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    Great first book in the Chef-to-Go Mystery series

    TART OF DARKNESS by Denise Swanson is the first book in the Chef-to-Go Mystery series. It’s a series that is centered around Danielle Sloan, who goes by Dani. In this first book, we learn about how she resigned from her HR job for Homestead Insurance Company and broke up with her boyfriend Dr. Kipp “Dr. McCreepy” Newson and is trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life, which she knows is bound to show her demanding and absent father what a loser she is by foregoing her college education. Dani finds out via a registered letter that a lifelong friend and fellow Alpha Signa Alpha sorority sister of her deceased Grandmother, Geraldine Cook, had left her a house close to the college in Normalton, IL in her will. The house had been mostly renovated for a B&B with a completely updated commercial kitchen. Dani decided that it was a sign for her to fulfill her lifelong dream – to cook and feed the world, well at least her small portion of it. She opens Chef-to-Go catering and fixes ready-made lunch meals. Plus instead of operating a B&B to total strangers, she opens up the renovated bedrooms suites to three college students – Ivy Drake, that lived across from her in her last place and who she felt like an older sister to, and her old roommates, Tippi Epstein and Starr Fleming – on the condition that they donate some of their time in helping with Chef-to-Go as well as paying rent. All seems to be going great (other than she’s never told her father she’s not working at the insurance firm or in HR any longer) until right after her first catering job for Regina Bourne’s SummerPalooza the hostess was found dead. Detective Mikeloff shows up on Dani’s doorstep ready to railroad her for the murder. Seems he has a vendetta that he might settle by framing Dani. Dani relies on Spencer Drake, Ivy’s uncle, to help prove her innocence by helping her figure out who the real murderer is. Along the way, there is this high energy between Dani and Spencer, but both have vowed off dating because of just coming out of bad relationships. Added along the way, Dani’s ex shows up demanding a book he had gifted to her while they were together that is still packed away from her recent move and her house was burglarized (which me never do find out who that villain was). To me the book was well written and thought out. I enjoyed that I didn’t figure out whodunit until about the same time Dani figured it out. The one minus I had was with the electricity between Dani and Spencer I was hoping that some smidgen of relationship might have formed or at least been hinted to. I’m hoping that they will be in situations in the upcoming books in the series to quench the desire for them to get together. TART OF DARKNESS is definitely a book that can be read as a standalone, but if you are like me, you will be on the watch for the next book in this series with great anticipation. I would recommend this book to anyone that loves mystery cozies or just a good book in general.
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    Good Read

    I would recommend this book for readers of Denise Swanson's Scumble River mysteries. Several characters from that series are either mentioned or play a role in this book and it helps to know their history. This story was good, not can't put it down good, but good. The ending was more real life than a lot of books I have read. I am very glad I purchased and read this book and I think you will be too.
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    First novel in Chef-to-Go Mysteries

    Tart of Darkness by Denise Swanson is the first book in Chef-to-Go Mysteries. Danielle “Dani” 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 passion—cooking. 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 “instant” (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 cliché nasty detective and repetitiveness (especially of the phrase “ass hat”). 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 murder—get 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.
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