Saturday, February 24, 2018

I Know What You Bid Last Summer

Author:  Sherry Harris
Series:  A Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  February 27, 2018

Description:  When it comes to running a successful garage sale, Sarah Winston believes in doing her homework. She also believes in giving back. But when she agrees to manage an athletic equipment swap, she doesn't bargain on an uncharitable killer. The day of the event, the school superintendent is found dead in the gymnasium. 

Suddenly the murder suspects are the school board members—including the husband of a very difficult client who's hired Sarah to run a high-end sale and demands she do her bidding. In between tagging and haggling, Sarah studies the clues to see who wanted to teach the superintendent a lesson. But as she closes in on the truth, the killer intends to give her a crash course on minding her own business.

My Review

This is the fifth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery series and each book continues to be just as entertaining as the last.  I love the premise because it is not one that is common for cozy mysteries. 

Who knew that you could get into so much trouble with garage sales. Unfortunately for Sarah, trouble just seems to continue to find her. This time around she is organizing a sports equipment swap for the local school when the trouble begins.  Sarah is attacked while organizing the items and so begins a series of mishaps that includes murder and attempted murder. Once again, Sarah is asked to help an innocent person clear their name. With the help of her friends, old and new, she uncovers clues, with plenty of twists and turns thrown in, that lead her to uncover the killer's identity in a dramatic fashion.

I think Sarah is a fun main characters. She is surrounded by a terrific cast of secondary characters that no only support her, but often times join in her attempts to solve the cases. I also liked that we get to see her deal with being on her own and not in a relationship. It was nice to see her find her inner strength and move on with her life.  I'm not sure where the author plans to take an future romances for Sarah, but I think this book definitely shows this character can stand on her own.

The mystery was well written.  Sherry Harris always weaves an engaging mystery that flows through the entire book.  Add to that a plot with a steady pace and readers will by turning pages trying to see if they can guess the killer's identity.  I was surprised when the culprit's identity was revealed as this person was no where on my radar.  One would think by this point I would get better at getting to the bottom of a mystery, but right or wrong, half the fun is testing your own amateur sleuthing ability.  Let's just say I am no Nancy Drew.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley. I will definitely be back to see what the next garage sale has in store for Sarah.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Cat of the Baskervilles

Author:  Vicki Delany
Series: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  February 13, 2018

Description:  The show is coming to town on Cape Cod. The West London Theater Festival is putting on a stage production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Gemma Doyle is excited and participating with her friend Jayne Wilson, whose mother, Leslie, just happens to be volunteering with the company. Leslie arranges a fundraising tea party at the home of the festival organizer, catered by Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room. The tea is a rousing success, but Sir Nigel Bellingham, the famous star cast as the lead of Sherlock, goes missing. And Gemma finds him at the bottom of the cliff. Dead.

Before the tea, Sir Nigel had come by the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop, only for Gemma to realize that he’s not at all suited to the role. But as Gemma and Jayne investigate, the list of suspects just grows longer. Long past his prime, Sir Nigel was second to a younger actor who had first been given the role. The festival’s executive director also expressed that he had been hired over her objections. Then there are the slew of people to whom Sir Nigel was rude. They all have motive, but then a scrap of Leslie’s apron caught on a bush by Sir Nigel’s body is found. And the police are set to pounce as she becomes suspect #1.

My Review

I was hooked on this series right from the first book.  This third book in the series will not disappoint fans.  This time, we head back to West London in Cape Cod to find Jayne's mom as the suspect in a murder investigation.

Gemma is one of those characters that just grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go.  From the very first book I thought she was quite unique and that is fine with me because it sets her apart from other main characters.  She is supported by a great cast of secondary characters that are fun, interesting and what I like best is that they accept her but try to soften her edges without changing her too much.  We also get a glimpse into her struggling feelings about Ryan and where they stand with each other.  

The mystery was well done.  The victim was not too terribly well like so this allowed the author to provide the readers with plenty of suspect and clues while the game was afoot.  There were plenty of plausible motives for the murder which of course meant that I fell for all the twists and turns trying to determine who was ultimately responsible for committing the crime.  Alas, I am no Sherlock Holmes and was not successful.  However, I thought the mystery was wrapped up nicely with a believable suspect and a motive that was logical and rationale.

For me, each new book in this series is always an adventure.  I love the characters and Gemma's uniqueness.  The story keeps me engaged and the mysteries are well crafted to keep the reader guessing.  I will definitely be back for more of Gemma and the rest of the cast.

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

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Class Reunions Are Murder

Author:  Libby Klein
Series:  A Poppy McAllister Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  January 30, 2018

Description:  Newly widowed and stuck in a middle-aged funk, Poppy has been running on cookies, infomercials, and one-sided chats with her cat for months. There’s no way on earth she’s attending her twenty-five-year class reunion—especially after receiving a very bizarre letter from Barbie, the popular cheerleader who taunted her all through high school. At least, not until Poppy’s best friend practically drags her to the event . . . 
Using the dreaded homecoming as an excuse to visit her eccentric Aunt Ginny, Poppy vows to leave Cape May with pride and Spanx intact. Too bad Barbie is still the queen of mean at the reunion. And worse, that her dead body is lying right in front of Poppy’s old locker. Singled out as the killer, it’s up to Poppy to confront her past and clear her name. But between protecting her aunt from disaster and tackling a gluten-free diet, can Poppy crack the case before she’s voted “Most Likely to Die” by the murderer?

My Review

It seems that I have been taking a chance on a lot of first in a new series cozy mysteries lately.  Unfortunately not all of them have met my expectations.  This first book in the Poppy McAllister Mystery Series by Libby Klein was a refreshing change from that pattern.

I liked the premise of this story from the blurb.  For me, it was a nice change in pace from the other cozies I have read.  I think everyone can relate to what they feel when being invited to a class reunion.  I tend to react the same as Poppy did.

I thought Poppy McAllister was a good, solid main character.  She is sympathetic and relatable, especially for me.  I was never in the popular click in high school and have always been on the heavy side with respect to my weight, so I could really sympathize with Poppy in those areas, especially when it comes to clothes shopping.  I thought the author did a good job of showing growth in Poppy as the story progressed.  Poppy finally takes a stand and decides to make some changes that will positively impact her life.  The secondary cast includes some of Poppy's high school friends, her Aunt Ginny (who provides great humor) and her cat Figaro who will have the reader laughing.  The author provides good dialogue filled with humor, some of it the self deprecating kind where Poppy is concerned.

The murder occurs near the beginning of the story and the victim of course is the woman who was the mean popular girl in high school.  This give the author the ability to provide the reader with plenty of suspect to choose from while weaving in clues along with twists and turns.  I enjoyed that Poppy was not instantly good at being a sleuth.  She had some false starts and looked at the wrong suspects. I thought the story wrapped up nicely, with a hint at a future romance for Poppy and this is a series that I think I will continue to follow.

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

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Survival of the Fritters

Author:  Ginger Bolton
Series:  Deputy Donut Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  January 30, 2018

Description:  If Emily has learned anything from her past as a 911 operator, it’s to stay calm during stressful situations. But that’s a tall order when one of her regulars, Georgia Treetor, goes missing. Georgia never skips morning cappuccinos with her knitting circle. Her pals fear the worst—especially Lois, a close friend who recently moved to town. As evening creeps in, Emily and the ladies search for Georgia at home. And they find her—murdered among a scattering of stale donuts . . .

Disturbingly, Georgia’s demise coincides with the five-year anniversary of her son’s murder, a case Emily’s late detective husband failed to solve before his own sudden death. With Lois hiding secrets and an innocent man’s life at stake, Emily’s forced to revisit painful memories on her quest for answers. Though someone’s alibi is full of holes, only a sprinkling of clues have been left behind. And if Emily can’t trace them back to a killer in time, her donut shop will end up permanently closed for business. 

My Review

Ginger Bolton is a new to me author and this is the first book in her new Deputy Donut Mystery. I found this to be a fun, easy read with a steady pace that had me turning pages. 

Emily Westhill is a sympathetic, likable main characters. She is a widow still trying to find her footing after the death of her police officer husband a few years earlier. She comes across, at least to me caring and genuine. There is an interesting cast of secondary characters, including her two best friends, her father in law, and Deputy Donut - her cat that is the inspiration for the name of her donut shop.  These characters round out the story nicely. This is a first book in a new series, so I am looking forward to seeing all the characters develop and grow as well as learn more about their history.  

I thought the mystery was well done.   It is woven throughout the entire story and the author does a good job of keeping it in the forefront along with the characters.  There are clues, twists and turns sprinkled throughout the story and done well enough to throw the reader off the trail of the real killer.  I was surprised by the identity of the killer which was revealed in a rather climatic fashion. There is also the hint of a potential future romance down the road for Emily if she is willing to take the chance.  In addition, there are some really delicious sounding recipes for donuts included at the end.

All in all, I thought this was a good start for this author and her new series.  The characters, story and mystery were solid and entertaining.  I will be checking back into Fallingbrook Wisconsin to see what this author has in store for the next book.  

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley.