A Nutcracker Nightmare (A Killer Chocolate Mystery)
by Christina Romeril
About A Nutcracker Nightmare
A Nutcracker Nightmare (A Killer Chocolate Mystery)
2nd in Series
Setting – Montana
Crooked Lane Books (October 17, 2023)
Hardcover : 320 pages
ISBN-10 : 1639104917
ISBN-13 : 978-1639104918
Kindle ASIN : B0BSKRF471
Perfect for fans of Joanne Fluke and Laura Childs, when twin sisters Hanna and Alex help out at the local high school reunion, volunteering takes a turn when they find a former classmate’s dead body.
Hanna and Alex, owners of the Murder and Mayhem book and chocolate shop, are busy preparing for the Harriston High School’s reunion weekend. Neighbors will connect with old friends and perhaps try to avoid old foes. One person no one can avoid is Kyle, the former star quarterback, who is busy using his entire playbook to try and score with Hanna, even threatening her if she doesn’t play nice. At the reunion, Alex glimpses more drama than nostalgia as insults are flung around like a football at a Friday night game. The party is put on hold when Alex finds the dead body of none other than Kyle himself, bludgeoned to death by a nutcracker that the sisters admired earlier in the night.
Hanna quickly becomes the prime suspect—someone saw her slap Kyle in the face at the reunion dance. She’ll need her sister, their sleuthing canine, Watson, and their old friends and colleagues to help break this case wide open. While looking through old yearbooks and taking a stroll down memory lane, Alex uncovers a few secrets about Kyle, now, it seems like everyone had a motive to kill him.
But when the suspects start becoming the victims, Alex and Hanna know that they can’t melt under the pressure—they must find the killer before they become just another yearbook memory.
Author Guest Post
A Nutcracker Nightmare, the second book in the Killer Chocolate mysteries, is not that scary despite its title. This book is a cozy mystery and one of the hallmarks of cozies is their lightheartedness. Even though cozies combine one of the darkest of crimes, murder, into their pages these are not nightmare-inducing stories. So how do cozies, especially Christmas cozies, manage to combine murder and mayhem with cheery, cozy settings, fun and, often, quirky characters, and delicious confections without spiraling down into a dark abyss?
A good cozy starts with a cast of mostly likable characters. A nemesis for the protagonist may lurk in its pages, but the book usually stars a relatable sleuth and sidekick. These characters often start the series by being moved away from their homes due to a hitch in their existing romance such as a cheating boyfriend to losing their jobs. Other times they move to revive a family business or take over for someone who’s passed away.
As readers, we may feel sympathetic to the sleuth because of their circumstances. We may feel angry as another character threatens or causes difficulties early in the sleuths’ new lives. Often the sleuth must learn a new profession as they navigate their changed circumstances. We are drawn in as we get to know the main characters and cheer for them to triumph over their challenges.
Many cozies are set in a smaller town or village. Sometimes they may be set in a larger urban area that has a smaller community within it. Either way, these settings are sometimes as much part of the story as the characters. This is very much the case in Rudolph, New York, Vicki Delany’s fictional town in her Year-Round Christmas mysteries where Christmas takes center stage 365 days a year. In Christmas cozies, the world focuses on the decorations, food, and activities of the season.
As mentioned earlier, cozy mysteries usually center around some kind of theme. The Killer Chocolate Mystery series is all about chocolate and a mystery bookshop. As I wrote A NUTCRACKER NIGHTMARE I wanted to include a specific element that tied the murder to Christmas and the twin sleuths’ German heritage. Enter the Nutcracker. Nutcrackers originated in Germany and are one of my favorite decorations at Christmas. I have multiple nutcrackers ranging from tree ornaments to a couple of three-foot sentries that are hauled out each Christmas. These wooden Christmas soldiers will take the spotlight in my home this year with the launch of A NUTCRACKER NIGHTMARE.
Both books in my series have recipes I’ve created for chocolates in the back. I also post some of the other recipes mentioned in the book on my website. Including descriptions of festive holiday foods keeps the story grounded in the season and makes you crave something sweet every time you pick up the book. While not every Christmas cozy relies as heavily on the culinary aspect, many have your mouth watering for the sweet confections described in their pages. Jacqueline Frost’s (aka Julianne Lindsay), Christmas Tree Farm Mysteries does this so well. I’m craving cookies and cupcakes with every installment.
Prior to writing the Killer Chocolate Mysteries, I had never made a chocolate in my life. When I came up with the idea of poison-themed chocolates for the book it never occurred to me that I would have to make chocolates as well as create recipes for them. In writing the book I’d done extensive research on the process and it turns out that making chocolates isn’t that difficult. It just requires patience and attention to detail. Who would have thought that eating chocolate is now part of my job?
So let’s talk murder. There’s no getting around the fact that at least one body drops in each cozy mystery novel. Despite that these are not nightmare-inducing stories, in part, because the focus is on solving the mystery and not the death. There are no graphic descriptions of the body or the killing. Forensics may be touched on lightly, but there won’t be any play-by-play of an autopsy. Often, though not always, the victim isn’t a particularly well-liked person. There is also a general suspension of disbelief. We know this is in a fictional world. These stories aren’t gritty or noir. The themes are not exceptionally dark or disturbing.
There has been a flurry of cozy adjacent books of late. The Thursday Murder Club, Finlay Donovan, Dial A For Aunties, The Maid, and the list goes on. These books have helped draw more readers into this world of cozy murder, a place where you can be entertained, eat chocolate, and channel your inner Nancy Drew. All without worrying about having nightmares. So grab your hot chocolate and a cozy sweater, put on some Christmas tunes, light a scented candle, and grab a cozy mystery and let’s get sleuthing.
About Christina Romeril
Christina Romeril is the author of the Killer Chocolate Mystery series. The series is set in Montana at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, one of her favourite places to visit. She and her husband live a few hours away in a small village in Southern Alberta. When Christina isn’t writing she loves to hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, or just hang out there eating gourmet hot dogs and ice cream. When the former banker isn’t enjoying nature, she loves to create and consume chocolate confections. Not necessarily in that order.
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