Saturday, June 24, 2017

Death in Dark Blue


Author:  Julia Buckley
Series:  A Writer's Apprentice Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publications Date:  May 2 2017

Description:  Things are beginning to go right for Lena. She’s got a new job assisting suspense novelist and friend, Camilla Graham. She lives rent-free in Camilla’s beautiful, Gothic house. She even has a handsome new boyfriend, Sam West.

After being under attack by the media and his neighbors, Sam has recently been cleared of suspicion for murder. Journalists and townsfolk alike are remorseful, and one blogger would even like to apologize to him in person. But when she’s found dead behind Sam’s house, Lena must dodge paparazzi as she unravels the many mysteries that threaten to darken the skies of her little town and her newfound love with Sam.

My Review

This is the second book in this series and as a reader I couldn't have hoped from more that what Ms. Buckley delivered.  Most of you probably know that I am one of those readers that has to read a series in order, even if the books can be read as stand alones.  This is not one of those series. If you haven't read the first book I would urge you to do that first as the second book contains some spoilers from the first book.

This second book picks up a couple of month after the first book ended.  It is just as entertaining, or more so, than the first.  It is a fast paced mystery with a touch of gothic, some romance and a suspenseful mystery that will keep the reader turning pages as fast as they can.  Lena London, our protagonist, is a young mystery writer apprentice who has landed her dream job with her favorite author Camilla Graham.  Set in picturesque Blue Lake Indiana, Lena starts to think things are finally going right when another murder related to her boyfriend, Sam West, occurs right on his front lawn.  Poor Lena has the misfortune of finding the body and another mystery ensues.  The secondary cast  of characters consists of a mix of those we met in book one and some new ones thrown in as well.  All of the characters are well written and help propel the plot to a very climatic ending.

The mystery was engaging with is share of twists and turns. I thought Julia Buckley did a wonderful job weaving a complex and layered mystery that unfolded throughout the entire story.  One clue would lead to the next until Lena, Sam, Camilla and the rest of the group solve the murder, and a larger mystery involving Sam's wife Victoria.  The ending does a nice job of setting up a carryover mystery for the next book.

I was very impressed with the level of writing and the overall strength of the characters and the mystery.  I am a big fan of this series and can't wait for the next book. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Dead and Berried

Author:  Peg Cochran
Series:  A Cranberry Cove Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  May 2, 2017

Description:  It's June in Cranberry Cove and Monica Albertson's plan to sell cranberry relish to chain stores is taking off. The cranberry bogs are in bloom, and local beekeeper Rick Taylor and his assistant Lori Wenk are bringing in bees to pollinate the blossoms.  When a fatal prick fells Lori, the buzz is that Rick is to blame. 

In trying to clear her friend’s name, Monica discovers that more than a few people in Cranberry Cove have felt the power of Lori’s venom, and it looks as if this time she may have agitated the hive a bit too much.  With the fate of the farm on the line, Monica must get to the bottom of the crime before another victim gets stung.

My Review

For me, reading a Peg Cochran cozy mystery is like returning to visit old friends and this book is no exception.  Ms. Cochran is so adept at creating quaint towns that fill us with comfort and then she fills them with fun, quirky, interesting characters while weaving a mystery and sometimes education on the theme throughout the story.  

This is the third book in the Cranberry Cove Mystery series and can be read as a stand alone without a reader feeling lost or like they have missed out on something.  I love Monica.  She is settling in to her new life in Cranberry Cove, with the exception of murders occurring on the farm or in her new town.  She is a smart and cautious amateur sleuth.  She does not try to show up the police, but rather alerts them to any new clues and evidence she finds.  I also like the relationship that is developing between her and her half brother Jeff, who owns the farm.  Between the first book and the third the reader can see the growth in the characters and will enjoy the changes occurring in their lives.

The mystery was woven throughout the story and there seemed to be a few suspects who had motive to murder. There are plenty of twists as well as clues aimed at misdirecting the reader.  It turns out the victim was not all that nice.  I did suspect the killer about 1/2 way through the story, but it did not affect my enjoyment.....mostly because if you have read any of my reviews I almost never figure out the culprit.

Peg Cochran is one of my favorite cozy mystery authors and her books are always a pre-order or automatic buy on release day for me.  If you haven't read one of her books but are a fan of well written stories, quaint, charming towns, well plotted mysteries and a cast filled with fun, smart, quirky and interesting characters, I would highly recommend you pick up one of her series and give it a try.  Plus, Ms. Cochran always includes some delicious sounding recipes at the end of the books in this series.  This one has a delicious cookie recipe and one for quinoa that I plan to try.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Yews with Caution

Author:  Kate Collins
Series:  A Flower Shop Mystery #19
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  May 31, 2017

Description:  It’s April in New Chapel, and Abby and her husband, Marco, are off to buy shrubs for their new house. But the owner of the local landscaping company is nowhere to be found. Abby’s best friend, Nikki, meanwhile, believes she unwittingly helped a group of her hospital coworkers conspire to kill the man.

After the police get involved, Nikki becomes a suspect. Abby digs deeper for clues to save her friend only to discover bushels of folks bearing a deep-rooted hatred for the two-faced business owner. Marco attempts to help Abby with the case but soon falls critically ill. Now Abby must find the real culprit on her own before everything goes to pot.

My Review

I was so excited to get this book in the mail.  I am a huge fan of this series and would go so far as to say it is my favorite cozy mystery series.  This is the series that introduced me to the cozy mystery genre and started my love affair.  No pressure, right?

When I was preparing this blog post, it was hard to believe that this is the 19th installment in this series.  It is still as fresh, interesting and engaging as when the series first started.  I love that we have watched Abby grow up and mature into the person she is in this book.  While she has grown and perhaps settled a bit, she is still the same loyal, heart-warming, caring and let's face it, impetuous person she was at the beginning of the series. I love how she and Marco have settled into their relationship and marriage.  They are a team and that is something that Marco is always stressing to Abby.  I like how he complements her personality and has the ability to reign in a bit of her impetuousness and her sometimes unwitting ability to put herself in harms way.  

The rest of the characters that we have grown to love are all back as Marco and Abby try to help Nikki, who has become a suspect in the disappearance of a co-worker's husband. Personally, I think this is one of the best cast of characters in the genre.  They are all well round, complex, developed characters that each provides something that Abby or Marco needs in their lives.  I always look forward to Jillian's antics and Maureen's art projects.

The mystery in this story is what reader's have come to expect from this author.  It is complex, layered with plenty of suspects, twists and turns.  I honestly didn't see this ending coming.  It was a great twist and the reveal wrapped up the mystery in a very climatic ending.  There is a minor mystery involving a job Marco and Abby took to discover the identity of an employee who is stealing.  There is also mystery surrounding something that happens to Marco that will have the readers on an emotional roller coaster.  

As I said in the beginning, I am a huge fan of this series and cannot recommend it enough.  It is set in a lovely Midwest town which is inhabited by what I think is one of the best cast of characters in a cozy mystery series.  Abby and Marco, and the rest of the cast are like old friends who draw you into the story until the very last page.  The mystery is well plotted, complex and layer which will have you turning pages to find out how this story ends.  I would highly recommend this series, but would suggest you start with the first book as it is fun to see how these characters have grown.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

One Fete in the Grave

Author:  Vickie Fee
Series:  A Liv and Die in Dixie Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  May 30, 2017

Description:  Party planner Liv McKay has outdone herself this time. She’s put together an unforgettable Fourth of July celebration for the town of Dixie, Tennessee—including breathtaking fireworks and an exciting Miss Dixie Beauty Pageant. Maybe a little too exciting.

As the party is winding down, Liv’s sense of triumph fizzles when the body of town councilman Bubba Rowland is discovered on the festival grounds. And now the prime suspect in his murder is Liv’s mother’s fiancé, Earl, who had a flare-up recently with Bubba. To clear Earl’s name, Liv and her best friend Di burst into action to smoke out the real killer before another life is extinguished . . .

My Review

This third installment in the Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery series is just as charming and fun as the rest of the series.  I really enjoyed visiting with Liv and Di along with the rest of the characters, old and new to see what mystery was in store for them this time around.  I like this series because the characters are just terrific. The friendship between Liv and Di has me coming back for more. These two can get into more trouble doing the simplest thing than any other characters I can think of but the friendship feels genuine and authentic. Readers will find humor with Liv's Mama and her wedding plans.  Plus, this book provides a good dose of small town southern charm.

The mystery is solid and is woven throughout the entire story. The  victim was not the most like person in town so this allowed the author to really provide a good pool of suspects and then through in plenty of clues and misdirection.  I did not guess the culprit until the reveal  (I know - none of you who regularly read my reviews are surprised by this.)  I like that Liv and Di are not reckless with their investigations and are not the type of characters who are trying to upstage the police.  That said, they are loyal and feel compelled to help someone they know who they feel has been wrongly accused.

If you haven't read this series I would suggest you give it a try. It is full of wonderful characters, great southern charm and mysteries that will keep the reader engaged from the beginning until a very satisfying ending.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy generously provided by the author.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Antique House Murders

Author:  Leslie Nagel
Series:  The Oakwood Mystery Series #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Publication Date:  May 30, 2017

Descriptions:  Mulbridge House stood, silent and decaying, deep in the woods at the heart of Oakwood, Ohio, long before the passing of Augusta Mulbridge. Yet suddenly everyone in town seems to have a stake in its fate: the greedy heirs, eager to tear it down for a tidy profit; the local preservationists, determined to maintain it as an historic site; the angry neighbors, staunchly opposed to the construction of a modern subdivision. Even Charley Carpenter is forced to admit that her beloved shop, Old Hat Vintage Fashions, could use an infusion of the estate’s treasures.

The clock is ticking. The wrecking ball is ready to swing. All that stands between Mulbridge House and oblivion is one final vote. That, and murder . . .

The trouble begins when Charley walks into auctioneer Calvin Prescott’s office to find her cherished family friend crumpled on the floor. Detective Marcus Trenault quickly connects his death to a string of increasingly violent burglaries plaguing Oakwood. But when Charley uncovers a link to a massive land swindle worth millions, not to mention a drug ring operating out of the manor’s abandoned outbuildings, that theory crumbles faster than Mulbridge House. Now Charley’s racing to catch a killer before everything falls apart.

My Review

I enjoyed the first book in this series so I was happy to read and review the second book.  I'll put this disclaimer right up front  - there is some swearing in this book.  Not much but if that isn't your cup of tea then this might not be the book for you.  For me, I was able to get past it because I really like the characters and the mystery, but for some it might be a deal breaker.

Charley Carpenter is a feisty, stubborn and fun protagonist. I think she can be a bit impetuous in her sleuthing and that can lead her into some serious trouble at times.  Usually, this occurs when she is being stubborn and won't listen to her police detective boyfriend Marcus.  I think this couple is a good pair.  While Marcus is a detective he does appreciate Charley's insights and thought process- that is until she disregards his request that she stay out of his case.  There is a great group of secondary characters that include Charley's dad, his caretaker, Charley's friends Dmitri and Frankie as well as other police officers on the Oakwood Public Safety force.

At first, the mystery in this story starts out simple - the murder of Charley's mentor and a friend of her fathers.  Because the crime is personal Charley feels she has to help solve the murder.  As the story unfolds there is a lot going on in this town and most of it centers on a old house slated for demolition.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and this one ends in a very climatic fashion. 

I enjoy this series.  The two books so far have been fast paced and held my interest all the way through until the last page.  I am looking forward to seeing what kind of trouble Charley and her friends can get into next.  I also like the comparison to Scooby Doo in the book in reference to Charley and her friends.  It brings back a bit of childhood nostalgia for my favorite cartoon.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided to me by Alibi through Netgalley.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fudge and Jury

Author:  Ellie Alexander 
Series:  A Bakeshop Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  January 2017

Description:  It’s almost spring in Ashland, Oregon, and the town is preparing for the Shakespeare and the annual Chocolate Festival. Business is cookin’ at Torte, and the store is expanding as Jules’ team whips up crèpes filled with mascarpone cheese and dark chocolate. Torte stands a chance of being this year’s confectionery belle of the ball! Life couldn’t be sweeter—unless murder taints the batter.

Evan Rowe, of Confections Couture, makes a chocolate fountain that would put Willy Wonka to shame, and his truffles are to die for—literally? Yes, the world-renowned chocolatier has just turned up dead…right after sampling a slice of Jules’ decadent four-layer chocolate cake. Now all eyes are on Jules as she tries to find the mysterious ingredient in her own recipe. Can she sift out the truth before another contestant bites the buttercream?

My Review

This is one of my favorite series and I was happy that I was finally able to read this one before the next book is released in June.  If you read my reviews, you know that I love character driven cozy mysteries.  That is the reason why I find this series so entertaining and enjoyable.

Ellie Alexander has crafted a charming cozy mystery set in the Pacific Northwest which sets the stage for Torte, a place I think everyone who reads this series would love to have exist in real life.  Added to the charming setting, Ms. Alexander has crafted a warm, wonderful, fun main character in Jules.  She is someone I think we could all see ourselves having as a friend.  One of my favorite things about this series is the relationship between Jules and her mom. It feels very real, genuine and their relationship jumps off the page.  I also like the relationship Jules has with her staff.  It is a great combination of being their boss, mentor and a bit of a friend as well.  The rest of the town rounds out a fun, interesting and sometimes quirky cast of secondary characters.

The mystery in this installment was really good.  It almost seemed like the perfect crime.  As always, this author throws in plenty of twists and turns that give the reader a number of suspects, motives and keeps us guessing.  Here's a surprise, I managed to guess the identity of the killer, albeit about 25 pages before the book ended, but I did not guess the reason behind the murder.  The mystery unfolded nicely and carried through the entire story.

This is a wonderful culinary themed cozy mystery series that has a great cast of characters and mysteries that are well written and keep the reader engaged and guessing until the end.  I am looking forward to the next book due out the end of June.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

No Farm, No Foul

Author:  Peg Cochran
Series:  A Farmer's Daughter Mystery
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  September 2016

Description:  On her blog, The Farmer’s Daughter, Shelby McDonald is growing her audience as she posts recipes, gardening tips, and her experiences raising two kids and running Love Blossom Farm in the small western Michigan town of Lovett.
Working the farm is demanding but peaceful—until that peace is shattered when the minister’s wife is murdered on Shelby’s property during a fund-raiser for a local church. But the manure really hits the fan when Shelby’s good friend veterinarian Kelly Thacker emerges as the prime suspect. Shelby decides to dig in and find the murderer by herself. As more suspects crop up, she’ll have to move fast—before someone else buys the farm.

My Review

This is another book that has been sitting on my TBR pile for way too long.  I am a huge fan of Peg Cochran so I can't say why it has taken me so long to read it but I was glad I finally go to it.

One of the things I love about this author and what I think she does so well, is she crafts these charming, quaint Midwest towns that draws readers into the story from the beginning. She creates places we long to get in our car an visit even though they are fictional.  To me, that is a sign of a good author.  Her stories and settings are so genuine and real that a reader automatically feels comfortable and welcomed into her stories.  Once she has created a place we all want to visit, she populates with strong, warm, quirky, fun, flawed, realistic characters that become our friends.  These are the people we want to say hi to when we go out to grab our mail or stop and talk to while taking a walk around our neighborhoods.

This new series is no exception.  I immediately found that I liked Shelby McDonald.  She is a single mom who struggles to run the farm she grew up on while raising her son and daughter.  She is warm, friendly and kind.  The cast of secondary characters are exactly what you would expect to see in a Peg Cochran novel.  They are fun, quirky and some are a bit gossipy.  But again, this is what you would expect to find in a small town.

The mystery was good.  The victim was the minister's wife so you would think that there wouldn't be that many suspects.  However, lets just say this minster's wife was not what you would expect.  As a result, there are plenty of people that she wrongfully accused that were upset with her.  This provides us with a nice pool of suspects to choose from.  I was a bit surprised with myself because I did suspect the killer. That said, I was way off on the motive for the crime.  The reveal was climatic and resolved the murder nicely.

As I said before, I am a big fan of this author.  I thought this was a very entertaining first book in a new series.  It has everything I look for in a cozy mystery from Peg Cochran- quaint, charming small town setting, with fun, interesting characters and a solid mystery.  I will be back for the next book in the series to see what is happening at Love Blossom Farms.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

No Charm Intended

Author:  Mollie Cox Bryan
Series:  A Cora Crafts Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  April 25, 2017

Description:  Settling into her new life and career in small-town Indigo Gap, North Carolina, Cora Chevalier is preparing to host a “wildcrafting” retreat at her Victorian home. But a specter hangs over the venture when beloved local nanny Gracie Wyke goes missing. Amidst leading their guests in nature hikes, rock painting and making clay charms, Cora and her business partner, Jane, team up with Gracie’s boyfriend, Paul, to launch their own investigation into her disappearance when the local police prove unhelpful.

Cora and her crafters take Paul in, believing he is in danger and not the suspect police have made him out to be. However as they uncover new clues and a body turns up at a local abandoned amusement park, Cora and Jane begin to question their decision. With more questions than answers arising, is Cora crafty enough to untangle a knot that could put an innocent in jail—and permanently destroy her reputation?

My Review

This is the second installment in this new Cora Crafts Mystery series by Mollie Cox Bryan and I enjoyed it just as much as the first.  As someone who fancies themselves as a crafter, I enjoy reading about the retreat and the crafts that are made there.  This series is a bit different from some other cozy mysteries in that it is told in third person and from the alternating point of view of both Jane and Cora.  I didn't find that this detracted from my enjoyment but I know that it might distract some readers, so I thought I would point it out.

The story is set in the quaint town of Indigo Gap North Carolina.  The author does an excellent job of not only describing the town but also the retreat and classes going on there as well.  Cora and Jane are still finding their footing as the owners of this crafting retreat business.  It also doesn't help that there tends to be a murder/mystery occur in the town each time there is a retreat.  Both Cora and Jane are real, likable characters.  They continue to grow and develop in this story and wit this mystery.  I like that with each story we get a new cast of secondary characters in the students and teachers attending the retreats.  The secondary characters that are residents of the town are developing nicely as well.

The mystery is this story is solid.  I thought it was interesting that it involved a video game.  This, I think, added a bit more to they mystery because it wasn't something that Cora and Jane knew much about.  I think the author did a nice job weaving the mystery with the classes at the retreat providing a nice balance.  I also liked how some of the students/teachers tried to help Cora and Jane solve the mystery.  There are a lot of twists and turns in the mystery but ironically not a lot of suspects.  That made it a bit harder for me to try and guess the culprit.  The identity of the killer was revealed in a climatic ending.  

I found this to be an enjoyable read with characters that are starting to grow and find their own in their business and new life.  The story itself was well written, with a steady pace and what I thought was a good mystery.  I will be back to see what Cora and Jane are up to in the next book.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Good Day to Buy

Author:  Sherry Harris
Series:  A Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery #4
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  April 25, 2017

Description:  HER BROTHER IS NO BARGAIN  When Sarah Winston’s estranged brother Luke shows up on her doorstep, asking her not to tell anyone he’s in town—especially her ex, the chief of police—the timing is strange, to say the least. Hours earlier, Sarah’s latest garage sale was taped off as a crime scene following the discovery of a murdered Vietnam vet and his gravely injured wife—her clients, the Spencers. 
BUT IS HE A KILLER?  All Luke will tell Sarah is that he’s undercover, investigating a story. Before she can learn more, he vanishes as suddenly as he appeared. Rummaging through his things for a clue to his whereabouts, Sarah comes upon a list of veterans and realizes that to find her brother, she’ll have to figure out who killed Mr. Spencer. And all without telling her ex.

My Review

This is the fourth installment in this series and I found it to be highly enjoyable.  I came late to the party and this is only the second book that I have read in this series.  However, coming from a reader that likes to read a series in order, I haven't felt like I have missed out or am in any way "lost" because I haven't read the first two.  (I am planning to read them - they are the TBR list).

This installment started out with a bang right from the beginning.  As usual, when Sarah is running a garage sale something always happens.  This time it was the murder and injury of the husband and wife for whom she was working.  I like Sarah's characters.  She is smart and cautious in her sleuthing and is not one of those amateur sleuth's who is trying to show up the police.  The secondary cast of characters round out the story nicely.  I especially loved Gennie and her attempts to teach Sarah some self-defense. The one area that gives me pause is Sarah's romantic relationship.  With the ending (which I won't say more about so as not to give anything away), I hope the issue is resolved soon.

I very much enjoyed the mystery in this book.  It was layered and complex.  The author wove some clues along with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.  There was a climatic ending that resolved the mystery in a way that wrapped up everything nicely.  There were plenty of suspect to choose from and some red herrings to throw the reader off track.  I liked that Sarah had help solving this mystery from her long lost estranged brother and hope we get to see more of him down the road.

All in all, I enjoy this series.  It has a wonderful protagonist that comes across the page as very real.  The stories are well written, with steady plots and pacing, and mysteries that keep the reader turning pages until they are resolved.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Brew or Die: A Java Jive Mystery

Author:  Caroline Fardig
Series:  Java Jive Mystery #4
Genre:  Cozy Mystery  
Publisher:  Alibi
Expected Publication Date:  April 25, 2017

Description:  Nashville’s perkiest private eye—coffeehouse manager Juliet Langley—goes undercover in the party-planning industry to solve a suspicious death in this thrilling cozy mystery from USA Today bestselling author Caroline Fardig.
Inspired by her past sleuthing successes, Juliet Langley has officially joined the ranks of Nashville’s licensed private investigators. Her best friend, Pete Bennett, doesn’t worry that her detective work might interfere with her full-time job running his coffeehouse, Java Jive. He just wishes she would spend her free time rejoining the local music scene instead of tailing cheating spouses. But when one of Java Jive’s baristas, Shane, asks Juliet to look into the suspicious death of his fiancée, Pete encourages her to plow full steam ahead.
Since his fiancée died on the job, Shane suspects that her party-planning colleagues are up to something criminal—and will do anything to keep it quiet. After Juliet recruits Pete to go undercover with her at a wedding showcase, she discovers that white lace and black satin have a way of hiding big, fat secrets.
If that weren’t enough to fill her plate, her latest P.I. job has her crossing paths with her ex, Detective Ryder Hamilton. They’re barely on speaking terms, but to solve the case, they might have to cooperate. No matter where Juliet goes, she’s brewing up trouble.

My Review

Author Caroline Fardig is back with the fourth installment of the Java Jive Mystery series featuring Juliet Langley and her best friend Pete.  I have read each of the books in this series and have enjoyed them all to date.  While I enjoyed this installment, for reasons I discuss below I did not enjoy it as much as the other three.

Juliet Langley is back and this time she is out to help one of the employees of Java Jive whose fiancee died due to an alleged overdose.  What's changed?  Well, Juliet is now a licensed PI working with her mentor Maya.  I like Juliet, she is down to earth, feisty and a great friend. She will go to the wall for a friend who needs help.  In the past, she has seemingly worked by the motto of sleuth first ask questions later.  This has gotten her into trouble.  With her newly minted PI license and a mentor, this has helped a bit in curbing her impetuousness and sometimes headlong flight into trouble. Her best friend Pete and the rest of the Java Jive cast make a return appearance.

My issue with this book is that Juliet's romantic life seemed to take more prominence and at times caused the mystery to get relegated to the background.  I have never been a fan of the love triangle and that still holds true.  In my opinion, the author needs to resolve Juliet's relationship issue relative soon.  It seems like the tension between her and Pete either needs to be resolved and if they are a couple - great.  If not, then it is time for Juliet to move on and find someone suitable who will last more than just one book.  I don't mind the romance but when it detracts from the mystery then I begin to lose interest in a series.

The mysteries in this book, I thought, were done well.  I liked how the author wove the two mysteries into one with a common thread.  There were good clues and plenty of suspects, but at times I thought the mystery was overpowered by the romance.  I was surprised with the ending and did not see the two twists that the author threw in with respect to each mystery. 

As I said at the beginning, I am a fan of the series and have found it to be fun and entertaining.  This installment wasn't a bad story.  I liked it well enough when I wasn't distracted by the romance and Jules love life.  I will be back to see what author has in store for the next book as the series has been enjoyable.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Alibi, through Netgalley. This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tangled Up in Brew

Author:  Joyce Tremel
Series:  A Brewing Trouble Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  October 2016

Description:  Brew pub owner Maxine “Max” O’Hara and her chef/boyfriend, Jake Lambert, are excited to be participating in the Three Rivers Brews and Burgers Festival. Max hopes to win the coveted Golden Stein for best craft beer—but even if she doesn’t, the festival will be great publicity for her Allegheny Brew House.
Or will it? When notoriously nasty food and beverage critic Reginald Mobley is drafted as a last-minute replacement judge, Max dreads a punishing review. Her fears are confirmed when Mobley literally spits out her beer, but things get even worse when the cranky critic drops dead right after trying one of Jake’s burgers. Now an ambitious new police detective is determined to pin Mobley’s murder on Max and Jake, who must pore over the clues to protect their freedom and reputations—and to find the self-appointed judge, jury, and executioner.

My Review

I am sad to say this one has been on my to be read pile much longer that I would have liked.  I was a fan of the first book in the series, so this second one was an automatic buy. Once I opened the book and read the first few pages, it was like I have never left Max, Jake and the rest of the crew at the Allegheny Brew House.

One of the things I like best about this series is that it Max is in a business that is traditionally male dominated.  It is the uniqueness of a female brewer that I initially found intriguing. However, gender aside, this author does a terrific job at developing a real sense of camaraderie among the brewers.  Max O'Hara is one of those lead characters that is engaging and draws the reader into the story.  Max is a very likable character.  She is smart, caring and holding her own both in her new business and her new role as accidental sleuth.   The author has surrounded her with a terrific cast of secondary characters that rounds out the story.    I think the romance between Jake and Max is progressing well and it feels natural but doesn't overpower the mystery.

The mystery in this installment was really solid.  The first victim was not a well liked person at all.  This allows the author to provide us with plenty of suspects to choose from. There are a good number of twists and turns, including a second murder, which throws suspicion around among the suspects.  There are several plausible motives for the crimes which made it difficult for me to really decided on one specific suspect as the killer.  I did not guess the identity of the culprit until Max revealed it at the end.

This is a fun series and I am really looking forward to more. If you are a fan of well crafted cozy mysteries with great characters and mysteries that keep you engaged and guessing until the end, I would suggest you give this series a try.  I don't think you will be disappointed.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Assault & Beret

Author:  Jenn McKinlay
Series:  Hat Shop Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  January 3, 2017

Description:  London milliner Vivian Tremont and her American cousin and partner, Scarlett Parker, tip their caps to their beloved shop on Portobello Road in Notting Hill and set off for Paris, where Viv can’t wait to teach a hat-making class. But she has another reason to travel to the City of Light: to find the man she impulsively eloped with years ago and have their marriage annulled.
William Graham is not only handsome and charming, but he also has a glamorous job as an insurance investigator who works with priceless pieces of art, most recently a small Renoir that has been discovered in a junk shop. But when both Will and the masterpiece suddenly disappear, it’s up to the ladies from London to follow the trail of clues. They’ll need to hold on to their chapeaux, however, because someone is a master in the art of deception.

My Review

It was a little bitter sweet for me to read Assault & Beret knowing that it was the last book in the Hat Shop Mysteries by Jenn McKinlay.  I have been a fan of this series since the first book was published and have spent many hours of enjoyment with Viv, Scarlett and the rest of the gang.  This is a terrific series filled with wit, humor, fun characters and interesting mysteries.  I am hopeful that with enough fan feedback that perhaps the author may consider continuing this series with another publisher.

What continues to draw me to this series and makes me come back for each new book are the characters.  Quite simply this group of characters are some of the best in the cozy mystery series that I have read.  Viv and Scarlett are witty, fun, spontaneous, caring and loyal.  Their relationship has continued to grow from the first book and they feel like old friends by now.  Each cousin has a distinct personality but together they just compliment each other.  The regular secondary cast of characters round out this story nicely.  That add to the witty dialogue and provide some relief humor. 

The mystery in this book is a bit different in that Viv and Scarlett are in Paris where Viv will teach a class and Scarlett will look for Viv's husband Will.  As a result, the full scope of the mystery doesn't develop until about 1/3 of the way into the book, but it is every bit as good as the mysteries in the previous stories.  There are the twists and turns we come to expect from this author and a surprise or two along the way, that I didn't see coming.  I think the mystery was resolved in a very satisfying way and I was very entertained throughout the entire book.

This is a wonderful series, full of fun, witty characters, a charming location and great mysteries.  If this is in fact the last book in the series, while I would be disappointed, I think the author did a great job of providing closure for her readers. Now it's time to check out the other two series she writes to see if I can find some new friends in those books.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

When The Grits Hit the Fan

Author:  Maddie Day (a/k/a Edith Maxwell)
Series:  A Country Store Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  March 28, 2016

Description:  Despite the bitter winter in South Lick, Indiana, business is still hot at Robbie Jordan’s restaurant. But when another murder rattles the small town, can Robbie defrost the motives of a cold-blooded killer?
Before she started hosting dinners for Indiana University’s Sociology Department at Pans ‘N Pancakes, Robbie never imagined scholarly meetings could be so hostile. It’s all due to Professor Charles Stilton, who seems to thrive on heated exchanges with his peers and underlings, and tensions flare one night after he disrespects Robbie’s friend, graduate student Lou. So when Robbie and Lou go snowshoeing the next morning and find the contentious academic frozen under ice, police suspect Lou might have killed him after their public tiff. To prove her friend’s innocence, Robbie is absorbing local gossip about Professor Stilton’s past and developing her own thesis on the homicide—even if that means stirring up terrible danger for herself along the way . . .

My Review

This is the third  book in the Country Story Mystery Series.  I have read and enjoyed the first two books in the series so when the opportunity came for me to read and review an advanced reader copy, I couldn't wait to return to South Lick Indiana.  One of the reasons I enjoy this series is that as a Midwesterner myself, I feel that Ms. Day has captured the feel of the local and people of the Midwest.

In this third book, I feel like this series is coming into its own. By now the characters are established and begin to feel like friends.  We have had three books now to get a chance to know both the protagonist - Robbie Jordan, and the cast of secondary characters.  I like Robbie.  She is down to earth, smart and caring.  She is settling into being a mid-westerner and I like how in this book we start to see her starting to speak like a local.  The relationship between her and Abe is progressing nicely, but it does not over-power the mystery.

The mystery in this third book is well done.  It has many layers that are peeled back as the story progresses.  I like how Ms. Day wound a cold case with the current day murder. There were plenty of twists, turns and misdirection to keep this reader guessing as to the identity of the killer.  There were plenty of suspects to choose from - the victim in this story was not well liked.  I think the mystery was resolved and the killer revealed in a very climatic ending.  

If you are looking for an entertaining cozy mystery, with a well written plot, interesting characters and a mystery that will keep you guessing, don't hesitate to try this book.  While the third in a series, I think it can be read as a stand alone.  You may miss some back story but it is still early in the series that it shouldn't distract.  I do however, recommend reading the series in order (at least that is my preference) because it is always interesting to see how the characters and the series grow.  I always like when there are recipes at the end of the book.  One day I am going to get ambitious and try one.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book provided to be by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Single Malt Murder

Author:  Melinda Mullet
Series:  A Whisky Business Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Published:  March 21, 2017

Description:  Abigail Logan never expected to inherit a whisky distillery in the Scottish Highlands. But in the first novel of an engaging new series blending fine spirits with chilling mystery, Abi finds that there are secrets lurking in the misty glens that some will go to any lengths to protect . . . even murder.

When Abi inherits her uncle’s quaint and storied single malt distillery, she finds herself immersed in a competitive high-stakes business that elicits deep passions and prejudices. An award-winning photojournalist, Abi has no trouble capturing the perfect shot—but making the perfect shot is another matter. When she starts to receive disturbing, anonymous threats, it’s clear that someone wants her out of the picture. But Abi’s never been one to back down from a fight.

Arriving on the scene with her whisky-loving best friend, Patrick, and an over-sized wheaten terrier named Liam, Abi seems to put everyone in the bucolic village on edge—especially her dour but disturbingly attractive head distiller. Acts of sabotage and increasingly personal threats against Abi make it clear that she is not welcome. When one of Abi’s new employees is found floating face-down in a vat of whisky, Abi is determined to use her skills as an investigative journalist to identify the cold-blooded killer and dispense a dram of justice before he strikes again. But distilling truth from lies is tricky, especially when everyone seems to have something to hide.

My Review

I picked up this book because I was intrigued by the fact that this was a woman who inherits a whisky business.  I also thought that I would enjoy the Scottish Highlands as a setting for the mystery.

For the first book in a new series I thought this was well done.  The characters are well rounded, dimensional and well developed.  Abi is a good protagonist.  She is smart and determined to find out who is causing trouble at the distillery left to her by her uncle.  She is a photojournalist so she has a good background for sleuthing.  What I liked about her character is that while she was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, she wasn't aggressive in her investigations, nor was she out to show up the local police department.  The secondary cast of characters rounds out the story nicely, especially her best friend Patrick, and provides plenty of suspects for the mystery.

I thought the mystery itself was complex and layered.  The story has a good pace and the mystery unfolds solidly throughout the entire story.  Because her uncle left her a distillery that is coveted, there are plenty of suspects to choose from for both the murders and the sabotage.  Ms. Mullet did a great job of peeling away the layers of each suspect only to find more reasons why that person could be causing the troubles.  I was really stumped and never felt like I could confidently pinpoint the person I thought was behind the trouble or the motive.  I love when the mystery keeps me guessing until the very end.   The mystery was wrapped up with a climatic conclusion and I really did not see this one coming.  When the culprits were revealed I was completely surprised.

This was an excellent debut cozy mystery for Ms. Mullet.  It is well written with fully developed characters that are realistic and dimensional and a complex, layered mystery that had a very satisfying ending.  I for one am looking forward to more to come from this author.

I read and reviewed an advanced reader copy that was provided to me by the publisher, Alibi, through Netgalley. This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.