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    Kris Anderson, The Avid Reader

    Behind Chocolate Bars by Kathy Aarons is the third book in A Chocolate Covered Mystery series. Michelle Serrano is a chocolatier and part owner of Chocolate and Chapters in West Riverdale, Maryland. Her best friend, Erica Russell is the owner of the Chapters part of the store (the book section). Michelle is dating reporter and author Benjamin “Bean” Russell. They are at the store when they hear about a body being found at the community center at Green Meadow Estates. Dylan Fenton, their intern and a member of their comic book club, gets picked up for questioning. Dylan gets picked up for questioning. Michelle and Erica quickly jump in to help Dylan who has had a rough time (a situation with his mother from a previous book). It turns out that the police found Dylan’s Green Lantern ring and keys at the dump site. When Erica and Michelle try to get information out of Dylan or any of the other comic book club members, they are met with silence. They group is hiding something. Michelle wants to help Dylan. The victim turns out to be Faith Monette. Faith was not a nice person. It turns out that she catfished people online (which they found out by downloading a copy of her hard drive). One of her victims is Oscar Fenton, Dylan’s father. This is not good news for Dylan. Michelle with help from her friends sets out to get answers. One problem is her brother, Leo. Leo’s PTSD and depression have returned since a car accident (his girlfriend, Star was with him). Leo is being irrational (and a little nutting) and has taken to following Michelle (and then reporting her to the police). Michelle needs to make sure he is taking his medication and seeing his counselor. Leo is not helping Michelle’s inquiries. In addition, Michelle is busy helping prepare for the West Riverdale Halloween Festival. They are helping the Boys and Girls Club with their haunted house (it sounds delightfully spooky). It is a busy time for Michelle, but she will not let an innocent kid go to jail. Will Michelle be able to find Faith Monette’s real killer before Dylan gets hauled out of the zombie jail and into the police station? Behind Chocolate Bars has some good writing, but I thought there was too much going on in the book. There are so many characters that it hard to keep them all straight (I stuck to the main ones). We get to follow Michelle as she investigates every single lead. She checks out all the various men Faith catfished, her friends, neighbors, enemies, etc. We also have Reese Everhard, the idiotic town reporter/blogger, who I would have liked to put on a catapult and send her to the next county. I do not believe ever heard of journalistic ethics (or checking her facts). The killer was expected (aka predictable) which was disappointing. I kept wanting a twist that would leave me gasping with surprise (and shock). I give Behind Chocolate Bars 3 out of 5 stars (it was okay). The characters just seemed to jump from one situation to another (too much going on) leaving the novel with a lack of flow. The readers are subjected to many chocolate descriptions in the book as Michelle makes the delectable delights for the shop. I would have preferred more time spent on the mystery. I also did not like the addition of Leo and his troubles (PTSD). It was not needed in this book. It seemed like the situation was added as an afterthought. While Behind Chocolate Bars is the third book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone novel. I am not sure if I will read the next book in the series. It depends on the content.
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