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Christmas Cocoa Murder (2019)

by Carlene O'Connor

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297644,873 (3.43)None
Christmas Cocoa Murder: Siobhan O'Sullivan's hopes for a quiet Irish Christmas are dashed when the local Santa turns up dead in a carnival dunk tank of hot cocoa. Now instead of hunting down holiday gifts, she's pursuing a heartless killer. Seems the dead Santa was no angel either, stealing neighborhood dogs to guide his sleigh. But was it his holiday antics--or worse--that led to his death by chocolate?Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse: When local businessman Jed Greenberg is found dead with a Chocolate lab whimpering over his body, the police start sniffing around Robbie Jordan's country restaurant for answers. Was it something in Robbie's hot cocoa that killed Jed, or was it Cocoa the dog? As the suspects pile as high as her holiday tree, Robbie attempts to get to the bottom of the sickly-sweet murder ...Death by Hot Cocoa: A Christmas-themed escape game seems like the perfect pre-holiday treat for bookstore café owner Krissy Hancock and her best friend. But when the host is found dead in a pool of hot cocoa, it's up to Krissy and her team to catch the killer--or escape before getting killed.… (more)
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This book contains 3 novellas/short stories by 3 different authors with hot cocoa and Christmas as the main connectors. The 3 works are: "Christmas Cocoa Murder" by Carlene O'Connor, "Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse" by Maddie Day, and "Death by Hot Chocolate" by Alex Erickson. As far as I remember, I've not read anything by these authors previously.

My favorite of the three was "Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse" by Maddie Day. I would probably read more works by her. My least favorite of the three was the titular "Christmas Cocoa Murder".

"Christmas Cocoa Murder" is set in Ireland. Not being overly familiar with Ireland was a detriment. For example, it took me a while to realize that Garda was like our police officer. In addition, Siobhán has a large family, most of whose characters are not well rounded out in this work, and that made it difficult to keep them all straight. I was intrigued by the idea of a dunk tank filled with cocoa (I would guess it was warm rather than burning hot.) but kept thinking the cocoa would surely stain whatever fabric it came into contact with and the cocoa would also probably be sticky as it dried. There is a recipe for an Irish Variety Hot Cocoa at the end.

In contrast, the other two works took place in more familiar settings, which might be why I liked them better.

"Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse" involved a dog named Cocoa who was to be a Christmas present but was delivered early. To hide the gift from its recipient, Cocoa gets passed around to several people on a temporary basis. I enjoyed the restaurant and learning a bit more about working in one. I liked that the two women would switch off on who handled the grill and who did the serving and that they worked together to get through the rushes of customers. Several recipes are included at the end of the story, including one for Mexican Hot Chocolate, which figures strongly in the work. Despite these characters seeming to appear in other works by this author (based on some information provided at the end of her work), I never once felt lost in reading this story (as I did with O'Connors story).

In "Death by Hot Chocolate" I was intrigued by the description on the back of the book that said this was set in a Christmas-themed escape room. The back blurb was a bit misleading in several ways in my opinion: it states "seemed like the perfect pre-holiday treat for book-store café owner Krissy Hancock" but Krissy attends reluctantly at the urging of her friend. So technically, it is the friend who felt it would be a perfect pre-holiday treat, not Krissy herself. Also the "Christmas-themed escape game" that I was excited to read about, did not seem very detailed. (It's also the only one of the 3 stories that doesn't include recipes at the end. That didn't bother me, but I mention it just in case there is someone out there who would.)

I've never done an escape room myself. I'm interested, but my friends here just don't seem to be, and my friends who are don't live nearby. Plus now, with COVID . . . . But my friends who have done them seem to have had a more detailed experience than having to solve 2-3 puzzles (2 of which seemed very similar) in order to "escape". Two of the three puzzles involve having to find a combination in order to escape. All three puzzles involve numbers.

I guess I was more interested in the escape room process and experience than I was in the murder of the escape room organizer and trying to figure out who killed him. ( )
  JenniferRobb | Jan 29, 2021 |
I love holiday theme cozy novella collections! I read every one I can get my hands on. Not only are they cute, quick holiday theme stories, but it's a great way to find new authors/series to add to my tbr!

Christmas Cocoa Murder gathers 3 Christmas theme stories from different popular series. One series I have never read before, and the other two I've read one or two of the books. I'm definitely moving all 3 series up my tbr stack because I enjoyed this entire book!

This collection includes:

Christmas Cocoa Murder - This novella is set in Carlene O'Connor's Irish Village Mystery series. Main character Siobhan plans a quiet Christmas with her siblings, but someone kills santa in a dunk tank filled with cocoa. She's on the case to find out why someone murdered the eccentric man playing santa claus.

I have never read any of the books in the Irish Village Mystery series. I enjoyed Siobhan as a main character. Intelligent, funny and witty....just an enjoyable character! I like the setting as well. The mystery was solid and kept my attention. There are 4 books in this series with a fifth, Murder in an Irish Cottage, coming out in February 2020. I will definitely be reading this series!

Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse - I have read one book in Maddie Day's Country Store Mystery series. This novella definitely renewed my interest in reading the entire series!

Robbie Jordan gets pulled into a murder case when a local businessman drops dead after drinking her cocoa. Was the cocoa poisoned or did Cocoa the dog (a cute chocolate lab found with the body) have something to do with it? I thought it was really cute that the dog's name was Cocoa. Definitely made me smile. :) Cute way to tie in with the theme of this story collection!

I like Maddie Day's writing style. This was an entertaining story that definitely makes me want to read this entire series. I'm not sure why I never read more than one -- probably just a matter of my ponderous TBR pile. I will definitely be reading more of this series.

The Country Store Mystery series has six books so far, with a seventh, Nacho Average Murder, coming out in July 2020.

Death By Hot Cocoa - I have read a couple books in the Bookstore Cafe Mystery series by Alex Erickson and enjoyed them. So I happily read this novella! Krissy Hancock and her bestie are excited about trying a local Christmas theme escape room experience. But things get serious when they find the attraction's host dead in a puddle of cocoa. Yikes! Who offed the host and why?? I'm a sucker for locked-room type stories, so this was my favorite story in the collection. And it definitely has me wanting to finish reading this series!

This is a very enjoyable Christmas themed cozy collection. I'm definitely moving all 3 series by these authors up on my to-read list! And even though it isn't even fall yet as I write this, I enjoyed reading Christmas theme stories! Made me crave cocoa and Christmas music!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.** ( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
This title contains three short stories/novellas by different authors, all with the theme of a murder mystery around Christmas specifically involving hot chocolate and set in a small town.

In the first story, Siobhan O'Sullivan of the Irish Village mystery series has just graduated from the police academy when a murder breaks out just a week before she officially starts work. And not just any murder -- someone has murdered the little town's official Santa! The actor is found dead in a giant vat of hot chocolate and the holiday appears to be destroyed. This story was a bit odd because it takes away from the third book in the series, which is supposed to be Siobhan's first case as a Garda. Nevertheless, I did like that the story went back to a local being murdered (rather than an outsider) and the suspect pool being large. This one somewhat surprised me in that I didn't actually guess the murderer far in advance. It did irk me, however, that the murdered Santa actor was repeatedly referred to having suffered from a "mental illness" but what specific illness isn't mentioned and his actions don't seem to correlate with any particular diagnosis.

In the second story, a restaurateur in a small town in Indiana has her holidays ruined when a friend of her boyfriend's parents is murdered -- and the police somehow suspect her specialty hot chocolate may have played a role. This one is part of the Country Store mystery series and since I haven't read any other book in that series, I had a harder time keeping track of the various characters and their relationships to each other. It also struck me as odd here that the protagonist Robbie would somehow magically be better at solving a murder than the police officials, but that's how these cozy mysteries often go with the amateurs knowing more somehow. Nevertheless, the entirety of her suitability for this role is that she's 'good at crossword puzzles' and her solving the case is pointless as she figures out who the murderer is literally mere minutes before the police do. It's also hardly worth calling this one a mystery and the whodunit plot is so slight. That could be okay if the remaining story was concerned with character development, but instead it slowly plods along with clunky text interminably describing mundane things in excruciating detail. For instance, Robbie doesn't just take the dog out -- she walks the dog, sees that he does his business, pulls out a bag from the holder on the leash, marvels at what a neat invention that is, then scoops the dog's poop up. No one needs that much. Get to the point already. This story was definitely the weakest of the three and leaves me with zero interest in ever picking up another title in this particular mystery series.

The final story is part of the Bookstore Cafe mystery series and follows Krissy, a bookstore owner and daughter of a mystery author, as she and a friend go to a Christmas-themed escape room. In the middle of the event, the proprietor of the escape room is found dead near mugs of hot chocolate laid out for the participants. Who murdered him -- or was he not the real target of the killer? This was a fun twist of the classic locked room mystery; not only is there a limited set of suspects, but the characters are literally locked together in a single room and must work together to escape while knowing that one of them is a murderer. Also, because the police is not yet alerted to the murder, it does make perfect sense for Krissy and the others to try and suss out who the killer is. I was happily surprised that I did not guess the ending at all. Even though I only picked up this book for the connection to the Irish Village mystery series, I was pleasantly surprised to find this one the strongest of the stories in the collection.

The narrator for the entirety of the book was pretty meh. I found her bordering on monotone and her voices for male characters never quite sounded right. It would have been a better choice for the publishers to pick a different narrator for each story, especially that I *know* the Irish Village series has a different audiobook narrator than this one, and it's likely the other two series do as well. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jan 30, 2020 |
Christmas Cocoa Murder by Carlene O'Connor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Since I only read two of the authors in this collection I'll only be reviewing their stories.

CHRISTMAS COCOA AND A CORPSE by MADDIE DAY
When local businessman Jed Greenberg is found dead with a Chocolate lab whimpering over his body, the police start sniffing around Robbie Jordan's country restaurant for answers. Was it something in Robbie's hot cocoa that killed Jed, or was it Cocoa the dog? As the suspects pile as high as her holiday tree, Robbie attempts to get to the bottom of the sickly sweet murder.

The mystery only has 2 real suspects so it isn't really hard to figure out who the killer really is. The characters are well written and well developed. It was nice to get a glimpse of how the characters all get ready for the holidays. I liked that Robbie and Abe get to spend the holiday together while also sharing spending time with each others families. I wish the mystery had been a little bit harder to solve since I had it solved after the introduction of the second suspect and a few clues that gave away who the killer was.

DEATH BY HOT COCOA by Alex Erickson
A Christmas themed escape game seems like the perfect holiday treat for bookstore cafe owner Krissy Hancock and her friend. But when the host is found dead in a pool of hot cocoa, it's up to Krissy and her team to catch the killer or escape before getting killed.

The mystery was well written and a little tricky to actually figure out with so many suspects. I liked how Krissy was able to use logic to solve the clues in her escape room and then to also logically solve the murder. I think it would have been read if Krissy had been with her best friend and business partner Vicki solving the murder instead of Krissy and Rita.

I received and ARC of this book from NetGalley and Kensington Books for my review.



View all my reviews
  FaytheShattuck | Jan 17, 2020 |
Christmas Cocoa Murder by Carlene O'Connor, Maddie Day, and Alex Erickson contains three cozy novellas that are a part of the following series: An Irish Village Mystery series, A Country Store Mystery series and A Bookstore Café Mystery series. I thought they were three entertaining Christmas cozies. They are all well-written and full of Christmas spirit. The three mysteries were interesting with various levels of complexity. The escape room mystery was my favorite, and I particularly enjoyed the description of the escape room puzzles. I have read books from all three series, so it was not a problem for me to read each story. I already knew the characters plus the settings. Maddie Day has my favorite writing style. It is like conversing with old friends. I like how hot cocoa played a part in each story with Christmas Cocoa Murder featuring it in a unique way (a dunk tank). We get to enjoy Christmas festivities in three different towns from two countries. I especially appreciated that all three stories featured intelligent female protagonists who are resourceful and do not break down at the sight of a dead body. I am glad that Kensington puts out these holiday novella collections and I hope that they continue to do so. It is a chance to catch up with our favorite series and solve a mystery (a definite bonus in my book). Christmas Cocoa Murder has three cocoa connected conundrums, a swarm of suspects, many missing mutts, sharp sleuths and copious Christmas cheer. ( )
  Kris_Anderson | Nov 20, 2019 |
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It happened during the Christmas season, in the not so distant past, when Siobhán O'Sullivan had just graduated from Templemore, Garda College, Macdara Flannery was still living in Dublin, and rumors of snow swirled in the Irish air.
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Christmas Cocoa Murder: Siobhan O'Sullivan's hopes for a quiet Irish Christmas are dashed when the local Santa turns up dead in a carnival dunk tank of hot cocoa. Now instead of hunting down holiday gifts, she's pursuing a heartless killer. Seems the dead Santa was no angel either, stealing neighborhood dogs to guide his sleigh. But was it his holiday antics--or worse--that led to his death by chocolate?Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse: When local businessman Jed Greenberg is found dead with a Chocolate lab whimpering over his body, the police start sniffing around Robbie Jordan's country restaurant for answers. Was it something in Robbie's hot cocoa that killed Jed, or was it Cocoa the dog? As the suspects pile as high as her holiday tree, Robbie attempts to get to the bottom of the sickly-sweet murder ...Death by Hot Cocoa: A Christmas-themed escape game seems like the perfect pre-holiday treat for bookstore café owner Krissy Hancock and her best friend. But when the host is found dead in a pool of hot cocoa, it's up to Krissy and her team to catch the killer--or escape before getting killed.

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