A STUDY IN CHOCOLATE
Bean to Bar Mysteries Book 5
Cozy Culinary Mystery / Women Sleuths / Romance
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: January 27, 2023
Number of Pages: 260 pages
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Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand is expanding, as it has become a gathering spot for the community, despite having been the scene of multiple murders. Artists she met while doing a chocolate sculpture are now working out of the shop. So when Felicity is invited to tea by an eccentric art collector, she’s intrigued, especially when she gets asked to pose for a portrait done with chocolate on chocolate. Only, where there is a murder the next day at the same historic house where the tea was held, one of Felicity’s artist friends becomes the main suspect.
When the killer threatens that unless Felicity unravels the murder, one of her two love interests will be the next victim, she finds herself unwittingly at the center of a puzzle with a Sherlock Holmes-obsessed murderer who wants to be the next Moriarty – and wants to cast Felicity as Sherlock.
Felicity starts finding unexpected connections between her friends and acquaintances and must deal with the idea that someone who knows her is a murderer. At the same time, she has to keep her business running, despite construction dust and unruly customers – and an unexpected order for thousands of truffles.
Satchmo the retired police-dog-turned-therapy dog returns to help her sniff out a few clues, and the kidnapping of Ruffles, the quirky artist’s cat, helps lead Felicity into the puzzle. Can Felicity solve it in time to protect the people she cares about from becoming additional victims?
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We Visited a Cacao Farm
Before I started writing the Bean to Bar Mysteries, I wrote a space-opera trilogy that supposed that chocolate was the most important thing Earth had to offer a hungry universe. (The Chocoverse Trilogy, Angry Robot Books.) While researching those books, my husband and I visited cacao plantations in The Dominican Republic, Mexico, and several other places, as well as chocolatiers and chocolate makers in every city we had an opportunity to visit. I learned so much – when I decided to do a cozy mystery series, having a craft chocolate maker sleuth was the obvious choice.
Jake and I still enjoy learning about chocolate and visiting with cacao farmers and chocolate professionals. On a recent trip to Hawaii, we were able to visit several cacao farms. One of them was 21 Degrees Estate, on Oahu. Cacao is supposed to grow in the band between 20 Degrees North and South of the Equator. So the very fact that cacao is thriving in Hawaii – which is located at 21 Degrees – is pretty special.
It rains most days in Hawaii. We came prepared with umbrellas, for the inevitable sudden shower!
We got to explore the plantation a bit.
Cacao trees are understory plants, so they were growing in with taller trees and other fruits. Lots of hibiscus and starfruit!
Jake is standing next to a cacao tree with large leaves. Look at how huge these leaves can get!
Cacao grows at different stages at the same time. Here is a tree with flowers and cherelles (immature cacao pods). It is growing near trees with mature pods.
Here’s a close-up. Not all cherelles make it to mature pods, so it’s not uncommon to see some that have withered. The tree is still healthy.
This is a mature pod. You can’t necessarily tell by the color – a given tree may produce mature pods that are red, yellow, green, or shades in between. It’s all about knowing what is usual for that specific tree.
Here, the cacao beans are drying. (We didn’t get pics of the fermentation process this time. It’s okay – fermentation is the messy-looking part of the process. But it has to happen for the beans to develop the flavors we associate with chocolate. After that, the beans are dried, then shipped for processing.)
This is a bar of the finished chocolate. The beans would have been sent to a roastery, processed into chocolate and packaged, before being returned to the farm for on-site sales. More and more chocolate is being processed in the same area where it is grown.
I hoped you enjoyed this scrapbook of our visit to a cacao farm!
Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: A Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach.
Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
Signed copy of A Study in Chocolate +
a chocolate bar from French Broad Chocolate.
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 3/10/23)
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