Tart of Darkness by Denise Swanson is the first book in Chef-to-Go Mysteries. Danielle âDaniâ Sloan has quit her job at Homestead Insurance and given her cheating boyfriend the heave ho. While deciding what to do next, she been cooking for the college girls down the hall and vegging out on the couch watching cooking shows. Then a letter arrives stating she inherited a nearby Victorian mansion that has been remodeled for a bed and breakfast with a fabulous kitchen. This is the perfect opportunity for Dani to pursue her passionâcooking. She opens Chef-to-Go which provides catering for events, personal chef services and ready-to-go lunches for college students. Dani also ends up with three college student tenants (the ladies she cooked for in her old building). Dani is hired to cater spoiled rich girl Regina Bourne's Summer Palooza. The event goes off without a hitch until a drunk guest sets fire to the dessert table and Regina has a hissy fit. Dani is surprised when Detective Mikeloff arrives at her home stating Regina was found dead by her pool surrounded by Dani's desserts. The detective has it out for Dani. Dani needs to clear her name before she ends up as chef for the local penitentiary.
I like the premise of Tart of Darkness. It is set in a college town (provides a variety of victims) where Dani inherited a large Victorian home with a gourmet kitchen. I thought it was a clever idea to provide ready-to-go lunches for college students. Dani is a character who keeps trying to please her father and fails (has an inferiority complex). Additional characters are the three female college students living with Dani (Tippi, Starr and Ivy) along with Spencer Drake (Ivy's uncle and love interest for Dani). The attraction between Dani and Spencer is âinstantâ (of course). Readers gets detailed descriptions of Spencer's physique and what Spencer thinks about Dani's attributes (repeated mentions of her heart shaped derriere). I wish the author had dialed back on the attraction (lust) between Dani and Spencer. The point of view switches between Dani and Spencer. I found it disjointed and it lacked an ease (clunky). The novel would have flowed better if it had been written from Dani's POV or in the third person (my preference). Unlike most cozy mysteries, Tart of Darkness contains foul language. There is a clichÃ© nasty detective and repetitiveness (especially of the phrase âass hatâ). The authors background in psychology is evident in Tart of Darkness with how Dani listens and dispenses advice (confirming response technique). There is a lot going on in Tart of Darkness (seems to be a common malady in cozy mysteries that I have read recently). I did not feel that the ex-boyfriend showing up looking for a book he gave to Dani was needed. The characters from Denise Swanson's A Scumble River Mystery series and Welcome Back to Scumble River are mentioned (Wally, Skye) and Frannie Ryan is in the story (she wants to write about the murderâget her big break). The mystery was clever with a unique murder method. There are good clues that will aid readers in solving the crime. I give Tart of Darkness 3 out of 5 stars. Tart of Darkness will appeal to fans of Denise Swanson and cozy mysteries.
Dani has left her old job behind and is starting a new one. Her first gig does not go well when the hostess turns up dead. Dani is the number one suspect on the list. Dani with the help of others must solve the case before her new business suffers.
Chef-to-Go is a new series by Denise Swanson. She has brought along a few characters from her Scumble River series.
1. Tart of Darkness (2018)
2. Leave No Scone Unturned (2019)
I enjoy Swanson's Scumble River series and found this book equally enjoyable- in fact, a few of Scumble River's characters appear or are mentioned in the book. I look forward to reading the next in this new series.
Tart of Darkness is the debut of the Chef-to-Go Mystery series set in the college town of Normalton, Illinois featuring Danielle "Dani" Sloan. Dani has resigned from her position in HR at Homestead Insurance after having issues with the way a sexual harrassment claim was handled. Having a fondness for cooking but not wanting to disappoint her father any further with her career choices, Dani is halfheartedly sending resumes to other HR departments when an envelope arrives at her door.
Geraldine Cook had been Dani's grandmother's best friend. The two women had sworn to each other that they would look after each other's families should something happen to one of them. Upon her death Geraldine has left Dani her Victorian mansion, which is under renovation. The older woman had plans to open a Bed and Breakfast, but Dani isn't fond of having strangers coming in and out of her home.
Having lived in a college townhouse and befriended the trio of girls across the hall, Dani takes the girls into her home when they are kicked out of their apartment. The rent monies and the girls' agreement to help Dani get her fledging business Chef-to-Go up and running will allow them to all to stay in the old mansion.
When Ivy Drake, the youngest of the girls, joins a study group with the spoiled Regina Bourne, Dani has reservations. Regina is obviously using Ivy just to get her work done, and when she plans her annual Summerpalooza she gets Dani to cater the party so the at Ivy and her friends can attend. After a fire ruins the desserts, Regina kicks Dani and the girls out and threatens to destroy Dani's reputation. When Regina is found dead by the pool the next morning, Ivy and Dani become prime suspects.
With the help of Ivy's Uncle Spencer, retired FBI agent and now head of University security, Dani begins her own investigation to find Regina's killer and clear her own name. Dani uncovers plenty of suspects who hated the girl, but she is thwarted at every turn by the nasty Detective Mikeloff.
A well developed plot with interesting characters. The author does mention the name of the town and characters from another of her series quite frequently and not having read that particular series I wasn't too sure what relevance these people played in this series. The middle of the book does bog down a little with the internal musings of both Dani and Spencer on why they don't want to get involved in a personal relationship, they seem to dwell on these thoughts repetitively. Overall, a great start to a series and will look forward to more adventures with Dani, Spence and the girls.