Saturday, August 12, 2017

All Signs Point to Murder

Author:  Connie di Marco (a/w/a Connie Archer)
Series:  A Zodiac Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Midnight Ink
Publication Date:  August 5, 2017

Description:  Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary’s wedding day, but nobody asked Julia’s opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one’s prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.

With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family part, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could occur. As she digs deeper into the family’s secrets, her astrological insights will lead her to the truth about a criminal enterprise that stretches far beyond the California coast.

My Review
I requested an advance copy of this book from Netgalley with a bit of trepidation.  I am a fan of this author's writing as Connie Archer, but I found the first book in this series too overwhelming with its focus on astrology.  Because I liked the uniqueness of the main characters profession and I very much enjoy this author's other work, I decided to give the second book a try.

I have to say, I enjoyed the second book much more than the first.  I thought this time around the author did a better job balancing the inclusion of astrology with the overall mystery and story line.  I like that Julia's profession is unique to the cozy mystery genre and it is interesting to me how she can use astrology charts to really discover things about people. Julia herself is a character that has a lot of potential.  I would love to see more development in the next few books.  The author has made a good start but I think that there room for growth both personally and professionally.  The secondary cast of characters are interesting.  I like Gloria, Julia's grandmother.  I am hoping we get to see more of her in future books.

I thought the mystery in this installment was much stronger than the first book.  The murder victim was the sister of one of Julia's good friends and so armed with some astrological information, she attempts to help her friend discover why her sister was killed.  Given how and when the murder occurred, there are not a lot of suspects.  However, the author does a good job of making a plausible case for each of them as the killer.  I had my suspicions of who committed the crime and it turned out I was correct for a change.  However, I did not guess the full motive for the crime.    The story had a good, steady pace and the mystery unfolded over the course of the entire story.  It have a very climatic reveal and what I thought was a bit of a cryptic ending.

I think this series has good promise as long as the author continues to balance the mysteries and characters with the astrology.  If you are not familiar with astrology, it can be a bit overwhelming when the author focuses on Julia reading someones chart.   I think there is plenty of room for the characters to grow and develop and I think the author could take Julia's amateur sleuthing capabilities in a couple of different directions.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Cat About Town

Author:  Cate Conte (a/w/a Liz Mugavero)
Series:  A Cat Cafe Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Published:  August 1, 2017

Description:  Maddie James has arrived in Daybreak Island, just off the coast of Massachusetts, eager to settle down and start her own business—and maybe even fall in love. When a stray orange tabby pounces into her life, she’s inspired to open a cat cafĂ©. But little does Maddie know that she’s in for something a lot more catastrophic when her new furry companion finds the dead body of the town bully. Now all eyes are on Maddie: Who is this crazy cat-whisperer lady who’s come to town? If pet-hair-maintenance and crime-fighting weren’t keeping her busy enough, Maddie now has not one but two eligible bachelors who think she’s the cat’s pajamas . . . and will do anything to win her heart. But how can she even think about happily-ever-after while a killer remains on the loose—and on her path?

My Review

I had been seeing some early reviews for this book and so I decided to give it a try.  I'm glad I took a chance on both a new author and a new series.  I am new to this author, not having read anything under her other pen name Liz Mugavero.  I was delightfully entertained by this book.

For me, this did not read like a first in a new series.  Right from the start I felt like the characters were well-rounded, dimensional and nicely developed.  I instantly liked and connected with Maddie James.  There was none of that awkward getting to know you, first date feeling.  I found Maddie to me warm, fun, loyal and loving.  She is someone we would all like to know.  I also really liked her Grandpa.  Although he lost his wife and is grieving, his life continues and he is not going to just stop living.  The rest of the secondary characters contribute to the story nicely giving us a good picture of the diverse community that lives in this New England town.

I also thought the mystery was really well done.  The victim turns out to be not so well liked by the community because of his personality and the way he is trying to go about changing the community.  As a result, this allows the author to provide the reader with plenty of suspects to choose from with plausible and believable motives.  The mystery is woven nicely throughout the story and I thought there were enough twists and turns that unfolded to keep me guessing as to the killer's identity until the climatic reveal at the end.

Overall, I thought this was a well-plotted cozy mystery with a charming setting and inviting characters.  It did not read as a first in a series as the writing and pace kept me engaged and turning pages until the very end.  I think the author also did a terrific job of using this book to set up the Cat Cafe theme for future books.  I was delightfully entertained by Maddie, her Grandpa and JJ, and will be back to see what this author has in story for this series.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided to me by Minotaur Books, the publisher, through Netgalley.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Death At First Sight

Author:  Lena Gregory
Series:  A Bay Island Psychic Mystery#1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  November 2016

Description:  Since she left her psychiatric practice in New York City to open up a psychic shop in her hometown on Bay Island, Cass Donovan has given her fair share of readings to conflicted customers. But what she sees in Ellie Callahan’s future doesn’t bode well. 
When Ellie’s mother, Marge, publicly confronts Cass about the reading, the embarrassment makes her want to curl up and die. And when she later stumbles across Marge’s body—and is a suspect in her murder—Cass is suddenly the star of Bay Island’s rumor mill.
Cass is determined to prove her innocence and save Ellie from meeting the fate in her unfortunate vision. But even with the help of her friends Bee and Stephanie, Cass will have to channel some serious sleuthing instincts to find the real killer.

My Review

This book has been on my TBR pile since it was first published.  I was lucky enough to win a copy of the second book in the series which spurred me into picking up this one and beginning the series. 

I thought this was a good story for the first in a new series.  The characters are all likable and I think the reader will be able to relate to them.  I really enjoyed the friendship between Cass, Bee and Stephanie.  It felt authentic and it was fun to watch Bee's reaction to Cass and her profession. Cass is what I like to call an accidental amateur sleuth.  She doesn't go looking for mysteries to solve, but when she finds the dead body of a woman who was not a fan she becomes the prime suspect.  Not one to sit by and let herself be railroaded, Cass takes matters into her own hands, with the help of her two best friends, and tries to solve the murder to clear her name.  The secondary cast of characters completes this story and there is a hint at a potential future romance for Cass.

The mystery was solid and layered throughout the story.  The author did a wonderful job of providing the reader with multiple suspects peppering clues, twists and turns throughout the story.  She also did a great job of misdirecting the reader, at least in my opinion.  I was positive that I had determined the killer's identity and was so proud of myself. As I was congratulating myself for solving the murder, the author takes a sharp turn and reveals the actual identity of the killer in a very exciting conclusion.  I was surprised by the identity of the real killer and have to say I did not see this one coming. 

I thought this was a well done first in a new series.  Cass is an accidental sleuth finding her way to clearing her name with the help of her two best friends.  The mystery was solid and kept me engaged and guessing right up until the end.  I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to dive into the second book to see what the author has in store next for Cass.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Killer Party

Author:  Lynn Cahoon
Series:  A Tourist Trap Mystery #9
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground, 
Publication Date:  July 18, 2017

Description:  For a gang of old college buddies, the quaint resort town of South Cove, California, is the perfect spot for a no-holds-barred bachelor party. But for Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books and More—this stag party is going to be murder . . .

After a few months of living with her boyfriend Greg, Jill is still getting used to sharing such close quarters, but she’s got no hesitation about joining him for a weekend at South Cove’s most luxurious resort. While Greg and his college pals celebrate their buddy’s upcoming wedding, Jill intends to pamper herself in style. But when the groom is found floating face-down in the pool, Jill must find the killer fast, or she might not have a boyfriend to come home to any more . . .

My Review

I was a latecomer to this series, but now that I have found it and read a few I can't wait to go back and catch up on what I missed.  As someone who is pretty strict about reading a series in order, I have to say that with the Tourist Trap Mysteries I don't feel like I have missed anything (other than the evolution of Greg and Jill's relationship) by not having read any book before the 8th in the series.

This book picks up not long after the end of the previous book with Jill and Greg away for the weekend to celebrate the upcoming wedding of one of Greg's old friends.  I have to say, almost right from the beginning the author hints that everything may not be quite what it seems.  What I love about this series are the characters.  The ones in this series are well written, complex, and multi-layered characters but there is still much to learn and plenty of room for them to grow and develop further.  Jill is quickly becoming a favorite amateur sleuth for me.  She makes no bones about her investigating and doesn't try to hide it from Greg. I liked in this book that Greg actually needed her investigative skills.

The mystery was fast paced and the readers will be flying through the pages to try and resolve the identity of the killer. The suspects are plenty and plausible.  The clues are subtle and woven throughout the course of the story.  I was really surprised by the identity of the killer - I was so focused on where I thought the author was directing us that I didn't see this one coming.  I think long time readers, and even newer readers, will be surprised by how the author ended this story.  It will leave you clamoring for the next book in the series.

If you love cozy mysteries set in a quaint California setting, with terrific characters that are relatable, likable, complex and multi-dimensional coupled with well plotted, multi-layered mysteries then I would recommend this series to you.  

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley.