The second in the Corinna Chapman mystery series, Heavenly Pleasures, is about Corinna’s nearby store neighbor, a chocolaterie of the same name as the title. Corinna and her boyfriend, Daniel, are surprised when Corinna finds herself spitting gifted chocolates into her sink — because someone has removed the cream with a needle and injected hot sauce. Daniel is hired as a private detective to install security cameras and monitor the business. All this drama is right on the heels of the first novel, Earthly Delights. In fact, only one month has passed since the first page of that first book.
Once again, Greenwood uses multiple mysteries instead of creating one strong enigma. Prior to the hot sauce debacle, Daniel had been hired to find a missing girl who was kidnapped and held in a cult by “Darren the God boy.” Corinna, Daniel, and their friend Sister Mary visit this man in prison, and all I could wonder was how three randos got through prison security to speak with a polygamist criminal abusing women and girls. No background checks, no screenings, not on the visitor’s list? Who do they think they are? Perhaps prisons are open like post offices in Melbourne?
While Daniel works on a third mystery, a girl who worked for Heavenly Pleasures but has run away from home, Corinna goes to question the employees of the chocolate shop. Daniel has not asked her, she did not set up an appointment with them; she simply showed up and asked things that she thought a detective would without permission or prompting. Frustratingly, part of her character is she hates being part of mysteries, so why does she get involved voluntarily? Other mysteries thrown in: reclusive new neighbor, hush-hush detective, and missing kitten.
What really prevented me from enjoying Heavenly Pleasures — which I chose to DNF 122 pages in, by the way — was how Corinna reintroduced every character and mystery from the first novel to readers. I was one-hundred pages in and she was still repeating who was who. There was so much repetition that I started to feel like I was getting the Cliff’s notes from Earthly Delights. Had the characters been further developed, I would have forgiven the flaws.
Except Corinna follows the same routine: wake up at 4:00AM, feed her in-door cat, make coffee, remind us she doesn’t speak until she’s three cups in, pick up the dead rats and mice her outdoor cats killed and feed them, let them out so they can get scraps from the sushi restaurant nearby, let her apprentice in, open the door and remark on the silence of Melbourne at 6:00AM, realize she’s on her third cup and open the bakery, misidentify her sales clerk because there are two of them and they’re both thin, and then sell out of bread.
This routine happens so many times between Earthly Delights and Heavenly Pleasures that I didn’t even have to look at notes or the novels to remind myself. And in all that, where is Corinna’s passion? She never talks like a baker: bread smells, good crumb, cutting and distributing fruits and nuts into the bread, crisp crusts, etc. Mostly, she complains that a regular customer orders gluten-free bread daily. She says she doesn’t care if they eat it, she cares if they buy it. She’s not wrong about the importance of paying customers . . . but I’m having a hard time buying her love of bread.
For me, the flaws of the first Corinna Chapman mystery were repeated and exacerbated in Heavenly Pleasures, and so I gave up, uninterested, overwhelmed by the number of characters named, and caring little about who injected chili sauce into gourmet chocolates, which creeps more into cozy mystery territory than I’m comfortable with. I won’t be finishing this seven-book series after all.