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.