’s a hint of romance by book’s end as well, not unexpectedly. Those of you who are primarily hard-boiled private eye fans will find the nourishment here mighty thin, but enthusiasts for cozies (you know who you are) will eat this one right up.

— March 2002

[UPDATE] 07-20-08.   I’ll pat myself on the back for this one, since I’m going to say that I was right. The series has been a big success. Cozy mysteries have certainly continued to be popular since I wrote this review, but it never hurts to have a solid detective story at the core, which if I’m reading my own review correctly, this one has.

   There have been eight novels in the series in seven years, not a shabby track record at all, not by anybody’s standards. All of the books below are Signet paperback originals, I believe, except for the forthcoming #8, which will be the first in hardcover. (Any earlier hardcovers are book club editions which came out after the paperbacks, but if I’m wrong about that, please let me know.)

The Chocolate Cat Caper. March 2002.
The Chocolate Bear Burglary. November 2002.
The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up. December 2003.
The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle. December 2004.


The Chocolate Mouse Trap. September 2005.
The Chocolate Bridal Bash. August 2006.
The Chocolate Jewel Case. August 2007.
The Chocolate Snowman Murders. New American Library, hardcover, September 2008.