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A Shot in the 80% Dark (Bean to Bar Mysteries, #4) by Amber Royer

A well-plotted, crave-inducing addition to the Bean to Bar Mysteries series! 

Business at Greetings & Felicitations is doing well, but Felicity and Logan, looking to the future, decide to take on a major event for the Lily Museum, including building a replica of a pirate ship sculpture that is to be featured in the gallery. But when constructing the huge piece at the museum, the lights suddenly go out, and one of the young artists working on the sculpture and the original sculpture’s creator are both killed with everyone working in the studio right there!

With a murderer at large, the museum director begins to waffle about continuing with the exhibition’s grand opening and canceling the chocolate contract. This would be devastating for Felicity and Logan’s business as they had to spend a large amount of money upfront for the supplies and equipment needed for the event. With Arlo, Felicity’s former boyfriend, who’s back in her life and vying for her affections, assigned to the case, Felicity and Logan realize they must all work together and catch the murderer so the show can go on.

A Shot in the 80% Dark is a fine, well-plotted mystery that kept me entertained, guessing, and turning pages until the very end. Felicity, the main character, works hard and is serious about discovering who committed the precisely timed and very public murder. She goes to suitable sources, asks the right questions, and keeps her boyfriend, the lead detective on the murder case, informed and up to date on what’s she doing. Only little slip-ups put her in danger, and those felt like they were honest missteps. The ‘rookie mistake’ is actually claimed by Arlo himself! There are many viable suspects, and they are logically ruled out one by one. However, I didn’t know who was going to be the last suspect standing at any point until the killer was finally revealed, and I liked that the truth felt plausible because of the circumstances of the situation.

As the series continues, Felicity’s circle of friends expands and incorporates suspects from previous murders, old acquaintances, and frenemies. The author has done a great job with character development over the series, and I did feel the need to catch up with some of these folks. I like that there are so many recurring characters, even if they only get a mention or brief appearance in a story.

The story is naturally ‘choc’ full of chocolate-craft. Royer sprinkled in little tidbits of chocolate fact and fun throughout, and the result is a confection in and of itself. The story also has an extraordinary amount of pastry and other food discussions that had me craving a trip to Galveston. I learned so much (and had to google for more) and wanted to try all of the fictional delights the characters described.

The Galveston setting is fun and feels so familiar and comfortable. I loved hearing about different locations and sights, even just which end of the island the characters were on as they investigated. I enjoyed imagining all the small shops and businesses Felicity mentions or encounters during her day. The reminders of the damage from Hurricane Ike still having such an impact so many years later were quite sobering.

A wonderful part of this cozy mystery is the love triangle between the main characters. I could empathize with Felicity’s hesitancy to start another relationship yet. Her emotional struggle feeling the need to choose between two good men feels deep and genuine. Both men seem equally desirable, and it is no wonder she’d have a tough time making a choice, even if she wasn’t still grieving for her lost love. I felt the same genuineness in Logan’s and Arlo’s struggles with Felicity’s continued indecision. Still, both exude their concern and understanding that their need to be chosen as “the one” exerts a lot of pressure on her that she’s just not ready to handle. 

A Shot in the 80% Dark is the fourth book in the Bean to Bar Mysteries, but the author provides enough backstory throughout for a reader who hasn’t read the previous books to have a great, entertaining reading experience. However, be warned that starting with this book will have the reader looking for the earlier stories; they are not to be missed. 

I recommend A SHOT IN THE 80% DARK to readers who enjoy culinary-themed cozy mysteries, Texas-based cozies, Galveston, or chocolate…and who doesn’t like chocolate? 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Book Blog Tours.

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