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.