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

Any Given Sundae (Australian Amateur Sleuth #5)

Any Given Sundae
(Australian Amateur Sleuth #5)
by Morgana Best

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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When quantum physics professor Roland is found dead in Sibyl’s house next to a half-eaten sundae, the detectives pin Sibyl as the prime suspect when evidence is found that implicates her! Along with Mr. Buttons, starts , Sibyl starts investigating to solve the murder and to find out who tried to frame her..

I love this series, always a light read and full of lively characters (Mr Buttons is in fine form in this one!) and great plots. As always, there’s some real laugh-out-loud moments, and as always, it’s usually Mr. Buttons, by far my most favorite character in this series (the false eyelashes had me rolling, as did the dinner Cressida and Sibyl “cooked”.) The ending was soooo satisfying and Mr. Buttons finally got his greatest wish! (heh heh)

Another great read in this series and another spot filled on my r/CozyMystery Book Bingo card.

Questions and Quarrels (Isle of Man Ghostly Cozy #17)

Questions and Quarrels
(Isle of Man Ghostly Cozy #17)
by Diana Xarissa

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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I liked this one but for some reason, it didn’t hold my attention as much as the other ones did. Whether that’s due to my crumbling attention span (always a strong possiblity) or this book, I couldn’t tell you.

It had a great plot; a building Fenella inherited from Mona (who received it as a gift from Max) has been empty and seemingly forgotten ever since the candle company that used it closed down. While taking a look inside with her advocate Doncan, Fenella finds a mummified body in one of the offices. Is that why Max told Mona never to sell or rent it? Daniel is called in to help investigate while Fenella helps out behind the scenes.

I usually barrel through these books in an evening but this one just felt unfocused and I had a hard time keeping myself reading it. Maybe it needed some small side mystery to fill in the plot? Perhaps but I’m not an author, so I would’t know. But it felt like this just rambled along until the whole thing could be solved. Additionally, I have several unanswered questions about the plot in this one and maybe that’s why it took me longer than usual to finish it. I can’t really get into my questions without putting in spoilers, but I have to say the actions of a couple of the suspects were peculiar and I can’t figure out why they were doing (or trying to do) the things they did. And I’m also wondering, do cats usually get 3 meals a day? I haven’t had a cat in years but when I did, I just put fresh kibble in their dishes before I went to work.

Anyway, I did enjoy the book, and I did love the plot (and I always like hearing more about Mona and Max) but not as much as previous books. Still, can’t wait for the next one when they go to Buffalo!

Published February 19th 2021 by Amazon Digital Services

May Day (Murder-by-Month Mystery #1)

May Day
(Murder-by-Month Mystery #1)
by Jess Lourey

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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I read this several years ago but apparently didn’t write a review. In fact, it’s been so long since I read it that it felt like I was reading it again for the first time but with full knowledge of the characters and their stories. Made for an interesting read! I suggested this for the r/CozyMystery May book club read after I decided to re-read the series before I get into the final book (I’ve been putting it off because I’m not ready to say goodbye to Battle Lake and Mira. *sob*)

I love Mira. I would want her to be my BFF if we lived in the same universe. She’s equal parts awkward, hilariously dark humored and a bit of an overthinker. Basically, she’s me as a fictional character. And I think that’s why I love this series so much, it’s not often I find someone who comes up with worse jokes in bad situations than I do. And now that I think about it, it’s all of the characters in this and all the books in the series that kept me coming back with each book. I know how the characters evolve as the series goes on, so it was a real treat to go back to where it started.

As for the plot, who killed archaeologist (and one time football star) Jeff and why? I loved the plot with all its twists and turns and Mira’s fumbling attempts to investigate made it all the more realistic. I loved all of the funny moments along the way, from that party (had me laughing out loud!) to breaking into places to trying to spy on someone’s conversation through a window, it was both comical and also…I mean, who wouldn’t think along the lines that Mira did? Who wouldn’t dress in black from head to toe to break into a house or sneak into a party? I probably would’ve done all of the things Mira did, which made it feel more authentic to me. And that creeptacular ending! Have to say, if you saw that coming, my hat is off to you. This was my second time reading it and I didn’t even remember that ending.

Overall, this was a deftly plotted and well written debut in this series and one I definitely recommend.

Published March 8th 2006 by Midnight Ink

Inspector Chopra and the Million-Dollar Motor Car

Inspector Chopra and the Million-Dollar Motor Car
(Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation #3.5)
by Vaseem Khan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

36497696. sy475 I needed an Indian author for one of the r/CozyMystery Book Bingo squares and someone suggested this one. It’s novella length, so I was able to read it in an hour or so, but for such a short book, it packed an entertaining plot. Set in Mumbai, India, Chopra is a police inspector who had to retire due to a heart issue but is unwilling to give up the job he loved, he opened a detective agency that runs out of the restaurant he owns. One morning he is visited by a car dealership employee asking Chopra to investigate the theft of a $4 million dollar Mercedes that the dealership procured and customized as a birthday present for the son of a local gangster . If the car isn’t found in time to be presented to the gangster’s son, there will be trouble.

Despite being just over a hundred pages, this was well plotted and entertaining and it was easy to fall into the book. Chopra is a pragmatic sort of investigator and I loved that he has a baby elephant as a sidekick (that car wash had me giggling!) As other reviewers have said, it wasn’t difficult to figure out how the car was stolen, but the culprit turned out to be a surprise. While it was a bare-bones investigation, it was interesting to see how Chopra tracked down every clue and I loved “seeing” the sights and sounds of Mumbai.

Published February 1st 2018 by Mulholland Books

Derailed Plot: A Travel Tragedy Mystery #1

Derailed Plot: A Travel Tragedy Mystery
by Summer Campbell

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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I picked this one up for the r/CozyMystery Discord book club read for April. And, as a chronic procrastinator, I waited until the last days of April to read and review it. That’s how I roll.

In a nutshell, Astrid runs off from the home she shares with her doctor husband after catching him in bed with one of her colleagues. She joins up with her friend Sam, a photographer who is working on a coffee table book of hidden tourist gems in Europe and the last chapter involves taking a week long Orient Express style train trip along the coast of Spain. The morning after boarding, Astrid and her friends discover a murdered man, become suspects and must work fast to find a murderer.

While there were a few things I had issues with (which I’ll get to next) overall I thought this was a cute and charming book. I liked Astrid and Sam, I thought they were likable and if the series goes further, I’d be interested in seeing them progress and have more dimension to them. I loved the location porn, from the small Spanish town of San Sebastian to the views from the train as it wound its way across Spain and Portugal. Enviable, where can I sign up?

But there were issues that I chalk up to a writer with a lot of good ideas, but without a lot of writing experience. And that’s fine, everyone has to start somewhere. The main issues I had is that the MC, Astrid, didn’t sound like a woman who has experience as a jet setting career woman, she sounded much younger, like early 20s younger. Astrid is also from England and yet the tone of the book sounded very American. And that’s fine, because I’d be more annoyed if the tone stayed the same and the author just sprinkled a few Britishisms like “Quite right!” or “I’ll just have a spot of tea” as if mentioning tea is enough to make a book sound more British. I’m not sure about where the author is from (not that it matters) but if she is English, I’d expect it to sound more English-y (Yes, I said English-y, you know what I mean) The plot was also simple and formulaic, and I think if some things were researched a bit further and the book edited to tighten up the plot, this would be a 5 star book. An example, after they found the body of the victim, the train’s security chief told Astrid and her friends to “go back to one suite until they could be questioned” and although I’m not in law enforcement or the legal profession, my thought is that if they were, in fact, legitimate suspects, they wouldn’t be left unaccompanied to wander back to their suite and hang around cooking up a story and hiding evidence. Then again, perhaps that was a clue? Hmmmm. Now I’m rethinking that assessment.

Overall, I’ll give this one 3 1/2 stars because I did enjoy it, at around 150 page, it was perfect for an evening read and despite the issues, I will probably pick up other books in the series, particularly if the writing and the characters progress.

Published February 28th 2021

The Cyanide Ghost

The Cyanide Ghost (Mina Scarletti #6)
by Linda Stratmann

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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I absolutely love this series. In fact, I love it so much that it’s an automatic 4 stars, but this one I’ll give 5. I’ve been reading this series right along and this one ranks up there as the most satisfyingly and compelling of them all thus far.

So much to love about this one; Mr. Beckler is still around and this time he’s attempting to produce spirit photographs and is successful when he captures one during a portrait session for a young woman from a wealthy family. Mina’s suspicions are aroused further when it’s revealed that Mr. Beckler has been taking photos of the gravesites of prominent people in the community, showing the ghostly occupant clearly standing next to their grave. Despite her reluctance to encounter the creepy Mr. Beckler and the brash Arthur Wallace Hope (who we’ve met in previous books and has vowed to silence her skepticism) Mina mounts a covert investigation to learn the truth.

I’ve always been fascinated by the subject of ghosts and Spiritualism and the obviously well researched story line kept me glued to the book, watching Mina wade through the mire until she finds the truth. I loved all of the twists and turns in this one, and really enjoyed watching Mina (with brother Richard’s help) re-enact some situations that occurred and how she uncovered the truth. The comeuppance received by one character very worthy of a comeuppance was so gratifying that I nearly clapped, made for such a gratifying ending that left me wanting more.

Another fantastic entry in the Mina Scarletti series and one I definitely recommend for people who enjoy solidly written historical fiction and ghost stories.

Thank you very much to Netgalley and Sapere Books for the advance copy to read and review.

Published February 23rd 2021 by Sapere Books

Into the Sweet Hereafter

Into the Sweet Hereafter
(Vintage Sweets Mysteries #3)
by Kaye George

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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It wasn’t until I started reading this that I realized this was book 3 and I haven’t read the other 2 books. So I would say it would’ve helped a bit to read the earlier books, but only to help understand and “know” the characters, but it didn’t hinder being able to follow along with the events in this book.

But all that aside, this was an enjoyable and light cozy mystery. I enjoyed the plot; smuggling and burglary isn’t one I usually see in a cozy, so it was a nice change and added lots of intrigue. The change in viewpoints wasn’t confusing at all, I didn’t find it difficult to switch between Tally and Yo, as it was very well delinated and the “tone” did change well enough that you could tell them apart.

What I liked best is you knew the who but not the how, so it was great fun following Yolanda and Tilly as they followed the clues and the ending made for a satisfying read.

I’ll go back and read the first two books at some point, and I’m looking forward to spending more time in Fredricksburg, TX with the gang.

Thank you to Netgalley, Lyrical Press and Kensington Books for an advance copy to read and review.

Published March 9th 2021 by Lyrical Press