Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Hive of Homicides

Author:  Meera Lester
Series:  A Henny Penny Farmette Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington 
Publication Date:  September 26, 2017

Description:  When Abigail Mackenzie left the police force to become a farmer and beekeeper in beautiful Las Flores, California, she thought her days of criminal investigation were behind her . . .
Her present life is mostly filled with hard work and happy occasions, including the upcoming event with her friend Paola, a truffle maker, who's renewing her vows with her husband Jake, owner of the Country Schoolhouse Winery. Abby is delighted to provide her trademark lavender honey for the occasion.
But after the ceremony, the guests of honor are nowhere to be found. When Abby goes looking for them, she hears a gunshot and discovers Jake dead in his car and Paola injured beside him.
Who was the intended target? Jake had a reputation as a busy bee with the ladies. Is it possible that one of his flings, stung by rejection, took revenge? Or could it be sour grapes with one of his colleagues at the winery? If Paola was meant to be the victim, Abby needs to protect her as she searches for the shooter.
When a second murder occurs, it's up to Abby to crush the clues—before the killer gets her over a barrel.

My Review

I found this third book in the Henny Penny Farmette series to be a quick, enjoyable read.  I have read all the books in the series to date and have to say this each one, in my opinion, is entertaining and engaging.

Abigail MacKenzie ("Abby") is a well written and developed protagonist. She is smart, spunky, loyal to her friends and in this story we got to see her vulnerable side. Being an ex-cop she her sleuthing abilities are fairly well honed and she tries to assist the police and not go rouge on her own. The author continues to grow and develop Abby in each new book and I think readers will like what they see in this one. The secondary cast of characters round out the story nicely and we see old and new friends.  There is also a bit of romance brewing for Abby, which I like.  The author is not rushing the characters by no means and it feels natural as it is unfolding in the series.

The mystery had a steady pace that unfolded throughout the entire story with plenty of twists, turns and drama leading up to a very climatic reveal. I also like how the author throws in tips about beekeeping, recipes and snippets from the Henny Penny Farm almanac. I enjoy this series and its characters and will be back for the next book in the series.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Negalley.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Body on Baker Street

Author:  Vicki Delany
Series:  A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Expected Publication Date:  September 12, 2017

Description:  Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson are busy managing the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street and adjoining Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room in anticipation of the store’s upcoming book signing with the illustrious Renalta Van Markoff, author of the controversial Hudson and Holmes mystery series. But during the author Q&A session, dedicated Sherlockian Donald Morris verbally attacks Renalta and her series for disgracing Sherlock’s legacy, only to be publicly humiliated when the author triumphantly lashes back and gains the upper hand. That is until Renalta collapses on the table―dead.

My Review

I loved the first book in the series so was happy to dive into the advanced reader copy I received of Body of Baker Street. This was a quick fun read that I just didn't want to put down. I was so engaged I just kept turning pages to see how the story would end.

What I enjoyed so much about the first book was the character of Gemma. She is, at least in my opinion, unique among cozy mystery protagonists. She is highly observant and has great logical deductive reasoning skills which makes her a good amateur sleuth. What endeared her to me was her social awkwardness. In this second installment the reader can see she is trying to work on this to help her relate better to people. She is asked by her friend and fellow shop owner to help clear him of murder charges, and in typical Gemma style she goes about observing the suspects and trying to put the clues together without thought to her own safety.  The secondary characters from the first book are all back, but I was a bit disappointed that Jayne's role in helping Gemma uncover the killer was not larger.

The mystery was once again well crafted, woven throughout the story with plenty of clues, twists and turns. The story was fast paced, with plenty of viable suspects.  It was fun watching Gemma peel back the layers of these clues to determine who really killed the author. The is still a tension between Gemma and Ryan regarding Gemma's "interference" in police investigations.  Ryan does respect her observations but still have difficulty with how that comes across. And of course, Detective Estrada still has it out for Gemma.  

I think this author has done an excellent job of crafting a smart, sophisticated series with great characters and engaging mysteries.  I am looking forward to more great stories in this series and will definitely be back to Baker Street for the next installment.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Death Distilled

Author:  Melinda Mullet
Series:  A Whiskey Business Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Publication Date:  September 5, 2017

Description:  It’s been three months since Abi Logan last checked in on Abbey Glen, the celebrated whisky distillery she inherited. With her oversize wheaten terrier, Liam, by her side, Abi returns to the quaint Scottish village of Balfour. But her relaxing Highland homecoming takes a stressful turn when she unearths an unseemly bit of village history, welcomes a group of Japanese whisky enthusiasts, and becomes shepherdess to an unexpected flock of sheep—all within the first twenty-four hours. Still, nothing’s more stressful than murder. . . .

Local celebrity Rory Hendricks is the hotheaded, hard-rocking former frontman of the Rebels—and Abi’s girlhood crush. After meeting him in person, Abi can’t say no to anything he asks, like photographing his upcoming show . . . or figuring out who’s trying to kill him. Turns out someone’s been bumping off his old bandmates, with the drummer dead under mysterious circumstances and the keyboardist in a coma following a hit-and-run. Now a series of threatening messages leads Rory to think he’s next on the chopping block. And the band has a devil’s share of broken hearts and bitter disputes in their past, leaving Abi a huge batch of suspects to sift through—all before the killer takes another shot.

My Review

This is the second book in the Whiskey Business Mystery series and I found it to be just as enjoyable as the first book. It is quickly becoming a series I look forward to reading. 

Set in Scotland, this series has a unique theme for a cozy mystery.  It is one of the things that drew me to the series and keeps me coming back.  The characters are smart, sophisticated and well developed.  In this installment we once again find Abi called upon to investigate murder and mayhem.  Because of her background and what she has witnessed as a photojournalist, Abi has a keen sense of observation but she is not trying to out-do or show up the police.  And, in this installment, there are occasions where the police actually seek her out for her observations and insight. I felt like Abi was at a crossroads in this story, trying to reconcile her old life and the career she has built with her new home in Balfour and the Abbey Glen distillery.

There are two mysteries in this story - one modern and one historical.  The two are woven together nicely throughout the entire story and actually compliment each other.  The modern day mystery is a smartly crafted with subtle clues, twists and turns. The historical mystery allows the reader a glimpse into the history of the Scottish Village of Balfour, where the story is set, as well as the history of Scotland itself.  As I said, I think the author tied the two nicely together in the end.

I am definitely looking forward to more in this series.  I think there is a lot more of Abi for us and for her to discover.

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Pudding Up With Murder

Author:  Julia Buckley  
Series:  An Undercover Dish Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  September 5, 2017

Description:  Customers trust Lilah Drake to keep her mouthwatering meals under wraps, but when a millionaire meets his untimely end, some sinister secrets become the main course. . . .
Spring is right around the corner, and with the warmer temperatures come plenty of food requests from Lilah Drake's covered-dish clients. Lilah pulls out all the stops with a sweet new casserole for the birthday party of Marcus Cantwell, a wealthy curmudgeon who has some angry ex-wives and more than a few enemies.
When he's found facedown in Lilah's casserole, it's anyone's guess as to who might have wanted the old man dead. A possible new heir to Marcus’s fortune adds some unexpected spice to the investigation, but Lilah fears that the old adage is true, and "the proof is in the pudding." 

My Review

I am a fan of this authors Mystery Writer's Apprentice Mysteries and this series has been on my TBR pile, so when Berkley unexpectedly approved me for an ARC, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I am one of those readers who likes to start are series with the first book. One of the reasons I love cozies so much is they tend to be character driven and with series, starting at the beginning allows me to watch the characters develop and grow.  That said, I didn't feel like I missed out on too much having started with the third book.

I thought this was a well plotted story.  The characters come across as real and authentic.  I liked Lilah Drake immediately. She was warm and genuine.  The secondary cast of characters were all well written and likable.  Lilah's love interest Jay proved to me a pretty good guy.  I liked  how he appreciated Lilah's observations and insights into people and events.  Although he is a police detective he didn't seem to discount her input.  I was a bit annoyed with his jealousy issues, but given that I hadn't read the first two books there may be a bit of back story I am missing.  I totally fell in love with Mick, her dog.  I loved his special skill.

I thought the mystery was well done.  There were plenty of suspects to choose from and it unfolded throughout the entire course of the story, which I like.  The mystery is as important to me as the characters so I love when the author provides an even balance.  I have to say, the mystery didn't quite turn out as I expected and I didn't not have a clue as to the killer's identity until the reveal.

This was an enjoyable read.  The book has a quaint setting, a even pace that kept me turning pages, characters that I liked and a well plotted mystery that kept me guessing.  I will definitely catch up with the first two books and look for more in this series.

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Assaulted Caramel

Author:  Amanda Flower
Series:  Amish Candy Shop Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  August 29, 2017

Description:  Bailey King is living the sweet life as assistant chocolatier at world-famous JP Chocolates in New York City. But just when Bailey’s up for a life-changing promotion, her grandmother calls with news that her grandfather’s heart condition has worsened. Bailey rushes to Harvest, Ohio, where her grandparents still run Swissmen Sweets, the Amish candy shop where she was first introduced to delicious fudge, truffles, and other assorted delights.

She finds her grandfather is doing better than she feared. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for a local Englisch developer, whom Bailey finds dead in the candy shop kitchen—with Jebediah King’s chocolate knife buried in his chest. Now the police are sweet on her grandfather as the prime suspect. Despite the sincere efforts of a yummy deputy with chocolate-brown eyes, Bailey takes it on herself to clear Jebediah. But as a cunning killer tries to fudge the truth, Bailey may be headed straight into a whole batch of trouble.

My Review

I am a huge fan of this author so anything new either in an existing series or the start of a new one I will automatically read.    This was a one day read for me as I couldn't put the book down.  I was so engaged I just kept turning pages to learn who killed Tyson and why.  Ms. Flower has an incredible writing style that transports her readers to whatever the story take them.  She fills her stories with charming locations and amazing characters.  This was an fantastic start to a new series.

I loved the characters in this book.  It is a great mix of English and Amish that is really reflective of the community in Holmes County.  I think readers are going to enjoy Bailey King.  She has all the elements I look for in a cozy mystery protagonist.  She is smart, caring, loyal, genuine and a bit flawed.  Ms. Flower has written a three dimensional characters who is well rounded and authentic.  The secondary characters are terrific as well.  I loved Bailey's grandparents and her best friend Cass.  There is even a potential love interest that should play out in future books.  I will advise you to keep some tissues close toward the end of the book because if you are like me, you're going to need them.

The mystery was what we have come to expect from this author.  It is a well crafted, layered mystery that unfolds throughout the story.  The victim, was not well like because of his business dealings with the Amish so this provides us with plenty of suspects to choose from.  Throw in the clues, twists and turns that this author weaves through the story and the reader will be engaged and turning pages until a very climatic resolution.  

As I said at the beginning, I am a big fan of this author's work.  I know that when I pick up on of her books I will be entertained by an engaging mystery, quaint locations and characters that are authentic and genuine.  I am eagerly looking forward for more to come in this series.

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Macrame Murder

Author:  Mollie Cox Bryan
Series:  A Cora Crafts Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  August 29, 2017

Description:  As the head of a bustling crafting retreat, Cora Chevalier could use a break of her own. So she and her creative cohorts temporarily swap small-town Indigo Gap for the Sea Glass Island Craft Retreat, where they teach classes and create beachy crafts like shell mosaics and sea glass chimes. Cora and her boyfriend Adrian are enchanted by their surroundings—especially the stunning wedding and blissful newlyweds they encounter on the beach. But awe becomes shock when the bride turns up dead the next day.
The woman’s death appears to be the result of a severe jellyfish sting. But when it’s revealed that she was murdered and Adria
n becomes a suspect, Cora must hitch the real culprit to the crime—and fast. Because it just might take everything she has to crack a case more twisted than her most complex macramé knot!

My Review

The third installment of the Cora Crafts Mystery series is another quick, fun and entertaining read.  I have been a fan of the series since the first book and personally think it just keeps getting better.

Cora and Jane just can't seem to keep themselves out of trouble.  I really enjoyed the change of scenery in this story. This time around, Cora, Jane and Ruby travel to Florida where they are all teaching a class at the Sea Glass Island Craft Retreat.  Adrian and Cashel accompany the ladies and it seems that even thought they left Indigo Gap they still find themselves in the midst of murder.  

I like the characters of Cora and Jane.  The author has written them both as full well rounded and developed characters.  Their friendship feels genuine and I like the way their personalities complement each other nicely, providing a good balance.  I also like how Adrian and Cora's romance is progressing.  In this story, Cora and Jane try to prove that Adrian did not commit a murder.  As they try to prove his innocence, Cora learns more about Adrian and helps her solidify her feelings for him.  There is a great cast of secondary characters made of up crafters attending the retreat and the owner of the retreat.  All in all, I think this author has done a wonderful job of writing these characters allowing the reader to watch them grow and develop.

I thought the mystery was well written.  Because the murder happens on a small island where the crafting retreat is being held, there are plenty of suspects to choose from.  I really liked the twists and turns that author wove throughout the story.  I was surprised by a few of them and really didn't see them coming.  I thought the mystery itself was wrapped up nicely with a very satisfying ending.

I think this is a terrific series full of fun, quirky characters and well crafted mysteries.  The charming setting, whether it is Indigo Gap or Sea Shell Island, add another layer of dimension to the stories that keep me, as a reader, engaged and returning to the series to see what author has in store for us in the future.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bookman Dead Style

Author:  Paige Shelton
Series:  A Dangerous Type Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  February 7, 2017

Description:  It’s January, and the Star City Film Festival has taken the Utah ski resort town by storm. Movie stars are everywhere, carving fresh powder on the slopes and crossing the thresholds of Bygone Alley’s charming boutique shops—including The Rescued Word, where Clare Henry and her grandfather restore old typewriters and beloved books. When cinema’s hottest superhero, Matt Bane, enters their store to buy some personalized notecards, it’s hard not to be starstruck.
But when Clare sees the police leading Matt out of The Fountain hotel in handcuffs only a few hours later, she can’t believe her eyes. The affable actor is accused of killing his sister, but Clare’s convinced he’s wrong for that role. Now it’s open call for suspects as Clare tries to reel in the killer before another victim fades to black.

My Review

This is the second installment in the Dangerous Type Mystery series.  I have to say, I love the titles even though I don't always understand the reference.  This series is set in the quaint, picturesque town of Star City Utah where things aren't always as they seen.  In fact, Clare is caught up in the middle of another murder investigation.

One of the things that draws me to a Paige Shelton series are the characters.  This series is no exception.  Clare is a terrific character.  She is a well developed, three dimensional layered character.  There is a great secondary cast of characters, which is led by Clare's grandfather Chester and her best friend Jodie, who are also well developed and defined characters.  I enjoy the dynamic of the friendship between Clare and Jodie.  There is always bit of a tension resulting from Clare's sleuthing and the fact that Jodie is a police officer.  There are times Jodie wants Clare to leave things to the police, but people are drawn to Clare and as a result she is able to discover things the police can't or haven't.  I think Clare's relationship with Seth is progressing nicely and moving along at a realistic pace.  I enjoy how Seth helps Clare out on occasion but knows when to steer her toward Jodie.

I thought the mystery was well plotted and unfolded nicely throughout the story.  There is the main mystery involving the murder of a movie star's sister, but there are a few smaller mysteries woven into the story as well.  There are plenty of plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages and guessing until the end.  At least it did for this reader.  I was not able to determine the culprit or the motive, and both were a surprise to me when revealed.

This series is quickly becoming one of my new favorite cozy mystery series.  Not only is it set in a picturesque town, it is filled with interesting characters who feel authentic to the reader.  Add in Clare and Chester's store The Rescued Word which provides an intriguing background bridging modern technology with the history of the written word through books, typewriters and typeset.  If you haven't given this series a try, I would recommend it.  

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 café. 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.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nightshade for Warning

Author:  Bailey Cattrell
Series:  An Enchanted Garden Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  May 2, 2017

Description:  Elliana Allbright’s custom-made perfume shop and the Enchanted Garden behind it are garnering all sorts of attention, but a dead body could bury her in bad publicity. . . .
 Ellie’s business and personal life have been flourishing in her hometown of Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense. She uses her very special skills to craft perfumes that almost magically ease heartache, inspire change, and bring joy—and her customers love to relax in the beautiful garden behind her shop with her corgi, Dash, and her cat, Nabokov. She even lives right next to the garden, in a compact “tiny house”—and she’s excited to hear that a journalist is going to write a feature about her home and garden for a national magazine.
But then the journalist is found dead, and suspicion falls on the last person to see him—who just happens to be Ellie’s brother’s girlfriend. So before everything goes to seed, Ellie must rely on her powers—observational and otherwise—to pick out the real killer from an ever-expanding bouquet of culprits.

My Review

The first thing that really strikes me about books by this author (as well as her alter ego Bailey Cates), is that the covers are bright, whimsical and really draw the readers attention. Once she has your attention with her covers, she draws the reader in with well plotted mysteries set in charming locations with characters that are whimsical, likable and down to earth. This series is no exception.

If you enjoyed the characters in the first book Ellis and the cast of secondary characters all make a return in this installment.  I really like Ellie's character.  She is well written and comes across the page as warm, caring, likable with just a touch of other worldliness.  I wouldn't call this a paranormal cozy but Ellie does have a bit of what people might call a sixth sense.  This time around, we get introduced to her brother Colby and his girlfriend Larken, both of whom I liked and hope that we get to see more of in future books.

The mystery is well plotted and unfolds evenly throughout the course of the story.  Larken is accused of murder and of course Detective Lang is pushing hard for her as the prime suspect.  Ellie knows she is innocent and so she undertakes her own investigation to clear Larken's name.  The author provides us with plenty of diverse suspects both old and new and weaves her clues throughout.  The identity of the killer was revealed in a dramatic fashion and quite frankly, was a complete surprise to me.

This is a series that has quickly captured my attention and has me entertained with each new installment.  I love the description of Ellie's tiny house, garden and her shop.  The author's descriptive style allows me to picture them all clearly and has me wanting to make a visit to Poppyville.  The characters are well written and engaging.  The mysteries are well plotted and will keep the reader guessing.  I have really enjoyed both books and look forward to more from this author and this series.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

30 Second Death

Author:  Laura Bradford
Series:  A Tobi Tobias Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Expected Publication Date:  July 11, 2017

Description:  When Tobi Tobias opened her own advertising agency, Carter McDade was there for her every step of the way. A brilliant hairdresser, Carter has just landed his dream project: doing hair and makeup for a theatrical production of Rapunzel. But the dream turns into a nightmare when he runs into Fiona Renoir, a cruel, talentless starlet who won’t let Carter touch a hair on her head.

To get Fiona out of Carter’s hair, Tobi hires the difficult actress for a bit part in her latest commercial. But true to character, Fiona is a terror on set, and Tobi is starting to think she’s made the biggest mistake of her life. But things get even worse when Fiona drops dead in the hairdresser’s chair, and the only suspect is the man left holding the tainted hair dye, Carter McDade. And unless Tobi can prove his innocence, he’ll never do hair in this town again.

My Review

I was highly entertained by the first book in this series, so I couldn't wait to dive into this second book.  I can definitely say I was not disappointed.

What I love about this series so far is that the characters are well written and developed.  You have a real sense of their history and personality after only two books.  Personally, I think Tobi is a great protagonist.  She has all the characteristics most fans look for in cozy mystery characters and she has great wit and humor.  Plus, who doesn't love a character that thinks you have a genetic flaw if you don't like chocolate.  What I was surprised at is how much I am coming to enjoy the relationship between Tobi and Sam.  While he is only a high school student he has a lot of wisdom and good advice for someone that young.  Their relationship comes across almost like a sibling relationship.  The rest of the characters are back for another adventure including Grandpa Stu and his burgeoning relationship with Mrs. Rapple (insert shudder here).

The mystery was well-plotted with plenty of twists, turns and suspects, as we have come to expect from this author.  The mystery unfolded throughout the course of the story at a nice pace.  The victim was not well liked so that provide the reader with multiple suspects to choose from.  I eagerly turned the pages as fast as I could read to discover the murder's identity and I have to say I really didn't see this one coming.  There is a little romantic curve ball for both Mary Fran and Tobi but I think the reader will be happy with how Tobi's is resolved.  I think we will see Mary Fran's play out over the next book or so.

If you were a fan of the first book, I suggest you add this one to the TBR pile.  It is as good as the first and will have you laughing while eagerly turning pages to see how the cast clears Carter of suspicion of murder. I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy that was provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Crime of Passion Fruit

Author:  Ellie Alexander
Series:  A Bakeshop Mystery #
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  St. Martin's
Publication Date:  June 27, 2017

Description:  Jules Capshaw is trying to keep her cool as Torte gets set to make its transformation from quaint, local confectionary café to royal pastry palace. Meanwhile, Jules’s estranged husband Carlos is making a desperate plea for her to come aboard his cruise ship and dazzle everyone with her signature sweets. She may be skeptical about returning to her former nautical life with Carlos but Jules can’t resist an all-expense-paid trip, either. If only she knew that a dead body would find its way onto the itinerary . .

Now, instead of enjoying tropical drinks on deck between whipping up batches of sea-salted chocolates and flambéing fresh pineapple slices in the kitchen, Jules is plunged into dangerous waters. Her investigation leaves her with more questions than answers: Why can’t anyone on board identify the young woman? And how can she help Carlos keep passengers at ease with a killer in their midst? Jules feels like she’s ready to jump ship. Can she solve this case without getting in too deep?

My Review

This has become one of my favorite culinary cozy mystery series.  The characters really make this such a highly enjoyable, fun read. They are well written and developed characters that come across the page as warm, friendly and likable.  One of my favorite aspects of the series is the mother/daughter relationship between Jules and Helen Capshaw.  It is written with a genuine, authentic feel that draws the reader into the story.  The secondary cast of characters are also coming into their own at this point in the series as well.  What I particularly enjoyed about this book was that there was a bit of change in store for most of the characters be it professional or personal.  I think this will allow the author to craft many more wonderful stories in this series. 

This time around, we find Jules, Helen and The Professor headed out to sea.  Unfortunately for Jules, her penchant for finding dead bodies follows her out to sea.  No sooner have they set sail then Jules finds a dead body and is drawn into helping The Professor solve the mystery.  A secondary plot woven throughout the mystery deals with Jules and Carlos and what will be come of their marriage.  At first, I wasn't sure about Carlos, but the more he is woven into the stories I am starting to route for them to stay together.  How that will work - I guess we will just have to see what the author has in store.

The mystery is sort of a play on the murder in a closed room theme.  After all, it occurs when the ship has sailed so there is really no where for the murder to go.  Because there is little known about the murder victim, this allows Ms. Alexander to provide us with plenty of suspects, which she does.  Throw in her usual clues and misdirection and you have a terrific mystery with the killer revealed in a dramatic fashion.

I found this story to be very entertaining and it kept me engaged right through the end.  These characters are warm, friendly, funny, quirky and very likable.  The mystery is well crafted and the plot had a steady pace.  I can't wait to see what this author has in store for this series next and I will definitely be back for a visit to Ashland.

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