Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Book Review - Fudge Bites

Fudge Bites (Candy-Coated Mysteries #7)
Author:  Nancy Coco
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Publication Date:  October 01, 2019
3 Stars

It’s Halloween time on Mackinac Island which means it’s time for the zombie walk, an annual charity event.  Allie, the owner of the McMurphy Hotel, is dressed and ready to go when her friend, Liz, suggests they go find a costume for Allie’s dog.  On the way back from the store, the ladies take a shortcut and cut through an alley.  They run into Allie’s cat, and they can’t help but notice that her paws are covered in blood.  The next thing they know, they hear a scream, and they follow it until they meet Sophie.  Sophie is very distressed, and believes that she has found a dead body.  The dead body turns out to be that of Anthony, the son of Maggs who works at the local drugstore.  As the police try and figure out who killed Anthony, Allie discovers that someone else in town was dressed almost exactly like Anthony the night he was murdered.  Allie begins to wonder if Anthony was truly the intended victim, or was this a case of mistaken identity?  Allie would like to get to the bottom of this, and the townspeople are behind her.

Many other reviewers have said that this book could be read as a stand alone outside of the series.  I found it hard to completely understand the characters though without some more background information.  For instance, both Allie’s friend and boyfriend have moved away, but it was hard to appreciate that loss without knowing what these relationships had been like.  Having said that, Allie seems like a very likable character, and she fits in well with the setting.  I would like to go back and read the other books in the series to get a real feel for her and the other recurring characters.

This book is a great mystery that is filled to the brim with lots of action.  There is so much going on in this story.  There are plenty of twists and turns which put not only Allie in danger, but the town’s senior citizens as well.  The killer is very crafty and hard to pin down.  I was guessing all the way until the end.

There are also some great recipes embedded within the story.  My favorite sounding is the butterscotch fudge.  I can’t wait to try it.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #FudgeBites

Monday, October 21, 2019

Book Review - Carpet Diem

Carpet Diem
Author:  Misty Simon
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
4 Stars

Tallie Graver’s cleaning business has grown to the point that she now has a cleaning crew working for her.  This has allowed her to take on more and bigger jobs.  When a large job becomes available, Tallie knows that her and her crew are up to the task.  This job involves cleaning a mansion for Mrs. Petrovski, a very rich but condescending member of the elite community.  Tallie will not just be given this job though.  She has to compete for it against the new girl in town, Audra.  Tallie has her work cut out for her because it turns out that the mansion job is even bigger than she imagined, and she is butting heads with Mrs. Petrovski’s nephew, who doesn’t seem to want her to win the contract.  Thanks in part to his sabotaging, Tallie loses the contract.  She returns later that night to get some of her cleaning supplies she has left behind.  What she finds when she gets there though is Audra’s body in the dumpster.  Tallie decides she must find out who killed Audra because she was just starting to call Audra a friend.  Tallie’s determination is clear when she says, “I’m in full amateur-sleuth mode at the moment.  Perpetrators, watch out!”

Each book in this series gets better and better.  I believe that one of the reasons for this is the excellent character development.  Throughout the series, Tallie grows personally and professionally.  Personally, I feel like she comes into her own in this installment.  She no longer feels like just Waldo’s ex-wife, and a fallen from the upper echelon victim.  She is comfortable with who she and where she is at.  She even begins to realize she has gained some respect in the community.  Her relationship with Burton really changes in this story.  Tallie becomes aware that she was stepping on Burton’s toes, and while she really wants to help, she doesn’t want to do that anymore.  Burton in turn comes to realize that Tallie is able to bring helpful information to the table.  Tallie’s relationship with Max also changes, but I’ll let you read the novel to see what’s in store with these two.

The mystery itself is well crafted.  The author is very skillful in that nothing seems to be exactly how it first appears. With the pieces seeming to constantly change shape, Tallie is kept on her toes while trying to piece this puzzle together.  While clues are sprinkled throughout the novel, they are cleverly murky and leave the reader just as puzzled as Tallie.  The mystery keeps you guessing all the way until the end.  The ending is very gratifying.

This is a fun, page-turning mystery that cozy mystery readers will love.  While the book could be read as a stand alone novel, I think reading the previous books will give you a better take on the characters.  I’m hoping there will be another book in this series.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Book for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #CarpetDiem

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Book Review - Murder in the Corn Maze

Murder in the Corn Maze (A Granny Reid Mystery #2)
Author:  G. A. McKevett
Publisher:   Kensington Books
Publication Date:  September 24, 2019
4 Stars

Stella Reid has been granted custody of her seven grandchildren, and she is now raising them by herself.  The family doesn’t have a lot of money, but they find a way to not only make things work, but enjoy life at the same time.  It’s Halloween time in McGill, Georgia, and the kids decide they want to participate in the local parade.  The kids make all of their own costumes and have a great time.  

After the parade, there is a corn maze that the local judge has created at his sprawling mansion property.  Stella would love to take her grandkids, but the cost is prohibitive.  Luckily, Stella’s good friend, Elsie Dingle, comes to the rescue.  She works out a deal with the judge so the kids can get in free.  Most of the kids back out, however, because they are too scared to go.  It ends up just being Stella and Savannah and Waycross.  Somewhere along the maze, they seem to have taken a wrong turn, and end up in a part of the corn maze all by themselves.  Savannah decides to scope things out to try and get them back out.  Instead of finding a way out, Savannah discovers a dead body.

Stella immediately recognizes the barrette in the victim’s hair and the dress the woman is wearing.  Stella is in shock, and she is not sure how she will break the news to the victim’s daughter.  What haunts Stella even more though is the discovery of other clues that are identical to her own mother’s death when she was just a child.  Stella and Savannah are determined to help the sheriff get to the bottom of these crimes.  They are so old though, will the threesome be able to solve the case?  Will Stella finally get some closure regarding her own mother’s death?

Granny Reid (Stella) is back in the second book of this cozy series.  It is a prequel to the Savannah Reid mystery series.  I’ve not read the Savannah Reid series yet (though they are definitely in my TBR pile), and I’ve found that they are not a prerequisite for enjoying this series.  I loved the second book in this series.  This book is filled with many great and lovable characters.  This of course includes the seven Reid grandchildren.  All of them have very unique and defining personalities.  Marietta in particular is a very colorful character.  Savannah, who is featured prominently, comes into her own in this book.  She takes a chance and dives right into something she is interested in, detective work.  I enjoyed the fact that the adults didn’t dismiss her simply because she is a youngin.  Elsie Dingle, Stella’s best friend and Sheriff Manny are back as well.  Both provide love and support to Stella, and she in return to them.  They are beautiful relationships that are wonderfully written.

This story is not quite as humorous as the first book (though there are still many funny moments), but that is because of the very deep, personal relationships to the victims the main characters have.  There are also some very serious themes intwined in the story.  The plot is riveting, deep, and takes twists and turns that you don’t see coming.  It was a very enjoyable book that I can highly recommend.

I hope there is a third book in this series as I’d like to see what happens to the main characters next.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #MurderInTheCornMaze

Friday, October 4, 2019

Book Review - The Body in the Gravel

The Body in the Gravel
Author:  Judi Lynn
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Publication Date:  September 24, 2019
4 Stars

Jazzi Zanders, along with her fiancé Ansel and her cousin Jared have taken on their biggest house flipping project to date.  It’s a huge project for them that encompasses an incredible amount of work both inside and outside the house.  One of the outside projects involves some cement work.  They hire a man called Darby, whom they have worked with since they first started their business, to do the work.  While waiting for Darby to show up to pour some concrete for a corner of the foundation of the house, a friend of theirs, Thane, shows up to take a look at the furnace in the house.  Darby shows up shortly after to pour the concrete.  After his job is done, Darby walks into the house, and the next thing the trio hears are loud voices coming from the basement.  Darcy and Thane are going at each other.  It seems that Thane believes that Darby had killed his wife, Rose, and his son, Walker, who happens to have been Thane’s best friend.  Darby storms off and says not to call him back if Thane is going to be there.

One of their next projects is the driveway.  It needs to be ripped up, a new layer of gravel laid, and then new concrete.  The flippers call on Darby again who agrees to help.  Darby never shows up with the gravel though.  Jazzi calls him, but instead reaches one of his employees, Earl, who says that Darby hasn’t been in all day.  Earl said their gravel was already loaded, and he would come out to deliver it.  Once Earl stars dumping the gravel though, a body falls out.  The four onlookers see that the body is Darby’s.  Jazzi calls her detective friend, Gaff, to check things out.  Thane becomes Gaff’s first suspect because of the argument the two had. Jazzi knows that Thane is not guilty and decides to help clear his name.  As the investigation continues, it becomes apparent that Darby was a very mean spirited old man, who upset a lot of people, and the suspect list grows and grows.  Jazzi doesn’t want to believe that most of the people on the list could be capable of murder so she continues to help Gaff.  

I love, love, love this series!  The mysteries in all three books have been spectacular!  They are each fun, unique, and great whodunnits.  The characters are all so well written, that like Jazzi you become fond of so many of them that you don’t want to believe they are capable of murder.  

Like I said in my review of the previous book, The Body in the Wetlands, Jazzi is a great character who is the total package.  In addition to cooking large family meals, spending time with her fiancé, and helping to solve a murder, Jazzi is taking on her largest flipping project to date.  On top of that, she and Ansel are taking on their own biggest personal project, their wedding.  They are doing all their own planning and most of the prepping for the wedding. It is a huge undertaking!  To make the process even more stressful, Ansel’s family has shown interest in coming to the wedding.  Will Jazzi be able to pull the wedding off while being pulled in so many other directions? 

I also really enjoy the working relationship between Gaff and Jazzi in this cozy mystery.  I think it is a very unique law enforcement/civilian relationship.  Gaff has a lot of respect for Jazzi, and has really grown to depend on her.  She is sort of become his people liaison.  In turn, Jazzi has a lot of respect for Gaff both as a detective and as a family man.

This book could easily be read as a stand alone story because the author does a great job of catching the reader up.  However, why would you want to do that to yourself, when there are two other great books out there?  Grab the first book, your favorite beverage, cuddle up, and dig in.  Then work your way through all three books.  You won’t be disappointed!

I’m super excited that there is already a fourth book, The Body in the Apartment, in the works.  It has a projected release date of March 17, 2020.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TheBodyInTheGravel #KensingtonBooks

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Book Review - Death in Focus

Death in Focus (Elena Standish #1)
Author:  Anne Perry
Publisher:  Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Publication Date:   September 17, 2019
4 Stars

World War I has drawn to a close, and Europe is still hopeful that this “Great War” will be the war to end all wars.  However, at this time, there are already rumblings that things are not ok, and peace is not safe.

After a terrible romantic involvement with a man who would become a traitor to his country, Elena Standish decides to focus on her photography.  Her photography takes her to Italy to photograph an economic conference. Although not looking for a male companion, she finds one in a man named Ian Newton.  They seem to hit it off immediately, and they become even closer after they both stumble upon a dead body.  Ian tells Elena he needs to go to Paris and invites Elena to go with him. Elena accepts his invitation, and the two take off immediately.  While on board the train, Ian goes to get tea, but he never returns.  Elena goes in search of him and finds him crumpled over in one of the other train compartments.  He had been stabbed in the chest and is bleeding to death.  As much as Elena wants to help him, there isn’t anything she can do to stop the bleeding.  In a different way though Elena is given a chance to help.  Before he dies, Ian tells Elena that he is a part of the British military intelligence.  He has information that he needs Elena to carry on for him.  He tells her she must get to the British Embassy in Germany and warn Roger Cordell that Friedrich Scharnhorst is slated to be assassinated. Ian believes that Scharnhorst is a vile man, but he does not want to see England implicated in his death.  Elena rushes to the embassy and warns Cordell of the impending assassination.  Then she attends the rally where Scharnhorst is to be speaking in order to capture pictures of the event.  Scharnhorst is indeed shot, and when Elena gets back to her room she finds a recently fired gun in her closet.  At that point she knows she is being framed, and she goes on the run.  Elena is not sure who to turn to or who to trust.

This was a great thriller/mystery novel.    Elena is a great main character.  She is thought of as one of the weaker members of her family, but shows great strength throughout the novel. A lot of times in a series it takes a few books before we see a major change in our main character.  However, Elena’s first hand view of Germany and Hitler’s growing influence really help transform her.  Elena’s whole family sounds intriguing and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in future novels.  Perry’s attention to historical details moves the reader as well, reminding us of a terrible series of events that eventually lead to WWII.

If you enjoy Anne Perry’s Monk or Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, I think you will enjoy this book.  It has a great historical setting, a gripping plot, and adventurous characters.

Thanks to Net Galley and Random House Publishing - Ballantine for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #DeathInFocus

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Book Review - Malice at the Palace

Malice at the Palace
Author:  Rhys Bowen
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  August 4, 2015
4 Stars

Georgie finds herself once again trying to decide what to do about money and a place to stay.  Once again, the queen steps in at just the right time to give Georgie an assignment.  This time, Prince George is getting married, and the queen wants Georgie to look after and entertain his future bride, Princess Marina of Greece.    Georgie is unsure of the hot reputable spots in town to take Marina so she consults with her friend Belinda, who seems out of sorts.  Georgie and Belinda seem to come up with a suitable plan.  The first night after Marina’s arrival, the royal family hosts a dinner at Buckingham Palace to introduce Marina to the family.  After dinner, Marina and Georgie return to Kensington Palace where they are staying.  Later that night, however, Georgie sees a light in the courtyard and goes to investigate.  When she arrives there she finds a body in the courtyard.  The victim, Bobo Carrington, was a girl who got around town with the rich and famous, so there were many suspects.  Prince George was one of those former lovers so he too is considered a suspect.  Since the Prince is a suspect, the palace wants to keep the investigation as quiet as possible.  Because Georgie has access to the royal family, she has been asked to help with the investigation.  During the investigation, Darcy’s name is brought up, and that opened up a whole other can of worms.  Georgie finds herself wrestling with Darcy’s involvement in the case.  While Georgie struggles to makes heads or tails of this case, she does come up with pretty significant clues that the police miss.  Georgie methodically puts the clues together to solve the puzzle.

I absolutely adore this series, and this one was just as fun as many of the others.  Georgie doesn’t find herself in as many sticky and funny situation in this book, but we have another player who provides plenty of comic relief.  Countess Irmtraut, Marian’s cousin, is a stuffy character  who provides plenty of comic relief.  She takes everything so literally, that you can’t help but giggle.  Queenie of course is still around, and she is still entertaining with her many gaffes. Belinda appears in this novel as well, but is certainly not acting like herself.  Her storyline definitely ends in a cliffhanger.  There is also still a will they or won’t they get married element between Georgie and Darcy.  Once again, we will have to wait for the next book to see what is in store for them.  Georgie’s mother only makes an appearance by conversation, and Georgie’s brother and his wife make a brief appearance at the beginning of the book.  Long enough for Fig to insult Georgie, and then to be jealous of the assignment the Queen gives her.  Most of the other characters are new players, or small players from previous novels.  Many of the new characters that play prominent roles in this novel are based on real life characters.  Some of these people’s lives are explained at the end of the novel.  My only complaint about this particular installment of the series is how the crime is wrapped up, and it is the only reason I’m not giving this book a 5 star rating.  I won’t say anything more about the ending because I don’t want to spoil it for others.

I listened to this book as an audio book read by Katherine Kellgren.  She does such an excellent job with all the voices.  You really feel like you are there with Georgie and friends.  Kellgren definitely gets at A+ for her performance.

#MaliceAtThePalace   #Berkley

Friday, September 13, 2019

Book Review - A Dream of Death

A Dream of Death
Author:  Connie Berry
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  April 9, 2019
5 Stars

Kate Hamilton had a strained relationship with her sister-in-law Elenor Spurgeon.  Among other things, Elenor blamed Kate for her brother’s (Kate’s husband’s) death.  Yet when Elenor called to say she was in trouble and had no one else to turn to, Kate decided to help her.  She left the antique shop she ran in Ohio in her mother’s hands and traveled to Glenroth, Scotland.  It was a tough trip for Kate because being in Glenroth again brought back harrowing memories as that is where her husband had died.  When Kate gets there, Elenor didn’t seem overly concerned and said she would explain everything after the Tartan Ball she was throwing.  Before Elenor had a chance to fill Kate in, however, Elenor winds up dead.  Kate finds herself immersed in this investigation as she feels a duty to find out what happened to Elenor, but also to clear the name of a dear friend who is the prime suspect.  As the investigation progresses, its seems more and more like Elenor’s death is tied to a two hundred year old murder mystery.  Can Kate find the link to the past and the present before it is too late?

When I read some of the first lines in this book, I knew I would enjoy the writing.  “Three years had passed since Bill’s death, and the veneer of coping I’d laid over my grief was as thin as eggshell porcelain and every bit as breakable.”  What beautiful and descriptive writing!  The rest of the book is filled with many other magnificently descriptive passages.  The writing was superb and made reading the book a real delight.

The author’s writing style is also accompanied by a first-rate mystery.  I was engrossed from beginning to end.  I loved how the author weaved together the two hundred year old story into the present day murder.  This connection opened the field of suspects and left me guessing all the way until the pivotal reveal.

The cast of characters was just as good as the plot itself.  I found myself enamored with Kate, cheering for some, concerned about others, and suspicious of many.

This was a great first in a series book, and I absolutely can’t wait to read the second book in the series.

Thanks to Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #CrookedLaneBooks #ADreamOfDeath

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Book Review - By Book or by Crook

By Book or by Crook (Lighthouse Library Mystery #1)
Author:  Eva Gates
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  February 3, 2015
4 Stars

Lucy Richardson has started a new job at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library.  The library was fortunate enough to be loaned a complete set of first edition Jane Austen novels for three months.  Jane Austen was one of Lucy’s idols so she is beyond ecstatic to actually see and touch these first editions.  The library is hosting a soirée to celebrate this temporary acquisition.  Lucy is excited to be there, but that excitement is somewhat tempered by the fact that Mr. Uppiton, the chair of the library board, has expressed his dislike for her and his desire to see her dismissed.  In the end, however, Mr. Uppiton’s night turned out much worse than Lucy’s.  He is found murdered on the private level of the library.  The head librarian, Bertie, becomes the main suspect, although, one of the detectives suspects Lucy as well.  The library suffers two more blows when two of the first edition Austen novels go missing.  There is talk of closing the library down.  Lucy knows they must solve Uppiton’s murder and find the missing books if they have any hope of saving the library.

By Book or by Crook is a great start to the Lighthouse Mystery series.  It’s a fun read in a really neat setting.  Some reviewers complained about the lack of reality in the setting, but I thought it was fun to just sit back and relax and dream about this beautiful lighthouse that is large enough to encase a full fledged library.

The mystery was intriguing, and we were reminded several times to think about who had the most to gain from the crimes.  There were plenty of potential suspects to keep the reader guessing.  The reader also had to decide if the crimes were related or if one was staged to cover the other up.  I liked that Lucy’s investigations seemed down to earth and not over the top.

I really liked the characters created for this book.  We have an eclectic collection of people who help to make a great story.  Some characters are easier to like than others, but that’s what keeps them so realistic.  Lucy has two possible love interests pop up in this book, and I’m not sure who I’m rooting for yet.  Book 2, here I come!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Book Review - Mulberry Mischief

Mulberry Mischief
Author: Sharon Farrow
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
5 Stars

Piper Lyall-Pierce, the wife of the town’s mayor, has organized a Halloween themed Harvest Health Fair.  Piper has lined up an exciting week’s worth of events including speakers, demonstrations, and collections of health related products and books.  One of the main attractions to the fair is the Sable family and their collection of best selling diet books and skin care products.  Piper even ropes Marlee into giving a presentation on the health benefits of berries.

Before the fair begins, however, the town’s eccentric hermit, who the townsfolk refer to as the Lake Lady, approaches Marlee for the first time.  She asks Marlee to supply her with enough mulberries to cover her whole house.  Marlee asks why she needs so many mulberries, and the Lake Lady replies that someone is trying to kill her, and she is trying to protect herself from danger.  Marlee agrees to order the mulberries and to personally deliver them when they arrive.

When Marlee goes to deliver the berries, the Lake Lady is no where to be seen.  Marlee knows how anxious she is to get the berries, and she becomes concerned by her absence.    She later returns with her boyfriend Kit who happens to be an investigative officer with the sheriff’s department.  There is still no sign of the Lake Lady, but they do find a man who has been shot through the heart with an arrow.

Marlee soon learns that the Lake Lady, is not who she thinks she is.  She has a mysterious and complicated past.  Marlee becomes intent on helping to locate her, and to get to the bottom of this murder, and another murder that happened over 20 years before.

This is the fourth book in the Berry Basket series, and the best one yet.  The author does such a great job with the characters.  You can’t help but cheer on the good guys and boo the bad guys (and maybe even throw some berries at them ).  Then there are those characters that you have to figure out what side of the fence they belong on.

The plot and mystery were excellent.  The story drew me in right away, and I immediately felt at home with the return of familiar characters.  Marlee finds more questions than answers as she begins to look into the mystery.  I found myself pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery as I read.  There are quite a few possible suspects, and I found myself jumping from one to the next, sure that I had finally figured out who had committed the crime(s).  The story is filled with unexpected twists and turns, and it has an exciting ending.

This is a great fall read!  There are also yummy recipes included at the end of the story.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #KensingtonBooks #MulberryMischief

Monday, August 26, 2019

Book Review - A Talent for Murder

A Talent for Murder (Agatha Christie #1)
Author:  Andrew Wilson
Publisher:  Atria Books
Publication Date:  July 11, 2017
3.5 Stars

In December 1926, Agatha Christie went missing for eleven days.  Once found, she seemed confused, and offered no explanation for her disappearance.  The cause of her disappearance and the persisting questions about what occurred during those days have left fans and historians looking for answers.  In this book, Andrew Wilson takes well known facts from the case and uses them as the backbone for his fictional account of what occurs during Christie’s missing days.  In doing so, he creates a very intriguing and mysterious insight into what might have happened.

This story starts with a bang, and Agatha Christie is almost immediately accosted by a doctor by the name of Kurs.  He tries to blackmail Agatha by threatening to expose her husband’s affair and her brother’s alcohol and drug addictions.  He tells her, “the newspapers would be very interested to hear about the crimes and misdemeanors of a mystery novelist’s family.”  When this doesn’t sufficiently grasp her in his clutches, he resorts to threats against her daughter’s well being.  Dr. Kurs tells her that the price of his silence is that she must murder his wife.  He has everything planned out up to, and following the murder.  Agatha is to follow his plans to a T and then decide on the actual murder plan herself.  The rest of the book details how exactly those eleven days played out.  During that time, Agatha struggles with the morality issues that have been thrown at her feet.  True to life, nothing is as black and as white as we would like, nor always as they seem.

I really enjoyed the steam with which this book took off.  I was quickly drawn into the mystery, and fascinated with the real life elements included with this fictionalized elements of the story. I think fans of Agatha Christie books will enjoy this story, not so much as an answer to those missing days, but as another mystery to be solved.  The author has written a sequel to this book which I definitely plan to read.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Book Review - Pride, Prejudice, and Poison

Pride, Prejudice and Poison (A June Austen Society Mystery # 1)
Author:  Elizabeth Blake
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  August 23, 2019
2 Stars

Pride, Prejudice and Poison is a cozy mystery that takes place in Kirkbymoorside, a village in North Yorkshire.  Most of the key players in the book belong to the local Jane Austen Society.  Their current president is Sylvia Pemberthy.  Sylvia does not seem to be well liked, both for her governing skills and for personal reasons.  When Sylvia winds up dead, there is a long list of suspects to be sorted through.  That task falls to Detective Inspector Peter Hemming and Sergeant Rashid Jarral.  Farnsworth Appleby becomes the prime suspect when it is learned that Sylvia had been poisoned, and Farnsworth was the one who had served her the tea.  Erin Coleridge, a close friend of Farnsworth’s and crime aficionado, decides she must help prove Farnsworth’s innocence.  Erin quickly learns that solving a crime is much harder than reading about one, and it is much more dangerous.  DI Hemming works hard to solve the case before someone else is killed.

I went into this book with high hopes as I thought a mystery centered around Jane Austen and her novels sounded like fun.  However, I didn’t particularly enjoy the first 2/3 of this story.  The writing wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.  The plot seemed slow, and the characters were hard to connect with, both of which made it difficult to focus on the story.  The Jane Austen quotes were overdone and proved to be a hinderance to the story as well.

The last 1/3 of the book was pretty good.  The pace picked up, and I found myself more invested in the story.  I was anxious to learn the who and the why.  I enjoyed how the author wrapped up the story.

Thank to Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #PridePrejudiceAndPoison

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Book Review - The Old Man in the Corner: The Teahouse Detective

The Old Man in the Corner:  The Teahouse Detective (Volume 1)
Author:  Baroness Orczy
Publisher:  Pushkin Press
Publication Date:  June 11, 2019
3 Stars

One day while sitting in the ABC Teashop, Polly Burton, a young reporter for the Evening Observer, is suddenly joined, uninvited, by an old man.  She immediately disliked him, and became perturbed by him when he said, “Mysteries!  There is no such thing as a mystery in connection with any crime, provided intelligence is brought to bear upon its investigation.”  So began an interesting relationship between Polly and the Old Man.  The Old Man turned out to be an amateur detective of sorts, and Polly became enraptured by his tales and  looked forward to their next meetings.  These meetings were always by chance, and each time, the Old Man related a mystery that had yet to be solved.  He went through each case step by step and explained where the police had misstepped, and then he revealed the true solution.

This book is a collection of short mystery stories.  Each tale told is a stand alone mystery with new characters involved in each one.  I thought the stories were perfect bedtime reading.  They provided light, short mysteries that each had an interesting twist, but weren’t the type of plots to keep you up at night.  I enjoyed the logic enfolded in each tale, even if some of them were fairly easy to solve.  I did find one of the stories difficult to follow, but most were pretty good.  There is a second Teahouse Detective novel, The Case of Miss Elliot, that I plan to give a try.

Thanks to Net Galley and Pushkin Press for an ARC of this book.  #TheOldManInTheCornerTheTeahouseDetetive  #NetGalley

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Book Review - The Butterfly Conspiracy

The Butterfly Conspiracy (Merriweather and Royston Mystery #1)
Author:  Vivian Conroy
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  August 7, 2018
3 Stars

Merula Merriweather is excited to be attending a lecture for the Royal Zoological Society.  She is exuberant because she is going to have a chance to show off her newly hatched butterfly, Attacus atlas.  Her elation is slightly subdued, however, by the fact that she must let her uncle take credit for the discovery as the scientific community won’t recognize a woman’s contributions.  While at the lecture, Lord Raven Royston, questions the authenticity of the butterfly and encourages Merula to let it out of its cage.  After being let loose, the butterfly lands on the arm of Lady Sophia.  Lady Sophia gasps, turns red, and then crashes to the floor where she is eventually pronounced dead.  Some of the attendees jump to the conclusion that the butterfly may have been responsible for her death.  Because Merula’s uncle is considered responsible for the butterfly, he is arrested.  Merula, along with Lord Raven Royston, sets out to prove her uncle’s innocence.  Someone else seems to know what they are up to though and tries to scare them into dropping their investigation.  Will they be able to stay one step ahead and catch the actual killer?

I liked the chemistry in this book between Merula and Raven.  They worked well together, and while a romance may be in their future, this story was about building trust and friendship. Both seem to jump out from typical Victorian rules and seem to be themselves rather than what society would have them be.  They also share a mystery in their past that helps them understand each other better.

The mystery that Merula and Raven set out to solve is very unique.  How many times have you read a mystery book where the suspected weapon was a butterfly?  The mystery is even more complicated by the fact that they must solve the mystery using only tools available during the Victorian Era.  I also thought the solution to the murder was very clever, and it was fun to try and guess.

The end of the book definitely sets up for a sequel, and I’m eager to read it.

#TheButterflyConspiracy  #CrookedLaneBooks  #VivianConroy

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Giveaway Opportunity - Risky Biscuits

Head on over to Escape with Dollycas to win a free copy of Risky Biscuits.  The winner will have their choice of a print or digital copy.  good luck!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Book Review - Death and the Harlot

Death and the Harlot (Lizzie Hardwicke #1)
Author:  Georgina Clarke
Publisher:  Canelo
Publication Date:  May 13, 2019
4 Stars

Lizzie Hardwicke is a prostitute living during the Queen Victoria years.  Like many other prostitutes of the time, Lizzie occupation became one of necessity.  Unlike many other prostitutes, however, Lizzie lived in a high end bawdy house which catered to men of wealth, and it provided a higher standing of living for the girls.  A new wealthy client of Lizzie’s, a Mr. George Reed, is found dead, and his valuable items are missing.  Mr. Davenport, of the Bow Street Runners, is send to investigate the crime.  He immediately suspects Lizzie is the guilty party because she was one of the last people to be with him, and she was acquainted with his wealth.  Lizzie knows that no one will work to clear a prostitute’s name, and so she decides she must find out who the killer is.  Davenport says, “Then I look forward to seeing the results of your investigation.”  As the investigation continues, many secrets about the town players turn up, and the list of possible suspects grows considerable.  Lizzie must race to clear her name, and find the real killer before she must face the gallows.

The story has a very entrancing and unique protagonist, a prostitute.  Even though Lizzie seemed very kind hearted, I had trouble with her character at first, but it didn’t take long for her to really grow on me.  She is a strong female lead that realizes she can’t let a killer get away, and she steps up to find him, even when she must put herself in dangerous situations.  She even finds herself facing consequences with the madam of the house for her involvement.  Davenport, another major character, was very gruff when we first meet him.  However, his characters softens up, and he becomes a very likable character.  He goes out of his way to help Lizzie solve the crime even though both his time and resources are limited.

The mystery and plot of this story are very compelling.  You can’t help but want to read on as your learn just how despicable of a man George Reed really was.  Lizzie’s investigation becomes addictive to readers as secrets are ferreted out, and the suspect list grows.  I loved all the clues that Lucy picked up along the way, and the subterfuge employed to hide the real killer.  I particularly like the conclusion, and I can’t wait to read the second book in this series.

The author tries to be true to the time period, and even introduces us to the real founder of the Bow Street Runners, Mr. Henry Fielding.

If you are a fan of historical mysteries, but looking for something a little bit different, I highly recommend this book.

#DeathAndTheHarlot  #GeorginaClarke  #Canelo

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Book Review - Murder at the British Museum

Murder at the British Museum
Author:  Jim Eldridge
Publisher:  Allison and Busby
Publication Date:  July 18, 2019
4 Stars

An exhibit on King Arthur is being showcased at the British Museum when Lance Pickering, a professor whose work is prominently featured in the exhibit, is found murdered in a bathroom in the museum.  Daniel Wilson, a former Scotland Yard detective and private enquiry agent, has been asked by the museum’s director, Sir Jasper Stone, to investigate the matter.  Daniel Wilson is accompanied by his new partner, Abagail Fenton, to help him look into the matter.  Scotland Yard is also on the case, but the museum’s director wants to protect the museum’s reputation, and he trusts Daniel’s expertise and discretion in solving the killing.  Daniel and Abagail have their work cut out for them though, especially since Pickering’s murder won’t be the last.

Murder at the British Museum is the second book in the Museum Mysteries series.  Both books are very good, and I think that readers that are fond of historical mysteries will enjoy both of them.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, I thought the second book was even better.

The author has done a superb job of developing both the primary and secondary characters.  They are all unique and fascinating, and they work well together.  I especially appreciated the growth that Abagail has undergone between the two novels.  She is still as fiercely independent and strong, but she is not nearly as brusque.  She is a much more likable character.

The mystery in this story takes center stage, and it is very captivating.  The further I got into the book, the harder and harder it was to put down.  Daniel’s detective skills are top notch, but that doesn’t mean he knew from the outset how the case would go.  He follows leads and hunches that sometimes pay out and sometimes don’t.  He works hard to get from point A to point B, and it was enjoyable to watch him build and unravel the mystery.  It was a heck of a ride all the way until the end.

Thanks to Net Galley and Allison and Busby for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #MurderAtTheBritishMuseum

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Book Review - Peach Clobbered

Peach Clobbered (Georgia B&B #1)
Author:  Anna Gerard
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  July 09, 2019
3 Stars

After a divorce and a desire for a change, Nina Fleet decided to buy a beautiful, historic Queen Anne house in Cymbeline, Georgia.  Nina’s grand plans for the house included turning it into a bed and breakfast. She hit her first roadblock, however, when she was informed that the city’s current zoning ordinances would prevent that from happening.  An even more troublesome problem landed on her front door steps.  The problem…a piping, hot mad penguin.  The penguin turned out to be Harry Westcott, the great nephew of the previous owner, in a mascot costume.  Harry was livid and threatened to sue Nina and had come to her house with proof that the house should have been left to him. Nina begrudgingly invites Harry in to cool off.  After allowing Harry the opportunity to recover, Nina politely sends him on his way and vows to learn more about him.

Harry wouldn’t be Nina’s last unexpected guest that day.  The town’s mayor showed up later and told Nina that she had found a way to make the B&B happen.  The only catch was that she had to open immediately to house six nuns who have been displaced by their closing convent.  It seems that the convent’s landowner, Mr. Bainbridge, had refused to renew their lease and they had no where else to go until they have been reassigned.  After their arrival, the nuns informed Nina that they planned to picket Mr. Bainbridge’s office to protest his decision.  Although not planning on protesting herself, Nina headed into town with the nuns.  After a long, hot morning, the nuns agreed to take a lunch break.  It was during this break that Nina saw a woman running and screaming for help.  She tracked the woman down who then told her that somebody had stabbed a penguin and that its body was behind the antique store.  Nina rushed behind the store and found Harry with a stab wound to his chest.  She immediately went for help.  The help wasn’t enough, however, and the victim died on the way to the hospital.  Nina was strangely relieved though to learn that the victim was not Harry as she had believed, but was in fact Mr. Bainbridge. Nina was left wondering why Mr. Bainbridge was killed, and what he was doing in the penguin costume.

I think that Peach Clobbered is a charming introduction to the new Georgia B&B mystery series. It’s a fun and quick cozy mystery read.  The author has cooked up quite a unique, diverse, and likable cast of characters for this story.  I think it can be hard with a first in a series book to do a knockout job with the characters.  I think it is easy to get lost in the plot in the first book with the thought that your readers can learn more about the characters as they read further on in the series. And while a good series will develop the characters over time, you need to have a solid base to build on.  This book does a great job at the start of developing both primary and secondary characters.

Although I really enjoyed this cozy, I found it a little light in the amateur sleuth department.  Nina is really pretty busy throughout the story taking care of guests that she doesn’t have a lot of time for sleuthing.  I felt like the solution almost just fell into her lap, rather than her uncovering the truth.  Having said that though, I really did enjoy the story, and I foresee the second in this series being even better than the first.

Thanks to Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books for an an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #Peach Clobbered

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Book Review - A Murder on Jane Street

A Murder on Jane Street
Author:  Cathy Cash Spellman
Publisher:  The Wild Harp & Company, Inc.
Publication Date:  July 16, 2019
5 Stars

First, I just have to say, WOW!  What a fantastic book!  It was a wild ride from start to finish!

FitzHugh Donovan, a retired Irish NYPD cop, is urgently summoned by his next door neighbor, Mrs. Wallenberg, to her home.  She tells him that she fears she is about to be murdered, and she has a secret that she needs to share with him.  She is so worked up, though, that she can’t seem to get her story out.  She asks him to come back later that night to pick up some books that will explain her story and provide evidence to back it up.  When he goes back to see Mrs. Wallenberg, he finds she has been brutally murdered and her place ransacked.  He calls in the NYPD to investigate.  While surveying the property, one of the CSI techs finds an envelope addressed to Fitz in some bushes between his and Mrs. Wallenberg’s properties.  Inside, Fitz finds three books and a letter that said, “You will know what to do!”

This becomes the basis of a very intriguing murder.  Fitz along with his friends and family form a cabal called the Bleecker Street Irregulars.  This group delves into the books and diary to not only learn about Mrs. Wallenberg’s secrets, but also to decipher them.  Mrs. Wallenberg was not who she appeared. Her secrets date all the way back to World War II and Hitler but seem to have ramifications that reach to present day.

This books is filled with many great and unique characters.  Each character is uniquely drawn and fleshed out.  You truly care about what happens to these people, and you care about the cause they are fighting for.  For the most part, all of the players have a very serious tone, but the character Georgia provides some great LOL moments.

The plot is intricate and was like a rolling boulder that builds in intensity as it progresses.  It was very easy to get wrapped up in the story, and I found it was hard to put down!  I also appreciated how well written the novel was.  The ending of the story is interesting, and the author does a great job of wrapping up all the storylines.

This book is much more than a mystery novel.  It is also a conspiracy thriller, a work of historical fiction, a tale about ultimate sacrifices, a romance story, and a political thriller that is a treatise on not only Hitler’s time, but also today’s political entanglements.  If these descriptions sound interesting to you, I think you will enjoy this book.  This novel is grittier than most of the cozy mystery books that I read, but I truly enjoyed it.

Thanks to Net Galley and The Wild Harp & Company, Inc. for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #AMurderOnJaneStreet

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Book Review - A Most Curious Murder

A Most Curious Murder (A Little Library Mystery #1)
Author:  Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  July 12, 2016
2 Stars

Jenny Weston returns to her hometown of Bear Falls, Michigan after her distressing divorce.  Upon arriving home, she is devastated to find the Little Library that her father had built her mother before his death, has been smashed into pieces and the books destroyed.  Zoe Zola, her mother’s neighbor, joins her as she is surveying the damage.  Jenny takes an immediate dislike to Zoe and finds her very peculiar.  While Jenny thinks a car must have hit the library, Zoe believes that is has been very deliberately hacked up.  She also believes that cranky, old Adam Cane is the perpetrator.  Zoe herself has had problems with Adam Cane as he had threatened to kill her dog.  When he is found murdered in her backyard, she becomes the main suspect as she is the only one with an obvious motive for killing him.  Although Jenny finds Zoe, and her constant references to Alice in Wonderland, irritating, she doesn’t believe that Zoe is capable of murder and sets out to prove it.

I think that Little Libraries are fantastic additions to communities, and I was excited to read a book centered around one.  However, I found this story hard to get into.  I think the main reason was the characters.  I didn’t find them likable or realistic.  Jenny was very judgmental, and it seemed like she was having a pity party for most of the book.  I found it honorable that she wanted to help clear Zoe of a murder she didn’t believe she committed, but her actions did not seem believable.  For instance, she was willing to break the law, such as breaching an area that had been sealed off by the police, for someone she didn’t even like.  Zoe is a unique character, but I found her dialogue very confusing.  Even after rereading passages, I found I still didn’t really understand what she was getting at.  Then there was Jenny’s mom, Dora.  I think she was meant to be a commendable and wise character, but she often seemed oblivious to what was going on.

I thought the mystery itself was pretty good.  The story moved along at a good clip, and it built suspense along the way.  The puzzle became more complex as the book progressed, and I definitely wanted to see how everything came together and to find the answers to: who, what, when, why, where, and how.

I think I will give the second book a try as I like the premise.  Hopefully the character flaws I noticed will improve.


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Book Review - Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark (Lady Anne Addison Mysteries #1)
Author:  Victoria Hamilton
Publisher:  Beyond the Page Publishing
Publication Date:  April 23, 2019 (Originally published 2009)
4 Stars

Lady Anne heads to Yorkshire at the request of her friend Lydia who seems gravely frightened.  When Lady Anne arrives in town, she is dismayed to find that no one is there to pick her up.  She is appalled, but finds she has no choice but to walk to Darkefell Estate.  Upon reaching the estate, she hears a loud howl and then a scream.  Lady Anne traces the scream and discovers a newly deceased girl.  Lady Anne finds out that the girl is Cecilia Wainright, Lydia’s maid.  No one in the household seems concerned about finding her killer, but Lady Anne feels determined to get to the bottom of things.  The mystery deepens when she finds out that two other young girls have died on the estate.  Add to this tales of a wandering werewolf, and Lady Anne has quite the troubling and terrifying puzzle to unravel.

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark is an engaging and unique mystery.  I truly appreciate the sophisticated dialogue, great characterizations, and well written story.  The story progresses nicely, and the suspense builds as the plot unfolds.  The story ends far different than I guessed, but seems faithful to the characters and clues.

Embroiled in this mystery is a complicated, intriguing, and romantic relationship between two of the main characters, Lady Anne and the Marquess of Darkefell.  Their contrasting personalities cause them to clash constantly, but both find they cannot deny the strong attraction they feel towards each other.  The tension between these two adds a great intensity to the overall story.

I think fans of gothic and historical mysteries will enjoy this book.

Thanks to Net Galley and Beyond the Page Publishing for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #BeyondThePagePublishing #LadyAnneAndTheHowlInTheDark

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Book Review - The Body in the Wetlands

The Body in the Wetlands (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #2)
Author:  Judi Lynn
Publisher: Kensington Books – Lyrical Underground
Publication Date:  April 23, 2019
4 Stars

Jazzi, her boyfriend Ansel, and her cousin Jerrod are back, but before moving on to flip another house, they are helping to remodel Jazzi’s sister, Olivia’s, house.  While working at Olivia’s house, Jazzi gets to know Leo, an elderly neighbor who loves to chat and walk his dog.  One day, Leo’s dog shows up without him, so Jazzi decides to take him home, and once there, finds out that Leo is missing.  She calls her friend, Detective Gaff, to help in the search for Leo.  While there, the dog continues to nudge Jazzi until he gets her to take him for a walk.  He leads Jazzi to a nearby wetland.  There he helps to unearth not one, but two bodies, neither of which turns out to be Leo.  Jazzi wonders how she has managed to find herself entangled in yet more murders, but thanks her lucky stars that her family is not involved this time.  Even so, Jazzi feels pulled to the case, and can’t help but wonder what happened to Leo and who the other two poor souls are.  Detective Gaff enlists Jazzi’s help because he believes that people find it easier to talk to her than a detective.  The two of them set out to find some answers and capture a killer.

The Body in the Wetlands is the second book in the Jazzi Zanders mystery series, and it is every bit as good as the first one.  One of the winning qualities of this series is Jazzi herself.  She is a strong character who flips houses, whips up large family meals, makes quality time with her boyfriend, and still finds time to help Detective Gaff.  She’s the total package!  Her character is unique in the fact that she works with the law, rather than constantly putting herself in precarious situations.

I also like Ansel’s side story.  We get to know his family, and in doing so, get to know him better as well.  The author does a great job contrasting Ansel and Jazzi’s families.  Ansel’s time away from Jazzi also provides the opportunity to put their relationship to the test.  Are Jazzi and Ansel meant for each other?

I also loved the mystery in this story.  It is a well-woven tale and keeps you wanting to read on.  Each of the suspects seem like viable possibilities.  Some you even hope don’t turn out to be the killer.  I also enjoyed the manner in which the author wraps up the mystery.

I think cozy mystery fans will love this book.  I know I’m looking forward to the third book in this series, The Body in the Gravel.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books – Lyrical Underground for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TheBodyInTheWetlands

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Book Review - Murder at the Fitzwilliam

Murder at the Fitzwilliam (Museum Mysteries #1)
Author:  Jim Eldridge
Publisher:  Allison and Busby
Publication Date:  August 23, 2018
3 ½ Stars

Daniel Wilson, former inspector for Scotland Yard and current private enquiry agent, is summoned to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge to help solve a murder.  A fresh body has been found in a sarcophagus in the Egyptian collection.  Wilson has been chosen to look into this matter because of his past police performance and his ability to be discreet.  The Fitzwilliam wants this case solved quickly and quietly in order to protect the museum.

Upon his arrival, Daniel Wilson meets Abigail Fenton, archaeologist and current head of the Egyptian collection at the Fitzwilliam.  It was Ms. Fenton who has found the body so Wilson is very interested in what she has to say.  Daniel immediately finds her “formidable…unafraid, (and) not easily put off.”  On the other hand, she seems to find Daniel Wilson annoying.  Shortly after their introductions, they are interrupted by Inspector Drabble who is in charge of the investigation.  Drabble does not want Wilson involved in the case because he believes he will be a distraction, and he doesn’t want Abigail’s involvement because she is a woman.  Daniel and Abigail decide to join forces to solve this crime.

One of the underlying themes of this book is women’s rights.  We have Abigail’s sister who is participating in a campaign for women’s right to vote.  We also have Abigail herself who, while not politically involved, seems to hold as much disdain for men as some men held towards women.  She wants to be looked at as a smart, independent woman who does not need the assistance of a man.  She tends to be brusque and rude to men, especially Mr. Wilson.  Although Abigail’s background story helps to explain part of her behavior, I still felt her character a bit off putting.  Daniel must really like her as he puts up with her throughout the novel.  Daniel himself also has opinions regarding women’s right to vote.  He would not only like to see women gain the right to vote, but also all men as well, not just a select population of them.

The mystery itself was very interesting.  I particularly like books on Ancient Egypt so this added to my enjoyment of the book.  I also found the references to some of  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works interesting.  There are a great cast of potential suspects.  Daniel methodically works his way through the case, discovering new clues and suspects along the way, and then slowly eliminates suspects.  About halfway through the story, I had a good inkling about who the murderer was.  It’s not just about the who though, it is also about the why.  It wasn’t until the ending, that his motives became clear.  An interesting twist adds to the excitement of the conclusion.

I think those that enjoy historical mysteries, specially those set in Victorian England, will enjoy this book.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

#MurderAtTheFitzwilliam #JimEldridge #AllisonAndBusby

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Book Review - Murder by the Minster

Murder by the Minster
Author:  Helen Cox
Publisher:  Quercus Publishing
Publication Date:  July 1, 2019

Kitt Harrington is a librarian at the Vale of York University.  One day two detectives show up at the library.  They begin questioning her about Owen Hall, the former boyfriend of her best friend, Evie.  Kitt is confused by all of their questions about Owen, but finally ferrets out that Owen has been killed.  She is even more surprised to find out that Evie is their prime suspect.

Once Evie is released, she decides she needs to investigate Owen’s death in order to clear herself.  Kitt believes this is a terrible idea, but agrees to help in order to help protect her friend from getting into more trouble.  Kitt eventually joins forces with the detectives to solve not only Owen’s murder, but the murders of the other victims as well.

I really enjoyed Murder by the Minster from beginning to end.  I thought the author developed a well written and very intriguing mystery.  The story was unique, and every time I was sure the story was going in a certain direction, the author would surprise me by taking a different path.  The only part of the plot that felt shaky was when Detective Halloran asks for Kitt’s help solving the murders.  It seemed improbable that the situation would play out that way.

Speaking of Detective Halloran, he plays Kitt’s love interest.  I didn’t find out the author is a romance author until after I finished the story.  However, I wasn’t surprised as I found the “clean” romance sections superbly written.  She does such a great job of describing and balancing Kitt’s desire to become involved with Halloran, and her reluctance to get involved in a new relationship after a terrible ending to her previous relationship.  Great build up!

I don’t think that mystery book fans will be disappointed with this book.

I hope the author decides to write a follow up story.  I would love to see what these characters do next.

Thanks to Net Galley and Quercus Publishing for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #MurderByTheMinster

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Review - Murder’s No Votive Confidence

Murder’s No Votive Confidence
Author:  Christin Brecher
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Publication Date:  June 25, 2019
3 ½ Stars

Murder’s No Votive Confidence is the first book in the new Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery.  The main character, Stella Wright, is the owner of Wick and Flame, a local candle shop, where she creates one of a kind candles and candle scents.  She has been hired by Jessica Sterling to create the candles for her upcoming wedding.  The star piece of her creations is the unity candle.

Stella goes to the inn where Jessica is staying to go over some last minute details about the candles.  While there, Stella notices that the unity candle has gone missing.  Stella, along with Jessica and her mother, go in search of the candle.  The last place the candle was seen was in the inn’s game room.  When they enter the game room, the women are shocked to find Jessica’s uncle Simon laying on the floor with his head bashed in, and the unity candle lying next to him.

Bill Duffy, the hotel’s bartender, is arrested for the murder.  Police captain Bellamy is sure he has the right guy and considers the matter closed.  Stella is just as sure that Bill is innocent and decides she must find the evidence to set him free.  Stella enlists the help of Andy, her long time friend and local cop.

This book has all the makings of a good cozy mystery:  great characters, a well developed plot with a solid mystery, and a little romance.

I really liked Stella’s character.  For one, I enjoyed her unique occupation, candle-maker.  I also appreciated the vested interested she had in investigating this mystery.  Not only does she not want to see her long time family friend railroaded, but she also wants to protect her business.  Stella realizes that the fact that her unity candle was used as the murder weapon may have damaging effects on future orders.  I also enjoyed her genuine and realistic relationships with the other characters.  I’m looking forward to getting to know the recurring characters better in future installments.

The author has laid out a very solid mystery in this book.  It’s filled with the twists and turns one expects, including buried secrets, hidden motives, and embedded clues.  The ending, however, seemed a bit over adventurous and not quite believable to me.

The story has just a light touch of romance.  Stella appears to have feelings for her long time friend Andy, but he is currently unavailable as he has a girlfriend.  She also finds herself attracted to Peter, a new reporter for the local paper.  It will be fun to watch these relationships play out.

I think fans of cozy mysteries will enjoy this book.  I know that I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #MurdersNoVotiveConfidence

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Book Review - Southern Sass and Killer Cravings

Southern Sass and Killer Cravings
Author:  Kate Young
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Publication Date:  May 28, 2019
4 Stars

Marygene has just gotten out of an abusive marriage and decides to return to her hometown, Peach Cove Island.  While excited to be going home, Marygene is filled with trepidation and guilt at fragmented relationships she abandoned when she left Peach Cove.  The first relationship she tries to repair is with her sister Jena, as the two of them will be running their family business, the Peach Diner.  Eager to make amends, but not step on toes, Marygene helps out at the diner however she can.  On her second day there though, tragedy strikes.  One of the regulars drops dead.  After his death is ruled a homicide by poisoning, Jena is taken into custody as she was the one who made the cake that he ate right before he died.  Marygene knows she can’t sit by and let her sister be tried for a murder she didn’t commit.  So, she goes poking around town trying to figure out who the real killer is.  Her strained relationships with her dad, old friends, high school sweetheart, and even her deceased mother only seem to complicate her investigation.  It isn’t long, however, before she is digging up secrets and putting herself in danger.

Southern Sass and Killer Cravings is the tantalizing first book in the Marygene Brown mystery series.  The author has thought up a marvelous storyline and has told it well.  The author provides us with many possible suspects and motives, and throws us clues and curveballs to keep us guessing.  Even once the murderer becomes apparent, the suspense continues to build as we wait to see how it all unfolds.  I can easily see this book being made into a movie.

This book is filled with many varied and engaging characters.  Marygene has a lot of complicated, intense relationships that could make this story very heavy.  However, the story is counterbalanced by the fun-loving and light-hearted Betsy.

I thought the author did an excellent job of dealing with the issue of domestic abuse in the context of a cozy mystery.  She doesn’t soften the seriousness and tremendous impact of abuse, but she winds up the story with encouragement for survivors.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to cozy mystery lovers.  Those that particularly enjoy cooking mysteries will be happy with all the delectable dishes described in the story.  Many of the recipes are included at the end of the book.  Marygene‘s berry crumb bars sounded especially good to me.

I can’t wait for the opportunity to return to Peach Cove.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #SouthernSassAndKillerCravings

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Book Review - The Murder of Patience Brooke

The Murder of Patience Brooke (Charles Dickens and Superintendent Sam Jones #1)
Author:  J C Briggs
Publisher:  Sapere Books
Publication Date:  December 27, 2018
4 Stars

Imagine Charles Dickens not only as a famous writer but also as an amateur detective.  This is the premise of the Murder of Patience Brooke.  Patience Brooke is the matron’s assistant at a home that Charles Dickens established for fallen women.  She is found brutally murdered outside the home.  Dickens is determined to find Patience’s killer to not only bring him to justice, but also to protect the future of the women’s home.  Dickens turns to his friend, Superintendent Sam Jones, to help him unravel this mystery.  Besides insisting that she had never been a prostitute, Patience was very secretive about her past.  This complicates the investigation as Dickens and Jones are not sure who Patience really was, and they have very little to go on in regards to motive.  The only lead seems to be the mysterious presence of a man with a crooked face.

What a great start to the Charles Dickens and Superintendent Sam Jones mystery series.  I truly enjoyed all the aspects of this story:  setting, plot, and characters.  The setting is Victorian England, and the author does such a great job of painting a vivid picture of this time.  The story takes us through the streets of London (many of them notable) and beyond.  We are taken on a ride through the dark, seedy side of London, where we are given a look at the dangerous lifestyles and the desolate situations that many Londoners were in.  This is starkly compared to how the upper class of England lived.  The author does a great job showing the great disparity of the two.  A fact that Dickens himself was really dismayed with.

The plot was intricate and intriguing, and it had many surprising twists and turns, much like the back alleys of London.  Nothing was as simple as it first appeared.  I found myself very much invested in the investigation, and it was hard to put the book down.

The plot is supported by a great variety of interesting and realistic characters.  The historically accurate attributes of Dickens himself are seamlessly woven together with the fictional components of the story.

I loved this story, and I’m looking forward to reading more books in this series.  I think if you enjoy historical mysteries and mysteries set during the Victorian Era that you will enjoy this book.

Thanks to Net Galley and Sapere Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TheMurderOfPatienceBrooke

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Review - In Peppermint Peril

In Peppermint Peril
Author:  Joy Avon
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  November 13, 2018

Callie Aspen returns home to Hearts Harbor to spend Christmas with her great aunt Iphy.  Iphy runs a tea room called the Book Tea Shop, which also offers catering services.  It is a catering job that brings Callie to Haywood Hall.  Callie had spent a lot of time at Haywood Hall as a child, and she has many fond memories of it.  Some of those memories include Leadenby, Haywood Hall’s gardener, whom she runs into while preparing for the party.  Dorothea Finster, owner of Haywood Hall, has gathered family, friends, and town VIPs for a reading of her new will.  A will that is rumored to contain big changes.  Stephen DuBouvrais, the only living relative of Dorothea, along with his wife, Sheila, and daughter, Amber, are also at the reading.  Sheila has her own agenda for the party.  She waylays the reading by setting up a surprise engagement for her daughter and boyfriend.  The engagement is thwarted too, however, by the disappearance of the ring.  Things deteriorate even more when Leadenby is found murdered.  Callie tries to sort through everyone’s movements and motives to figure out Leadenby’ s killer.

Peppermint Peril is the first book in the Tea and Read mystery series.  I was entertained by the book, and it was an enjoyable start to this new series.

I was a little confused at the beginning of the book about the reference to book clues left in the sweet treats that Iphy made.  I felt like I was missing information as if its purpose had previously been described.  Even at the end when they tie up the book clues, I still felt like I was missing something.  The book theme seemed a little weak.

Although Callie plays a major role in the investigation, Deputy Falk is officially in charge.  I liked the way the author handled their relationship.  Callie is not completely honest with Falk in the beginning, and so he initially distrusts her.  He is also offended that Callie is interfering in the investigation as though he is not competent enough to solve it himself.  The relationship starts off rocky therefore making it completely realistic.  As they get to know each other better, their relationship improves.

The plot is both interesting and moves along at an enjoyable pace.  The author does a good job with Callie ferreting out answers from the players in this book, and thus eliminating suspects along the way.  She continues to do so until there is really only one other person left.

The book wraps up with a feel good Christmas spirit.

I plan on picking up the next book in this series, Sweet Tea and Secrets.

Thanks to Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #InPeppermintPeril