Here you’ll find cozies and more. Enjoy!
COACHED TO DEATH by Victoria Laurie
I don’t know how to describe this book. It’s not quite a straight mystery and not quite a cozy mystery. At least not in the way I think of those two genres. For me, a cozy has an amateur sleuth—which this does—and takes place often in a small town where everyone knows everyone. This takes place in the posh Hampton’s in New England. It’s a place of Ferraris, BMWs, mansions, and designer clothes. And our amateur sleuth—Catherine—is ultra-rich. Okay, I can accept that. It’s different. Unique. Interesting.
But… the murder and the bad guys are more in line with a standard thriller—Russian mafia, professional assassins, mysterious people showing up, multiple murders. And the one thing that frustrated me—two heavy threads left dangling. Oh, the initial mystery was solved. We know who murdered the main victim and why, but the rest… we’re left with questions that will (hopefully) be answered in later books.
Catherine (Cat) is a rich divorcee with twin fourteen-year-old sons (away at boarding school). She made her money by running a successful marketing business, sold it, and now works as a personal life coach. She bought land in the Hampton’s and is building a big house there. Meanwhile, she’s living in the guest house with her best friend, Gillie while his husband is traveling. When Cat’s neighbor is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect thanks to a very public threat she made earlier when the woman humiliated Cat. It’s up to Cat and Gillie to prove her innocence, but they have to deal with a surly detective, a mysterious—but delicious—man who flirts with her, and more.
Things I liked: Sebastian! The house electronic “butler” who does everything a computer can do for her. I want Sebastian! I am in love with him. I like the unique setting, the fact that Cat is not your standard amateur sleuth in that she’s uber-rich. She’s different and interesting. And I love Gillie too! He’s so sweet.
What I didn’t like: the two huge threads left dangling (no, I won’t say what they are – that’s cheating). I don’t mind a small thread or two in a cozy—like the continuing relationship between the sleuth and someone (usually a law person)—which we have here—but I was highly frustrated by the two unknowns that will continue (I assume). When I turned the last page, I was actually angry. I tried to page on past to see if it finished, but it didn’t. I had to be satisfied with the ending I got—and I wasn’t. Yes, we solved who killed the main victim. But… yeah, not happy.
Recommendation: This is a darker, heavier “cozy” that is a good story at its base, but be prepared for heavier subjects like Russian mob and professional assassins. If that’s okay with you, also understand that there are two major threads (and a minor one or two) that do not get solved. As long as you’re aware of that, the ending is okay then. Overall, though, it was a good story, which is why it got four sparklers. I did enjoy it right up to the end. If I were true to myself, I would have downgraded it, but… it’s a decent story. I’m just one of those readers who likes things tied up in neat bows and this one left the ribbons dangling.
Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
APPLE CIDER SLAYING by Julie Anne Lindsey
Winnie Montgomery is trying desperately to increase income at her Granny’s orchard and having a winter fest and opening a cider bar/restaurant/gathering space is her dream, but she needs a bank loan to help her dreams come true. But every time she invites the banker out to see the space, something disastrous happens – like a dead body in the cider press building, and Granny Smythe being the main suspect. The nastiness keeps piling up with threats and more. Sheriff Colton Wise tries to keep Winnie from interfering, but what’s a girl to do when her granny is the one being blamed? So of course she continues what she’s doing—even when the real killer goes after her.
This is such a fun book. I love the names—Granny Smythe runs an apple orchard! And the kittens: Dolly and Kenny (Rogers). It’s a light-hearted cozy mystery that gives a satisfying ending. The only question I had while reading was about half-way through the book, Winnie is dead tired but decides to do one more online search to see what she can find about her dead neighbor. Then the sheriff, Colton Wise, calls. After they talk, she goes to make gallons of cider rather than going to bed. Doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s the only thing I questioned in the story. The descriptions and setting are amazing. I can picture everything right away. The characters believable and realistic. And the reason behind the murder and other issues is also believable. Well done.
Things I liked: the names, the setting, the characters… all well done, believable, and realistic. Oh, and the recipes in the back? Nice! And delicious!
Things I didn’t like: Other than that one question above, nothing. I had fun reading this and it went quickly.
Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this as a fun cozy and I will be looking for more books by this author.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review
IN COLD CHAMOMILE by Joy Avon
Callie Asper is in charge of a Valentine’s Day event at a mansion. She has lots of activities—Fall in Love with Books, Fall in Love with Music, Fall in Love with… something for everyone. Her great-aunt Iphy is manning the tea room part of the event. Everything is going smoothly until the singer shows up. Sean Strong is not the singer who was supposed to be there, but he tells them he’s stepping in for a sick friend. Callie notices, though, that there’s something odd between him and Iphy. But she’s got too much on her mind to look into it. Like the famous antiques/book dealer who seems to be under-rating everything shown him, and who’s doing his best to make sure nobody likes him. Then he ends up dead and Callie is thrown into helping solve another murder—against the strong wishes of her sometimes boyfriend/cop Ace.
This is a cute, standard cozy mystery with a murder, an amateur sleuth, and a cop who doesn’t want them involved. There’s lots of angst going on throughout the story, but it’s all tied up nicely at the end. Though this is obviously part of a series, it is a stand alone that can be read without reading the others, but you are missing some of the background, especially concerning Callie and her relationship with Ace.
Things I liked: The names! I absolutely love Callie and Iphy’s names—though we only learn Iphy’s real name once. We never do find out if Callie is short for something (maybe Calliope?). The characters were realistic and well-developed.
Things I didn’t like: There’s nothing overt that I didn’t like, but the book didn’t wow me. Setting was almost non-existent. Callie and Iphy run a tea room, but we have no idea what it looks like. Or the great mansion. Or even the town. I’d really like to have more sensory input as well. And…for me…it was kind of obvious who the perpetrator was.
Recommendations: I’d suggest reading the other books in the series first. Not because you can’t get what’s going on but so you have the background on the characters, the town, etc. As I said above, it’s not a bad book so if you’ve read the others in the series, pick this one up.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
HOUND ON THE SOUND: LEGAL BEAGLE COZY MYSTERY by Jessa Archer
Cozy Mystery Novella
This is a cute, sweet, short (novella length) cozy mystery. Unlike most mysteries, there’s not really a dead body—unless you consider a spirit a dead body. The mystery has to do with putting the ghost to rest not by finding the murderer. After all, she was hung for being a witch so there’s no mystery about that. But…something was lost that needs to be found.
Pepper Sullivan wants to ditch her big city law job and move back to Misty-on-the-Sound, the small town where she grew up and open up a law practice there. When a beautiful ocean-side house becomes available at a reasonable price, she does that—but there’s something about the house. It’s haunted. With the help of her beagle, Mr. Woogles, Pepper attempts to solve the mystery of the ghost in the house. She has to put up with the spirit, her nosy mom, a crooked lawyer/realtor, and her ex-boyfriend.
Things I liked: It was a cute, fluffy story with a good ending. I believe this might be a prologue to longer Legal Beagle mysteries and if so, it’s a good set up. The setting was beautiful, though I’d like to see more of the house. As important as it was, we “see” very little of it other than it’s much bigger than her NYC apartment.
Things I didn’t like: There was a major timeline issue with the story that stopped me in my tracks. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice it, but my training as an editor just wouldn’t let me go past it. Basically, it’s 5 p.m. Sunday and Pepper is in her apartment, packing. A few paragraphs later, she says she has to be out of the apartment by 4 p.m. Oops #1. Her mother calls and they talk about dinner. Pepper says it’s a two hour drive so she won’t be there until 7. Okay, that fits, except she still has to finish packing everything up, haul it all down to the car/movers, and still drive the two hours. Oops #2. An easy fix would be if instead of 5 p.m., it’s 3 p.m. Then this would work. Also… she’s moving into an old house that’s been sitting empty for a while. She doesn’t have to do any painting/cleaning/fixing? I’ve moved a lot and there’s always something to do. You don’t just move in and have everything ready to go.
Recommendation: If you’re reading the other books in this series, this would be a good starter. It gives you the background on the characters, the setting, and more all in a neat little package. But don’t expect an in-depth read. This is light fluff. Yes, the “mystery” is solved, but there’s almost nothing else. It’s a prologue to the series and nothing more.
A CUP OF HOLIDAY FEAR by Ellie Alexander
Juliet Montague Capshaw owns a bakery in Ashland, Oregon. She recently moved back there after ten years because she wanted to find her roots. Like many small business owners and small towns, she knows almost everyone.
It’s Christmas and everyone is celebrating with parades, feasts, and more. But there’s something dark underneath all the joy in town—something that leads to murder.
This is a standard cozy mystery with an amateur sleuth and lots of suspects, but that’s where the stereotyping ends. Unlike most cozies, the sleuth is never in mortal danger (which is not necessarily a bad thing!). And she doesn’t have an in-town boyfriend. Instead, she has a husband (who’s off at sea for the entire story) and a stepson (who also doesn’t show up until the end). Different, but interesting. The killer is kind of easy to spot, but nothing is really given away until the end—and again, nobody is in mortal danger. Yes, Juliet goes into the dark basement for things, but…really, no angst there.
Things I liked: the imagery! The writer has a deft hand with describing the scenery and the surroundings. I almost wanted to get a cup of hot peppermint cocoa to drink while reading—during ninety-degree weather where I am! I also liked the characters—they were well described and believable, as was the reason for the murder. Plus, no angst about the main characters being in danger. Kind of a nice change from the norm. And her name! Ashland, OR is famous for its Shakespearean Festival and theater and to name the main character after Juliet…had to smile at that.
Things I didn’t like: I was just a little lost with the whole absent husband thing and exactly who the Professor (Doug) is—I gather he’s a police detective? But I’m not certain. This is not the first in the series, so I assume these things were explained in earlier books. Also, going back to the norm with most cozies, there was never any danger for any of the characters (except the victim—and it was obvious from the beginning who it was going to be).
Recommendation: I really would recommend this series, but I’d recommend you start with book one (Meet your Baker) so you understand the connections between characters and who they are. I know I’ll definitely be looking to get the series. Not necessarily because of the mystery, but the imagery alone drew me in. I want to be there—and can, through the books.
WONTON TERROR by Vivien Chien
Asian Cozy Mystery
Wonton Terror is the fourth installment of the Noodle Shop Mystery series. Lana Lee, the amateur sleuth, manages her family’s restaurant. She lives with her best friend Megan—a bartender—and is dating a cop, Adam, who she presumably met on a previous case.
This story opens with Lana and one of her cooks, Peter Huang, running a booth for the restaurant at Cleveland’s Night Market. During a lull in business Lana notices the son of her mother’s old friend arguing with his father at their food truck. A short time later, the food truck explodes, killing the owner, Ronnie, and injuring several others. Ronnie’s wife Sandra becomes the top suspect in the explosion, so Lana begins to investigate to try to clear her mother’s friend’s name.
The theme of this book seems to be family issues—Lana with her sister, Lana’s mother with her sister (Lana’s aunt), the owner of the food truck with his wife and son and his wife’s brother. Most of the issues are the usual family bickering, but, for some (Ronnie and Sandra), it goes much deeper into the issue of domestic abuse. This can be a difficult subject for some and I wish the author had put in an afterword about where victims of domestic abuse could find help. There are hotlines available for this and I wish the author had included them.
I was also a little confused as to why Lana’s family, who own a restaurant, went to so many other restaurants to eat out—which it appears they did often. I can understand it once in a while, but it seemed almost every other chapter involved them eating out at another restaurant.
Things I liked: It was an interesting story with a different kind of amateur sleuth (Chinese) and the dynamics of Lana’s family. It was a unique read. The mystery was fair with ample suspects.
Things I didn’t like: It was a little slow with too much emphasis on Lana’s family dynamics. They were always bickering and it got old after a while.
Recommendation: Overall the story was okay, but I probably won’t add the series to my list of must-buy cozies. It was good, but just didn’t grab me hard enough to make me want to go out and get more.
Thanks to Netgalley for the free review copy.
DACHSHUND THROUGH THE SNOW by David Rosenfelt
Andy Carpenter is a rich lawyer with a beautiful ex-cop wife and a son. He only takes on cases when he wants to—which, thanks to his wife and friends, is a lot more often than he cares for. The case in this story is about a murder that happened fourteen years ago. The victim was a young woman, strangled. Her killer was never found but police think they have their man now as DNA evidence became available. Like most perps, he swears he didn’t do it, but she had his skin under her fingernails. In investigating, Andy runs into a lot more than he bargained for, including an assassin wanted by Interpol.
This was an interesting book—different from most cozy mysteries. Those usually have an amateur sleuth who wants to find the killer. In this one, Andy is a lawyer with lots of experience and a team of investigators to back him up. There were lots of possible bad guys and reasons for the girl’s murder. I will say I was surprised by the end as the villain wasn’t who I expected—which is a good thing. I’m usually much better at figuring that out.
Things I liked: it was unique with the lawyer/cop wife. There were a lot of twists and turns to keep you interested. It’s also different to have a sleuth who doesn’t want to be a sleuth. He wants nothing to do with the case, but goes into it determined to win. I loved Andy’s dogs and his wry humor.
Things I didn’t like: the skipping from first person when we’re with Andy, to third person at times when with other parties. Sometimes I wasn’t sure who I was with except when I was with Andy. Plus, it was a little slow at times.
Recommendation: If you’re looking for something different than the usual amateur sleuth cozy, I’d definitely pick this one up.
I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.
THE ESCAPE ROOM by Megan Goldin
Suspense (This is NOT a cozy mystery)
Wow. Just…wow. This is a 350+ page book and I read it in one day. I can’t say that about a lot of books, but this one I can. It’s a gripping suspense story that grabs you at the beginning and holds onto you until the very end.
So… the bad things first. I’m not generally a fan of mixed point of view and I really don’t like omniscient POV that head hops all over the place because I don’t know whose head I’m supposed to be in. This one switches from first person in one chapter to third person omniscient in the next and back and forth depending on who we’re with. It’s told from the point of view of the main character, Sara (1st person), and four of her colleagues (third person omniscient) separated by chapters(which is good). It also flips back and forth between past and present. But, that being said, once you get into the story, it’s not as off-putting as it sounds because the story itself is so good.
And that’s the saving grace and the reason it got five sparklers instead of a lower rating. The story is just that good. Okay, there were a couple of other “editorial” issues that caught my eye, but that’s me. As far as the story goes… my first impression stands. Wow. I could not put this down. I just kept reading, even though I had other things to do. And that’s what makes it a five star. If you’ve grabbed me that strongly that I can’t put it down, that’s worth the top rating.
The story centers around Sara Hall—a young woman who lands a prime job at a top financial corporation in New York—and her four main colleagues. To the sharks at the top, getting rich is all that matters. But when financing takes a downward turn, things get interesting. The four colleagues end up in an elevator escape room where they begin to show their true colors, and it isn’t pretty. Not only do they need to survive, but the biggest mystery to solve is what happened to Sara.
The ending is brilliant and unexpected.
Kudos to the author for making me forget the head-hopping, the POV flip-flopping and draw me so deeply into the story that I couldn’t stop reading. Well done, and definitely recommended.
Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes by Karen Rose Smith
Cozy Mystery – Book 1 of Daisy’s Tea Garden Mysteries
I really enjoyed this book. The characters in the small town that the author created are realistic with problems and issues that we all face. The small town atmosphere comes through as well. And tying it to a tea shop with recipes I can then try… nice. 🙂
Daisy and her aunt Iris run a small tea shop in a nice little town. Daisy is widowed with two teenage daughters. I love that one is adopted and searching for her biological parents – the emotions we see Daisy go through with this are spot on. There are love interests, but nothing too serious.
The murder – and the reason behind it – are well done. We’re given lots of options for the person(s) who “dunit”, including Daisy’s aunt. The ending is satisfying, but you know this is the beginning of a series as there are several threads left dangling (but not who the murderer is!). The murder is solved, but we’re just getting started with Daisy’s life.
The only thing that didn’t seem to fit was the subplot of Daisy’s adopted daughter, Jazzy, looking for her birth parents. You could have taken that entire subplot out and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the story. Yes, it gives us insight into Daisy’s life, but it just didn’t seem to fit. Still… the rest of the story was really good.
Overall, a satisfying read with a good ending.
The Body on the Train by Frances Brody
Cozy mystery – 1929 British
In this eleventh book in the Kate Shackleton series, Scotland Yard calls in Kate to investigate an unidentified body is found on a special train from Yorkshire, but they thwart her efforts by demanding her silence on certain things. During her investigation, she learns of another murder—one that supposedly has no connection to the one she’s looking into—or does it? Kate doesn’t believe in coincidences. The local police believe they have the culprit for the second one, but Kate believes he is innocent and is determined. She goes to work with her crew of assistants (an ex-cop turned PI and her housekeeper) to uncover the truth.
The plot and setting for this story were intriguing, but there was too much story—especially the details of rhubarb growing and mining in the area. Yes, the history was interesting at times (I had no idea there was so much call for rhubarb!), but it dragged down the story. The solution was fairly obvious from the beginning, and the end was something of an let down. I will say I found the characters interesting and diverse, but I didn’t pick this up to read a history of rhubarb.
As for the writing, note that there are multiple points of view and though Kate’s is in first person, the rest are all in third person, something I found distracting at times. There was also a lot of head-hopping.
Overall opinion: it’s an interesting cozy somewhat in the style of the Australian TV show, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – same era (1920s) and all that entails. I felt it was a little slow due to the historical facts, and the end was a little anticlimactic, but overall, it’s not a bad read. If you enjoy the other books in the series, you’ll like this one as well. It did intrigue me enough that I will probably look for others.
My thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane books for the advanced reader copy made available for my review.
CARPET DIEM by Misty Simon
4 ½ Sparklers
Tallie Graver has done it again. Okay, for those of you who are not familiar with the Tallie Graver cozy mysteries, Tallie is a 30-something woman who was once rich and now works as a cleaning lady for the same rich folks she used to pal around with. She lives in a tiny studio apartment over the funeral home her family owns—along with a St. Bernard, an uppity cat, and, on occasion, her boyfriend Max. When Tallie divorced her rich husband, she took on the role of squeegee queen. She now has built a reputation as an honest—and good—cleaner and has a crew of women working for her. She is quirky and fun and adding a little bit of romance to the mystery only ups the intrigue.
Like most cozy mysteries, this one is set in a small town where everyone knows everyone and think they know everything. But it is really Tallie who has all the info. Well, almost. In this one, she relies on Max to help her dig up the dirt on the possible perpetrators. That, in addition to the gossip queen (friend Gina’s mother!) and other sources, Tallie starts putting together the pieces of this puzzle.
In this one, Tallie is helping the local chief of police, Burton, figure out who killed the woman rolled up in the carpet in the dumpster. But nothing is coming together. There are too many clues—and not enough. Both Burton and Tallie are frustrated. But things do come together in the end.
I love these stories, but the end of this one felt a little rushed to me. I couldn’t figure a couple things out (like how everyone knew Tallie was in trouble and how they all got to where she was). That’s the only reason for the half-sparkler off. But you have to try the recipe for snickerdoodles that is included. Yummy cookies!
If you’re a cozy-mystery lover, take a look at the Tallie Graver mysteries. Each book is a stand-alone, but I’d start with the first one (Deceased and Desist) just so you know what’s going on in Tallie’s life and the background on some of the people. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it is a good idea.
I definitely recommend these books.
Note: I received this ARC free from the author for a true and honest review.
Also noted: Misty is a friend of mine, but the review is honest and I still recommend the books.
AN EXCUSE FOR MURDER by Vanessa Westermann
From the blurb: Former bodyguard Gary Ferris has the perfect motive to kill—revenge for the murder of the woman he loved. Then he meets Kate Rowan, a bookstore owner who lives with her great aunt. Together they manage to find an attachment in the midst of blackmail, break-ins, and murder.
This is an interesting story. I can’t say I liked it, but… I couldn’t stop reading. Thus the “interesting”. Items that distracted me: It’s very British, including terminology, but the author uses those terms in such as way as to make it understandable even for a Yank. However, the sudden shifts in point of view were problematic for me. I really don’t like it when an author does that and this one did so—not often, but enough for it to be a challenge for me to keep reading. I will note that I’m not talking about the chapter shifts. Those are fine. I have no problems with shifts to a different POV from one chapter to the next. It’s the shifts within paragraphs or short scenes that distracted me. And yet, I kept reading.
Also, the writing itself was…different. And I will chalk that up to perhaps a difference between “British” writing and “American” writing. It was very choppy with more fragments than I’m used to. And yet… I kept reading.
I wasn’t enamored of the hero. He was more an anti-hero. He was definitely a broken hero. Without giving anything away, I’d like to have seen a different conclusion to what he did. For me, he was unlikeable and I couldn’t figure out why the heroine went with him. And yet…I kept reading.
I didn’t understand the whole bit with calling Great Aunt Roselyn Mrs. Marsh – especially when Kate stopped calling her great aunt Mrs. Marsh (even after the plausible explanation) and started calling her by her name (without any explanation as to why she did this). And yet… I kept reading.
The characters of Ian and Elaina were interesting, but I’m not sure why they were there. But I kept reading.
I loved the scene in the book with Romeo/Prince Charming/Mr.Darcy – that was amazing. So I kept reading.
So there it is. I can’t say I loved the book, and yet, the author drew me in to the point that I kept reading just to see what would happen.
Would I recommend this book? Maybe – with the caveat that it is different from most Americanized romantic suspense books. There’s no HEA ending, but a HFN (happy for now) is implied and acceptable. The writing is also different from what I’ve come to expect—not necessarily in a bad way, just different. It took me a while to really get into the story…and yet, I kept reading.
A HIGH-END FINISH (A Fixer-Upper Mystery) by Kate Carlisle
5 sparkles (actually, I’d give it more if I could!)
Wow. Just wow. I currently have a love/hate relationship with this author. I absolutely loved this book – so what do I hate? I kept telling myself I’d finish *this* chapter so I could go do the other things I had on my to-do list. That didn’t happen. I kept reading. And reading. Until I finished the book. I could not put it down. And I’m getting the rest of the books in the series as soon as I possibly can.
In this book, Shannon Hammer is a well-known contractor/carpenter in her small Northern California town of Lighthouse Cove. Her friend (hah!) sets her up with a blind date that turns out less than stellar. In fact, after the guy—Jerry Sexton—attacks her, she knees him where she can (misses the family jewels just by a bit, but got close enough to get away)—in front of most of the townspeople on the boardwalk above the beach where she and Jerry were. When Jerry is found a couple days later dead with her pink pipe wrench the murder weapon, Shannon is placed at the top of the police suspect list.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, several other things happen that not only keep Shannon at the top of the suspect list, but also put her in danger for her own life. It’s only through the intervention of the cute new police chief and a more-than-handsome crime writer that Shannon survives and helps bring the culprit to justice.
If you are a fan of cozy mysteries in small towns and with amateur sleuths, I definitely recommend this book.
And if you’ll forgive this short review—I’m off to get more of these books by Kate Carlisle. So much for my dishes/cleaning/work/anything else I might need to do.
TOXIC TOFFEE by Amanda Flowers
This is a cute cozy mystery but it didn’t draw me in as other cozies do. It’s not that there was anything wrong with it—because there wasn’t—it just fell a little flat for me. And that’s strictly on me.
The character of Bailey King works—she’s the granddaughter of an Amish woman who owns a candy store in the square of town. She also has a popular TV show about candy-making. She’s dating the local sheriff’s deputy, Aiden Brody, and is well-known and well-liked in town. Her grandmother is also well-liked but is Amish so doesn’t approve of everything Bailey (who’s not Amish) does. Bailey used to live in a small apartment above the candy store with her grandmother, but moved out so she could have a place of her own—one with electricity.
Some of the other characters are a little over the top. For instance, Aiden’s mother Juliet carries her pet pig everywhere and, even though Bailey and Aiden just started dating, she’s already planning their wedding. It was just a little too much for me. And the town “promoter” Margot—she’s a bit too much to take too.
The author seems to know the Amish culture pretty well, but she also gets a little repetitive with some things (like the no electricity thing). Living in an Amish community myself, I was able to chuckle at the realism she did put forth. Yes, there really can be “traffic jams” with buggies and cars. It happens often. So this was something well-done.
The murder of Stephen—an Amish rabbit farmer—was definitely different, which was a plus. As was the reason and the killer. Kudos to Ms. Flower for an interesting twist. And that’s all I’m going to say. No spoilers here. J
Overall, the story wasn’t bad. It was mostly enjoyable and had an interesting end, but it just didn’t keep me interested the whole way through. Still… I am definitely going to look for more from this author. She intrigued me enough to look for others by her.
PERIL IN PAPERBACK by Kate Carlisle
4 ½ sparklers
This is part of the “Bibliophile Mystery” series from Kate – and I loved it! The quirky characters, interesting setting, and attention to details had me laughing while keeping me reading to see what happens next.
Through her two best friends, main character, Brooklyn Wainwright, has been invited to the home of eccentric millionaire Grace—aunt of Suzie—for a week to celebrate Grace’s 50th birthday. Grace’s home is huge, secluded near Lake Tahoe—and surprisingly unique. Kind of like Hogwart’s from Harry Potter, Grace’s home includes walls that move, trapdoors, secret nooks and more. Brooklyn’s room is the “book room” – not the library. But it’s covered floor to ceiling (and even across the ceiling!) with books. It’s intimidating at first for Brooklyn, but she adapts.
There were two things that kept me from giving this a five sparkler review – the first is “who the heck is Gabriel?” This guy Gabriel shows up just after the murder and is obviously a very good friend of Brooklyn’s. So… I know him from other books, but if someone was reading this one first, they would have no clue who Gabriel is. A sentence or two is all that is needed to let the reader know who he is and what is relationship to Brooklyn is. Yes, we learn tidbits about him through the story, but knowing a little up front would be nice.
Second is that this is an obvious takeoff of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” – it’s even referred to near the end of the story. We have a party of people gathered together in a remote home that has a lot of odd places, a storm (snow in this case) that keeps the police away and strands them in the house, the murder (of course), and multiple secrets—and not just in the house. Still, unlike Agatha, Kate kept me laughing. I enjoyed Agatha’s book a long time ago and there have been myriad takeoffs of it, but this one was a hoot. So… well done, Miss Carlisle.
I also loved the attention to detail about books. Being an old librarian who has spent some time repairing and restoring books, I loved the little things Kate put in about Brooklyn’s work. Also the information about the murder “weapon” was interesting and informative – and tied so well to the last line that I closed the cover laughing. Thank you for that as well!
Recommendations: If you like cozy mysteries with quirky characters, this is a definite yes… But… I suggest you start at the beginning of the series with “Homicide in Hardcover” so you know who’s who and how they all fit together. You can read them out of order, but you’ll miss the connections that make it all come together better.
A SPELL OF TROUBLE by Leighann Dobbs & Traci Douglass
3 ½ sparklers
This was a lighthearted, fun paranormal cozy mystery. Issy (Isolde) Quinn and her cousins are close so when one (or two) are on the suspect list for the murder of a nasty woman, they come together as a tight-knit family to help solve the mystery.
Fun things include the quirkiness of the cousins, the townspeople – most of whom are paranormals, including the sheriff’s deputy who just happens to be a werewolf. I loved that the witch’s familiars are not all cats – and not even all animals (one is a Venus flytrap!). And the introduction of the FBPI – the paranormal section of the FBI—is an interesting twist. I absolutely love Brimstone – a black cat who talks to them all, has quite a bit of power himself, but comes and goes as he pleases.
The mystery is a standard cozy mystery – nasty woman who has an issue with Issy is killed right in front of her store, making her the prime suspect. Of course she’s innocent, and it’s up to her and her cousins to figure out whodunnit and why she (and her cousin Gray) are being framed. The answer is satisfying with Issy being exonerated (come on, I’m not giving away anything here—the “sleuth” in a cozy mystery is always suspect, never the perp).
Problems: a little more editing for some spelling/grammar issues would help (trees have boughs not bows). Also a salamander is an amphibian not a reptile. While I enjoyed the story, these and other editorial issues were enough for me to not give it a higher grade.
Would I read more? Yes. I enjoyed it enough to look for more. Would I recommend it? Yes, to friends who enjoy paranormal light cozy mysteries – but with the caveat that there are issues with it. Still… it was a fun read during a storm afternoon.