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Murder of a Chocolate-Covered Cherry, by Denise Swanson. Review

Updated on November 20, 2015

Murder of a Chocolate Covered Cherry

Could it be that philandering hubby --- overheard by Skye while flirting with baby's nanny? Then, there's Grandma Sal herself. She's not really the little old granny she pretends to be on public relations gigs.
Could it be that philandering hubby --- overheard by Skye while flirting with baby's nanny? Then, there's Grandma Sal herself. She's not really the little old granny she pretends to be on public relations gigs. | Source

Cherry's Fatal Dip Into the Chocolate Vat

Author Cherry Alexander takes a fatal dip into the chocolate vat at Grandma Sal's Fine Foods factory, one of Scumble River's biggest employers.

Cherry's philandering boy-toy hubby is the main suspect --- along with everyone else who ever met her. She was not a nice person.

"Preheat Oven . . ."

The chapters in Denise Swanson's Scumble River Murder Mysteries all have titles. That makes it easier to remember where you were reading.

Chapter One of Murder of a Chocolate Covered Cherry is called, "Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees".

Must be about cooking, right?

Looks Yummy -- But, You Wouldn't Want to Fall In!

Apparently the vat can be deadly. Some people -- - (not just Cherry Alexander) ---have actually died from falling in. (I mean, real people!)
Apparently the vat can be deadly. Some people -- - (not just Cherry Alexander) ---have actually died from falling in. (I mean, real people!)

Inside Out?

But, then, it starts like this:

School psychologist Skye Denison had endured the situation for as long as she could, Improvements on the outside were well and good, but they didn't make her feel any better about the ugliness on the inside.

If you've read any of the previous books in this series, you'll know that Skye is a queen-sized gal, but not really into the weight-loss way of life.

Could it be that she has relented, and decided to go on a diet? Could it be that Skye feels ugly because of her extra pounds?

What a drag that would be.

We plus-sized gals admire her spunk, self-esteem, and grace in dealing with well-meaning, but ill-informed "anti-fat" activists ---- not to mention her refusal to jump on the diet bandwagon.

But, wait, now she's untying a rope and climbing down a ladder.

For Whom the Telephone Rings

Oh no, could it be ---- ?

No, it's just that ringing telephone. Skye is trying to find it in the mess she has made when she . .

Well, what was she doing with that rope and ladder, thinking about the ugliness inside? Thinking about . . .as we learn in that first paragraph ...

" . . . putting an end to it all!" ?

We're still in suspense when we get to the top of the third page.

Then, we read, ". . . the only paint on her face was the Tiffany blue she was using on her dining room walls . . . and the orange sweat suit she had put on to work in made her look like Charlie Brown's Great Pumpkin."

So, we learn --- with a big sigh of relief --- that Skye is painting the interior of her house. Meanwhile, though, while she was trying to locate the phone in that mess, we've learned quite a bit about several characters, and some really intriguing situations.

Meet The Crew

While Skye tries to figure out who could be calling --- we meet;

  • Wally, Sky's boyfriend, who had already called to cancel their date - Therefore, he was not the one calling her now;
  • Trixie, her best friend, who had already called to tell Skye that a cheerleader's parents were suing the school paper, and there was a meeting scheduled with the lawyer who represented the school district --- Therefore, she was not the one calliing;
  • Homer Knapic, the school principal, who "had mentally retired from his job several years ago; he just hadn't bothered to turn in the paperwork" --- he would have a cow when he head about the lawsuit; --- Therefore, would not have been calling, because he did not yet know about the lawsuit.
  • Vince, her hairdresser brother, who was busy working at his salon, and, therefore, not calling;
  • Charlie Patukas, her godfather and owner of Up a Lazy River motel, who would have just driven over in his Caddy instead of calling;
  • and May, her mom, the only person Skye knew who would keep calling back repeatedly.

Uh-oh, too late to put this book down. I'm already too engrossed.

Everybody who met Cherry Alexander wanted to kill her.

But . . . only one of them actually dunked her into the vat of melted chocolate --- unless ---- Maybe they all got together as a group?

Like in Murder on the Orient Express?

Grandma Sal's Cooking Challenge

Yes, it is about cooking.

A cooking contest , in fact --- Grandma Sal's Soup-to-Nuts Cooking Challenge.

And there's so much else --- murder, kidnapping, a lawsuit against the school paper, and a plant closing, just to name a few of them.

Fortunately, there's not a word about dieting.

In Chapter 2, "Assemble the Ingredients" we get to meet the somewhat motley crew of contestants. These contestants seem even a little odder than the usual Scumble Riverites ---- if that's possible.

A Dickens of a Mystery

That's really one of the main things about Denise Swanson. Her characters are unforgettable without being stereotypical. They each have something important to say, and do so competently. I guess a psychologist/author knows something about human nature. Yet, there's never a hint of cynicism in Scumble River.

I like that. It reminds me of Charles Dickens a little. If you've read some of my other Hubs --- especially my review of Holiday Grind, by Cleo Coyle --- you know I consider that a compliment.

Later on, we meet Skye's ex-boyfriend Simon Reid, the town coroner; and his mom, Bunny --- a former Las Vegas showgirl. Bunny seems like such a sweetheart --- despite (or perhaps because of) her outlandish outfits that are a little --- well --- age-inappropriate.

Bunny is completely guileless.

Simon's Catholic, so May (Skye's mom) would prefer it if Skye were back with him.

Not that May is totally above breaking the Precepts of the Church when it suits her. She suggests that perhaps Skye should miss Mass on Sunday so that her dish will be ready for the cooking contest on time. She explains that God will forgive Skye at Confession for missing Mass, but the cooking contest judges will never forgive her for missing that deadline. (Now, this IS fiction, not real life.)

If you're Catholic, you know missing Mass is not a joke. If you're not Catholic, you just found out :-)

Wrapping Up . . . At Least Until the Next Scumble River Mystery

As if all of this weren't enough, there's also another sub-plot about Wally's dad. We're not so sure how that will come out, either. Will Skye do something sneaky and underhanded, believing it's in Wally's best interest?


She always finds a way to resolve the stickiest issues without compromising anyone's dignity.

I was surprised when I found out who really murdered Cherry, and why. It might be a slight nod to Hound of the Baskervilles, by A. Conan Doyle.

Definitely Recommended

A tight plot, great characters, a great, weird, little homey town, a smart, funny, critical heroine who rescues a kidnapped teen and solves a murder, while maintaining peace between her present boyfriend and her ex-boyfriend; and helping to reunite an estranged father and son.


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