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When Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina complete with free cooking lessons at the town’s seaside chocolate shop, the Chocolate Box, she’s immediately skeptical. She never entered the contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize—only to end up drowned in a vat of chocolate.

Struck with guilt, Penn heads to the southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. But as wary as she is of the locals, she finds herself lured into their eccentric vibe, letting her defenses melt away and even learning the art of crafting delicious chocolates. That is, until delight turns bittersweet as she steps straight into the midst of a deadly plot to destroy the seaside town. Now, only Penn’s quick thinking and a mysterious cask of rare chocolate can save the town she’s learning to love.

Dorothy St. James, author of the The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries, recently spoke with The Big Thrill about her latest release, ASKING FOR TRUFFLE:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope readers will not only be entertained by the mystery taking place in the book, but will also enjoy the suspense aspects. Along the way, the readers might learn a little about where chocolates are grown and the process of using the cacao seeds for making chocolate. And perhaps they’d also learn to see beauty in the simple aspects of life. Shiny and new doesn’t always mean better.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

ASKING FOR TRUFFLE pushes boundaries of the cozy mystery genre by featuring a sleuth who is grittier than the usual heroine. She is angry and unhappy about the events that led her to come to this beach town and isn’t afraid to show it. It’s also a cozy mystery with a healthy dose of suspense and danger.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Reading Elizabeth Peters, a master at mystery and suspense, has fueled my love of the mystery genre. Her stories, which are equal parts adventures and mysteries, have influenced how I go about crafting my traditional mysteries. Her books keep the reader on the edge of her seat while also being funny. I love that!


Dorothy St. James, known for the White House Gardener Mystery series, is going back to her roots and setting a mystery series in a Southern beach town much like the one she’s called home for the past 20 years. The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries combine her love of fine chocolates, quirky Southern charm, with a dash of danger. ASKING FOR TRUFFLE hits bookstore shelves September 2017.

To learn more about Dorothy, please visit her website.