It's early February in Warner Pier, Michigan, and there are no tourists in the area. TenHuis Chocolates is actually gearing up for the Easter rush but that does not mean that crime and murders do not take place there so that we can enjoy the delicious mystery cooked up in this book. This is a nice little cozy mystery featuring the normal cast of characters. In this edition, the author throws into the mix elements of abused women, the Detroit mob, corporate shenanigans, and more. On the local front, there are some developments in the Woodyard family which are coming to a head and are causing some angst amongst the folks.
As is common in this series, every few chapters the author throws in some tidbits about the chocolate trade. I was somewhat disappointed in the ones provided here as they seemed somewhat elementary and maybe even repetitive. Another fixture of the series are the descriptions of the chocolates that TenHuis chocolate makes, but again, they seemed somewhat flat and not as appealing as in previous volumes. These are minor quibbles, to be sure, but they did make this story not as much fun to read as others. Lee's habit of mixing up words when she is nervous does make an appearance, but in this case it was much more subdued than in previous books. This is a good thing as on some previous books it was too distracting.
The plot revolves around two main ideas. First, there is a network of people that supports the anonymous transportation of severely abused women - a kind of modern-day "underground railroad"; and second, some major financial shenanigans involving a large corporation, whose CEO happens to own a large structure in town. I found it quite interesting to see how the two sub-plots were woven around each other and their interactions.
The writing is light and breezy and this is not a book that will take you long to go through. It's a cozy mystery after all! The plot and relationships are convoluted enough that I was not able to sass out all of the aspects of the story until it was unraveled by the author. As usual with mystery series, I am always interested to see if the characters who populate the series are believable, and if they grow in an appealing fashion. This book does not disappoint. While all the major characters are present, several supporting characters make appearances as well, in believable fashion. About the only thing that bothered me about how this plot was constructed was that Joe was again very closemouthed about his actions and disappears for large parts of the story. This has been happening in several books now and is starting to stretch the credibility of it all.
While I enjoyed the book, it was not one that I was absolutely enthralled with. Some of the actions of the "bad guys" were not completely aligned, and the motives and actions of the killer were a bit too much to swallow. So, I decided to give this book a three star rating. It's OK, it's not great; and it makes for reasonable reading when you have a few hours to kill. Hopefully the next one in this series will be better.