There’s a mutiny going on in Key West, Florida. Well, okay, maybe not quite a mutiny but the shop owners on the street where Heather Shepherd owns her donut bakery, Donut Delights, are certainly up at arms. A new store is about to open and it’s a bait shop. All the shop owners, especially Mr. Rankle who who’s the proprietor of Sun and Fun Novelties, are really on the warpath. Him and most of the other store owners are afraid that with the new bait store opening the rest of the street might start of smell of fish. They’re also afraid that some of the creepy crawlers will escape and wander around frightening all their customers away. The bait shop isn’t even close to the shore so whoever buys the bait will walk around and into the other stores on the street. No one wants their book store or bakery smelling like bait.
It seems like none of the store owners, even friendly bookshop owner, Bernadette, doesn’t want this new place to open. But Heather and best friend Amy Givens, although not really too thrilled with a bait shop so close, plan to visit the new place and give the owner a box of Heather’s newest donut creation, mint chocolate crunch donuts.
They arrive at the not yet opened store and find the door ajar. The two go in and get a strange feeling. Uh, oh. Heather calls out to inform the new owner that they want to say hello and share some donuts. No answer. The two women go to the back of the store and find a man lying dead on the floor covered with a huge piece of wood where a giant fish had been mounted. The wall trophy crushed the man! Was this yet another murder in Key West?
Heather contacts her husband, Detective Ryan Shepherd to start investigating.
What’s really freaking out Heather Amy is that the store where the bait shop will open is the site of a former seafood restaurant. There was a murder at this restaurant when Heather and her friends first moved to Key West. It was the site of Heather and Amy’s first murder investigation where Heather was a suspect. Amy is sure that the site is cursed!
As the investigation proceeds everyone learns that the murdered man is indeed bait shop owner, Barry Banes. He just moved to Florida from Oregon and doesn’t have any family in the area.
Even though the city approved the bait shop his store neighbors filed numerous complaints about him and the shop, and now he’s dead.
At first Ryan, Heather, and Amy thought that the huge fish trophy might have accidentally fallen on him but upon further investigation they noticed that the rope holding the trophy was not ripped or torn but it looked like it was cut. Furthermore, there were blood stains a distance away from where the body was found which leads everyone to believe that the man was killed in one spot and then dragged under the trophy, the trophy rope was then cut making it look like the huge fish killed Barry accidentally. Oh, someone really planned this murder, but who, and why?
Could one of Heather’s neighbor’s been so upset with the bait shop opening to actually kill? Could it have been their good friend, bookstore owner, Bernadette? Barry Banes was not a very nice man. He came to Bernadette’s store, asking her out, and then said some very rune thing to her, like what his plans for her were. Bernadette was disgusted and told him to leave. Then he sent her some equally rude messages. He also sent her a note asking if she was ready for their second date!
Bernadette didn’t tell the police about this because she was ashamed and thought she had done something wrong. Of course she did not lead the man on but she was embarrassed just the same.
Someone murdered the awful bait shop owner and Heather and her friends will get to the bottom of it.
“Mint Chocolate Crunch & Murder” is the 35th novel in Author Susan Gillard’s Oceanside Cozy Mystery Series. I particularly liked this one quite a bit because Ms. Gillard gently brought up the recent real world issue of the #MeToo movement. Without preaching, the author let her fans know that her fictional characters face the same problems that real people do. After reading many of Susan Gillard’s cozy series this is the first time that she introduced such a sensitive issue. Not that murder isn’t sensitive but adding yet another issue to her book was fairly brave of her. All of Ms. Gillard’s cozies are acceptable reading for all ages, even this one.
“Mint Chocolate Crunch & Murder” is still a terrific cozy with just a tad of edginess. I hope the author continues to add more real life issues in her books. She does it tastefully and the subject matter does not get in the way of a fun cozy mystery.
“I received an ARC of this book prior to publication and I voluntarily review it and my opinions are my own.”
To see other reviews of Susan Gillard’s books please go to Susan’s page on my blog.