Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Christine DeSmet's new mystery, Hot Fudge Frame Up

Review of Hot Fudge Frame Up by Christine DeSmet
Book 2 in the Fudge Shop Mysteries
ISBN: 978-0451416483

Penguin Group
Mass Market Paperback $7.99
E-book $5.99

From the publisher:
Candy shop owner Ava Oosterling mixes it up with a fudge judge with a grudge—who loses his life before he can pick a winner....

Ava is gearing up for the First Annual Arts Festival—a huge celebration that could draw national attention to her old-fashioned fudge shop in Door County, Wisconsin. She’s invited two celebrity chefs to go head-to-head with her in a fudge contest. Everyone is having a tasty time…until a judge for the festival is found dead.

To her shock, he’d been complaining around town that her Fairy Tale fudge flavors were…well, fudged. Now the sheriff is wondering if Ava fits the mold for a murder suspect. As Ava tries to square her reputation and find the real killer, she’s in for a whole batch of trouble….

Includes Delicious Recipes and Fudge-Making Tips!

About the author: Christine DeSmet is the author of First-Degree Fudge, and a winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart as well as a three-time finalist. She is also a winner of the Slamdance Film Festival writing contest. A member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America, Christine teaches fiction and screenwriting at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. 

My review:

I came in on this second book in a series. Although there were a number of references to the first case, I never felt as though I had to know what had happened earlier in order to enjoy this story. Ava is in the process of being evicted from her rental cabin due to a property sale by the owner, her grandfather’s best her friend. Her very helpful former fianc√©, whom she’d left at the altar, helps her move boxes into her fudge shop’s back room where she intends to live for the time being; meanwhile, her former husband and his dog are doing all they can to woo her back, her best friend is involved with a shady operator who put together a fudge festival during tourist season in Door County, Wisconsin and films the whole thing for a potential reality TV show. The celebrity candy makers selected to compete against Ava are doing their best to make Kitchen Nightmares look tame, and the lead judge—Ava’s landlord, a property owner with a lot of secrets—is inconveniently deceased. Murder or suicide? Oh, and the sheriff also thinks Ava is a pain, when he’s not trying to make a pass.

There’s certainly a lot going on this summer in Fisher’s Harbor, so it’s a good thing Ava can count on her family and employee, a young man with slight Asperger’s, to run the shop while she goes sleuthing, breaking and entering, stumbling across bodies, and taking people—and herself—to the nearest hospital. Hot Fudge Frameup is a whirlwind read with all the quaintness of an ethnic community of stubborn Belgians, romance with all the wrong people, an octogenarian marital toss-up, and a dog named Lucky Harbor that might make non-dog lovers, if not find him adorable, at least have a few giggles. Ava’s number of suitors got a little over the top for me, but otherwise, I enjoyed unwinding all the clues and aptly positioned red herrings to the end of the story.

Told in Ava’s first person voice throughout, likeable characters and fun subplots make Hot Fudge Frameup a fun virtual visit to a place I know and enjoy. The fudge-making background is intriguing. I would also consider reading the first book, as well as sequels. This book makes a great addition to Penguin’s cozy mystery line.

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