Of Books and Bagpipes

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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.

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Death by Dumpling

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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

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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

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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.

Review: Survival of the Fritters

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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.

Review: Flowers and Foul Play

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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!

Review: Murder on the Toy Town Express

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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!)

Review: Jeopardy in July

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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.

Review: The Fast and the Furriest

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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.

Review: Death of a Toy Soldier

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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.

Review; Sitting Murder

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Sitting Murder by A.J. Wright

After Alice, a recent widow, develops the ability to speak with the dead after her husband dies in a mining accident, her aunt Doris takes advantage of it by bringing in people for spirit readings. After receiving a threatening letter, the police are contacted and Detective Sergeant Brennan and Constable Jaggery begin to investigate. Brennan initially dismisses the letter as a crank but the case heats up quickly when Doris is found suffocated, and there’s no shortage of suspects. But who was the target, Doris or Alice?

Whoo, what a ride! Loved, loved, LOVED this, I was swept up in this deftly written mystery combining the Victorian fascination with mediums and spirits with a classic whodunit.  I loved the simple yet complex plot that takes twist after turn and by the time the surprise ending was unfolding, I was just holding on for dear life! The tragic stories from the suspects made it hard to single one out, and although you think you know who did it, you’ll be wrong.

Sitting Murder was a fantastic mystery and one I will be thinking out for a long time. I’ve not read any of the earlier books in the series (you can bet I will now!) so this book can easily be read as a standalone or as an entry into the series.

Review: March of Crime

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March of Crime by Jess Lourey

“Gary,” she said on her way out, “I got my nails done. What do you think?” He looked. She held up both her middle fingers. His nostrils flared. I tugged Mrs. Berns outside before he did anything more

If I could give this book a standing ovation, I would. I had a serious book hangover after I finished this one; actually, I finished the last page and went “Auuugghhhaaahhhhh!!!!” Thrilling, hilarious and entertaining, it was a great comeback for Mira and the Battle Lake gang. I love Mira, she’s smart and tough on the outside but so vulnerable and insecure on the inside (and dang it, girl you make some rotten decisions!) Mrs. Berns is always laugh out loud funny and like Mira, I want to be her when I grow up. The plot was fantastically creepy (dolls are creepy enough, but when you stuff corpses in them? *shudder*) and I never saw the end coming. Add in Kennie’s hairbrained money making schemes (which had me rolling with laughter!) and Chief Wohnt (gaaahhhh!!) and you’ve got a blockbuster book.

An excellent read and  I definitely recommend this series for cozy mystery fans. I can’t wait for the next book (please Lord, let it be soon!)

Review: Biscuits and Slashed Browns

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Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day

Biscuits and Slashed Browns is the 4th book in the Country Store Mysteries, and the small town of South Lick, IN is gearing up for a Maple Festival when a visiting college professor ruffles some feathers and winds up dead with a chef’s knife stuck in his chest. Puzzle fanatic Robbie can’t seem to let the matter go, especially when the prime suspects are her best friend Christina and the father of one of her employees! Robbie ruthlessly chases the truth, and finds herself in a couple of sticky situations before being confronted by the killer and barely escaping with her life! (And I loved how the title was a part of the plot!)

I love a visit to South Lick and catching up with Robbie, Buck and Adele and of course, Robbie’s food (I’m going to make those maple biscuits!) and this one didn’t disappoint. The author does such a great job of creating a world that welcomes you back like an old friend. The rich plot had a lot going on without feeling too cluttered, with a fast pace and a riveting plot that kept me glued to the pages. I mean, the floors can wait to be washed, but mysteries don’t solve themselves! Robbie’s bike rides had me, who is freezing in arctic Indiana right now, yearning for those spring days with the promise of warmer weather to come. I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit about the maple syrup process, too bad Robbie didn’t make it to see the Native American sugaring demonstration. And did she ever fix her taillight? Did she give Warren’s crown back to Noreen? These are the things I worry about, folks.

Overall, Biscuits and Slashed Browns serves up another finger lickin’ good cozy mystery and another enjoyable visit to South Lick.

A Will to Die

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A Will to Die by Russell Atkinson

A Will to Die is the 7th Cliff Knowles mystery but also a standalone. What sets this book apart from the other books in the series is that Cliff is a bit of an outsider to this investigation, since it was his estranged sister who died, he was more on the sidelines, not that Cliff let that stop him.

This was an intriguing case, and I have to hand it to the author, he comes up with some pretty unsettling plots (read Fatal Dose!) and this one, a suicide cult preying on Cliff’s sister is no different. Lots of twists and turns, what you think is an insignificant scene comes back later to be very relevant to the investigation, so it keeps the reader on their toes. Since Cliff wasn’t right in the middle of the official investigation, I really liked watching Cliff and the detectives come to the same conclusions separately by different means. Detectives Sanchez and Martin were a great pair, I liked their friendly rivalry and dogged determination. A sprinkling of geocaching (I always find that interesting, one of these days I’ll have to give it a try) and the moving storyline about Denise’s daughter gave a human touch to the story.

Overall, another fantastic book in the Cliff Knowles series and a must read for any fan of realistic police procedurals and a good mystery.

Review: Dead, Bath, and Beyond

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Dead, Bath, and Beyond by Lorraine Bartlett & Laurie Cass

I think this is my favorite of the author’s many series, and I was happy to see it return. They’re always a light cozy read. I love the quaint upstate NY location and I really like Katie, she’s endlessly patient (I am not, so I envy this quality in others) and I love the down to earth realism attitude that retired detective Ray Davenport brings to balance out all the wild theories Katie comes up with. The pace on this is relaxed, and that’s what I love about this series, it’s sets just the right pace for the story, allowing the reader to really get to know the different characters while still keeping the mystery suspenseful. I loved the plot, who killed Katie’s ex-boss Josh the Jerk and why? Lots of suspects and lots of motives, Katie has her hands full investigating, leading up to the exciting conclusion.

All in all, a great addition to the Victoria Square series and an enjoyable read.

Review: Club Room Corpse

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Club Room Corpse by Sherry Lodge

Giveaway!  Win one of two Kindle copies of the Club Room Corpse!
(Contest runs until January 10th, 2018. 2 winners will be picked at random, no purchase required, open to US residents only.  Click link for more info!)

Cassie, Cassie, Cassie. As if you don’t have enough on your plate to keep you busy, what with wedding plans and your concierge job catering to the upscale residents of the Parkstone luxury apartment building and finding who is the lucky recipient of a lovely pair of Lovebirds, but you had to go and find yourself in the middle of another murder. And poor Stella! Readying her 75th birthday party, she is ruthlessly killed. Who could have it in for this innocent little old lady? There’s a whole RSVP list of suspects and motives and as if finding the killer wasn’t hard enough, untangling the half-truths and mysteries of Stella’s life prove to be just as difficult. What’s a fashionista to do other than to put on her Jimmy Choo’s and solve another mystery?

I enjoy this cute little cozy series, from Cassie’s running narrative of what the residents of the Parkstone are wearing to her ability to ferret out the smallest details and help her homicide detective boyfriend close the case, it always puts a smile on my face. The Clubroom Corpse had an especially juicy plot, with a victim who hid many secrets, a whole building full of suspects and lots of clues and misdirections to keep me guessing. I loved the madcap ending, it was a fun and exciting way to cap off an enjoyable mystery. And I’ve got my eye on you Mr. Beasley narrows eyes

 

Review: A Tale of Two Kitties

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A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly

I’ve read this series from the beginning, I always enjoy a visit to Mayville Heights and Owen and Hercules never fail to put me under their spell. A Tale of Two Kitties is the perfect addition to this wonderful series, I enjoyed the the exciting plot; a pair of estranged brothers, a love triangle, and a decades old death combine lead to a present day murder, tearing a family apart. I love the extra layer that Kathleen and Simon’s friendship adds, that what-if feeling it gives me. I mean, Kathleen and Marcus spend almost no time together. They’ve been together how long and they haven’t moved in together yet? Clearly this relationship is going nowhere. Yes, I’m shipping Simon and Kathleen, make this happen, for Mia’s sake. The trove of lost mail discovered behind a wall at the post office was a fun way to tie the story together and add some Mayville Heights history to the story. Combine all of it together and you get a suspenseful and enjoyable cozy mystery with Owen and Hercules saving the day. Irresistible!

Review: A Fatal Collection

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A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes

An adorable and enjoyable cozy mystery, from the charming location to the cute characters and the excellent plot, it was a fun read. I loved the world that the author created with Keepsake Cove, a beautiful little tourist town in Maryland with quaint little shops and I would love to wander around the music box shop, looking at all the different models. The characters were just as charming as the location, I really liked Callie, a realistic main character that is easy to relate to. But the plot really shined, from the ghostly music box to the twisty plot full of misdirections, I couldn’t read it fast enough.

A Fatal Collection will delight any cozy mystery fan, and this stands out as one of the finest mysteries I’ve read in 2017. I look forward to seeing the series continue, can’t wait for the next book!

Review: Death Distilled

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Death Distilled by Melinda Mullet 

The second book in the Whisky Business Mystery series, Death Distilled is a solid tale of old secrets, revenge and murder, both in the current day and hundreds of years ago. And that’s what I liked best about this book, the blending of mysteries from two separate time periods and then tied together at the end. Add in secret passages and you’ve got an intoxicating cozy mystery.

My only gripe is there was too much packed into the book and I felt like it rambled a bit too long. At around 2/3 of the way through the book, I started to get a little bored. If a few scenes in the middle were trimmed or removed, it would’ve heightened the tension and suspense.

The colorful cast of characters and the side plot historical mystery really made the book engaging. I was far more interested in the historical mystery (and the hope of more secret rooms and passages) than I was in the minutae of the rock star soap opera. The conclusion was both thrilling and tragic and a great ending to the story.

Overall, an entertaining and enjoyable read and I am eagerly watching for the next book in the series.

Review: Quackery

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Quackery by Lydia King and Nate Pedersen

Equal parts mortifying, morbid and fascinating, Quackery is a guided tour through the horrifying world of medicine and health care in days gone by. I eat these kinds of books up like candy, who doesn’t like lurid trivia of the not-so-good ol’ days? I know I do!

I really liked the layout, it’s akin to my favorite magazine, Mental Floss with little factoids on every page to highlight the subject. Very well organized, full of stomach turning stories of medical mistakes and maladies, it kept me turning pages and very thankful I live in the modern day.