Dark Chocolate Demise by Jenn McKinlay Reviewed

DCDDark Chocolate Demise by Jenn McKinlay
Cupcake Bakery Mystery #7
Berkley Prime Crime
April 7, 2015

The owners of Fairy Tale Cupcakes – Melanie Cooper, Angie DeLaura, and Tate Harper – figure donning costumes and hawking their wares at Scottsdale’s first annual zombie walk is a great way to have some fun while turning a profit. But when a dead body resembling Angie is dumped in front of the bakery’s food truck, fun quickly turns to fear. Could the likeness and location be a coincidence? Is somebody trying to send Angie a message? Was Angie the intended target? Only the killer knows for sure…

If you’re a fan of Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery Mysteries, you’re in for a treat: Dark Chocolate Demise is every bit as good as its six drool-worthy predecessors. The confections McKinley describes and the recipes she includes are worth the price of admission, alone (if you’re a calorie-counting cupcake-lover, Dark Chocolate Demise may well prove your diet’s downfall), but that’s not all Melanie Cooper’s latest adventure has to offer. McKinlay’s plot is at once complex, thrilling, and fun. The backdrop is unique and serves as a means for McKinlay to put a fresh twist on an old standard. Mel’s on-again/off-again relationship with county attorney Joe DeLaura features prominently in Dark Chocolate Demise, and Angie’s love life gets plenty of screen time, as well, so if you like your murder with a side of romance, McKinlay’s got you covered. And while she makes good use of her supporting cast to season her tale with a goodly dose of humor, McKinlay doesn’t treat the book’s murder as a punchline; she paints the victim as a person and affords the discovery of the woman’s corpse the emotional weight it deserves.

The first half of Dark Chocolate Demise contains more tension than action, as Mel has to shake her sizable and over-zealous security detail (a.k.a. Angie’s brothers) before she can mount any kind of meaningful investigation. That’s hardly cause for complaint, though; I read the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries as much to catch up on the characters’ lives as I do for the murder and mayhem, and these early chapters play host to no small measure of interpersonal drama. In Mel and company, McKinlay’s created a cast I care about and with whom I genuinely like to spend time, and that’s no mean feat.

Katrina Niidas Holm