Saturday, July 29, 2017

Death At First Sight

Author:  Lena Gregory
Series:  A Bay Island Psychic Mystery#1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  November 2016

Description:  Since she left her psychiatric practice in New York City to open up a psychic shop in her hometown on Bay Island, Cass Donovan has given her fair share of readings to conflicted customers. But what she sees in Ellie Callahan’s future doesn’t bode well. 
When Ellie’s mother, Marge, publicly confronts Cass about the reading, the embarrassment makes her want to curl up and die. And when she later stumbles across Marge’s body—and is a suspect in her murder—Cass is suddenly the star of Bay Island’s rumor mill.
Cass is determined to prove her innocence and save Ellie from meeting the fate in her unfortunate vision. But even with the help of her friends Bee and Stephanie, Cass will have to channel some serious sleuthing instincts to find the real killer.

My Review

This book has been on my TBR pile since it was first published.  I was lucky enough to win a copy of the second book in the series which spurred me into picking up this one and beginning the series. 

I thought this was a good story for the first in a new series.  The characters are all likable and I think the reader will be able to relate to them.  I really enjoyed the friendship between Cass, Bee and Stephanie.  It felt authentic and it was fun to watch Bee's reaction to Cass and her profession. Cass is what I like to call an accidental amateur sleuth.  She doesn't go looking for mysteries to solve, but when she finds the dead body of a woman who was not a fan she becomes the prime suspect.  Not one to sit by and let herself be railroaded, Cass takes matters into her own hands, with the help of her two best friends, and tries to solve the murder to clear her name.  The secondary cast of characters completes this story and there is a hint at a potential future romance for Cass.

The mystery was solid and layered throughout the story.  The author did a wonderful job of providing the reader with multiple suspects peppering clues, twists and turns throughout the story.  She also did a great job of misdirecting the reader, at least in my opinion.  I was positive that I had determined the killer's identity and was so proud of myself. As I was congratulating myself for solving the murder, the author takes a sharp turn and reveals the actual identity of the killer in a very exciting conclusion.  I was surprised by the identity of the real killer and have to say I did not see this one coming. 

I thought this was a well done first in a new series.  Cass is an accidental sleuth finding her way to clearing her name with the help of her two best friends.  The mystery was solid and kept me engaged and guessing right up until the end.  I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to dive into the second book to see what the author has in store next for Cass.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Killer Party

Author:  Lynn Cahoon
Series:  A Tourist Trap Mystery #9
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground, 
Publication Date:  July 18, 2017

Description:  For a gang of old college buddies, the quaint resort town of South Cove, California, is the perfect spot for a no-holds-barred bachelor party. But for Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books and More—this stag party is going to be murder . . .

After a few months of living with her boyfriend Greg, Jill is still getting used to sharing such close quarters, but she’s got no hesitation about joining him for a weekend at South Cove’s most luxurious resort. While Greg and his college pals celebrate their buddy’s upcoming wedding, Jill intends to pamper herself in style. But when the groom is found floating face-down in the pool, Jill must find the killer fast, or she might not have a boyfriend to come home to any more . . .

My Review

I was a latecomer to this series, but now that I have found it and read a few I can't wait to go back and catch up on what I missed.  As someone who is pretty strict about reading a series in order, I have to say that with the Tourist Trap Mysteries I don't feel like I have missed anything (other than the evolution of Greg and Jill's relationship) by not having read any book before the 8th in the series.

This book picks up not long after the end of the previous book with Jill and Greg away for the weekend to celebrate the upcoming wedding of one of Greg's old friends.  I have to say, almost right from the beginning the author hints that everything may not be quite what it seems.  What I love about this series are the characters.  The ones in this series are well written, complex, and multi-layered characters but there is still much to learn and plenty of room for them to grow and develop further.  Jill is quickly becoming a favorite amateur sleuth for me.  She makes no bones about her investigating and doesn't try to hide it from Greg. I liked in this book that Greg actually needed her investigative skills.

The mystery was fast paced and the readers will be flying through the pages to try and resolve the identity of the killer. The suspects are plenty and plausible.  The clues are subtle and woven throughout the course of the story.  I was really surprised by the identity of the killer - I was so focused on where I thought the author was directing us that I didn't see this one coming.  I think long time readers, and even newer readers, will be surprised by how the author ended this story.  It will leave you clamoring for the next book in the series.

If you love cozy mysteries set in a quaint California setting, with terrific characters that are relatable, likable, complex and multi-dimensional coupled with well plotted, multi-layered mysteries then I would recommend this series to you.  

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nightshade for Warning

Author:  Bailey Cattrell
Series:  An Enchanted Garden Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  May 2, 2017

Description:  Elliana Allbright’s custom-made perfume shop and the Enchanted Garden behind it are garnering all sorts of attention, but a dead body could bury her in bad publicity. . . .
 Ellie’s business and personal life have been flourishing in her hometown of Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense. She uses her very special skills to craft perfumes that almost magically ease heartache, inspire change, and bring joy—and her customers love to relax in the beautiful garden behind her shop with her corgi, Dash, and her cat, Nabokov. She even lives right next to the garden, in a compact “tiny house”—and she’s excited to hear that a journalist is going to write a feature about her home and garden for a national magazine.
But then the journalist is found dead, and suspicion falls on the last person to see him—who just happens to be Ellie’s brother’s girlfriend. So before everything goes to seed, Ellie must rely on her powers—observational and otherwise—to pick out the real killer from an ever-expanding bouquet of culprits.

My Review

The first thing that really strikes me about books by this author (as well as her alter ego Bailey Cates), is that the covers are bright, whimsical and really draw the readers attention. Once she has your attention with her covers, she draws the reader in with well plotted mysteries set in charming locations with characters that are whimsical, likable and down to earth. This series is no exception.

If you enjoyed the characters in the first book Ellis and the cast of secondary characters all make a return in this installment.  I really like Ellie's character.  She is well written and comes across the page as warm, caring, likable with just a touch of other worldliness.  I wouldn't call this a paranormal cozy but Ellie does have a bit of what people might call a sixth sense.  This time around, we get introduced to her brother Colby and his girlfriend Larken, both of whom I liked and hope that we get to see more of in future books.

The mystery is well plotted and unfolds evenly throughout the course of the story.  Larken is accused of murder and of course Detective Lang is pushing hard for her as the prime suspect.  Ellie knows she is innocent and so she undertakes her own investigation to clear Larken's name.  The author provides us with plenty of diverse suspects both old and new and weaves her clues throughout.  The identity of the killer was revealed in a dramatic fashion and quite frankly, was a complete surprise to me.

This is a series that has quickly captured my attention and has me entertained with each new installment.  I love the description of Ellie's tiny house, garden and her shop.  The author's descriptive style allows me to picture them all clearly and has me wanting to make a visit to Poppyville.  The characters are well written and engaging.  The mysteries are well plotted and will keep the reader guessing.  I have really enjoyed both books and look forward to more from this author and this series.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

30 Second Death

Author:  Laura Bradford
Series:  A Tobi Tobias Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Expected Publication Date:  July 11, 2017

Description:  When Tobi Tobias opened her own advertising agency, Carter McDade was there for her every step of the way. A brilliant hairdresser, Carter has just landed his dream project: doing hair and makeup for a theatrical production of Rapunzel. But the dream turns into a nightmare when he runs into Fiona Renoir, a cruel, talentless starlet who won’t let Carter touch a hair on her head.

To get Fiona out of Carter’s hair, Tobi hires the difficult actress for a bit part in her latest commercial. But true to character, Fiona is a terror on set, and Tobi is starting to think she’s made the biggest mistake of her life. But things get even worse when Fiona drops dead in the hairdresser’s chair, and the only suspect is the man left holding the tainted hair dye, Carter McDade. And unless Tobi can prove his innocence, he’ll never do hair in this town again.

My Review

I was highly entertained by the first book in this series, so I couldn't wait to dive into this second book.  I can definitely say I was not disappointed.

What I love about this series so far is that the characters are well written and developed.  You have a real sense of their history and personality after only two books.  Personally, I think Tobi is a great protagonist.  She has all the characteristics most fans look for in cozy mystery characters and she has great wit and humor.  Plus, who doesn't love a character that thinks you have a genetic flaw if you don't like chocolate.  What I was surprised at is how much I am coming to enjoy the relationship between Tobi and Sam.  While he is only a high school student he has a lot of wisdom and good advice for someone that young.  Their relationship comes across almost like a sibling relationship.  The rest of the characters are back for another adventure including Grandpa Stu and his burgeoning relationship with Mrs. Rapple (insert shudder here).

The mystery was well-plotted with plenty of twists, turns and suspects, as we have come to expect from this author.  The mystery unfolded throughout the course of the story at a nice pace.  The victim was not well liked so that provide the reader with multiple suspects to choose from.  I eagerly turned the pages as fast as I could read to discover the murder's identity and I have to say I really didn't see this one coming.  There is a little romantic curve ball for both Mary Fran and Tobi but I think the reader will be happy with how Tobi's is resolved.  I think we will see Mary Fran's play out over the next book or so.

If you were a fan of the first book, I suggest you add this one to the TBR pile.  It is as good as the first and will have you laughing while eagerly turning pages to see how the cast clears Carter of suspicion of murder. I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy that was provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Crime of Passion Fruit

Author:  Ellie Alexander
Series:  A Bakeshop Mystery #
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  St. Martin's
Publication Date:  June 27, 2017

Description:  Jules Capshaw is trying to keep her cool as Torte gets set to make its transformation from quaint, local confectionary cafĂ© to royal pastry palace. Meanwhile, Jules’s estranged husband Carlos is making a desperate plea for her to come aboard his cruise ship and dazzle everyone with her signature sweets. She may be skeptical about returning to her former nautical life with Carlos but Jules can’t resist an all-expense-paid trip, either. If only she knew that a dead body would find its way onto the itinerary . .

Now, instead of enjoying tropical drinks on deck between whipping up batches of sea-salted chocolates and flambĂ©ing fresh pineapple slices in the kitchen, Jules is plunged into dangerous waters. Her investigation leaves her with more questions than answers: Why can’t anyone on board identify the young woman? And how can she help Carlos keep passengers at ease with a killer in their midst? Jules feels like she’s ready to jump ship. Can she solve this case without getting in too deep?

My Review

This has become one of my favorite culinary cozy mystery series.  The characters really make this such a highly enjoyable, fun read. They are well written and developed characters that come across the page as warm, friendly and likable.  One of my favorite aspects of the series is the mother/daughter relationship between Jules and Helen Capshaw.  It is written with a genuine, authentic feel that draws the reader into the story.  The secondary cast of characters are also coming into their own at this point in the series as well.  What I particularly enjoyed about this book was that there was a bit of change in store for most of the characters be it professional or personal.  I think this will allow the author to craft many more wonderful stories in this series. 

This time around, we find Jules, Helen and The Professor headed out to sea.  Unfortunately for Jules, her penchant for finding dead bodies follows her out to sea.  No sooner have they set sail then Jules finds a dead body and is drawn into helping The Professor solve the mystery.  A secondary plot woven throughout the mystery deals with Jules and Carlos and what will be come of their marriage.  At first, I wasn't sure about Carlos, but the more he is woven into the stories I am starting to route for them to stay together.  How that will work - I guess we will just have to see what the author has in store.

The mystery is sort of a play on the murder in a closed room theme.  After all, it occurs when the ship has sailed so there is really no where for the murder to go.  Because there is little known about the murder victim, this allows Ms. Alexander to provide us with plenty of suspects, which she does.  Throw in her usual clues and misdirection and you have a terrific mystery with the killer revealed in a dramatic fashion.

I found this story to be very entertaining and it kept me engaged right through the end.  These characters are warm, friendly, funny, quirky and very likable.  The mystery is well crafted and the plot had a steady pace.  I can't wait to see what this author has in store for this series next and I will definitely be back for a visit to Ashland.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley.