Life just got a little sweeter in the island fishing village of Eastport, Maine. Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree and her best friend Ellie are opening a waterfront bake shop, The Chocolate Moose, where their tasty treats pair perfectly with the salty ocean breeze. But while Jake has moved on from fixing up houses, she still can’t resist the urge to snoop into the occasional murder.
Jake and Ellie have been through a lot together, from home repair to homicide investigation. So when they decide to open a chocolate-themed bakery, they figure it’ll be a piece of cake. With Ellie’s old family recipes luring in customers, they expect to make plenty of dough this Fourth of July weekend. Having family home for the holiday only sweetens the deal for Jake—until the ill wind of an early-season hurricane blows up her plans. When the storm hits, Jake’s grown son Sam is stranded in a Boston bus station, and her husband Wade is stuck on a cargo ship. But as bitter as the storm is, something even more sinister is brewing in the kitchen of The Chocolate Moose—where retired health inspector Alan Blake is found murdered.
Ellie never made a secret of her distaste for Alan, who had been raining on their parade with bogus talk of health code violations. Now, with no alibi for the night of the murder, she’s in a sticky situation with the police—and it’s up to Jake to catch the real killer and keep Ellie living in the land of the free.
Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake is the first book in the Death by Chocolate Mystery series, but it is not the first book featuring Jake and Ellie. In some ways, this book can be a standalone. However, there are several mentions of previous books/events from the previous series, A Home Repair is Homicide. These brief moments leave the reader a bit confused or curious because it doesn’t explain well enough. But the moments are brief and they do not impact the overall effectiveness of the books.
This book begins with Jake heading into her chocolate-themed bakery, The Chocolate Moose and discovering a dead man with his head shoved into a bowl of rich, dark chocolate. This discovery leads to her business partner and best friend, Ellie becoming the prime suspect in the man’s murder. On top of all of that, Jake and Ellie find themselves struggling to find time and ingredients to create decadent chocolate cherry cheesecakes to auction off and raise money for their town’s Fourth of July firework show.
This story has a few too many elements looming. There’s the murder, one dozen cheesecakes, then two dozen cheesecakes, car chases, attempted murders, shootings, a hurricane, her son possibly falling off the wagon, her ailing father’s health, etc. This is just too much going on in the course of one story. I understand some of the issues are carried over from the previous books, but I didn’t even list every plot line. Even the revelation(s) at the end is so complex and includes multiple ties and pots. This takes away from the story. While I enjoyed the story overall, the ending left my head hurting because there’s no reason to have so much going on. Especially considering that the ending leaves Jake’s business in jeopardy, but that isn’t addressed or mentioned.
The one thing this book did was make me curious about the previous series and I’m going to make an attempt to read those books. I also would recommend this for cozy mystery fans. There are a lot of quirky characters to enjoy and although it’s a pretty developed and established setting, this book truly can standalone. I look forward to seeing what’s in store for Jake and Ellie next and what other kinds of yummy chocolate recipes will be brought into the series!