One of the tenets of the cozy genre involves an otherwise idyllic community suddenly dropped into chaos after a murder. Author JoAnna Carl, though, offers a refreshing change of pace in her eighteenth Chocoholic Mystery. The denizens of Warner Pier are on high alert after being plagued by a series of break-ins. The weird part? The thieves aren’t stealing anything of much value—just food. However, when yet another burglary results in police suspecting an innocent man, it’s up to master chocolatier to Lee Woodyard to take the case and clear his name … and deal with a rambunctious raccoon problem along the way.
Carl shaking thigs up starting with the first page is a great trick. One of the biggest struggles, I assume, when writing a long-running series is keeping things feeling fresh and new. After all, how many murders can Lee truly solve in what’s supposed to be an otherwise sleepy town? That Carl has chosen to highlight a series of thefts and the mood they cast over the community immediately sets this book apart from others in the series.
That’s not to suggest there’s a massive deviation from the seventeen previous titles. No, Lee is still out there running her own investigations and occasionally muttering malapropisms—mixing-up similar words—all while working at TenHuis Chocolade. Carl still weaves in plenty of chocolate facts, breaking them between chapters that are filled with the shenanigans involving her large cast of old favorite characters. Above all, her humor is on full display, and things never get too heavy—even when a dead body finally makes an appearance.
And it does take a while. While there’s a mystery from the very beginning, the traditional murder develops slowly, leading to some tension as delicious as finest truffles. Regular readers of cozies know that one should be coming, yet Carl holds off as long as possible, creating a thick sense of anticipation. It’s incredibly effective, and ultimately makes Lee’s investigation and all that follows feel particularly rewarding.
As fresh as the morning display at TenHuis Chocolade, The Chocolate Raccoon Rigmarole is the perfect addition to a great series.
Title: The Chocolate Raccoon Rigmarole
Series: A Chocoholic Mystery #18
Author: JoAnna Carl
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: August 03, 2021
Classification: Cozy Mystery
Carl’s Website | Publisher’s Page
Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.