Review: The Butterfly Conspiracy

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The Butterfly Conspiracy (A Merriweather and Royston Mystery #1) by Vivian Conroy

A captivating historical cozy mystery, The Butterfly Conspiracy is an excellent debut to a new series! Suspenseful and thrilling, I was immediately sucked into the Victorian world superbly created, with intriguing characters and a puzzling plot that kept me turning pages.

I liked the dynamic between Royston and Merula. She’s wasn’t a passive Victorian flower, he wasn’t a man strong-arming her into being a passive Victorian flower. Although the possibility for a romance was hinted at, it wasn’t overt and took a backseat to the plot. I appreciated that, just like in food, the best flavors are in the background as an enhancement. It also leaves the door open to future story lines, and I look forward to seeing how their relationship develops.

The plot was intriguing; at a zoological meeting, Merula unveils the exotic butterfly she has cultivated. Because she is a woman, Merula’s Uncle Rupert agrees to take the credit, but when a woman dies after the butterfly lands on Lady Sophia’s arm and she falls over, dead, Uncle Rupert is accused of murder. Determined to clear his name, Merula teams up with Lord Royston, uncovering many motives and suspects while pursued by the police. I have no idea if the method of death is feasible or not, but it wasn’t something I’ve ever seen before and really enjoyed it, as well as the surprising and exciting ending.

 

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Review: Death, Bones, and Stately Homes

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Death, Bones,and Stately Homes (Tori Miracle #5) by Valerie S. Malmont

I put off reading this for a long time, because it was the last book in the series *sniffle* and the author died a few years ago. *sniffle* *sigh* It was a great series and oh, how I wish it could’ve kept going, if only to wrap up a few story lines.

After Tori and her friend Alice-Ann find skeletal remains in a walled up cave next in an springhouse, Alice-Ann is quick to silence her friend – at least until after the home tour benefiting the local Humance Society (Think of the poor little kitties!) The body is probably that of a local music teacher who disappeared on his wedding day decades ago, and his wife-to-be disappeared a few weeks later. When the bride is found dead in a trunk, Tori knows she can’t rest until the murders are solved.

This was a bit more graphic than a lot of cozy mysteries, but not so graphic that it would make anyone queasy. It was an excellent plot, and I enjoyed watching Tori uncover so many secrets from the past. I’m always sucked in by an old mansion that holds secrets. An exciting read and a satisfying ending made this a great cap to the series and left me wanting more, although sadly, that won’t come.

 

Review: Lost Books and Old Bones

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Lost Books and Old Bones (Scottish Bookshop Mystery #3) by Paige Shelton

For me, this one was just…okay. There was virtually no context to introduce the new characters and I just didn’t connect with them. It was an great plot, lots of twists and turns and the very creepy Dr Eben. I enjoyed the history (The Burke & Hare story is always fascinating) and of course, the little bookshop and its treasures, both human and inanimate, are a big draw for me but I found it was difficult to hold my interest and I struggled to finish it. Still, this is a great series and there’s a lot to love for cozy mystery fans.

Reviews – Markham Sisters Mystery 8-11

Markham Sisters Mystery series #8-11 by Diana Xarissa

The Markham Sisters Mysteries are a clean, murder-free novella length (under 25000 words) series and a perfect evening read.

 The Hampton Case

I’m amazed at this series, which packs a full mystery into barely more than 100 pages, all with no murders. Janet is a real hoot and I always look forward to spending a little time in Doveby Dale. In The Hampton Case, the local supermarket is destroyed by a fire, and Janet can’t help but be suspicious. With the mysterious Edward Bennett in town, they decide to do a little poking around. Very enjoyable and quick read, with a sprinkle of romance and a few giggles.

 The Irwin Case

Really liked this one, a puzzling case of credit card fraud, a tiny bit of Markham matchmaking and the introduction of a new side mystery involving Alberta Montgomery, a former residents of Doveby House who died tragically many years ago. This was an entertaining little novella that left me wanting more and really, Joan, stop being such a stick in the mud and let Janet read Alberta’s letters already.   Sheesh!

 

The Jackson Case

This was a fun one, and there’s a sort-of continuation in a later Aunt Bessie book (Aunt Bessie Observes.) Janet and Joan help out neighbor Stuart with a charity fundraiser, only to learn that the proceeds were stolen by 2 event organizers. The police think there’s was a local who assisted in return for a slice of the profits, but who? It was enjoyable to watch the sisters unravel who the culprit was and I liked that Janet got at least some information on the mysterious Alberta Montgomery. There was a dropped plot thread with Edward that never came up again and left me wondering why it was in there at all. But overall, I really enjoyed this novella length mystery.

The Kingston Case

I really liked this one, who’s threatening William Chalmers and why? The why turned out to be something I wouldn’t have expected, and I liked how Janet stumbled upon the truth. William Chalmers ex-wife showing up gave the character a little more depth and I’m liking him more and more. More so than Edward, anyway. Very enjoyable and quick cozy to curl up with for an evening, and a wonderful murder-free series.

Review: The Iron Water

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The Iron Water (DI Thomas Harper #4) by Chris Nickson

What a great mystery! Starting with a submerged body bobbing to the surface after a torpedo demonstration it winds its way through 1890s Leeds, with two dead men, rival gangs, and bent coppers, all leading up to a surprising and exciting ending. A taut and well-crafted plot handily kept the tension and suspense going through the whole story and I read most of it in one evening, I just couldn’t put it down! The colorful and descriptive Victorian world created by the author drew me in easily, and the wonderful characters, from the gangsters to the dedicated coppers to Harper’s Suffragette wife, Annabelle, they really brought the book to life. And the ending! Whooo, never saw that coming! An excellent historical mystery from start to finish.

 

Review: The Chalk Pit

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The Chalk Pit (Ruth Galloway #9) by Elly Griffiths

I meant to get this review written last week, right after I finished this marvelous book, but, well, I was traumatized by Nelson and Ruth. How can you keep doing this to me? Auuuggh!

I loved the plot, anything having to do with tunnels and hidden entrances sucks me right in, and this fiction-is-stranger-than-fiction plot was a real rollercoaster; I never would’ve guessed the ending in a million years! The plight of “rough sleepers” was highlighted with compassion and humanity and watching the investigation unfold into edge-of-your-seat action kept me turning pages late into the night. At the heart of these books, beyond the suspenseful plots, is a knot of close-knit lovable characters who have evolved and grown throughout the series, creating a real connection (at least for me. Why, Nelson and Ruth? WHY?) Nelson’s new boss, Jo, is a great character and watching her become part of the team felt…rewarding? Satisfying? Both, I guess but I can’t wait to see more of her!

The next book in the series is due out in the US in May and I’m already chomping at the bit to be tortured  agonized reeled in by Nelson & Ruth in yet another mystery.

Review: Til Death do us Party

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Til Death Do Us Party (Liv & Di #4) by Vickie Fee

Hilarious! From the warm characters to the fun plots, this series always brings an enjoyable read. This one has the gang in Las Vegas for Mama’s Elvis themed wedding as she prepares to wed her hunka hunka burnin’ love, Earl but everyone is All Shook Up when the Elvis impersonator minister drops dead in the middle of the ceremony. The puzzling plot and many laugh out loud moments (like the Bachelorette party!) made this a very entertaining read. And poor Hard Headed Di, I really felt for her wanting to believe the best in that Hound Dog, but I couldn’t understand why Liv left her hanging, there were several times in the book where she just let things drop with Di. Don’t Be Cruel, Liv! I’m not sure how Liv came up with the motive, which was kind of out in left field, but it made for a great surprise twist ending and the sweet wedding and welcome home party were heartwarming and left me with a smile on my face. (and I’m out of relevant Elvis song titles!)

Review: Murder at the Mansion

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Murder at the Mansion (Victorian Village Mystery #1) by Sheila Connolly

I’m a sucker for small town mysteries and when you have a mysterious mansion at the center of it all, well, you’ve got my attention. And this was an enjoyable read, with a likable main character in Kate; she’s a level-headed and unflappable sleuth and romantic interest Josh made for a good sidekick and added a sprinkle of romance. I liked the plot, surrounding a remarkably well-preserved mansion built a century ago by the mysterious Henry Barton and a very unlikable local woman who is found dead on the front steps. The intrigue kept me turning pages, although I feel like the endless rehashing that happened in every chapter killed the pace a little; with a bit of editing, this book would be a lean, mean intrigue machine. As it is, I’m completely sucked into the whole Henry Barton mystery, so I will be back for the second book and can’t wait to watch Kate’s vision for the town evolve into a reality.