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 fiancĂ©, 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.