“What an interesting
coincidence,” Ellie added under her breath.
“No Kidding.” If the
hairs on the back of my neck had hairs of their own,
they’d have been
bristling too. Because as far as I’m concerned, coincidence is right
up there with the
Tooth Fairy, benevolent dictatorships, and the
all-you-can-eat buffet in the believability department.
Sarah Graves, Death by
Malted Milkshake, Kindle Loc. 1547
island fishing village of Eastport, Maine, has plenty of salty local character.
It also has a sweet side, thanks to Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree, her best friend
Ellie, and their waterfront bake shop, The Chocolate Moose. But when island
life is disrupted by the occasional killer, Jake and Ellie put their chocolate
treats aside to make sure justice is served.
This summer, Eastport’s favorite lovebirds, kindergarten teacher Sharon
Sweetwater and Coast Guard Captain Andy Devine, are getting married. The gala
reception is sure to be the fête of the season, especially with a
wedding-cake-sized whoopie pie courtesy of The Chocolate Moose. For Jake and
Ellie, the custom-ordered confection will finally reel in some much-needed
profits. But the celebratory air, and sweet smell of success, are ruined by
When Sharon’s bitter ex-boyfriend Toby is poisoned with an arsenic-laced
milkshake, Andy is jailed as the prime suspect and the wedding is cancelled,
whoopie pie and all. Then Sharon makes a shocking confession—one that sounds
like a fishy attempt to get Andy off the hook. Now both the bride and groom are
behind bars. And with the fate of The Chocolate Moose at stake, it’s up to Jake
and Ellie to catch a poisonous predator before someone else sips their last
Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake is the second book in the Death by Chocolate mystery
series. I felt very at home reading this book. Normally, I hate to miss the
first book in the series, but even so I enjoyed it. But start with the first
book, Death by Chocolate Cherry
One of the reasons the book felt
familiar, like home to me, is the setting. I live on Hatteras Island, NC. Like
Eastport, ME, Hatteras is dependent on summer tourist dollars to support its
economy. Many of the homes aren’t in the best shape due to the harsh marine
environment, also the case in Eastport evidently. And the town population
shrinks during the off season.
Another reason I liked this book
was main character Jake Tiptree. Jake isn’t a typical cozy heroine. Her
background is a bit sketchy. She’s worked for the mob in creative accounting.
Her father likes to blow stuff up. She has four generations living in her one
house. Sarah Graves has created a situation in which just living her life, Jake
is under pressure. Top that off with a failing business and murder—it’s a winning
and complex basis for amateur sleuths.
Please welcome Sarah Graves
to WWK. E. B. Davis
What are the complications of
writing a series in not only a real place, but one where you live?
I don’t put
real people into my books, and I don’t put dead bodies into real houses other
than my own. That seems to cover the two major complications I can think of, or
anyway it’s worked so far. The real Eastport is actually a main character in
the books: its beauty and charm, but also its remoteness and its dangers. It’s
that combination that creates tension, I think.
What’s the population of
We have around 1100 or so people year-round, but that goes
up a lot in the summer when the weather is so perfect. Between January and
April it’s pretty quiet around here!
Is Tiptree a Native American
It’s not, actually. I chose it because I couldn’t find
anyone whose last name it really was, except for the writer James Tiptree, Jr.,
whom I admire very much.
What is Moxie?
Moxie is a bitterish soft drink invented in the late 1800s
and first called Moxie Nerve Food. It was invented by a Mainer, and in 2005 it
became the official soft drink of Maine. But have I mentioned that it is
bitter? You’ll either love it or hate it, I suspect.
Jake is a grandmother. Ellie’s
daughter is still in school. How much older is Jake?
Jake was a very young
mother, so she’s not a lot older than Ellie, who didn’t give in and marry
George for quite a long time.
I was surprised the engaged
couple wanted a Whoopie Pie wedding cake because I think of them as Amish. Are Whoopie
Pies popular in Maine?
Oh, yes, they’ve been making them here for a hundred years
and the Whoopie Pie is actually the official Maine state treat! As opposed to
blueberry pie, which is the official dessert...
so can a blueberry-cream filled chocolate whoopie pie be far behind? I
Throughout the book, Jake
advises the reader about recipes and baking within the story. Why did you decide
to include this insight and perspective?
It seemed natural to me that Jake would be making these
comments, since the whole baking thing is somewhat new to her and thus she’d be
thinking about them rather than just doing them automatically out of habit. Also,
in mysteries about art we get art details and in horse racing mysteries we get
horsey details, so why not the same for baking?
Jenna’s an interesting
character. She seems mean and yet she evokes sympathy. Why?
Oh, because she’s so miserable at heart. I mean, I guess
some people are mean deliberately, but it’s obvious that she’s in pain and
lashing out on account of it. Also, the way Jake and Ellie and Bella react to
Jenna gives us a hint as to how we might want to react, too.
Although Mika is a violinist,
she works at the chocolate shop. Is she trying to substitute baking for music
to adapt to the local economy?
I think right now Mika’s just trying to find her way in this
new family of hers, and she’s got this useful talent that she can help out
with, so she does. You’re right, though,
that moving to Eastport means adapting to the local economy and finding a way
to thrive in it, because jobs a person can live on are even scarcer way out
here than they are everywhere else.
Jake is more of the lead
investigator, thinking and asking questions about the case. What does Ellie
contribute to the team?
Ellie has a truly ridiculous amount of energy and nerve, as
well as a lot of information about local history and local people – information
that may hold the key to someone’s motive, for instance. Also she’s got a lot
of heart, which inspires Jake, and she’s completely on Jake’s side, the kind of
friend I think we all either feel grateful for, or wish for.
What’s a clam hod?
A clam hod is a slat-bottomed wooden basket with a handle,
used by clam diggers to hold the clams they’ve dug.
Jacob, Jake’s dad, has had a
heart attack. At what point does protecting him become dominating him? How does
he deal with Bella and Jake’s behavior?
Yes, that’s the question, all right. They want to do their
best for him, but that’s not always what is
best for him. He deals with their behavior in his usual stubborn way, by
rebelling against it – but that doesn’t mean he’s not listening to them. It just means that when he knows he’s right,
he behaves accordingly and lets other people come around to his way of thinking
in their own good time.
Is Pleasant Point a real place?
Yes! Pleasant Point is the Passamaquoddy tribe’s nearby
reservation, home to about 700 people.
What other series do you write?
None right now, but Jake and Ellie had a previous series,
also set in Eastport, called the Home Repair is Homicide series. The first one
was The Dead Cat Bounce, and if you
like the Death by Chocolate books you might like the Homicide series, too.
What’s next for Jake and Ellie?
Oh, they’re busy! Right now they’re making chocolate frosted
doughnuts, so you can guess what the title of their next adventure will be.
Other than that, all I can say is that it involves boat rescues, cannon
explosions, a guy with a cutlass through his heart and a stuffed parrot on his
shoulder, and the best chocolate mint cookie you ever tasted in your life. I can’t wait to learn how it all turns out!