This month, as part of my on-going series highlighting the most popular and recommended Cozy mystery series, I’ll be discussing another relatively newer series, Nancy Coco‘s Candy-Coated Mystery Series. Specifically, I’ll be discussing the first book in the series, All Fudged Up.
As is so often the case in Cozies, the series begins with a girl coming home to her small town after getting fed up with big city living. Well… this time, it’s actually more like a long-planned return, as Allie McMurphy has been studying in the big city to earn both a cooking degree and a degree in hotel management so she can take over the old family business, in this case an old run down hotel and fudge shop in Mackinac Island, Michigan, in Lake Huron. Allie may not have been raised on the island, as her father wanted nothing to do with the old family business or small town living, but Allie had spent large parts of her childhood there and fallen in love with both the hotel and community.
Unfortunately, the return is a bittersweet one. She had originally planned to learn from her grandfather over the course of months if not years, as he relaxed in semi-retirement as she took over the business. However, just a few months after her arrival, he suffered from a fatal heart attack. Still, Allie is determined to stay on, despite most of the locals assuming that she’ll be running back to the mainland soon enough.
The book doesn’t start there, though. Instead, it does what more Cozies could probably stand to do, and begins right from the beginning with a dead body – in this case, the dead body of one of Allie’s rival hotel owners she locates in one of her storage rooms. The deceased was also a very beloved member of the community, and increasing questioning from the community if Allie had something to do with his death further increase Allie’s woes regarding her tight schedule to renovate the hotel before the beginning of the busy tourist season.
One interesting thing about All Fudged Up is that Allie doesn’t seem to consider solving the murder the first and foremost thing on her mind for most of the novel. Indeed, it often feels like she’s actually… assuming that the police will catch the killer! As a result, she does spend significantly less time sleuthing out the murder than is often the case in Cozies, and instead more of the novel seems to focus on her efforts to both deal with her hotel’s renovations as well as deal with the community of Mackinac. And as is usually the case in more modern Cozies, there are a number of potential romance interests involved in the case in one way or another.
Though this series may be the only mystery series under the name Nancy Coco, Coco also writes several others under different pseudonyms. Under the names Nancy J. Parra, she writes the Wine Country Mystery Series, starring the owner of a family winery in Sonoma, California, the Baker’s Treat Mystery Series, starring a gluten-free baker in Kansas, and the Perfect Proposals Mystery Series, starring an event planner specializing in proposals. She also writes the Kensington Palace Chef Mystery Series starring a personal chef to the royal family under the name Nell Hampton.
PS: For those who may be swayed by this sort of fact (and I know there are plenty of you out there!), this series does in fact include a number of recipes, all of them fudge in consideration of the novel’s theme.