Joanna Carl Chocoholic Mysteries
Joanna Carl has created a truly traditional mystery. Small town, chocoholic mysteries to be exact. It is set in a small town (aka Christie style) with very limited references to the big city. I applaud her for that, because the big city is such an easy fall back position for traditional mystery writers to use. I say this because so many writers either base their series in the big city, or they end up referring to the big city quite frequently. I know Ms. Carl’s series is based in Michigan, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. Very infrequently do we hear anything about Detroit, Grand Rapids, Warren, Ann Arbor… Okay, you get the point. Anyway, I give the woman thumbs up for that.
All in all, I personally like the setting, but feel the characters kind of take a back seat to it sometimes. Warner Pier is a tourist town, with three categories of people, visitors, summer folks, and permanent folks. The town is well described, and you can visualize how it looks. This makes the town a character in the story, and there are always “visiting people”, aka tourists, who tend to create the plots. This helps with the “Cabot Cove” syndrome, which any cozy writer knows is a series running out of victims and suspects. The town feels real, but sometimes it is more of a presence than it needs to be, IMHO.
The books are not deep and not confusing. Definitely a summer read. Or a bathtub read. You may or may not be able to solve the mystery first. It depends on your level of detection skills and how many of these kinds of books you read.
As far as the characters go, Ms. Carl does a hodgepodge of main characters, so it isn’t the same type of personality all the time. She does a good job at describing them physically, so you get to know them.
Lee McKinney is so quirky it is hard to not visualize her. There is her tongue tied problem when she is stressed, but I don’t think it needs to be explained each time. A simple apology instead of each time saying she twists words around when she is nervous will do. She is strong willed, albeit in one of the latest stories she was acting like a school girl.
Her husband Joe Woodyard seems a little weak in my opinion. Maybe because there are so many town characters involved from book to book; but I wish he would be a little stronger in “dealing” with his wife on her snooping. He is a lawyer after all. I think a stronger personality in the husband would create more tension when it comes to the personal side.
Nettie TenHuis is a strong woman who has her own ideas of how the world should work. Very likable. She reminds me of grandmothers from decades past, who had to be strong to survive. Wish there was more of her in the books.
And Sheriff Hogan Jones is a great guy. He doesn’t take lip from anyone, all the way form his family to the state troopers. As the chief in a small town, he is kind of like the sheriff in Cabot Cove, letting the amateurs help solve the crimes. But if they didn’t help, it would not be a cozy mystery, would it?
One fun thing is this is not the standard “recipe/cooking/kitchen” mystery series. The bonus is chocolate, but not in the normal way. Instead of teaching me how to make truffles via a recipe I cannot duplicate, it throws chocolate facts and tidbits at me. Almost everyone knows chocolate has caffeine in it, but do you know how much? Janna Carl does, and shares freely with us. Plus the descriptions of the candies for sale in TenHuis Chocolate shops will make you head for the nearest chocolate shop!
A goddess needs tidbits of knowledge for parties, and here they are, all for the price of a paperback book!
Joanna Carl, The Chocoholic Mysteries
- 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 Snowmen Murders – September 2008
- The Chocolate Cupid Killings – October 2009
- The Chocolate Pirate Book – October 2010
- The Chocolate Castle Clue – October 2011
- The Chocolate Moose Motive – October 2012
- The Chocolate Book Bandit – October 2013
- The Chocolate Clown Corpse – November 2014