2021 Halloween Theme Read!

Halloween is coming! Halloween is coming!

And what better way to ring in the spooky season than a theme read?

So many great Halloween books just waiting to be read! I picked Angie Fox’s Southern Ghost Hunter series and Victoria Laurie’s Ghost Hunter series because they are perfect for a Halloween read if you like thrills, chills and spooky. I’ve been saving Bread of the Dead and Closely Harbored Secrets for weeks just so I could read them at Halloween and I can’t wait to get into them! Closely Harbored Secrets was highly rated by several friends on Goodreads, and it’s the r/CozyMystery Discord book club read for October.

I finished up the Tess & Tilly series by Kathi Daley with The Ghostly Groundskeeper (SO GOOD!) and I’m trying another of her series, Haunting by the Sea. I also added a few authors that are new to me, and I’m looking forward to finding new worlds to haunt.

Want to join in? r/CozyMystery is doing a 3 book theme read, or you can join me for a 10 book theme read. Drop a comment if you’d like to join in!

What’s a Ghoul to Do? (Ghost Hunter Mystery #1)

What’s a Ghoul to Do?
(Ghost Hunter Mystery #1)
by Victoria Laurie

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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This is my second time reading this, I read it first back in 2013. I never got around to reading the final book in the series, so I wanted to do a complete series re-read and this being October, what better time to read a ghost hunting book?

In this book, we’re introduced to M.J., a psychic medium who can communicate with ghosts and (hopefully) move them on and best friend Gilley. They’re hired by wealthy and debonair Dr. Steven Sable to contact his recently deceased grandfather, Andrew, at the family lodge. The investigation concluded that Andrew committed suicide, but Steven doesn’t believe it. They set out to investigate and uncover a dangerous plot.

This one is on the outer edges of cozy mystery (there’s a few *ahem* adult situations that are more than what are typically seen in a cozy, but not explicit, think PG-13 rather than R rated) but the crackin’ good plot; while a bit over the top, made for an exciting read (the swimming pool scene! *gasp*) and I think that’s what I love about this series, along with how well the paranormal element is woven into the story. The ghosts offer up a few clues, but the actual investigating comes down to M.J., Steven and Gilley.

An excellent read, definitely recommended for fans of paranormal cozy mysteries.

Published April 3rd 2007 by Signet Book

Designed for Haunting (Aurora Anderson #4)

Designed For Haunting
(Aurora Anderson Mysteries #4)
by Sybil Johnson

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I picked this one up for the r/CozyMystery Halloween theme read. I’ve never read this series before, so I can safely say this can be read as a standalone.

Absolutely loved this one, it had everything I want in a cozy; a twisty plot, charming and likeable characters (I loved Rory and Liz, they were a fantastic team!) realistic police interactions and procedures (often a sticking point for me!) and a great atmosphere.

But the plot was the star of this book; Zelena, a former child actress, goes missing, which triggers an email to her friend, Rory. Rory contacts her detective boyfriend Martin Green and begins to search for Zelena, who is later found dead. While I figured out the WHO before the end of the book, I never saw the WHY coming, although the clues were all there. The side plot, concerning escalating Halloween pranks (that skeleton in a hammock is on the cover for a reason!) made for a great distraction/red herring that muddied the waters even further. Really, this was a superbly written plot that kept me guessing all the way through.

A fantastic read and I’m definitely going to pick up the other books in the series. Can’t recommend it enough!

Published October 9th 2018 by Henery Press

Murder in the Churchyard (A Tommy & Evelyn Christie Mystery #3)

Murder in the Churchyard: A 1920s cozy mystery
(A Tommy & Evelyn Christie Mystery Book 3)
by Catherine Coles

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I received this one from Booksirens and it was perfect for the Set in an abbey, monastery, or other religious house square on the r/CozyMystery Book Bingo (only 2 more squares left to finish!)

Tommy and wife Evelyn find themselves in another murder investigation when the disliked ex-husband of one of the villagers is found dead in the churchyard. Due to a snowstorm, the police are unable to get to the village and put Tommy, a Lord, in charge of preserving the scene until they can get there. Having already solved a few cases themselves, Tommy and Evelyn begin to investigate, mindful that one of their many friends and neighbors is guilty of murder.

This is the first book I’ve read in the series, so I can safely say this can be read as a standalone. I love a good historical mystery and this was an easy and quick read at only 130 pages. I loved the setting in 1920s Yorkshire and there were several social issues highlighted; one character is a WWI veteran with PTSD, another is an impoverished war widow and I felt that added a lot of realism to the story as the villagers were still rebuilding their lives after the hardships during the war.

As for the investigation and apprehending the culprit, there wasn’t a whole lot to do since the village has only a few residents and even fewer had a motive so it was a matter of eliminating suspects until the culprit remains. I did enjoy how Tommy and Evelyn set about questioning people, uncovering a few scandals (boy, those villagers really get around!) and preventing more murders.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book and I’ll be looking at picking up the other books in the series.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Published January 29th 2021

2 squares left to finish!

Well-Offed in Vermont (Vermont Country Living #1)

Well-Offed in Vermont
(Vermont Country Living #1)
by Amy Patricia Meade

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Stella and Nick move from NYC to rural Vermont when Nick gets his dream job as a forest ranger. Within minutes of arriving at their newly purchased home, they discover a body in the well. Barred from their house by the investigation, they take refuge at a deer camp with no running water or electricity and decide to solve the murder so they can unload their moving truck and get settled in their new home.

It was hard for me to rate this book. On one hand, I loved the premise and the setting, but issues with the story detracted from my enjoyment. I call this a fixer-upper book; it needs a little work but it has great bones. There were many elements I enjoyed, from the leaf peepers (that bus had me laughing, I could easily picture the scene!) to the country store that has everything, including gossip. And the premise is what drew me in; making a move to Vermont and discovering a body in your well, yeesh! I just wish the book had lived up to its premise because it had everything it needed to be a great read, but it ended up falling short.

Although the eccentric townspeople gave the story a lot of flavor, I found I didn’t connect with the main characters. There wasn’t enough of Nick to form a bigger impression of who he is, but he was nice enough. On the other hand, Stella wasn’t nearly as engaging; she was condescending and her attempts at witty banter and friendliness felt forced and spurious. The pair of them reminded me of Michael and Stephanie on Newhart, it felt like they elevated themselves as being smarter and less eccentric than the rubes were, a trait I didn’t find particularly likeable or neighborly..

As for the investigating, it can be summed up as Stella and Nick annoying several townspeople with their questions, making assumptions, accusing people outright and then stumbling across the clues that solved the whole thing. I’ll say this, the one big clue that was overlooked when it was found and didn’t become relevant until the end was a good twist, but overall the investigation by Stella and Nick was lackluster. It wasn’t so much that anything they did solved it, they just kept guessing until the story fit.

Despite all the detractions, I did like the book. If Stella was more likeable, the story smoothed out and the ending jiggered into something more realistic, this would easily be a 5 star read. A big thank you to Netgalley and Beyond the Page books for the advance copy to read and review.

Published October 5th 2021 by Beyond the Page (first published November 1st 2011)

City of the Dead (Alex Delaware #37)

City of the Dead:
Alex Delaware #37
Jonathan Kellerman

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Jonathan Kellerman is one of those authors that I actively search for when the next book will be out, and thanks to Netgalley I got this one before release. No other author can launch me into a world faster than Jonathan Kellerman can and I think this one is the best so far.

In City of the Dead, Milo catches a new case; a naked man was found in the street after getting run over by a moving truck. Tips from neighbors lead to a woman found dead in her home, her throat slashed. Milo and Alex begin to weave their way through scant clues and dead ends to find a ruthless killer.

This one was amazing, I find it difficult to have the willpower to slow down and enjoy it because it’s so easy to get sucked into Alex and Milo’s world. Like Christmas, a new Alex Delaware comes only once a year, so it’s a must to savor it. Did I? Not really, once I get started I find it next to impossible to put down (although I did manage to stretch it out for a month!

I loved the pace in this one; just fast enough to keep the action, interest and plot moving but rich in detail and dimension without bogging it down. While I’ve figured out over the years which characters to suspect, that went out the window with this book. I absolutely loved how it all came about, with Alex being the key to solving the crime, a twist I never saw coming and thoroughly enjoyed. Throw in characters with stories that make you feel for them and you have the perfect recipe for a mystery that will stick with you long after you finish. 5 Stars!

Publication: February 8th 2022 by Ballantine Books

Double or Muffin (Merry Muffin Mystery #7)

Double or Muffin
(Merry Muffin Mystery #7)
by Victoria Hamilton

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I adore this series, I would love for Merry to be my BFF (maybe she could help me pick out better clothes?) and that castle! Mmmff, I want a castle.

I enjoyed the plot, I love how this series incorporates a lot of characters, but they are so well written that it’s easy to keep them straight. While having so many characters might bog the story down, I’ve found that’s not the case with this series, and I’m sure it takes a lot of skill as a writer to accomplish.

All the hubbub around the tv show was fun (although I’d have to say, I found it slightly weird that people were fawning over opera singers like they were rock stars, but to each their own.) and the investigation into the attack kept me guessing right to the end.

Another great book in the Merry Muffin series and definitely recommend to people who love more cozy (and muffins!) in their cozy mysteries

Published February 23rd 2021 by Beyond the Page

Up to No Gouda (Grilled Cheese Mysteries #1)

Up to No Gouda
(Grilled Cheese Mysteries #1)
by Linda Reilly

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I picked this one up on Netgalley because like everyone else, I’m obsessed with the idea of a grilled cheese restaurant. This one was a great start to a new series, and although it took me a bit to get into at first, once the introductions were out of the way and the investigating got going, it was hard to put down. And there’s recipes at the end!

The eclectic cast of characters quickly became like friends, I’m going to enjoy getting to know them as the series goes on. The plot, who killed Lyle and why, was a real banger; lots of twists and turns and a big pile of suspects. In the end, I never guessed whodunit, so I must’ve overlooked the clues. Add in the happy endings for a couple of the characters and this was a stellar read, heartwarming and endearing.

A great start to a new series, I’m already looking forward to reading the next book!

Expected publication: January 25th 2022 by  Poisoned Pen Press

Cover Up…

So I was puttering around on Goodreads and came across this

THEY REBRANDED THE CAT WHO… SERIES AS “JIM QWILLERAN FELINE WHODUNIT”

The Cat Who series is probably the most classic cozy mystery series (actually, I’d put it first, but Agatha Christie is the pinnacle of cozy mystery, so I’ll compromise and put the Cat Who series as second.). This series originally came out in the 60s before the author brought it back a few decades later and that’s when I started reading it. It’s THE cozy mystery series in my mind but this travesty is even worse than that horribly ignoble last book in the series. First, they renamed the series, -it’s understandable in that a revamp would bring in new readers but it’s entirely unnecessary. It would be like renaming Hamlet to “Yo, BRUH!” so that modern readers will discover it. Preposterous, isn’t it? And if that’s not unforgivable enough, they put a black cat on the covers and Koko and Yum Yum are Siamese cats. Ugh.

So I brought my outrage to the r/CozyMystery Discord server and ended up in a discussion about how Cozy Mystery covers are losing their coziness, getting away from the beautifully drawn covers and getting into covers that look like a photoshop collage. And that makes me sad!

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Look at this book cover from a few years ago. Now this is a quintessentially Cozy Mystery cover. I mean, look at it! The cover screams cozy – the adorable cat, the detailed drawing that highlights the theme and plot (I love the overturned skull mug and the scared/dismayed looking pumpkin!) but I look at this cover and know this is going to be an entertaining and light read (which is was!) and it’s just what I’m wanting. And those covers make it so easy to spot a cozy mysteries, I could scan rows of book covers and spot them immediately.

Cozy Mysteries get such scant attention as it is in libraries and websites; very few of designate cozies as a separate subgenre, instead lumping it in with all the mysteries with generic covers of someone standing in fog holding an umbrella. And while the covers of people standing in fog are eye-catching, they do nothing to draw me in at first glance; whereas cozy mystery covers – the drawn ones, anyway – always grab my attention and before I even look at the description, I already have a good idea I’ll enjoy what’s going to be in the book.

And, as someone commented on the r/CozyMystery Discord, “I actually dock points from my reviews if the covers aren’t drawn. I totally judge a book by its cover!” and you know what? I do , too. So I’m lamenting the slow death of the cozy Cozy Mystery covers. Are we the only ones?


Hemlock for the Holidays A Fine Art Mystery #3

Hemlock for the Holidays
A Fine Art Mystery #3
by Paula Darnell

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I picked this one up for the r/CozyMystery Plant in the Title square on book bingo (I’m still not 100% sure if Hemlock is a flower or a plant. All I could come up with was “flowering plant” which didn’t tell me much!) This is the third book in the series, but I’d say it can easily be read as a standalone, as any mentions of prior events didn’t hamper my enjoyment or understanding. But, it was so good, I will be reading the earlier books.

This was a nice, easy read with an enjoyable community of characters, a twisty plot and all the joy of Christmas. Lonesome Valley is a typical small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business and Amanda relies on her close knit group of friends to catch her up on the backstories of the townspeople. (I’m going to quote Mint’s review, “...the town is charming, yet flawed, adding a realistic touch to the story” and I agree completely!) I have to say, in this one, the people definitely outshone the plot, which isn’t to say the plot wasn’t good (it was!) but for once I enjoyed the people more. Usually I’m all about the solving, but I just liked hanging out with Amanda and the other characters so much, I wasn’t even trying to solve the mystery. Overall, a great read and I look forward to returning to Lonesome Valley!

Published August 5, 2021 by ‎ Campbell and Rogers Press

CautionSpoiler below reveals the ending, so don’t click on it if you don’t want it spoiled:

Continue reading “Hemlock for the Holidays A Fine Art Mystery #3”

Murder in the Mystery Suite (Book Retreat Mysteries #1)

Murder in the Mystery Suite
Book Retreat Mysteries, #1
by Ellery Adams

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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I was scouting around looking for a book for the r/CozyMystery Online Referral book bingo square and BeachbumBookworm swooped in on Discord with this recommendation. It had all the things I like in a cozy mystery; a deftly written plot, likeable characters, secrets (I love secret anything in books!) and the absence of tropes. Perfect!

Jane Steward runs a resort catering to book lovers, Storyton Hall, in the tiny town of Storyton, VA. Looking for an event to host that will bring in loads of book lovers paying to stay at the inn, she settles on a Murder and Mayhem mystery event, highlighting (and encouraging cosplay of) famous fictional sleuths. After receiving the grand prize of a first edition book, the winner is later found dead in his room, the victim of murder. Tasked with finding a murderer in their midst, Jane has to deal with learning a big family secret while caring for her twin sons, her elderly aunt and an entire inn of guests.

There was a lot to like about this one; a delightful cast of characters, the beautiful setting and a masterfully written plot with more twists and turns than the roads leading to Storyton Hall. What more could a cozy mystery fan want? I figured out the “who” around halfway through the book, but nothing could have prepared me for the why and the how. I also liked how the world of Storyton grew as the book went on, giving enough rich detail to pull you in without being too much to make it clumsy, something the author does very well.

Overall, an enjoyable first and a big thank you to BeachbumBookworm for recommending this one, and I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series!

Published August 5th 2014 by Berkley

Books in green type are selected, but not read yet

Portent in the Pages (The Inn at Holiday Bay #16)

Portent in the Pages
The Inn at Holiday Bay #16
by Kathi Daley

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I always look forward to getting back to Holiday Bay and catching up with all the happenings at the Inn. This one had a novel plot (heh book pun) with the suspicious suicides of 2 successful celebrity women. It made for a great plot and I really enjoyed it but there were a few things that stuck out me. One was a character that I thought was going to be a bigger part of the plot than she did, which left me wondering what her purpose in the book was. And the other was that the plot meandered around in an unfocused way until the resolution of the plot came about suddenly, so there wasn’t much sleuthing in this one, it was mostly rehashing until an aha! moment. It was a great plot though and I really enjoyed it, it just evolved in a different way than I expected. 

Published August 10th 2021 by Kathi Daley Books

By the Pricking of My Thumbs (Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries, #4)

By the Pricking of My Thumbs
Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries, #4
by Agatha Christie

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I hate mourning,” she said. “It always smells of moth balls because it’s been laid up somewhere.”

I will admit, I was never a fan of Agatha Christie after I was disappointed by Murder on the Orient Express back in high school. But there’s an Agatha Christie square on the r/CozyMystery Book Bingo, so I picked up this one because it qualified for hard mode (Not Marple or Poirot.) and because I was intrigued by the blurb. And I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised to be drawn into it from the beginning, mostly because I liked Tuppence so much. While Tommy has good instincts, Tuppence has the detecting skills and I liked how well they played off each other, but Tuppence was definitely the star of this story.

As for the plot; possible shenanigans at an old folks home, a sophisticated crime ring, and a mysterious house in a painting all served to compel to Tuppence that something was amiss and required further detecting. It was thoroughly enjoyable and quintessentially Christie, complete with a surprise twist at the end. I was surprised to like it as much as I did, but then again, not really surprised because let’s face it, there’s a reason why Agatha Christie is the queen of cozy mystery. Overall, it was a fun, intriguing and a bit fanciful and I might just pick up the other books some time.

Original publication: Collins Crime Club (London), November 1968

Roses and Revenge (An Isle of Man Ghostly Cozy Book 18)

Roses and Revenge
An Isle of Man Ghostly Cozy Book 18
by Diana Xarissa

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I was looking forward to this one, as it’s set in Buffalo, where I grew up. Fenella and Daniel are in town for Jack’s wedding to his new love Linda. When Linda’s ex-husband returns to disrupt the wedding, having left her with no notice or forwarding address years before, tempers flare and George is later found dead in a dumpster. Despite being on vacation thousands of miles away from home, Daniel and Fenella find themselves in the middle of another murder.

I enjoyed this one, but for a while it felt like they were spinning their wheels and felt like it was longer than it could’ve/should’ve been. But there were some great moments along the way, as well as very familiar scenery (to me, at least) and at one point, Fenella drives over the Grand Island Bridge with Jack hyperventilating in the back seat and I entirely related. In fact, it triggered flashbacks of driving the bridge in the rain, surrounded by speeding semi trucks and seeing glimpses of the angry Niagara river churning below. *shudders* Yeeeesh. I felt for ya, Jack.

As for the murder itself, there was very little detail as to the manner of death and without any knowledge of the suspects, it felt very much like I was in the dark as much as Fenella and Daniel were, which definitely made it more interesting. There were only 2 things that put me off. First, Fenella was called upon by the detective to talk about suspects, despite having known nearly all of them for just a few hours (really, she had only known them when she was introduced, so more like a few minutes) and I can’t see how any detective would bother putting that in a report. Second, there were several clues that would’ve wrapped up the case fairly quickly that were ignored and given no mention.

Overall, I enjoyed it and it was gratifying to see the formerly absent-minded and co-dependent Jack finally “grow into himself” a little, even taking charge a time or two. If you’ve been reading the series from the beginning as I have, he’s come a long way. With a sweet moment at the end, it was enjoyable from start to finish.

Published May 14th 2021

The Body in the Beauty Parlor (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #6)

The Body in the Beauty Parlor
A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #6
by Judi Lynn

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Absolutely loved this one! Fantastic from start to finish!

Before I dive into my review, I want to reiterate something I put in an update: It’s a myth that you have to wait 24 hours before reporting an adult missing. Absolutely not true. If someone you know is missing, call the police as soon as possible.

Ok, on to the review and this was a humdinger of a book! There were several mysteries, the “side murders” were the murder of a recently hired employee, Misty, in the hair salon owned by her sister and mother. That one was, as well as another murder of a waitress, were wrapped up pretty quickly. The big plot revolved around Jazzi’s ex-boyfriend Chad, who Jazzi agreed to help after his wife, Ginger, went missing. Chad and Ginger’s marriage had been rocky, but were working hard to repair their marriage when she went missing and was later found dead. Chad was suspected of the murder, but Jazzi knew he didn’t do it and worked with Detective Gaff to find the real killer. The whole plot was put together so well and you know what I liked? That the murders are actually investigated thoroughly, there’s no jumping to conclusions and wasting time taking people into custody for finding a body. Gaff, who always seems to catch the cases that Jazzi gets involved with, is pretty realistic for a detective, despite the fact that he brings a civilian along to question people (which I’m willing to overlook, otherwise there wouldn’t be much to the books) and I love how he and Jazzi work together. And although she’s busy detecting, Jazzi, Jerod and Ansel always complete their latest house flip ahead of schedule (you know, now that I think about it, that’s the most unrealistic thing about this series; home renovations never end early and on budget. I’ve watched enough HGTV to know!) And to top it all off, the endings are always satisfying and realistic. Sprinkle in all the good family-gathering-with-good-food vibes (I always feel like I gain 10 lbs reading about everything Jazzi makes) and you have the perfect recipe for a great cozy mystery read. Definitely a full 5 star read!

Published March 2nd 2021

Dead Men’s Hearts (Gideon Oliver #8)

Dead Men’s Hearts
Gideon Oliver #8)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

As I’ve said before, this series seems to be hit or miss and this one was in the miss category.

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Gideon is in Egypt, having been strong-armed into narrating a documentary about the history of Horizon House, a museum and archaeology facility in Luxor, steps from the Sphinx. This was an audaciously multi faceted plot; the suspicious death of the man in charge of the facility, the theft of ancient artifacts, and a skeleton of a modern day man found labeled as an ancient skeleton. All of this points to an inside job, and Gideon has to work out who. The plot was well done, the scenery beautiful (it’s so easy to picture the locations with all the rich descriptions) but it just didn’t grab me the way other books in this series have. It was good, but not GOOD. 3 1/2 stars

Published May 1st 1994 by Mysterious Press

Christmas Spirit (The Middle-Aged Ghost Whisperer #1)

Christmas Spirit
The Middle-Aged Ghost Whisperer #1
by Morgana Best

Rating: 2 out of 5.
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This one was a pretty quick read, didn’t take me more than an hour to read (mostly because I skipped through a lot of the scenes with Prudence’s annoying and obnoxious family and friends (other than Uncle Tim, who I really liked) that Prudence felt obligated to have over for Christmas. Prudence, who is a pretty straightforward no-nonsense person, puts up with her shockingly rude friends and family without kicking their rotten butts out of her house, especially Constance; I don’t know how Prudence can call Constance a friend, and I’d have happily punched her in the face every time she opened her mouth. Prudence, take a hint from your parents and go on a cruise next year.

I really liked Prudence, a psychic medium who had never seen a ghost until dead detective Levi showed up, imploring her to help with the case that got him murdered, a case involving an up and coming actor who died and the question of if it was a murder or a suicide. And I really enjoyed the plot and if the friends/family crap hadn’t been there and maybe a side plot added, it would’ve been a 5 star read; but with all the crap detracting from it, I can’t manage more than 3 stars, mostly because I liked the main plot so much. I’ll give book 2 a try, but if these mouthy people are in the next one, I’m going to give it a pass.

Published December 26th 2015 by Ghost Books

Finding Answers (Rescue Alaska #2)

Finding Answers
Rescue Alaska Mystery #2
by Kathi Daley

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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More cleaning up of all the books that’ve been hanging out on my currently reading list waiting for me to finish and review.

In Finding Answers, Search & Rescue gets a call about a missing child and they mount a search. After locating the child (safe and sound) they find a gruesome scene; the pastor for the local church is found murdered with his throat slashed. When several more townspeople go missing and are found dead, Harmony puts her special skills to work to find an evil murderer bent on revenge.

What I love about this series is how all these facets – beautiful Alaska scenery, the dogs, the close knit townspeople – make for such a strong foundation throughout the series. I liked the plot in this one, for one thing there wasn’t much “sleuthing” as the police sussed out the killer and why before Harmony found out about it, her role was to help find a victim, not solve the case. And I think that’s why I liked it to much; usually in cozy mysteries, the MC sleuths out the killer (and often tells the entire town and not the police what they know) and this was the reverse. That made it more realistic in my mind, one of my issues with cozy mysteries; in real life, law enforcement wouldn’t reveal anything about the case to a civilian so that their case wouldn’t be jeopardized while prosecuting. I understand the reasons for that trope in cozy mysteries, but this book is more organic and realistic and I appreciate that. Gives the book more authenticity. There’s also very little in the way of romance, Harmony is attracted to some of the guys but there’s no canoodling or flirting. Something else that makes it more realistic.

Overall, this was a great read; every bit as good as the first book, with a great plot. Realistic, authentic, exciting and moving, it made for a great read.

Published May 29th 2018 by Kathi Daley Books

Sorry….

..for the review dump today, I realized this morning that I’ve been way too lazy keeping this updated. Within the last week, I managed to bring myself to only 3 books behind schedule in my Goodreads 2021 reading challenge, and I’m happy about that (at one point I was 9 books behind. Yeesh.). And I’ve finally filled one row on my r/CozyMystery book bingo and overall I’m doing well on completing it on schedule.

This Gideon Oliver series definitely put a fire under me, they’re such great books and I realized it gives me an Alex Delaware kind of vibe and that series is one of my all time favorites. If you like anthropology/archeology, definitely give them a try.

Tall Tails Secret Book Club (Secret Library #1)

Tall Tails Secret Book Club
(Secret Library #1)
by CeeCee James

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I don’t know where I first heard about this book, but it had all the things that light my fire. An old crumbling mansion, secret passageways and a secret garden, and a cat. What more could you want? Plus it was 99 cents on Amazon, great book for a great price!

And overall I did enjoy it, but I have to say this one is more cozy than mystery. It wasn’t until halfway through the book that I realized that the murder I was expecting already happened earlier in the book but it was just casually mentioned, barely 3 or four sentences marked that it happened. So I spent most of the book wondering where this was all going and it wasn’t until 2/3 through that it all started to come together. Once the pieces started falling into place, the pace picked up and then it was a roller coaster ride to the ending.

I’ll give this one four stars, despite being a little flummoxed until it all started to come together., but the end made up for it. So I would say if you enjoy character driven stories, this might be for you.

Edit: I spent a little time thinking about the book last night after writing this review and came to the realization that I didn’t give enough credit to the author for how neatly and subtly the mystery evolved as the book went on. I realized I never did notice when the mystery part of the plot started to “grow” until that last third of the book when all the clues became clearer. So, kudos to the author who managed to keep a well crafted mystery galloping along, weaving it neatly into the MC’s narrative as she starts her job.

Published December 27th 2020

Tequila Mockingbird (Australian Amateur Sleuth #7)

Tequila Mockingbird
(Australian Amateur Sleuth #7)
by Morgana Best

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Another day, another murder at Cressida’s boardinghouse, only this time the poor victim was the 5th Earl of Mockingbird, Peregrine, who showed up with his entourage of female assistants and his driver. He’s an unlikable sort of guy and it’s not long before he’s done in with a methanol laced shot of tequila. Mr. Buttons, who is immediately under suspicion as he had an acrimonious relationship with Peregrine, is nonplussed and mortified to be taken in several times for questioning. Cressida pulls Sibyl in to help investigate, complete with humorous capers and sleuth out the killer before the suspects can flee back to England.

I always love when I get to travel back to Little Tatterford and that dreary boardinghouse with death scene paintings on the walls. This is such a great series that really should get more attention than it does. It has everything; great plots, laugh out loud moments, characters who are delightfully offbeat and a cursing cockatoo, always entertaining and I look forward to each new book. This one had a couple of good red herrings, ones that I was leaning towards being completely unrelated to the plot but couldn’t figure out why they were there unless they were related? I love when a book makes me question my thought processes while peppering me with things that make me laugh; Cressida’s newest painting, Lord Farringdon’s tantrum, it’s hard not to giggle when reading these books. I also love the ideas Cressida comes up to snoop around. Drop bears, anyone? But the plot itself was quite good; with no information to go on other than the earl’s catty entourage, I had fewer ideas on the suspects than Sibyl, Cressida and Mr. Buttons did.

Published: September 21st 2020 by Best Cosy Books

Make No Bones (Gideon Oliver #7)

Make No Bones
(Gideon Oliver #7)
by Aaron Elkins

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I finished around 3/4 of this book this afternoon, once it got going I couldn’t put it down.

I’ve been steadily reading my way through this series and although a bit formulaic, each plot is always a fresh idea and so full of twists that I’ve long since given up trying to solve before Gideon does. And although I had a few ideas who was behind the crimes, so I did love the long windup to the payoff. But what I liked best was that Gideon was matching wits with a killer just as knowledgeable about bones as he was.

And as I already said, I seem to forget that these books were written back in the late 80s/early 90s (well, the early books of the series I’m reading now, anyway) when cell phones, DNA testing and the internet was in its infancy, used by very few if used at all. Being a Gen X’er, I remember that period of time when “going online” wasn’t even close to what it was today (Anyone remember Compuserve? We had that and a 300 baud modem, go look that up, you’ll see what I mean) and that makes me really respect the challenges that anthropologists, pathologists, law enforcement and forensic technicians had back then and yet still solve murders and although this is a work of fiction, the author has obviously done his research thoroughly on all aspects of the subject.

I enjoyed this one thoroughly and although some of the books in the series have been hit or miss, this one was definitely a hit.

Published December 1st 1991 by Mysterious Press

The Armstrong Assignment(Janet Markham Bennett Cozy Thriller #1)

The Armstrong Assignment
(Janet Markham Bennett Cozy Thriller #1)
by Diana Xarissa

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I was a big fan of the Markham Sisters series (and bummed when it was over) and I was looking forward to this new series with Janet Markham and new husband Edward Bennett. I miss the quick, easy non-murder reads of the Markham Sisters series, but I did like how the author evolved it into this new series. It’s more cozy than thriller, but definitely more action than in the original series and I enjoyed seeing Janet get involved with the job Edward was on (and his reluctant participation didn’t make a lot of sense, but then again, how else would the plot be set up? Not going to quibble about it) and how she “got the job done” was exciting and a lot of fun. I’m definitely looking forward to more of Janet and Edward’s adventures!

Published March 19, 2021

Icy Clutches (Gideon Oliver #6)

Icy Clutches
(Gideon Oliver #6)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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You know what keeps this series from getting too repetitive? It’s the plots and their surprising twists and turns that thwart you from guessing what happens next.

Although this one got off to a slow start, thanks to the annoying tv host/author and his group of whiners, but picked up once the murder happened. As always, I love the anthropological parts of the story and I always like seeing John Lau show up. And I did like the plot, both the avalanche investigation and the murder investigation. The only thing I don’t care for is how Gideon always gets himself into a situation where he’s attacked (why are there so many people attacking anthropologists?) which gets old and really, doesn’t add much to the story for me. I guess I’m in it for the solution and the action is just superfluous in my mind. But overall, I did enjoy (most of) the story and as always, the conclusion was a surprise that left me reeling.

Published September 28th 1990 by Mysterious Press

Curses! (Gideon Oliver #5)

Curses!
(Gideon Oliver #5)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
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Gideon, struggling with writing a boring manuscript and with the cold, gray, rainy Washington weather, gets an offer he can’t refuse: a return to a disastrous Mayan dig that was scrapped years before after a scandal left an important priceless artifact missing. Invited by old friend and mentor Abe to investigate a skeleton found at the now re-opened dig, Gideon and Julie pack up and head for the Yucatán. Upon arrival, Gideon finds many of the same people from the first dig, as well as a host of new problems; an unauthorized excavation occurring surreptitiously at night where the artifact had gone missing years before, a recently translated curse that a New Age couple are convinced will come true, strange happenings, attacks and then a murder. Can Gideon unravel all the secrets before the curse comes true?

I enjoyed this one, what’s not to love about Mayan ruins, archaeology, the lush rain forest, and an ancient curse? Made for an exciting read, with lots of twists and turns that kept me guessing. I would’ve loved to have seen the the sound and light show at Chichen Itza (as a gen X’er, I remember the Choose Your Own Adventure book I read 30 years ago and it brought back sooooo many memories) and you know, now that I think about it, the amazing descriptions of the locale is what helps bring these stories alive. As for the plot – dizzying. The pace never lagged, with something new popping up with every page and it really kept me guessing. In the end, the impossible to guess ending made for a satisfying read. I think this series is really hitting its stride and I look forward to the next Gideon adventure.

Published 1989 by Mysterious Press

Murder in the Queen’s Armes (Gideon Oliver #3)

Murder in the Queen’s Armes
(Gideon Oliver #3)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I’m not really sure how to rate this one. On one hand it was compelling, exciting, picturesque, and not your ordinary mystery. On the other hand it was a bit convoluted, long winded and…well, a bit weird.

Gideon and new wife Julie are in England on their honeymoon (why they went to England in the winter, I can’t guess. Well, apparently to tour Thomas Hardy’s old stomping ground but…?) Anyway, While they’re in Dorchester, Gideon goes to a museum to see a anthropologically exciting skull fragment, only to find it’s been stolen. Next, Gideon and Julie head to Dorset to check into their hotel. Gideon plans to check in on an old friend’s archaeological dig and finds the dig in a shambles and old friend Nate on the verge of being discredited by the archaeological groups in charge of the site. Much shenanigans ensue, Gideon is drawn in and in the end two people are dead and Gideon sleuths out the killer.

At the heart of the book, I really enjoyed the mystery and the picturesque scenery. I was able to figure out a lot of it as it happened (sorry, Gid!) but not the who, and it seems to me the story could’ve been wrapped up a lot faster without a lot of the extraneous information woven in, like the newspaper editor (none of that was relevant to the story really, and if it was a red herring, not a very good one.) but overall it was an interesting read. I liked it, but I didn’t love it, so 3 1/2 stars.

Published 1985 by Walker and Company New York

The Dark Place (Gideon Oliver #2)

The Dark Place
(Gideon Oliver #2)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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After the disappointment that was the first book in the series, it sure did come roaring back. This is the Gideon Oliver I love.

While on an anthropology dig in Washington State, Gideon gets called away to another scene of an ancient Native American burial ground containing several bodies buried in native baskets – and several far more recent bones. Gideon is called in to match them to several hikers that went missing in the same area in recent years. After matching the remains to the missing hikers, another hiker, a young woman goes missing and is later found dead and Gideon comes to an impossibly improbable solution that spans centuries.

I love anthropology/archaeology and this series gives me my fill. There’s no way anyone could possibly have solved this unless they’re psychic, so like everyone else I was along for the ride. And what a ride it was! I was glad to see the Bigfoot angle get so little page time, although it did add a touch of humor. And I loved getting to see how Gideon and Julie met and fell in love. Along with the beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery, John Lau’s child-like giggle, and Gideon’s fallible hero complex, it really gave me more dimension into who he is as a character and to have it all wrapped in a stunning story made for a great read. Onto the next!

Published: January 1st 1983 by Walker & Company

Fellowship of Fear(Gideon Oliver #1)

Fellowship of Fear
(Gideon Oliver #1)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 1 out of 5.
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DNF’ed this at 52%. I’m just not interested enough to finish it.

This one read more like a Da Vinci Code sort of espionage thriller, rather than a mystery. And while it wasn’t a bad book, it’s just not the sort of thing I enjoy reading. The book kicks off with Gideon “The Skeleton Detective” Oliver heading to Heidelberg, Germany to teach seminars at US/NATO bases in Europe. The first chapter was a nice “introduction” so to speak where Gideon meets his co-workers and learns that 2 previous people who held his Fellowship died or mysteriously disappeared. After that, the rest of the book (that I read) turned into a random spy thriller and Gideon gets attacked every couple of pages. There’s no information or asides to tell you why this is happening and in the end, I didn’t really care.

I did like “meeting” John Lau, as he was in the later book I read, Old Bones, and I like the guy, childish giggles notwithstanding and I enjoy the dynamic between Gideon and John Lau. “You don’t have to call me Doc, my name is Gideon” “Ok, Gid!” “Ugh, why not just stick with Doc”. Made me laugh, it seemed like such an organic exchange between 2 acquaintances.

I’ve read later books in the series and enjoyed them, and I’ve already started the second book in the series that’s more of a mystery, so I’m just going to ignore that this book ever happened. So, if you like Da Vinci Code type thrillers, spy thrillers or action movies, you might get more out of this than I did.

Published January 1st 1982 by Walker & Company

Murder by the Bookend (Antique Bookshop #2)

Murder by the Bookend
(Antique Bookshop Mystery #2)
by Laura Gail Black

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I received this from the Crooked Lane Books on Netgalley awhile ago but it got buried on my Kindle thanks to all the Book Bingo books I added a few months ago. I’m sorry I waited so long to finish it, it was a great book!

The second book in the Antique Bookshop series has Jenna presiding over the grand re-opening of the antique/used bookstore she inherited from her uncle. All seems to go well until one guest – Linus Talbot, an antique book expert – has several run-ins with other guests. As the evening draws to a close, Jenna finds Linus dead in his car in the parking lot, murdered with his antique bookends and the only witness is his dog, Eddy. With several suspects and almost no clues, can Jenna find the murderer?

I enjoyed the first book in this series and came to really like Jenna, Mason and Rita and Keith and the juicy plot in this one (gasp THE DRAMA! clutches pearls) as it wound its way among the suspects and unraveled all the clues – which were right there all along but in the end the culprit was still surprising. Just as in the first book, I suspected and then discarded a suspect or two, only to be surprised at the end. sigh Fooled me again!

Another great entry into what’s shaping up to be a really great series and I’m looking forward to the next book.


Expected publication: September 7th 2021 by Crooked Lane Books

A Midlife CatAstrophe MenoPaws Mysteries #1

A Midlife CatAstrophe
(MenoPaws Mysteries #1)
by Morgana Best

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
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I am a big fan of the author’s Australian Amateur Sleuth series so I was excited to pick up this book. As I am just starting menopause, I figured I’d be able to relate to the main character.

Recently divorced Nell, inspired by a fortuneteller’s reading, buys a bookstore a state away from where she lives in Australia. After driving to her new bookstore and parking in the parking lot, she is accosted by a man who was later found dead in her book store. And as if being under suspicion for the murder isn’t bad enough, menopausal Nell thinks she’s going crazy when the bookstore’s cat starts talking to her. Magical hijinks ensue but tracking down the killer comes down to Nell’s sleuthing skills. But can she catch a killer as easily as beating a hot flash?

This wasn’t a very complex plot and I figured it out pretty quickly, but I loved “meeting” the colorful townsfolk and Nell is the kind of friend I would love to have. This is definitely shaping up into a series I will enjoy, and if you like a little paranormal mystery, definitely give this one a try.

Published March 23rd 2021 by Best Cosy Books