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A Christmas Candy Killing (A Killer Chocolate Mystery, #1) by Christina Romeril 

This debut novel in a delectable new cozy mystery series will surely put fans in the mood for Christmas and chocolate. 

After a successful career in banking, Alex Wright, along with her twin, Hanna, opened a bookstore-chocolate shop in the small Montana village of Harriston. While working in their mother's restaurant, Hanna had become a talented chocolatier but needed some space and a little more freedom to let her imagination run wild in her chocolate creations. She had gladly partnered with her sister and left her small hometown in Michigan to pursue the new venture. The business, Murder and Mayhem, Killer Chocolates and Books, featured mysteries and fine handmade gourmet chocolates and hosted the community's monthly Sleuth Book Club. With fun names such as Strychnine Strawberry and Belladonna Black Currant and seasonal offerings like Gingerbread Gelsemine, the sisters were, figuratively, making a killing. 

With Christmas only days away, the Sleuth Book Club was holding its December meeting at the shop as usual. After the meeting concluded, Jane Burrows, one of the town's most beloved residents and one of Alex's dearest friends, asks Alex to drop by her home the following morning for tea and nibbles. Jane, a fan of true-crime shows, wants Alex to watch a particular episode that she is convinced is about one of their neighbors. However, she doesn't want to divulge the individual's name to avoid coloring Alex's opinion. 

But when Alex arrives at Jane's the next morning and discovers her friend has been killed, Alex realizes that the deductive skills she and her sister have been honing during book club may come in handy. The sheriff wants to wrap the case up before the holiday and considers Alex a prime suspect. It seems that Jane had been drugged before she was stabbed to death, and a box of Killer Chocolates with the bonus ingredient of a powerful sedative was found at Jane's bedside.

A Christmas Candy Killing is the first book in a delicious new cozy mystery series by Christina Romeril. The main characters, Alex and Hanna, are warm, curious, and capable sleuths but the small Montana village and its residents are real gems. Despite the murder, it's sure to put readers in a holiday spirit. 

The action begins quickly, with the murder occurring within the first couple of chapters. With Christmas only days away, the sheriff is pushing to successfully close the case before the holiday and make up her mind right away on who's to blame. As Alex is a prime suspect, trying to clear her name justifies her determined snooping. I thought it was fun and pretty realistic that the people she questioned were not shy about telling her to butt out. It happened often enough that you could play a drinking game involving taking a shot every time one of the characters told Alex to "mind your own business" or similar. It wouldn't take long for all participants to find themselves in a stupor. Fun times. But Alex is focused and thick-skinned enough to barrel on ahead. 

There is an entertaining subplot involving Alex, her neighbor, Tom, and Penelope Shaw, the single (again) woman who lives across the street from them and views Alex as her rival for Tom's affections. I laughed out loud over Alex's dream that featured Penelope and one of her frozen casseroles. 

With an engaging amateur sleuth and several plausible red herrings with excellent motives for mischief, I recommend A CHRISTMAS CANDY KILLING to cozy mystery readers who enjoy culinary-themed stores, settings in small-town Montana, or chocolate. (Recipes for some of Hanna's delectable handmade treats are included.) 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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