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.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table

Author:  Janet Finsilver
Series:  A Kelly Jackson Mystery #4
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Published:  March 14, 2017

Description:  Poisons, prophecies—and a peculiar past . . .
When a local woman begins searching for a couple she hasn’t seen since the 1960s, Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast manager Kelly Jackson and the crime-solving group, the “Silver Sentinels,” are quick to help out. They’re also quick to guess that they’re in over their heads after the woman is found dead beside the body of a Greek fortune teller—and a fellow Sentinel gets attacked. As Kelly juggles work and her responsibilities at a food and wine festival in town, she and her sleuthing posse must confront a killer obsessed with old secrets . . . and solve a murder mystery more than fifty years in the making . . .

My Review

This is the third book in the Kelly Jackson Mystery series and I have enjoyed each one of them.  It has a quaint setting in Northern California, engaging characters, and a well plotted mystery that keep the reader guessing.  As with the other books there is more than one mystery and it is always interesting to see how the author ties them together in such a logical way.

Kelly Jackson, the main character, is warm, caring and intelligent.  She is a character that I think the readers will like and be able to connect with.  That is an important part of cozy mysteries to me.  I need to be able to connect with the characters as much as I enjoy the mystery.  The Silver Sentinels are an older group of individuals so they give a nice diversity in age that I think all readers will enjoy.  At this point in the series, I think all the characters are nicely developed with depth and dimension but still room for growth.

The mystery is really well done in this installment as with all of the previous books. As with the prior books, there are two mysteries in this story. The main mystery is the death of the fortune teller and her assistant.  However, there is a minor mystery involving a thief who strikes during the lunch hour. The author provides the reader with plenty of suspects to choose from when trying to figure out who killed Auntie and Summer.  What I enjoy about this author is how she weaves seemingly unrelated mysteries into a logical conclusion.  The identity of the killer is revealed in a dramatic fashion and the mysteries are wrapped up nicely with a logical explanation.

If you are a fan of quaint towns, bed & breakfast locations, wonderfully written diverse characters and layered mysteries, I think you will enjoy this series.  Each book can be read as a stand alone, but I enjoy reading them in order to see how the characters develop and grow.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy of this book which was provided to my by Lyrical Underground through Netgalley.  This did not influence my decision and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Elementary, She Read

Author:  Vicki Delany
Series:  A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  March 14, 2017

Description:  Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, has returned to the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod to manage her Great Uncle Arthur's Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. The shop--located at 222 Baker Street--specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and is also the home of Moriarty the cat. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body. 

The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman's suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it's a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good.

My Review

As a fan of Ms. Delany's Year Round Christmas mystery series, I was excited to be offered the chance to read and review the first book in her new series with Crooked Lane. Let me just say, fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed.  This book delivers in what promises to be a fresh and unique new series.

To begin with, the protagonist, Gemma Doyle, is a intelligent, highly observant, witty, amateur sleuth who is a bit of a non-traditional cozy character.  She and her best friend Jayne compliment  each other in the perfect manner.  The secondary cast of characters are interesting and quirky as well.  All of this is rounded out nicely by the enchanting Cape Cod setting and the delightful atmosphere of the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore and Emporium.  

Ms. Delany has crafted a complex mystery with plenty of twists and turns to keep her readers guessing.  If you have read enough of my reviews, you will know that no matter how many cozies I read or how hard I try, I am typically stumped by the identity of the killer/culprit in the mysteries I read.  So it should come as no surprise that I was completely in the dark about the identity of the killer in this story.  It was a total surprise and one I just didn't see coming. Ms. Delany has written a story that will keep the reader guessing and turning pages to see if they are correct.

Sometimes, you read a book that just grabs you and engages you as a reader right from the start.  That is how I felt about this book.  I think that cozy mystery fans are going to fall in love with Gemma and the rest of the cast.  This is a highly entertaining story with wonderfully crafted characters, an enchanting location and a complex mystery that will leave readers very satisfied and wanting more.  I know this reader does and I will be back for the next book in this series.

I voluntarily read and review an advanced reader copy of this book provided to me by the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, through Netgalley.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Murder at an Irish Wedding

Author:  Carlene O'Connor
Series:  An Irish Village Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  February 28, 2017

Description:  Any wedding is a big deal in the small village of Kilbane—even more so when the bride is a famous fashion model. It’s also good for business. Not only has customer traffic picked up at Naomi’s Bistro, Siobhán O’Sullivan and her five siblings have a full plate catering for the three-day affair. And Siobhán’s own beau, local garda Macdara Flannery, gladly steps in as best man after the groom’s first choice makes a drunken arse out of himself.

Even if he hadn’t been disinvited to the wedding, the original best man wouldn’t have been able to show. He’s been found murdered in the woods, casting a pall over the nuptials. And when a second member of the wedding party is poisoned by a champagne flute engraved with Macdara’s name, the garda goes from being best man to prime suspect.

With a killer at large and a string of robberies plaguing Kilbane, Siobhán feels more than a little protective of her village. She vows to clear Macdara’s name, but the suspect list is as long as the guest list. Like the bride walking down the aisle, Siobhán needs to watch her step. For as she gets closer to unveiling the truth, the murderer is planning a very chilly reception for her.

My Review

This is the second book in the Irish Village Mystery series by Carlene O'Connor, and frankly, I think readers will be just as charmed by this book as they were the first.  Set in Ireland, with this authors wonderfully descriptive writing style, the reader will be transported to Kilbane where they will discover a quaint village filled with enjoyable characters and a solid mystery.

This second book leaves off not long after the first and we find Siobhan once again in the place where a murder has taken place.  I love Siobhan.  She is a feisty, loving, warmhearted independent your Irishwoman who has not only taken on the running of the family business due to the death of her parents, but the raising of her five younger siblings as well.  She was bitten by the investigative bug in the first book and just can't seem to help herself in this story.  Her romance with Macdara (one of the village policemen) is in the fresh new stages, but she is determined to clear his name as a possible murder suspect.  I like Macdara as well.  He is protective of Siobhan but at the same time he respects her insights and ability to observe human behavior.  At the same time, he wishes she would stay out of murder investigations.  The villagers and Siobhan's siblings round out the cast nicely giving the characters color and some humor as well.

The mystery is solid.  The murder victim was not necessary the most liked person in the wedding party and made his share of enemies during his time at the castle.  This means there are plenty of suspects to choose from and Ms. O'Connor provides her readers with plenty of twists and turns as she crafts a well-plotted solid mystery.  I was completely surprised by the identity of the killer - I really didn't see this one coming.  The killer's identity is revealed in a climatic ending that ties of this story very well.  I also like where Ms. O'Connor is heading with Siobhan's future - it should make for some interesting plot lines in future books.

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Kneaded to Death

Author:  Winnie Archer
Series:  A Bread Shop Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Published:  February 28, 2017

Description:  Everyone swears by Yeast of Eden, the Mexican bread shop in town. But tonight, the only thing on the menu is la muerte . . .

Struggling photographer Ivy Culpepper has lots of soul-searching to do since returning to seaside Santa Sofia, California. That is, until the thirty-six-year-old enters a bread making class at Yeast of Eden. Whether it’s the aroma of fresh conchas in the oven, or her instant connection with owner Olaya Solis, Ivy just knows the missing ingredients in her life are hidden among the secrets of Olaya’s bakery . . .

But Ivy’s spirits crumble when a missing classmate is suddenly discovered dead in her car. Even more devastating, the prime suspect is Olaya Solis herself. Doubting the woman could commit such a crime, Ivy embarks on a murder investigation of her own to prove her innocence and seize the real killer. As she follows a deadly trail of crumbs around town, Ivy must trust her gut like never before—or someone else could be toast!

My Review

This is the first in a new series by author Winnie Archer.  Ivy Culpepper has returned home after the death of her mother and becomes embroiled in the death of a woman who was in her bread making class.  This was an enjoyable book and what you would expect from the first book in a new series.

Winnie Archer introduced us to Ivy Culpepper and the some of the more interesting citizen's of Santa Sofia.  I liked the Ivy. She is grieving the loss of her mother but is starting to put herself out there, and rediscover the pleasure she found in photography. The author does a nice job of crafting a relationship between Ivy, Olaya and Mrs. Branford.  Each one of these women give her something she is missing with the loss of her mother and help her to start healing.  Olaya and Mrs. Branford have a history but once they get past that they are great characters who care about Ivy and the woman who was murdered.  Mrs. Branford is feisty and funny.  She gets Ivy involved in trying to solve Jackie's murder and as she does, Ivy senses that perhaps there is more to her mother's death. There is also a hint of romance for Ivy and her high school sweetheart who left town upon graduation and broke her heart.

The mystery was done well.  The way she wove the death of Jackie together with the death of Ivy's mother was unexpected.  At first I didn't quite know how that was going to play out (one mystery vs. two) but thought the plot came together nicely.  There are some twists and turns as the reader tries to figure out who killed Jackie and why. I had a suspicion about the identity of the killer, but the author did such a good job of providing the reader with suspects and plausible motives for each that I was never able to definitively say who I thought was the culprit.  I was  surprised by how one of the mysteries was resolved.

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