The Lacemaker’s Secret (Chloe Ellefson #9) by Kathleen Ernst
Curator Chloe heads to Green Bay to consult on the restoration of an old Belgian-American farmhouse. When she arrives, she can’t help but check out a historic summer kitchen – and discovers a dead body in the bake oven! Alongside the the bake oven mystery is the tale of Seraphine, a Belgian immigrant skilled in art of making lace. The hardships she faced forging a new life in Wisconsin in the mid 1800s provided a background for the events in the modern day mystery.
I can think of 2 authors off the top of my head who wreck me with their books and #1 is Kathleen Ernst. I just know this review won’t do the book justice, it’s so hard for me to detail why this book was so remarkable without giving away what makes it so remarkable! The author’s ability to weave an emotionally haunting old-world story with a gripping modern day mystery is hypnotic! Just like Memory of Muskets, it will stay with me for a long, long time. Seraphine’s strength in the face of such adversity and heartbreak was inspiring and the very detailed descriptions brings it all to life. It’s one thing to read about life in earlier times, but the events are narrated so vividly, it’s like being there.
There was a lot packed into this book without feeling burdensome or overwhelming, from Roelke’s struggles to Seraphine’s heartbreak to Chloe’s tenacious investigating, and the lessons are all the same; strength, faith, and family will help you through any hardship. There’s no better message for anyone to take away from this and I think it’s what sets this series apart from so many others; that it effortlessly entertains, thrills and inspires.
Oh dear, now I’m waxing poetic but really, this was an excellent 5 star read that kept me glued to the pages. Can’t wait for the next one!
In For the Kill (DI Fenchurch #4) by Ed James
It’s always a pleasure to sit down with an Ed James book, because I know it will be a deftly plotted, action packed thrill ride and In For the Kill lived up to the hype. Fenchurch has a lot on his plate at the moment, with dealing with the aftermath of finding Chloe, his long ago abducted daughter, his wife nearing the birth of their second child, and a the terrifying case of a college co-ed found murdered in her bed at the same university Chloe attends.
This was a great read, I loved the thrilling fast paced chase through London solving this complex crime. There were one or two points where the pace slowed a bit, but not by much and there was a lot of action to keep my pulse racing and the tense atmosphere kept me turning pages, impatient to see the next bombshell. Although I missed a few books in the series since I read the first book, I was able to get right back into it. Thanks to the great character development and the consistency of the writing, I remembered many of the principal characters, making me feel like I was catching up with people I hadn’t seen in a while. Fenchurch is developing as the sort of hangdog character you can’t help but root for; intense, persistent, stubborn, and fallible, there’s a little Fenchurch in everyone I think. I enjoy watching him methodically pick at the threads of the crime until it all unravels alongside coping with the struggles in his personal life.
Overall, a great read with a fascinating case full of twists and turns to keep me guessing. Definitely recommend for fans of dark and gritty police procedurals.
Mr. Scarletti’s Ghost (Mina Scarletti #1) by Linda Stratmann
This one has been on my To-Read list for awhile and I absolutely loved this well crafted slice of life in the Victorian times and the fashionable rise of Spiritualism. When a new phenomenon in the form of a spiritual medium named Miss Eustace takes Brighton by storm, Mina becomes worried that her mother and her financially well off friends will become the victims of fraud, Mina sets out to investigate the woman, her intentions and her mysterious past.
Afflicted with scoliosis, Mina Scarletti isn’t expected to marry and have children, so she is free of many of the constraints and pressures that other Victorian women would face. She’s already a successful author of horror stories, and her skepticism of the Spiritualist sensation sweeping Brighton has her free to do a little investigating without arousing displeasure from her family or the townspeople. Practical, clever, sensible and creative, she’s fascinating and so gosh-darn likable. Along with her brother, Richard, friends Dr. Hamid and his family (Oh! Eliza’s storyline was so sad!) it made for a warm and inviting read.
I love the level of realism in this series, it reads like non-fiction. Beautifully researched and rich in detail, from the descriptions of the Brighton seafront to Miss Eustace’s demonstrations, it was brought to life handily and it was so easy to lose myself in the story. I also enjoyed that this was a clean no-murder mystery, just good old fashioned intrigue and deception. This is a a definitely a very highly recommended series for anyone who enjoys historical mysteries and a perfect pool read. Don’t miss this one!
Dark Angel (DI Greco #4) by Helen H. Durrant
I couldn’t put this one down, I’m sorry it took me so long to start it! I’ve long been a fan of Helen H. Durrant’s Calladine and Bayless books, but this is my first DI Greco. I can safely say this can be read as a standalone or an entry into the series, I wasn’t lost at all, any prior references are explained enough that they’re not a distraction.
First off, I have to say that Durrant is skilled in drawing in a reader completely into the world she creates, making the book so much more than a gripping mystery (as if that wasn’t enough!), but also the frequently messy lives of the very compelling and realistic (if not flawed) characters. You end up with not only a thrilling case that keeps you turning pages, but also the can’t-turn-away-train-wreck that is Greco’s personal life. I like Greco, he’s unemotional and methodical, traits that frequently cause problems with interpersonal relationships. Reading this, I was reminded Olympia Dukakis’s line from Moonstruck (“Can I give you some advice? Don’t s**t where you eat.”) and boy, is that relevant to this book. Still, I felt for Greco, it was clear he was being pushed into something he didn’t want and that never ends well.
But it’s the case that takes front and center in the book, it got off to a running start with a body found at a music festival by a young woman before turning to the murders of two young men who got more than they bargained for when they burgled a house. The quick pace and many twists and turns kept me greedily turning page after page and that surprise ending left me gasping. An excellent read from start to finish, something I always expect from this author and definitely recommended for fans of gritty crime fiction.
Death of a Russian Doll (Vintage Toyshop #3) by Barbara Early
Poor Liz, her promising new romance with new police chief Ken Young was shattered when his estranged wife, Marya, blew into town looking to reconcile. Liz does her best to get over it, but when Marya is found strangled to death and Ken comes under suspicion, Liz steps in to help her dad solve the murder and uncovers the secrets Marya has been hiding for years. But who killed her?
Another great chapter in the Vintage Toy Shop series, I loved the twisty plot, this wasn’t your ordinary cozy! There were a lot of timely themes in this story that were handled with humanity and grace. When the whole truth came out, it wasn’t difficult to feel for Marya and her tragic history, and it made for a memorable read. I totally knew who did it by a third of the way through the book (and I was completely wrong, so the ending was a surprise!)
As always, the villagers are a hoot and the liberal sprinkling of puns made me chuckle. Add in Liz’s new romance and the nostalgic (at least for me!) setting and the book left me with the warm and fuzzies. A marvelous series that just keeps getting better and better! This book can be read as a standalone, as any references to the earlier books are adequately explained, but I definitely recommend reading them in order (actually I just recommend reading all of them!)
Rip Your Heart Out (Ripple Effect #4) by Jeanne Glidewell
I’m a bit late to the Ripple Effect series, this is the fourth book but only the first I’ve read and I can safely say this can be read as a introduction to the series or as a standalone. Following the adventures of retired couple Rapella and her husband, Rip, as they travel around the US in their RV, they find themselves in the middle of a mystery wherever they go. Rapella, a charmingly naive chatterbox, made for an entertaining sleuth (and I enjoyed Itsy as the sidekick!) and I was drooling over the beautiful scenery on their cruise. Add in a mouthy cockatoo, a sweet St Bernard and a zippy, lively plot and there was a lot to like!
The plot, surrounding an anonymous tip that a local woman’s death was not due to natural causes and is later determined to be murder. Suspicion is thrown onto Sydney, one of Rip’s cardiac nurses and the niece of the recently deceased woman. There were many facets to the plot, from the seemingly “haunted” house to the squabbling siblings to the possible cache of missing gold and I was sucked in from the start. From the breathtaking scenery on the cruise that made me drool to the many lovable (and not so lovable) characters that jumped off the page and the hijinks that Rapella got into had me chuckling (especially the Uber part!) While I read a lot of cozy mysteries, there have been few that were as fun as this and and I’m definitely going to read the other books in the series.
Scared Stiff (Mattie Winston #2) by Anneliese Ryan
Heh. Poor Mattie doesn’t have an easy time of it, does she?
During a blind date with the OCD William-not-Bill, Mattie is called out on a dead body call. Shannon Tolliver was found dead in her front yard, amongst the Halloween decorations. When Shannon’s estranged husband Erik is arrested, Mattie knows he’s not the killer, so the real question is: who killed Shannon and why?
This was a great followup to the first book; thoroughly entertaining and completely engrossing, it was full of hilarious cringe moments (I laughed out loud through the whole scene when they were recovering the rich couple!) lots of intrigue and one creepy suspect (am I the only one who thought he was creepy at the get-go?) The main plot, Shannon’s murder, leads Mattie far and wide in her search for suspects, uncovering quite a few and introducing a few new characters I hope to see more of (the gay bar scene? Loved it!)
Just one thing, I’ve got a Dropped Thread Alert! (Possible spoiler ahead!)
What about the gun? Erik told Mattie that he gave his gun to Shannon, who stored it in the guest bedroom. When Mattie and Hurley went to Shannon’s house to see if it was there, Mattie got busy looking at her medicine cabinet, her hormones flared and she got horny with Hurley and she never checked to see if the gun was still there and it was never mentioned again. Arrgh!
Overall, an excellent second in this series and it made me excited to read more.
The Luckiest Woman Ever (Molly Sutton #2) by Nell Goddin
At the local fine dining restaurant, Molly eavesdrops on a wealthy old woman’s not-very-happy birthday party. Known throughout the village for being contemptuous and unlikable, her assembled party goers look less than thrilled to be there. At the end of the evening, Molly finds the woman lying dead on the bathroom floor and it’s determined that the woman died from cyanide poisoning. Molly, having witnessed the whole evening, begins to investigate (which is a good thing, since the local police chief isn’t very good at solving murders.) What she uncovers is decades of secrets, lies and a rage that has simmered for decades.
This is quickly shaping up to be a favorite series, I’m really enjoying Molly’s adventures in France. This one introduced some new characters that I hope will be returning. And the victim! While a nasty character you love to hate is common in books, this one really takes the cake. She was gleefully hurtful, thoroughly vile, and mercilessly horrible and yet I still loved her antics (or maybe I was just waiting for the moment she paid for it, I don’t know. But what a delightfully rotten character!
Really, if I wasn’t so wholly caught up in the story, I probably would’ve figured out the clues, but no, it all just flew past me. Lots of red herrings threw me off track and the pace was perfect to keep me turning pages. The ending was a lot better than the first book; I was riveted, watching it all unfold. This was a thoroughly enjoyable cozy read, perfect to curl up with, especially if you have a croissant and a glass of fine wine.
Working Stiff (Mattie Winston #1) by Anneliese Ryan
I don’t know why it took so long for me to hear about this series, but I’m happy I found it! Laugh out loud funny and suspenseful, it was impossible to put down. In fact, I started this on audiobook and it motivated me to get out for my daily walk, but switched to the Kindle copy because it was so good, I just couldn’t wait any longer to finish it!
Mattie is equal parts hapless and unflappable, with a positive attitude that I really enjoyed and appreciated. Despite the setbacks of her failed marriage, her cheating husband accused of murder and quitting her job, she took it all in stride and kept going, no dwelling on a pity party for our Mattie. The other great characters made the book even more enjoyable, from the hairdresser at the funeral home to Joey the superhero to Izzy and Dom, I loved every one of them (well, except the reporter. Why does there always have to be an annoying reporter? Ugh.) The smoldering on/off romance was amusing and a tad overdone, but I enjoyed it anyway. I really liked the forensics trivia tucked in there (I’m a sucker for that stuff) and the well-crafted plot had plenty of surprise twists and turned up suspect after suspect, ending with a bittersweet unexpected revelation at the end. I didn’t pick up on who the murderer was until just before the exciting (and slightly hilarious) ending. Altogether, this was an excellent start to a series and I’m already well into the second book. Outstanding!
The Advice Column Murders (Oakwood Mysteries #3) by Leslie Nagel
This is the third book in the Oakwood series, I loved the first two, so I was really excited to read #3. I adore how well written this series in, from the creative and twisty plots to the lovable characters, and this one was no exception! Very nicely plotted, with two murders that occur just steps from Charley’s front door. After a new family moves in next door, Judith’s adult daughter, Sarah, is found murdered. Later, Judith is found murdered in the street, the blame falls on a carpenter with ties to the family. Charley smells a setup and investigates into the family’s past and uncovers several secrets. With a few mini mysteries to solve along the way (I loved the revelation of who was behind the advice column and I don’t think they should stop!) to the person responsible for the vandalism delaying the expansion at Charley’s vintage shop, Old Hat (which was puzzling, not puzzling as in whodunit but puzzling as in *scratches head* whaat?) and there were many surprise twists that kept things interesting right up to the exciting ending. Wholly enjoyable and entertaining, The Advice Column Murders is another great addition to this excellent cozy series.
Too Many Crooks Spoil the Plot (Ditie Brown #1) by Sarah Osbourne
I really enjoyed this one, it was relatable, realistic and inviting. The characters really made it for me; warm, true to life and charming, from the capable Ditie, stepping up to take in Ellie’s kids to the sassy Lurleen to the sweet romance between Ditie and Mason, I found myself roped in from the first page. Lurleen is really the one I want to know more about, her back story was hinted at several times in the book and I’m looking forward to learning more about her. The suspenseful plot kept me glued to the pages, the corporate espionage angle was interesting and intriguing (I want to try that product!) but I have to say, that ending….I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. It was a little convoluted. Not bad, just a bit confusing who was on what side. Also, the TSTL moment by one of the characters at the end just felt a bit unrealistic (I don’t want to spoil, but jeeeeez.) But it was a great mystery and an edge of your seat read and the recipes included at the end of the book sound delicious and there’s a couple I can’t wait to try. An excellent start to a new series and one I’ll look forward to reading more of in the future.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
The Marmalade Murders by Elizabeth Duncan
Penny Brannigan finds herself volunteering at the local agricultural fair, checking in entrants to the culinary competition and judging the childrens’ pet competition. But shenanigans are afoot when Penny’s friend Florence learns her entries have gone missing, and even more troubling, a Women’s Guild member is also missing and later found dead. All Penny has to do now is sort out who sabotaged Florence’s entries and how her cake ended up under a table with a dead woman.
This one was a fun, light read and frankly, I was more concerned about poor Florence than I was about the unlikable dead woman. I love Florence, I just want to give her a hug, and Mrs. Lloyd is a hoot. How dare they diss Florence’s baking? HOW DARE THEY? *outrage* but it did provide some great red herrings to complicate things a bit. I liked the plot, there were several good suspects and lots of surprises along the way. This is a favorite series for me, I’ve always enjoyed the folksy feel of the characters and the small town Wales setting, the vibrant descriptions leave me with no problem putting myself right in the small town of Llanelen, walking its streets and visiting the small shops and even spending an afternoon at the local agricultural fair (minus the murder, of course.) The author does a great job of capturing the beauty of the Welsh landscape, with all the wildflowers and Penny’s cute cottage (I’ve read this series since the start and I’ve always envied that cottage.)
Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton
I enjoyed this mix of intrigue, mystery, long ago secrets and murder. Lots of threads for Delaney to untangle, from an unfortunate incident 50 years ago involving Edwin and his university friends to a murder of a William Wallace reenactor. I loved the sights and sounds of Edinburgh and old castles, it was just like being there. The plot kept a decent pace, and there was a lot for Delaney to figure out and the exciting ending left me with raised eyebrows. With all of the red herrings and plot twists, I think I had a new guess whodunit with each chapter! There were a few dropped/unexplained plot threads that I found myself thinking about after I finished the book. Who was the dead guy on the boat and how come nothing could be found about him other than the passport? Weird. And whatever happened to the letter? And what was the whole thing with the shot glasses? And was Gordon’s explanation of Leith’s death true? Or was it the work of the killer? I guess I’ll never know. But seriously, if Edwin had come clean about the whole thing from the beginning, we never would’ve had a whole book to enjoy.
Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chen
What a charming book! This will definitely appeal to any cozy mystery reader, but I can see it being a hit with younger readers (and by younger, I mean younger than my creaky middle aged bones! Young people in their 20s or perhaps even teenagers (there’s no bad language or sexual situations) would really like this.) With a sprinkle of romance, a bit of intrigue, adorable characters, a cute setting and a captivating mystery, what more can you ask for in a cozy? The Asian venue was a fresh and unique setting for the mystery. This isn’t your average everyday cozy!
I loved Lana and her roommate Megan, they made a great team and their enthusiasm caught me up and rolled me right along with them. The cute Asia Village plaza with its Chinese shops sounds like such a great place to visit and browse for a day. Is this a real thing? Is there an Asia Village I can visit somewhere? Hmmm. And the plot! All the twists and turns and red herrings kept me guessing and I was completely turned around upside down by the time I got to the exciting ending. Can’t wait to read more from Lana and the gang!
Muffin to Fear by Victoria Hamilton
I always love catching up with Merry and her friends and I’ve been eagerly awaiting cracking this one open. I liked that it took the time to set up and introduce the new characters (the tv crew.) In many cozy mysteries, someone is murdered right at the beginning of the book and there’s so little context that I find I don’t connect as well to the story. While the dysfunctional TV crew squabbles were tedious at times, it really helped to develop the characters and by the time the murder happened, I was already firmly hooked. Lots of twists and turns kept me guessing and lots of small details that I had to keep track of kept me engaged. Add in Merry’s grace and humor, her delightful friends Hannah and Lizzie, a madcap crew of ghost hunters (I love ghost hunters shows!) and a surprise twist at the end and you have one satisfying read. It was every bit as good as I expected from this author, and a great addition to the series.
Murder on the Sugarland Express by Angie Fox
I love this series, it’s like a bag of potato chips – can’t put it down! The exciting plot is the real star of this book. A well crafted homage to the iconic Murder on the Orient Express, the rip-roaring dual plot combined a long ago ghostly unsolved murder with a current day murder under similar circumstances. Fast-paced with an ending that left my heart racing, it was thoroughly enjoyable and memorable and I admit, I was surprised by whodunit and why. It was an exceptionally well done mystery that even Agatha would appreciate!
The ghostly victims of the first derailment returning to the scene of te crime (complete with a Poirot-esque police inspector!) and the thrilling solve of the first case was entertaining (I loved how The Green Lady redeemed herself at the end!) but it was the modern day murder that tugged at my heart, thanks to the great characters, I love how they’ve progressed as the series goes on; all of them have grown to become vivid and realistic and darn it, so likable (even Virginia!) They’re all the reason I eagerly come back with each new book.
Survival of the Fritters (Deputy Donut #1) by Ginger Bolton
Still reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Alec, 3 years ago, Emily is trying to move on with her life at the donut shop she owns with her father in law. Among the donut shop’s favorite regulars is a group of older ladies, who have a knitting club called Knitpickers. So when one of the Knitpickers doesn’t show up one morning, everyone is concerned. Later, they go to her house to check on her and find her dead, surrounded by donuts. Who killed Georgia and why? Is it related to the unsolved murder of Georgia’s son, Mattias?
I’m not going to lie, the adorable cat on the cover made me want to pick up this book and it didn’t disappoint! The excellent plot reeled me in like a fish and kept me turning pages and guessing almost up to the very last page! I liked that Emily didn’t really go out and investigate, she just put the clues together (not that it didn’t stop her from getting into trouble at the end.) I loved the characters, from spunky Lois and the Knitpickers to pragmatic Brent and the spark between him and Emily (mmph) they were all charming and realistic characters but let’s face it, we all know it’s the adorable feline Deputy Donut who steals the show. An excellent introduction to picturesque Fallingbrook, Wisconsin and definitely a place I’m eager to visit again.
Flowers and Foul Play by Amanda Flower
Fiona’s going through a rough patch; her flower shop’s gone out of business, her fiancé cheated on her and then she gets word that her godfather has died and left her his cottage in Scotland. Arriving to reclaim her inheritance, she discovers the body of Alastair Croft, the lawyer handling her inheritance. Worried that the police suspect her godfather’s most trusted friend and employee may be implicated, Fiona asks a few questions around town and discovers that nearly everyone had a motive to kill Alastair.
What a lovely book! The beautiful Scottish countryside drew me in, the magical garden hooked me. With engaging characters, the beautiful setting and the excellent plot, it was a thoroughly charming and light cozy. I loved the writing style, the book came alive with each page, from “seeing” the garden come alive, to the mischievous Duncan the squirrel (and the rivalry between Duncan and Ivanhoe that cat!) to the dramatic landscape of the coast, it was almost like being a part of the action. So well done! The action packed ending had me biting my nails with each page and in the end, there were a few plot threads in the book that I look forward to seeing resolved in later books in the series. This was an excellent first in a new series and I look forward to seeing more of Fiona and friends!
Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early
Book 2 of the Vintage Toy Shop series was every bit as good as the first! This is shaping up to be a go-to series, and not just because I love the setting so much (and I’m with Liz about Sahlen’s Hot Dogs, mmmm.) The twisty plot kept me guessing right up to the exciting ending, and there were a few “oh no way!” moments along the way. I love Liz’s relationship with her dad, they make a great team and the running puns are always funny.
“You have a mind like an elephant’s.”
“Yeah, wrinkled, gray and way too much junk in the trunk. But that’s totally irrelephant.”
I felt bad for Liz in this one. I mean, what’s wrong with a woman casually dating 2 guys? Apparently a lot, since Liz’s family felt like they needed to nag her about it every 2 minutes. Can’t a single girl have a little fun?
It was the plot that really stands out in this book, who killed Comic Book Craig and why? Craig wasn’t a likable guy by any means, and there were plenty of motives and suspects to keep me guessing, and the side plots added both a bit of fun and introduced new characters I hope to see more of in later books. The big plot twist at the end made for an exciting and satisfying conclusion and by the very last page, I was already dying (pun intended) to read the next book (October can’t come soon enough!)
Jeopardy in July by Barbara Venkataraman
Ahhh Jamie, how can you be such an adept investigator but be so oblivious to what’s around you? *sigh*
This series is always a fun, laugh-out-loud, absorbing read. You can’t help but like Jamie, a sassy, independent, and strong woman, yet vulnerable and a little unsure (especially when it comes to Kip!) Her banter with Duke is always hilarious, and the gents at the old folks’ home (named ‘La Vida Boca’, a take off on the Ricky Martin song, translated, it means ‘The Mouth Life’ which made me laugh a bit too, considering the sassy level of many of its residents!) In Jeopardy in July, Jamie is uncovers a case of art forgery that turns into murder and I enjoyed how the story weaved together several threads into one intricate plot. Jamie is also reconsidering the focus of her law practice and I can’t wait to see how that develops in coming books. The book capped off with an exciting conclusion that opened up so many possible future storylines (which I’m looking forward to!) My only criticism was that I thought the showdown at the end ended a little abruptly, but it was still satisfying. A few new characters were introduced that I hope to see return, especially Herb, Uncle Teddy and his friends. The heartwarming twist at the end was adorable and left me with a serious case of the feels, if you’ve been following the series from the beginning, it was a satisfying and endearing end to the book and left me eagerly awaiting the next book.
The Fast and the Furriest by Sofie Ryan
Another fun mystery in the Second Chance Cat series, The Fast and the Furriest dug into the shadowy past of Mac, the enigmatic handyman at Second Chances. And what a story it was! It would’ve made for a great soap opera plot even Elvis the cat could get in to (as long as it wasn’t on during Jeopardy, of course.) When Erin Fellows shows up in town looking for Mac and is later found dead, Mac comes under suspicion after an eyewitness places him at the scene. Sarah’s sassy senior friends, an informal PI agency calling themselves “Charlotte’s Angels”, kick into gear to solve the murder to save their friend.
I always enjoy this series, it’s a relaxing, light read and the charming characters make it feel like I’m catching up with old friends. I have to say, Sarah is stubbornly clueless about Nick’s interest, maybe he needs to step up his game? I enjoyed their “field trips” they took in the course of their investigation (Stevie’s alibi made me laugh) and it all came together for an exciting ending, Mr. P. certainly is a man of many talents.
Overall, The Fast and the Furriest is a delightful addition to an already great series. This book can easily be be read as a standalone or an entry into the series, as any references to prior books are summed up nicely and it would be easy for readers new to the series to understand.
Death of a Toy Soldier by Barbara Early
Ok, first of all, I have an ulterior motive for picking up this book. You see, I know the setting very, very well. East Aurora, a small town outside of Buffalo, NY, is home to landmarks like Vidlers, The Roycroft, and of course, Fisher-Price and all of its toys. So when I saw that Death of a Toy Soldier was set in that tiny speck on the map that few people outside of Western NY know about, I had to read it. The book was full of recognizable places and captured the flavor of the town so well that it made me feel like I was transported back to the bricked lined Main Street with its wide sidewalks and cute little shops.
The plot surrounds a man who brings a box of old toys to be appraised at the vintage toy shop owned by Liz McCall and her retired police chief father Hank. When the man and is later found dead in the middle of the night, murdered with a lawn dart and Hank falls under suspicion, there’s no choice for Liz and her father to investigate, turning up family squabbles, a possible haunting and some mischievous fun. Lots of red herrings and false clues made this an enjoyable and puzzling plot and I loved the charming characters that truly embodied the warm community atmosphere of the town. The surprise twist and exciting ending capped it all off and left me eager to read more.
An excellent debut mystery set in a place close to my heart and I definitely recommend it for cozy mystery fans looking for a fun and enjoyable read.