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The Chocolate Frog Frame-up: A Chocoholic Mystery [Hardcover]

Joanna Carl
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 2004

For the Fourth of July, Lee McKinney and her aunt debut their latest confections-chocolate frogs-at TenHuis Chocolade. The first customer to buy a croaker is the town crank. But when he later disappears and police suspect foul play, it's a chocolate clue that leads Lee to the killer.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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About the Author

JoAnna Carl is the pseudonym of a multipublished mystery writer. She spent more than twenty-five years in the newspaper business, working as a reporter, feature writer, editor and columnist. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and also studied in the OU Professional Writing Program. She lives in Oklahoma but spends much of her summer at a cottage on Lake Michigan near several communities similar to the fictional town of Warner Pier.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

An Excerpt for Chapter 1

If you’re going to have a fistfight in a small town – and avoid a lot of talk about it – the post office is not a good place for the battle.

And shortly before five o’clock in the afternoon – when it seems ever merchant in town is dropping off the mail and lots of the tourists are buying stamps – is not a good time for it.

The fight between Joe Woodyard and Hershel Perkins erupted in the Warner Pier Post Office at 4:32 on a Monday afternoon in late June. Later I decided that it had been planned that way. And I didn’t think Joe was in on the plan.

I was one of the local merchants who witnessed the fight, since I walked into the post office with a handful of outgoing statements for TenHuis Chocolade just in time to hear Joe speak.

He sounded calm. “What are you talking about, Hershel?”

Hershel Perkins did not sound calm. He was almost shouting. “It’s about the old Root Beer Barrel. Don’t try to act innocent!”

“The old drive-in? I’m trying to sell it.”

“Yes, you money-grubbing piece of…”

Those were fighting words to Joe, I knew, because Joe – who happens to be my boyfriend – was in a financial hole right at the moment. It’s a long story, but he needed the money, even if he had to grub for it, and the sale of the dilapidated and abandoned drive-in restaurant might be the raft that kept his business afloat.

Joe raised his voice just a little when he answered. “What is your interest in this, Hershel?”

“I hear you might tear it down!”

“Tear it down? It’s already fallen down.”

“It’s a piece of history!”

“History?” Joe sounded puzzled, as well as annoyed. “It’s a bunch of boards lying in a parking lot. It’s junk.”

I was all the way inside the post office now, and could see Hershel. He seemed to be puffing himself up. Not that Hershel was all that small. He was at least five nine, just a few inches shorter than I am. He was around forty, with a broad face and a wide, narrow-lipped mouth that made him look like a frog. It was a resemblance he seemed to relish – he combed his thin hair flat and a always wore green shirts, flannel in winter and cotton in summer. Even his voice was a froglike croak, and he went places in a green canoe named the Toadfrog.

He gave an angry grunt. “Junk!” You call it junk? It’s vernacular architecture!”

Joe laughed.

Hershel went nuts. He rasped out incoherent phrases. Words like “typical commercial,” “innovation,” “rehabilitation,” “social geography,” and “culturally significant.” None of it made sense to Hershel, either. Hershel is not one of the brightest bulbs shining on Warner Pier, Michigan.

Joe tried to talk over the ranting, which meant he had to raise his voice. “Hershel, I already talked to the Planning Department. The Historic District Commission has no interest in that property since the building was destroyed by an act of God.”

Hershel kept up the angry bullfrog act, although hollering out “architectural ethnicity!” is not an effective way to argue.

Finally Joe did absolutely the worst thing he could have done – even worse than laughing. He turned his back on Hershel and reached for his post office box.

Hershel gave a loud roar and began to pummel Joe’s shoulders with both fists.

Joe whirled around, throwing up his elbows to protect his face. Then he caught hold of Hershel’s arms – first the left and then right – and he whirled again. He pinned Hershel against the wall of post office boxes, almost the way he had pinned his opponents to the mat in the days when he was a high school wrestling champ.

Hershel finally shut up.

“Hershel,” Joe said very quietly, “you can’t go around hitting people. Get in your canoe and paddle home.”

A couple of Warner Pier locals – one of them Hershel’s brother-in-law, Frank Waterloo – appeared beside Joe. From the back of the room I heard another deep voice, this one smooth and slightly accented with Spanish. It was our mayor, Mike Herrera. “Yes, Hershel,” he said, “pleeze go home. We have a forum for discussion of these design matters. You can bring it up at the Preservation Commission. There ees no need to battle it out here. Not weeth all our summer visitors as weetnesses.”

The altercation had upset Mike. I coud tell be his long “E’s.” Mike was born in Texas, and his accent usually tends more toward a Southwestern drawl than Spanglish.

Frank Waterloo, who’s a bald, hulking guy, made his voice soft and gentle as he spoke to his brother-in-law. “Let’s go, Hershel,” he said.

Joe let go of Hershel. Hershel eyed the ring of guys around him. I swear he flicked his tongue in and out like a frog after flies. Then he walked slowly toward the street door, ignoring Frank. After Hershel pulled the door open, he paused and looked back. “That’s what you say!” he said hoarsely.

He went outside, followed by Frank, then poked his head back in for a final croak. “I’ll file charges!”

And he was gone. Nervous laughter swept the post office, and a couple of guys went over to Joe and assured him they’d back him up if Hershel filed any kind of complaint.

“The guy’s crazy,” Trey Corbett said. “The Historic District Commission has no interest in seeing the Root Beer Barrel rebuilt.” Trey is a member of the commission.

“You haven’t voted yet,” Joe said.

Trey ran a hand over his thin, wispy hair and adjusted his thick glasses. To me, Trey looks like a middle-aged boy. He’s only in his mid-thirties, but his worried expression and nerdy appearance make him look as if he ought to be older. He doesn’t sport a pocket protector, but he looks as if he should.

Trey shook his head. “Besides, Hershel hit you first. You only punched him in self-defense.”

“Joe didn’t punch him at all,” I said. “He just griped – I mean ‘grabbed’! He grabbed him.” No harm in getting that idea foremost in the public mind right away.

Mike Herrera said, “Joe, you handled it as well as you could. But we sure doan want any gossip right at this point, do we?”

I wondered what that meant, but I decided this wasn’t a good time to ask. So I spoke to Joe. “Are you hurt?”

Joe shook his head. “I’m fine, Lee.” He turned to Mike and Trey. “Let’s forget it. Hershel’s just a harmless crank.”

“He’s a crank,” Trey said. “But that doesn’t mean he’s harmless. Some cranks wind up walking up and down the streets with an Uzi.”

“I’m no mental health expert,” Joe said. “See you later.” He turned to me. “You going back to the shop?”

“Oh, yeah. I’m there till closing.”

“I’ll walk down with you.”

I dumped my invoices into the proper slot while Joe closed his post office box an stuck his mail in his shirt pocket. We walked down Pear Avenue toward TenHuis Chocolade. TenHuis – it rhymes with “ice” – is where my aunt, Nettie TenHuis, makes the finest European-style luxury bonbons, truffles, and molded chocolate in the world and where I’d be on duty until after nine o’clock.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable characters, clever mystery May 4 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the best yet of JoAnna Carl's Chocolate Lover's Mysteries. The plot moves along briskly, and there are enough clues that the identity of the murderer doesn't come out of left field, which is one of my biggest pet peeves in a mystery.
Lee, Aunt Nettie, Joe, Chief Jones and the other inhabitants of Warner Pier feel like old friends by now, the Chocolate Chat tidbits are always interesting -- and best of all, Carl has cut back on the incidences of Lee mixing up her words when she gets flustered. This annoying trait was way too frequent in the first book, less evident in the second, and only occurred a few times in "Frog." Carl is much too good a writer to have to rely on such gimmicks!
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Another visit to the shores of Lake Michigan Feb. 1 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Lee McKinney is building a new life for herself, working at her Aunt Nettie's chocolate shop in Warner Pier, Michigan. An old acquaintance from high school, Joe Woodyard, is showing interest in Lee and he asks her to accompany him on a romantic dinner and river cruise. Unfortunately Joe has a run-in with an eccentric man, Hershel Perkins, who accuses him of illegally tearing down an old root beer stand. When Hershel's canoe is found near Joe's place, the police suspect there may have been some foul play on Joe's part. While Lee and Joe are trying to find out the truth, they have to dodge attacks from someone in a car and then a boat, and Joe's life is seriously threatened. This is the third book in this charming series and the enjoyable mystery is interspersed with interesting facts about chocolate. It is recommended reading.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Wants to Frame Joe? Dec 11 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
When Hershel Perkins picks a fight with Joe Woodyard in the local post office, Lee McKinney and the other locals think little of it. Hershel is known as the town crank, nice enough, but he's fought with just about everyone. But that night, Hershel goes missing. All the evidence points to Joe, but Lee refuses to believe her boyfriend could have had anything to do with it. When Hershel is found dead, the stack of evidence could be overwhelming. Lee overhears some things that make her wonder about Joe. They don't know each other too well yet. Still, it's such an obvious frame job even the sheriff is looking for other suspects. An attempt on Lee and Joe's life only confirms the fact that something else sinister is going on in this small resort town. Can they stay alive long enough to clear Joe's name from town gossip and the law?
Anyone looking for a light, fun cozy need look no further then this charming series. Being the third in the series, we are given just enough background to remind us of the characters, but not enough to slow down the story. The plot moves along nicely, with several scenes that had me turning pages as quickly as I could. While it reaches a logical conclusions, there was one plot point that needed a little ironing out. It wasn't enough to detract from the book overall for me, however. The author brings the small town Michigan setting and the characters to life with ease, and she introduces a potential new series character I can't wait to see again. The descriptions of the chocolates are enough to make your mouth water, so be prepared. The "chocolate chats" in this book focus on the history of chocolate and were more interesting then some of the ones in previous books have been.
Once again, I enjoyed each page of the book and am already looking forward to my next visit to Warner Pier, Michigan.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another visit to the shores of Lake Michigan Feb. 1 2004
By Karen Potts - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Lee McKinney is building a new life for herself, working at her Aunt Nettie's chocolate shop in Warner Pier, Michigan. An old acquaintance from high school, Joe Woodyard, is showing interest in Lee and he asks her to accompany him on a romantic dinner and river cruise. Unfortunately Joe has a run-in with an eccentric man, Hershel Perkins, who accuses him of illegally tearing down an old root beer stand. When Hershel's canoe is found near Joe's place, the police suspect there may have been some foul play on Joe's part. While Lee and Joe are trying to find out the truth, they have to dodge attacks from someone in a car and then a boat, and Joe's life is seriously threatened. This is the third book in this charming series and the enjoyable mystery is interspersed with interesting facts about chocolate. It is recommended reading.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Wants to Frame Joe? Dec 11 2003
By Mark Baker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
When Hershel Perkins picks a fight with Joe Woodyard in the local post office, Lee McKinney and the other locals think little of it. Hershel is known as the town crank, nice enough, but he's fought with just about everyone. But that night, Hershel goes missing. All the evidence points to Joe, but Lee refuses to believe her boyfriend could have had anything to do with it. When Hershel is found dead, the stack of evidence could be overwhelming. Lee overhears some things that make her wonder about Joe. They don't know each other too well yet. Still, it's such an obvious frame job even the sheriff is looking for other suspects. An attempt on Lee and Joe's life only confirms the fact that something else sinister is going on in this small resort town. Can they stay alive long enough to clear Joe's name from town gossip and the law?
Anyone looking for a light, fun cozy need look no further then this charming series. Being the third in the series, we are given just enough background to remind us of the characters, but not enough to slow down the story. The plot moves along nicely, with several scenes that had me turning pages as quickly as I could. While it reaches a logical conclusions, there was one plot point that needed a little ironing out. It wasn't enough to detract from the book overall for me, however. The author brings the small town Michigan setting and the characters to life with ease, and she introduces a potential new series character I can't wait to see again. The descriptions of the chocolates are enough to make your mouth water, so be prepared. The "chocolate chats" in this book focus on the history of chocolate and were more interesting then some of the ones in previous books have been.
Once again, I enjoyed each page of the book and am already looking forward to my next visit to Warner Pier, Michigan.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable characters, clever mystery May 4 2004
By L. Gillette-Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the best yet of JoAnna Carl's Chocolate Lover's Mysteries. The plot moves along briskly, and there are enough clues that the identity of the murderer doesn't come out of left field, which is one of my biggest pet peeves in a mystery.
Lee, Aunt Nettie, Joe, Chief Jones and the other inhabitants of Warner Pier feel like old friends by now, the Chocolate Chat tidbits are always interesting -- and best of all, Carl has cut back on the incidences of Lee mixing up her words when she gets flustered. This annoying trait was way too frequent in the first book, less evident in the second, and only occurred a few times in "Frog." Carl is much too good a writer to have to rely on such gimmicks!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Large Chocolate Bill.... March 29 2004
By K. A. Stevenson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
JoAnna Carl's chocolate mystery series just keeps getting better. "The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up" is the third and latest in her series and finds Lee McKinney defining the boundaries of her relationship with Joe Woodyard.
When Joe has a "postal" altercation with Hershel Perkins - "not the sharpest knife in the drawer" - Joe becomes the prime suspect when Hershel is killed.
Lee "stands by her man" and immediately sets out to prove Joe's innocence.
The only problem with reading this series is that I HAD to have chocolate. I turned to the Morgen Chocolate website (the chocolate company the author has based her series on) and promptly ordered over $200 worth of chocolates for Easter! JoAnna Carl should definitely get a percentage of my order!
"The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle" is due out in Fall 2004. I will be the first to reserve my copy from Amazon.com!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book June 15 2005
By Nicole Olson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I think this book was a real page-turner, with the descriptions of the chocolates making my mouth water. This story is a suspenseful mystery story with a love story twisted cleverly into it. I highly recommend it to mature kids and above. Overall, this was a great book to read.
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