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.