Saturday, September 30, 2017

Death on Tap

Author:  Ellie Alexander 
Series:  A Sloan Krause Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  October 3, 2017

Description:  When Sloan Krause walks in on her husband, Mac, screwing the barmaid, she gives him the boot. Sloan has spent her life in Leavenworth, Washington becoming an expert in brewing craft beer, and she doesn’t have time to be held back by her soon-to-be ex-husband. She decides to strike out on her own, breaking away from the Krause family brewery, and goes to work for Nitro, the hip new nano-brewery in the Bavarian-themed town. Nitro’s owner, brewmaster Garrett Strong, has the brew-world abuzz with his newest recipe, “Pucker-Up IPA.” This place is the new cool place in town, and Mac can’t help but be green with envy at their success.

But just as Sloan is settling in to her new gig, she finds one of Nitro’s competitors dead in the fermenting tub, clutching the secret recipe for the IPA. When Mac, is arrested, Sloan knows that her ex might be a cheater, but a murderer? No way. Danger is brewing in Beervaria and suddenly Sloan is on the case.

My Review

I am a big fan of the Bakeshop Mysteries written by this author, so when I heard she had a new series there was no doubt that it would go on my to be read list.

For the most part, I enjoyed this first installment in the Sloan Krause mystery series.  This author writing style flows beautifully and her descriptions just make the town come alive.  This fictional town has a German theme and the way Ms. Alexander describes the decoration and building, the reader can just picture the quaint German inspired town and feel fall in the air.  The characters are also what we come to expect from this author.  They are well written and come across with an authentic feel.  Sloan Krause is at an unexpected cross roads in her life and with her history, the author does a good job of making the reader relate to her  and sympathize with her all while rooting for things to come out in her favor. The secondary cast of characters are all well written and I think a group that the readers will enjoy.

My only criticism of this book is the mystery.  While I did not guess the identity of the killer, I felt that the mystery took a bit of a backseat to setting up the characters and their history. For me, there wasn't as much focus on the crime or as many twist and turns as I have seen in other books from this author.  In the end, the mystery wasn't as strong as I have would have liked to see.  

That said, I did enjoy the story, the setting, the theme and the characters.  As I have always said, it is not easy writing the first in a series.  It is a balance between characters and the mystery.  I will be back to see what this author has in story for Sloan, the brewery and the rest of the town in the next installment.

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Yuletide Homicide

Author:  Jennifer David Hesse
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Series:  A Wiccan Wheel Mystery #3
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  September 26, 2017

Description:  After years of practicing in secret, Keli has come out as a Wiccan to her boyfriend, and she feels like this Yuletide she’s the one who’s being reborn. But the Solstice is the longest night of the year, and Keli is about to stumble on a mystery so dangerous, she’ll be lucky to make it to morning.
Paired with her unbearably stuffy colleague Crenshaw Davenport III, Keli goes undercover at a real estate company owned by mayoral candidate Edgar Harrison. An old friend of Keli’s boss, Harrison, is being blackmailed, and it’s up to her to find the culprit. But the morning after the company holiday party, Harrison is found dead underneath the hotel Christmas tree. The police rule the death an accident, but Keli knows better—and she’ll risk her own rebirth to nab a missing killer.

My Review
I am a fan of this series and have been since the very first book. Keli Milanni is one of those characters that I instantly felt a connection to in the first book.  I have several things in common with this characters and that is what initially engaged me as a reader.  But what keeps me coming back is this authors storytelling and character development.

Over the course of these three books, Keli had continued to evolve and grow as a character. She is a rich, well rounded, dimensional characters that has a genuine feel to her. I love her friendship with Farrah and I think it is one that readers enjoy as well. Farrah is vivacious, fun and loyal to Keli. She is open and accepting of the things Keli fears will make people turn away from her - her Wiccan religion. I also think her relationship is progressing well with Wes. He is understanding and protective even though he wishes Keli would leave the sleuthing to the police.  I also like Crenshaw's character.  He is a bit stuffy and curmudgeonly, but you can see he respects Keli and her mystery solving ability.   

I thought the mystery in this third book was really well plotted. It takes place around the Christmas holiday and is full of suspicion, drama, betrayal, twists and turns. And you guessed it, Keli is right in the middle of it. It felt like there was always something going on in this story that kept me engaged and turning the pages to see just how this mystery would unfold.  I was surprised at the character who turned out to be our murder but his motive was believable and plausible.  There is a secondary mystery that runs through the background of this series and that is what happened to Keli's Aunt Josephine who years before lived in a commune located in Edindale.  I think we are getting closer to finding out where she has been all these years and Keli is getting closer to finally meeting her.

This is a terrific series and I really look forward to each new book.  I will definitely be back to see what adventure Keli finds herself involved with next.

I read an advanced reader copy of this book provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Hive of Homicides

Author:  Meera Lester
Series:  A Henny Penny Farmette Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington 
Publication Date:  September 26, 2017

Description:  When Abigail Mackenzie left the police force to become a farmer and beekeeper in beautiful Las Flores, California, she thought her days of criminal investigation were behind her . . .
Her present life is mostly filled with hard work and happy occasions, including the upcoming event with her friend Paola, a truffle maker, who's renewing her vows with her husband Jake, owner of the Country Schoolhouse Winery. Abby is delighted to provide her trademark lavender honey for the occasion.
But after the ceremony, the guests of honor are nowhere to be found. When Abby goes looking for them, she hears a gunshot and discovers Jake dead in his car and Paola injured beside him.
Who was the intended target? Jake had a reputation as a busy bee with the ladies. Is it possible that one of his flings, stung by rejection, took revenge? Or could it be sour grapes with one of his colleagues at the winery? If Paola was meant to be the victim, Abby needs to protect her as she searches for the shooter.
When a second murder occurs, it's up to Abby to crush the clues—before the killer gets her over a barrel.

My Review

I found this third book in the Henny Penny Farmette series to be a quick, enjoyable read.  I have read all the books in the series to date and have to say this each one, in my opinion, is entertaining and engaging.

Abigail MacKenzie ("Abby") is a well written and developed protagonist. She is smart, spunky, loyal to her friends and in this story we got to see her vulnerable side. Being an ex-cop she her sleuthing abilities are fairly well honed and she tries to assist the police and not go rouge on her own. The author continues to grow and develop Abby in each new book and I think readers will like what they see in this one. The secondary cast of characters round out the story nicely and we see old and new friends.  There is also a bit of romance brewing for Abby, which I like.  The author is not rushing the characters by no means and it feels natural as it is unfolding in the series.

The mystery had a steady pace that unfolded throughout the entire story with plenty of twists, turns and drama leading up to a very climatic reveal. I also like how the author throws in tips about beekeeping, recipes and snippets from the Henny Penny Farm almanac. I enjoy this series and its characters and will be back for the next book in the series.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Negalley.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Body on Baker Street

Author:  Vicki Delany
Series:  A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Expected Publication Date:  September 12, 2017

Description:  Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson are busy managing the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street and adjoining Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room in anticipation of the store’s upcoming book signing with the illustrious Renalta Van Markoff, author of the controversial Hudson and Holmes mystery series. But during the author Q&A session, dedicated Sherlockian Donald Morris verbally attacks Renalta and her series for disgracing Sherlock’s legacy, only to be publicly humiliated when the author triumphantly lashes back and gains the upper hand. That is until Renalta collapses on the table―dead.

My Review

I loved the first book in the series so was happy to dive into the advanced reader copy I received of Body of Baker Street. This was a quick fun read that I just didn't want to put down. I was so engaged I just kept turning pages to see how the story would end.

What I enjoyed so much about the first book was the character of Gemma. She is, at least in my opinion, unique among cozy mystery protagonists. She is highly observant and has great logical deductive reasoning skills which makes her a good amateur sleuth. What endeared her to me was her social awkwardness. In this second installment the reader can see she is trying to work on this to help her relate better to people. She is asked by her friend and fellow shop owner to help clear him of murder charges, and in typical Gemma style she goes about observing the suspects and trying to put the clues together without thought to her own safety.  The secondary characters from the first book are all back, but I was a bit disappointed that Jayne's role in helping Gemma uncover the killer was not larger.

The mystery was once again well crafted, woven throughout the story with plenty of clues, twists and turns. The story was fast paced, with plenty of viable suspects.  It was fun watching Gemma peel back the layers of these clues to determine who really killed the author. The is still a tension between Gemma and Ryan regarding Gemma's "interference" in police investigations.  Ryan does respect her observations but still have difficulty with how that comes across. And of course, Detective Estrada still has it out for Gemma.  

I think this author has done an excellent job of crafting a smart, sophisticated series with great characters and engaging mysteries.  I am looking forward to more great stories in this series and will definitely be back to Baker Street for the next installment.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Death Distilled

Author:  Melinda Mullet
Series:  A Whiskey Business Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Publication Date:  September 5, 2017

Description:  It’s been three months since Abi Logan last checked in on Abbey Glen, the celebrated whisky distillery she inherited. With her oversize wheaten terrier, Liam, by her side, Abi returns to the quaint Scottish village of Balfour. But her relaxing Highland homecoming takes a stressful turn when she unearths an unseemly bit of village history, welcomes a group of Japanese whisky enthusiasts, and becomes shepherdess to an unexpected flock of sheep—all within the first twenty-four hours. Still, nothing’s more stressful than murder. . . .

Local celebrity Rory Hendricks is the hotheaded, hard-rocking former frontman of the Rebels—and Abi’s girlhood crush. After meeting him in person, Abi can’t say no to anything he asks, like photographing his upcoming show . . . or figuring out who’s trying to kill him. Turns out someone’s been bumping off his old bandmates, with the drummer dead under mysterious circumstances and the keyboardist in a coma following a hit-and-run. Now a series of threatening messages leads Rory to think he’s next on the chopping block. And the band has a devil’s share of broken hearts and bitter disputes in their past, leaving Abi a huge batch of suspects to sift through—all before the killer takes another shot.

My Review

This is the second book in the Whiskey Business Mystery series and I found it to be just as enjoyable as the first book. It is quickly becoming a series I look forward to reading. 

Set in Scotland, this series has a unique theme for a cozy mystery.  It is one of the things that drew me to the series and keeps me coming back.  The characters are smart, sophisticated and well developed.  In this installment we once again find Abi called upon to investigate murder and mayhem.  Because of her background and what she has witnessed as a photojournalist, Abi has a keen sense of observation but she is not trying to out-do or show up the police.  And, in this installment, there are occasions where the police actually seek her out for her observations and insight. I felt like Abi was at a crossroads in this story, trying to reconcile her old life and the career she has built with her new home in Balfour and the Abbey Glen distillery.

There are two mysteries in this story - one modern and one historical.  The two are woven together nicely throughout the entire story and actually compliment each other.  The modern day mystery is a smartly crafted with subtle clues, twists and turns. The historical mystery allows the reader a glimpse into the history of the Scottish Village of Balfour, where the story is set, as well as the history of Scotland itself.  As I said, I think the author tied the two nicely together in the end.

I am definitely looking forward to more in this series.  I think there is a lot more of Abi for us and for her to discover.

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Pudding Up With Murder

Author:  Julia Buckley  
Series:  An Undercover Dish Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  September 5, 2017

Description:  Customers trust Lilah Drake to keep her mouthwatering meals under wraps, but when a millionaire meets his untimely end, some sinister secrets become the main course. . . .
Spring is right around the corner, and with the warmer temperatures come plenty of food requests from Lilah Drake's covered-dish clients. Lilah pulls out all the stops with a sweet new casserole for the birthday party of Marcus Cantwell, a wealthy curmudgeon who has some angry ex-wives and more than a few enemies.
When he's found facedown in Lilah's casserole, it's anyone's guess as to who might have wanted the old man dead. A possible new heir to Marcus’s fortune adds some unexpected spice to the investigation, but Lilah fears that the old adage is true, and "the proof is in the pudding." 

My Review

I am a fan of this authors Mystery Writer's Apprentice Mysteries and this series has been on my TBR pile, so when Berkley unexpectedly approved me for an ARC, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I am one of those readers who likes to start are series with the first book. One of the reasons I love cozies so much is they tend to be character driven and with series, starting at the beginning allows me to watch the characters develop and grow.  That said, I didn't feel like I missed out on too much having started with the third book.

I thought this was a well plotted story.  The characters come across as real and authentic.  I liked Lilah Drake immediately. She was warm and genuine.  The secondary cast of characters were all well written and likable.  Lilah's love interest Jay proved to me a pretty good guy.  I liked  how he appreciated Lilah's observations and insights into people and events.  Although he is a police detective he didn't seem to discount her input.  I was a bit annoyed with his jealousy issues, but given that I hadn't read the first two books there may be a bit of back story I am missing.  I totally fell in love with Mick, her dog.  I loved his special skill.

I thought the mystery was well done.  There were plenty of suspects to choose from and it unfolded throughout the entire course of the story, which I like.  The mystery is as important to me as the characters so I love when the author provides an even balance.  I have to say, the mystery didn't quite turn out as I expected and I didn't not have a clue as to the killer's identity until the reveal.

This was an enjoyable read.  The book has a quaint setting, a even pace that kept me turning pages, characters that I liked and a well plotted mystery that kept me guessing.  I will definitely catch up with the first two books and look for more in this series.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Berkley, through Netgalley