Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Framed to Death (A Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery Vol. 4)

Author:  Christina Freeburn
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635110166, 9781635110135
Henery Press
268 Pages
$31.95, $$15.95, $4.99 Amazon
April 26, 2016

Three Stars

Eden has turned into a hotspot of crime, and Faith finds herself smack dab in the middle of the flare-up.  When a favor for a friend links Faith to the synthetic marijuana problem invading her town, no good deed goes unpunished becomes the title of her life.  The town accuses the police of favoritism toward her, putting a strain between Faith and Ted, and a new officer is determined to prove Faith's guilt.  When the criminal is outed, Faith's relief is short-lived.  A fire takes out the store - along with the suspected dealer - and she's now number one on an officer's suspect list.  Faith sets out to prove her own innocence, and her digging sparks the truth to life.  Instead of the truth setting the town free, Faith finds out it might destroy Eden, the friends she holds dear, and smother out her own life.

********

Faith Hunter is asked by her friend Charlotte if she will check on Charlotte's daughter Hannah and see if everything is okay - it seems Hannah has some friends at Charlotte's business Polished, which is next door to Faith's business Scrap This.  Charlotte wants to make sure that Hannah doesn't have any boys there, so Faith agrees to pop in.  When she does, she finds some excitement - Hannah's friends Whitney and Kirstin are there, and Whitney appears to be fighting with Hannah.  Faith tries to break it up, but there are sounds of a police siren getting near, and the girls start to run - but not before one of them tries to grab a bag of potpourri, which Faith is pretty sure actually contains Janie, a form of synthetic marijuana that has been circulating around town.  As Faith grabs the bag, Whitney snaps a picture of her holding it, sprays her with pepper spray, and leaves before the officer enters the shop.  Not too long after that, the picture of Faith with the bag surfaces on Instagram, and there the trouble starts...

Everyone in town is sure that Faith is the drug dealer they've been looking for.  The one that caused a star football player, Brandon Sullivan, to have a car accident that ended his career...and they're ready to string her up for it.  When the supposed true drug dealer is found dead, Faith is off the hook - for now, but still has to clear her name and reputation, because one officer isn't sure she's in the clear, nor are the townspeople.

I will tell you that I have previously enjoyed Christina Freeburn's books, but I was not happy with the way this one started.  Supposedly, the people of Eden all know each other.  Then would someone please explain why, if this is so, that they would automatically believe Faith is guilty of dealing drugs?  Yes, there was a photo, but these people didn't even want her to explain.  They just wanted her convicted of drug dealing.    No one bothered to say, 'oh, no, I know Faith, she's just too decent a person to do anything like that, and there must be more to it.  What does this say about the people in the town?  Not much.  That was a big problem for me.  (Don't get me wrong, there were a few people who believed in her, but not enough that it mattered).  I think I would have enjoyed the book more if they weren't so ready to be judge and jury right at the get-go.

Fortunately, once I got past the first half of the book the rest improved, and the chase was on.  Faith is trying to find a killer and who's setting suspicious fires, even though she's constantly being warned away by both Detective Ted Roget and Steve Davis, her ex-boyfriend (and there's another story there, explored in previous books).    With illegal drugs, suspicious fires that could lead to insurance fraud, and people who wouldn't know the truth if it hit them in the face, there are plenty of red herrings and plenty of suspects, but when she starts to connect the dots and get too close to the truth, she could be putting someone else in danger beside herself.

The book had a strong finish, and of course, the truth finally came out.  While I was disappointed that no one in town ever apologized to her for treating her badly, I did feel that the book was well written and the plot extremely interesting.  This is the fourth book in the series, and as such, can be read as a stand alone, but if you want 'more of the story' then I would read the previous three.  All in all, a weak beginning but a strong ending makes for a decent book.



More on Christina Freeburn's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/christina-freeburn/                                                                                

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Grilled for Murder (A Country Store Mystery)

Author:  Maddie Day
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback, Ebook, Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781617739279
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99, $5.99, $24.99 Amazon
May 31, 2016

Five Stars

Robbie Jordan may have reservations about the murder victim, but she still needs to turn up the heat on a killer if she wants to keep her new restaurant open for business...

In the charming small town of South Lick, Indiana, Robbie has transformed a rundown country store into the runaway hit Pans 'N Pancakes.  But the most popular destination for miles around can also invite trouble.  Erica Shermer may be the widow of handsome local lawyer Jim Shermer's brother, but she doesn't appear to be in mourning.  At a homecoming party held in Robbie's store, Erica is alternately obnoxious and flirtatious -- even batting her eyelashes at Jim.  When Erica turns up dead in the store the next morning, apparently clobbered with cookware, the police suspect Robbie's friend Phil, who closed up after the party.  To clear Phil and calm her customers, Robbie needs to step out from behind the counter and find the real killer in short order...

********

It is just before Christmas, and Robbie Jordan, owner of Pans 'N Pancakes, has just finished catering a welcome home party at her restaurant for Erica Shermer, the widow of her boyfriend Jim's twin brother.  Erica has done her best to antagonize many of those attending, including Jim, who doesn't try to hide his dislike for her.  But when Robbie enters her business the next morning, she finds a surprise waiting for her:  the body of Erica, sprawled out on the floor.

With no clues and plenty of suspects, the police are baffled.  It also seems that the state police have been called in on this murder, and the head detective Octavia Slade, is all business when it comes to the murder and tells Robbie to stay out of it.  But Robbie wants to know who killed Erica and why here?  She also doesn't like the fact that the police are interested in Phil, a friend who makes the desserts for the restaurant; and most of all, she doesn't like the fact that there's a killer running around on the loose.

Unfortunately, Erica's death has even more far-reaching consequences for Robbie.  Things are not always what they seem, and even more so in this case.  Feelings are hurt, situations change; secrets are revealed.  There is even a hint of things to come.  But possibilities open, and even change can become a good thing if given the time and consideration it needs.

This is the second book in the series, following Flipped for Murder.  I will say that while the first book was good, I think this one was even better.  It was well thought-out, and when the murderer was revealed, there was barely a clue, which is a good thing (yes, it's nice to figure out the killer early on, but once in a while a surprise is welcomed).  Robbie's relationships with the residents of South Lick are starting to solidify, and even as she has some angst in this book, she deals with it like an adult, which I really liked.

The best thing an author can give to a reader is the ability to like the book's characters and enjoy sharing their lives.  This is what Ms. Day gives us in Grilled for Murder.  Robbie is a woman who doesn't act like a spoiled teenager, nor go out of her way to find trouble, or find herself in danger.  She wants to make her business work, and truly cares about those around her.  This makes her a refreshing character, and the book was a pleasure to read.   Highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Grilled-Murder-Country-Store-Mystery/dp/1617739278?


More on Maddie Day's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/maddie-day/
                                                                     

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tall Tail: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery

Author:  Rita Mae Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover, Ebook, Audible
ISBN #:  9780553392463
Bantam Publishing
352 Pages
$18.39, $13.99 Amazon
May 17, 2016

Five Stars

At any moment a perfect summer day in Crozet, Virginia - nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains - might turn stormy and tempestuous, as Harry knows too well when a squall suddenly sweeps in.  In a blink, Harry's pickup nearly collides with a careening red car that then swerves into a ditch.  Harry recognizes the dead driver slumped over the vehicle's steering wheel:  Barbara Leader was nurse and confidante to former Virginia governor Sam Holloway.

Though Barbara's death is ruled a heart attack, dissenting opinions abound.  After all, she was the picture of health, which gives Harry and her four-legged companions pause.  A baffling break-in at a local business leads Harry to further suspect that a person with malevolent intent lurks just out of sight.  Something evil is afoot.

As it happens, Barbara died in the shadow of the local cemetery's statue of the Avenging Angel.  Just below that imposing funereal monument lie the remains of one Francisco Selisse, brutally murdered in 1784.  Harry's present-day sleuthing draws her back to Virginia's slave-holding past and the hunt for Selisse's killer.  Now it's up to Harry and her furry detectives - Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tee Tucker - to expose the bitter truth, even if it means staring into the unforgiving eyes of history and cornering a callous killer poised to pounce.

********

Mary 'Harry" Haristeen is driving home one afternoon when she is almost in an accident with a red Camry.  When the car finally stops, she finds that the driver is Barbara Leader, nurse to former Virginia governor Sam Holloway, grandfather of her best friend Susan.  She also finds that Barbara is dead.

While it appears to be an accident, everyone agrees that Barbara was in the peak of health, and her husband insists on an autopsy...which only proves Barbara was murdered...

Where Barbara died, though, could be ominous - it was near the statue of the Avenging Angel, an imposing monument which holds the remains of Francisco Selisse, who was murdered in 1784.  The monument still gives Harry the creeps every time she passes it, but in this case, there may be more that ties Selisse to Barbara in ways no one ever thought about...

Ms. Brown has a way of telling a story that merges one within another:  two tales for the price of one, as it were.  We are treated to the modern-day events of Harry and her friends, while also trying to solve another mystery set in the past.  In this, Ms. Brown emerges triumphant.  For while reading about Francisco Selisse and those around him, we are transported to the world of the 1780's, shortly after the Revolutionary War.  In this book, we learn more about the life of those from the previous effort, Tail Gait, and how they connect to Selisse, and he to the future.

We are also treated to the question of why Barbara Leader was murdered, and who would want her dead.  It doesn't seem she had enemies, and there doesn't seem to be any real reason for the murder.  But yet, she is dead, and someone wanted her to be so.  There doesn't seem to be any real front runner in that category, and all are suspect, but it was not easy to discover the killer because no one had a clear motive.  When it was discovered, I was surprised, but not unpleasantly so.

It was truly an interesting book, and I love the fact that Ms. Brown is able to deftly weave fact with fiction, history with modern-day.  It all comes together seamlessly, and it all makes sense.  This is the 25th book in the series, and I hope that there will be many more.  It can be read as a stand-alone, but after doing so, you might just want to go back and start at the beginning.  Highly recommended.



More on Rita Mae Brown's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/rita-mae-brown/                                                               

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Girl's Got to Breathe: The Life of Teresa Wright

Author:  Donald Spoto
Genre:  Biography

Hardcover, Ebook
ISBN#:  9781628460452
University Press of Mississippi
284 Pages
$24.75, $19.84 Amazon
February 19. 2016
Five Stars

The actress Teresa Wright (1918-2005) lived a rich, complex, magnificent life against the backdrop of golden age Hollywood, Broadway and television.  There was no indication, from her astonishingly difficult - indeed, horrifying - childhood, of the success that would follow, nor of the universal acclaim and admiration that accompanied her everywhere.  Her two marriages - to the writers Niven Busch (The Postman Always Rings Twice; Duel in the Sun) and Robert Anderson (Tea and Sympathy; I Never Sang for my Father) - provide a good deal of the drama, warmth, poignancy and heartbreak of her life story.

"I never wanted to be a star," she told the noted biographer Donald Spoto at dinner in 1978.  "I wanted only to be an actress."  She began acting on the stage in summer stock and repertory at the age of eighteen.  When Thornton Wilder and Jed Harris saw her in an ingenue role, she was chosen to understudy the part of Emily in the original production of Our Town (1938), which she then played in touring productions.  Samuel Goldwyn saw her first starring role on Broadway - in the historic production of Life with Father - and at once he offered her a long contract.

She was the only actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for her first three pictures (The Little Foxes; The Pride of the Yankees; and Mrs. Miniver) and she won for the third film.  Movie fans and scholars to this day admire her performance in the classics Shadow of a Doubt and The Best Years of Our Lives.  The circumstances of her tenure at Goldwyn, and the drama of her breaking that contract, forever changed the treatment of stars.

Wright's family and heirs appointed Spoto as her authorized biographer and offered him exclusive access to her letters and papers.  Major supporting players in this story include Robert Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler, Karl Malden, Elia Kazan, Jean Simmons, Dorothy McGuire, Bette Davis, George Cukor, Marlon Brando, George C. Scott, the artist Al Hirschfeld, Stella Adler, and more.

********

Teresa Wright has always been one of my favorite actresses.  I have also wondered why she made so few movies, and in this new book by Donald Spoto I have my answers...Teresa began life in an auspicious beginning:  people were dying at record numbers from the Spanish Influenza, and she, fortunately, was one of the 'lucky' ones.  Her father's job required that he travel frequently, and she was left to the care of a mother who was less than ideal, one who had no problem bringing other men into the bed she shared with her daughter.  Her mother vanished early on from her life, and she never spoke of it.  It was indeed fortunate for her that her father adored her, and always wanted the best for her.  I mention this because it is those facts of our early youth that begin to shape us as the people we become.  Were it not for the love of her father, we may never have heard of Teresa Wright.  Yet it left her with indelible scars - I believe she never truly thought herself worth of love and admiration, and it colored her relationships from that point on.

She rose quickly with three stunning movies, The Little Foxes, Mrs. Miniver, and The Pride of the Yankees.  She won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Mrs. Miniver, her second film, but was nominated for all three.  No actress to date has ever matched that achievement.  She followed these with Shadow of a Doubt, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and my favorite of the four.

There were still movies she did that were very good, and some not so good, but I lay the blame for this on Teresa's bad personal choices:  She admitted she should have handled her spat with Samuel Goldwyn differently, and I, for one, think she made bad choices in husbands.

Her first husband, the screenwriter Niven Busch, was an arrogant man who cared more about himself than he did her.  I believe he may have loved her, but he put his needs and wants first - even if that meant moving her so far from Hollywood as to make the daily journey impossible.  (He wanted a ranch and chose one that was 350 miles away, which was quite a commute even then).  Her second husband, another screenwriter named Bob Anderson, never recovered from his first wife's death and made constant comparisons between her and Teresa.  It didn't matter to him that it hurt Teresa; another man who put himself first, and his marriage second.

So Teresa, even though she was happy raising her two children, still longed to act and never again achieved the fame she had as a young girl in Hollywood.  Although it never tainted her personally, and she remained kind to others throughout her life, I have to wonder what would have happened if she had developed a stronger personality - would she have been a bigger star?  Would either of her marriages failed?  Alas, we will never know the answer to those questions.

When all is said and done, this is a wonderful book by Mr. Spoto.  There was intensive research done, and contributions by both of Ms. Wright's children and her own letters, friends' quotes, etc.  For anyone interested in the meteoric rise of Ms. Wright, or for those who have not seen any of her films, I suggest you rent one immediately and see what a wonderful actress she was.  Highly recommended.



Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tea Cups and Carnage (A Tourist Trap Mystery #7)

Author:  Lynn Cahoon
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback, Ebook
ISBN #:  9781601836328
Lyrical Underground Publishing
192 Pages
$15.00, $5.99 Amazon
June 7, 2016
Five Stars

The quaint coastal town of South Cove, California, is all abuzz about the opening of a new specialty shop, Tea Hee.  But as Coffee, Books, and More owner Jill Gardner is about to find out, there's nothing cozy about murder...

Shop owner Kathi Corbin says she came to South Cove to get away from her estranged family.  But is she telling the truth?  And did a sinister someone from her past follow her to South Cove?  When a woman claiming to be Kathi's sister starts making waves and a dead body is found in a local motel, Jill must step in to clear Kathi's name -- without getting herself in hot water.

********

Kathi Corbin, ex-beauty queen, has just moved to South Cove with the intention of opening a specialty tea shop, one that sells handcrafted teas and accessories.  While Jill, owner of Coffee, Books, and More, is all too happy to welcome another business to the town, she's not so sure about the appearance of Kathi's sister Ivy, whom Jill thinks might be hiding something.  That thought only escalates when a dead body is found at the motel where Ivy was staying temporarily.

But there is more to worry about for Jill than just a dead body:  there is the crazed motorcycle rider a stranger whom no one knows about, and he has caused Jill's Aunt Jackie to fall and sprain her ankle because of his actions.  Then there is the fact that Josh, her business neighbor and owner of Antiques by Thomas, appears in her shop one day and asks her to make his bank deposits for a week or two, yet is being mysterious about where he's going and why.  Plus there's Aunt Jackie's announcement, which has her stunned; and of course, the question of the missing $3,000 check that was cashed yet no one knows where the money is...

Jill certainly has her hands full; she's not only handling her 'to-do' list, she now has a task set by Josh, (who's never been overly friendly with her), her friend Mary,owner of the local B & B who had to leave town for her grandchild's birth, has asked her to give a presentation in Mary's place, and Aunt Jackie's errands, since she's out of commission due to her ankle.  There is also the Summer Beach Blast, which is Jill's first chance to try out her new food truck, and a library fundraiser that is also garnering part of her attention.  So it's sort of a relief to Greg, Jill's boyfriend and police chief of South Cove, that she doesn't have time to investigate the murder of the man in the motel...

...Except she does.  Not that she intends to when she tells Greg she's staying out of it.  But when Kathi is accused of the murder, Jill knows she's not capable of it and wants to help her, but she also knows that Kathi is hiding something, and isn't sharing with anyone.  So somehow, in between her busy schedule, she manages to glean information here and there - after all, Jill being Jill, even Greg has to know she's got a curious nature.  But the more she digs, the more things aren't adding up, and Jill's curiosity might once again send her down the path of danger.

Jill is indeed intrepid, intelligent, thoughtful, and, in this case, just a tad harried as she takes on almost more than she can handle, but with her deep sense of responsibility and loyalty, manages to keep her wits about her (for the most part).  It's no denying though, that with all her added duties (albeit temporary ones) she becomes forgetful at times, and it's seriously cutting into her time with Greg, (not to mention his investigation of the dead man).  It's not surprising that she begins daydreaming occasionally, even if it is distracting to those around her...

I found this book, the seventh in the Tourist Trap Mysteries, to be just as delightful as the previous ones.  There is a lot happening at once in this installment, and although we have the usual characters from other books who either show up or are mentioned (Mary and Bill, Sadie and her son Nick, Amy, Esmeralda, etc.), we learn something about Lille that makes her more human, and it gives you a warm fuzzy just to know it, and even Josh proves that underneath it all, he 's a stand-up kind of guy.  I also like the new character of Kathi and hope to see more of her as the series progresses.

The ending wasn't truly a surprise, but then again, it didn't have to be; it satisfied and was plausible.  Questions were answered, expectations were met; and I love learning more about the residents of South Cove.  Ms. Cahoon has written a series that eases us into the lives of those people, as if we were there and learning about them right along with Jill.  Highly recommended.



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Clouds in My Coffee (The Country Club Murders #3)

Author:  Julie Mulhern
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook
ISBN #: 9781635110241, 9781635110210
Henery Press
256 Pages
$31.95. $15.95, $4.99 Amazon
May 10, 2016
Five Stars

When Ellison Russell is nearly killed at a benefactor's party, she brushes the incident aside as an unhappy accident.  But when her house is fire-bombed, she's shot at, and the person sitting next to her at a gala is poisoned, she must face facts.  Someone wants her dead.  But why?  And can Ellison find the killer before he strikes again?  Add in an estranged sister, a visiting aunt with a shocking secret, and a handsome detective staying in her guesthouse, and Ellison might need more than cream in her coffee.

********

Ellison Russell, widowed artist and member of Kansas City's elite, has a problem - several, actually.  Her father calls her and asks if she would be willing to house her Aunt Sis, a caftan-wearing hippie type, who is driving her mother crazy.  That same day her self-centered, (slutty) sister Marjorie shows up at her door, announcing she's left her husband.

It's not long after while attending a charity function that a marble statue falls and nearly kills Ellison.  She attributes this to being merely an accident - until someone sets her house on fire and shoots at her.  When her mother demands she receive police protection, none other than Detective Anarchy Jones moves in...even if it's only in the carriage house.  Which doesn't sit well at all with Hunter Tafft, Ellison's attorney and Jones's rival for her affections.

But just when she thinks it couldn't get any worse, Marjorie's husband Greg appears on her doorstep, with a tale of woe that Ellison would rather not know, and it soon turns out there are more secrets in the family that are yet to be discovered and can't be hidden forever.

This is the third book in the series, following The Deep End and Guaranteed to Bleed.  As such, we are pulled once again back into the 1970's, in a world of bridge, tennis, and golf; a world where people were polite to their enemies, respected their elders, drank coffee from a Mr. Coffee instead of a single-serve brewer (or Starbucks), and didn't worry about making anyone mad enough to kill them...so then why is someone trying to kill Ellison - again?  But all is not what it seems..

Miss Mulhern has once again given us a superb tale combining wit and vigor, sparkling conversation and thoughts that breathe on their own - her apprehension (and treacherous emotions) in regard to Anarchy and Hunter easily flows off the page - and we understand her own clouded feelings toward her family and others around her.  We see the changes in her in each book - how she was raised and the challenges she is facing as each new situation presents itself.  It is understated, yet apparent at the same time.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this book.  When the ending is at last revealed, pieces come together perfectly, secrets revealed, questions answered.  It is warming, pleasing, and altogether satisfying.  Highly recommended. 



More on Julie Mulhern's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/julie-mulhern/

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Double Knot (A Davis Way Crime Caper #5)

Author:  Gretchen Archer
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook, Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781635110326, 9781635110296
268 Pages
$31.95, $15.95, $6.99, $24.99
April 12, 2016
Five Stars

Super spy Davis Way sets sail on a Caribbean cruise aboard the MS Probability with fifty billionaires, a boatload of Louis Vuitton luggage, Anderson Cooper, and her mother.  (Her mother?)  The weather is perfect, the seas are calm, and Suite 704 is spectacular.  Until the door slams shut.  For good.  Obviously, it's a system glitch.  Surely someone will show up to free Davis, Miss Hawaii, and the creepy staff.  But when the minutes turn to hours and the hours stretch into a day, Davis knows it's up to her.  With $50,000 in casino chips, a pot roast, and a crash course in banking, she races against the clock to determine why they're being held, stop the people behind it, and find a way out.  Secrets are revealed, antiquities are destroyed, and they're running out of dishes.  It's mayday on Probability when Davis Way realizes that only the truth will set her free.

********

Davis Way Cole is a security expert for the Bellissimo Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.  She is also a 'body double' for the casino's owner, Bianca Sanders.  At present, both Davis and Bianca are both pregnant - Bianca ready to give birth and Davis pregnant with twins.  Since Bianca and Davis can also be taken for twins, it is Davis's current job in that she impersonate Bianca aboard the newest - and largest- luxury cruise ship (not a boat) ever.  The Probability was built for billionaires, with only fifty staterooms - very lush staterooms.  Everything is controlled electronically through V2 remotes, which carry everyone's personal information and are operable by a thumbprint.  They are not interchangeable.  They are the only thing that will allow anyone to move about the ship easily.  They have each person's private information on them.  And if you lose it, you will be taken off the ship.  Immediately.

So when Davis (Bianca) enters her private stateroom - which is more like a very large condo, actually, with bedrooms, salon, kitchen, pool, servants' quarters, etc., she and her traveling companions are amazed at how large it is.   Shortly after settling in, her power becomes disabled, and she is trapped - along with her mother Caroline, her work partner Fantasy, a butler, stateroom attendant, ship hostess Jessica DeLuna, and her (deaf) cat Anderson Cooper.

Things are not looking up when they lose power and Davis thinks it is merely a computer glitch and will be fixed shortly.  But then Davis receives a photo of her boss Jeremy, being held prisoner, and she realizes that she's being also held hostage for a reason.  She also comes to the realization that one of the people trapped with her is on the other side and there to make sure she doesn't try to escape...

Being in close quarters with her (hyper-critical) mother and (whiny) Jessica (whom everyone hates)  isn't helping either her or Fantasy try to figure out how to escape their floating prison and free their boss, but which one?  She's also determined to keep this from her mother, who is recovering from a cancer scare.  Yet Davis and Fantasy know that they're running against the clock to find out who is holding them and why...

This book was an absolute delight to read.  Ms. Archer weaves a tidy tale of intrigue aboard a futuristic luxury liner, one in which Davis must use all her skills in order to find a route of escape without endangering those dear to her.  We also see a side of Davis that we have not seen before, and it gives her a little more humanity, which makes her a little more real.

I was enthralled by the descriptions of the ship itself, and quite pleased with how tightly knit a narrative it was; everything seeming not only possible but believable.  With Davis not only going "old school" in order to save her friends, but also using her computer skills to the max, it kept me riveted in the story from practically the beginning to the end.

I also love the fact that Davis tells the story in her own (sarcastic) way, with little asides to her audience that are quite hilarious at times.  There is one ongoing subplot with Davis and Fantasy that involves dishes which is extremely funny, and when her mother gets in on the action it becomes even funnier.  In fact, all the little subplots (involving the dishes, Jessica, Caroline's drinking, and even a Chinese antique) are all fodder for jokes.

With much of the action taking place in a stateroom (albeit a very large stateroom), Ms. Archer has proven she can take a cast of characters, keep them in one place, and still make an interesting story go a long way.  She has a flair for both telling a complex tale while managing to add plenty of humor.  When the story finally ends, it is completely satisfying.  Everything comes together just as it should, and it leaves one anticipating the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Double-Knot-Davis-Crime-Caper/dp/1635110297/


More on Gretchen Archer's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/a/gretchen-archer/                                                                    

Thursday, May 5, 2016

All Murders Final! (A Sarah W. Garage Sale Mystery)

Author:  Sherry Harris
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback, Ebook
ISBN #:  9781617730214
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
$7.99, $5.99 Amazon
April 26, 2016
Five Stars

When Sarah Winston started the virtual garage sale, it seemed like a keystroke of genius and the next logical step in her business.  No more collapsing card tables and rainy-day washouts.  But what began as a fun way to run garage sales during the long New England winter has become a nightmare of managing people and putting out fires.  Online, she can avoid the crowds--but not the crazies.

She certainly never bargained for dealing with frightening threats.  And when a client is murdered, it's time for Sarah to swallow her pride and seek the help of her ex--C. J. Hooker, chief of police.  Forging a tense alliance, they search--online and off--for the killer.  but solving this crime before someone else gets tagged seems virtually impossible.

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Sarah Winston runs a virtual garage sale website (when she's not actually out running garage sales for people), a place where someone can advertise their wares and negotiate price and places to pick up the items.  At the moment she is slightly unhappy with one of the clients, Margaret More, who had advertised an antique tablecloth that Sarah wanted, and agreed on a price.  But before Sarah could acquire the tablecloth, she saw that Margaret had backed out of the deal and decided to sell it to someone else who offered a higher price.  Naturally Sarah was upset, because it should have been hers, and she had a few heated words online with the woman.  Once she had a chance to calm down, she realized that Margaret could sell the tablecloth to anyone she wanted, and she resolved to let it go.

However, when she arrives at Margaret's the next day to retrieve other items for sale, she sees Margaret sitting in her car - with the tablecloth stuffed down her throat.  The woman is obviously dead, and Sarah immediately calls the police.  It soon becomes apparent that there is more to the death than meets the eye, and when there is another death - someone who recently had been in contact with Sarah - she begins to wonder if the police think she might be the killer, and resolves to find out what exactly is going on.

But when Sarah also starts receiving threatening emails and photos of herself on PopIt - an app (fictional) that allows photos to be received and deleted within five seconds - Sarah starts getting scared.  The photos are all taken right where she happens to be, and then just as quickly gone.  Even though the police are aware of the photos, Sarah has no idea who is sending them or why.  She only knows that she's being followed, and whoever is doing it isn't happy about where she's been or where she's going...

Her stalker leaves small evidence behind, barely enough to convince others that there actually is one.  She believes that it's a real possibility it could be one of her group members, but unfortunately, with the Internet a haven for anonymity, Sarah doesn't know who she's looking for, or even where to look.  It becomes a nightmare in the extreme, and is a frightening reality in that it could be anyone of a horde of people.

To add to the confusion, she's still in a dilemma of what to do about CJ and Seth.  CJ, her ex-husband and police chief of Ellington, still wants her back, but she doesn't yet feel she can truly trust him; and she has burgeoning feelings for Seth, the district attorney, who wants more from her than she feels she can give right now.  Sarah has told them both she needs time to figure things out, but she keeps finding herself in close proximity to them both.  It is her changing relationships with them both that helps keep things interesting.  (Although I do have to admit I'm liking Seth more than CJ as the books go on).

What's causing more problems is the fact that her landlady Stella has allowed a probable mob member to "temporarily" move in next door, and even though it's helping Sarah sleep at night, she's not sure she's all that comfortable with the situation.

While this book began as your typical cozy - protagonist finds a dead body and decides to find the killer - it was somewhere after the first third of the book where things began to really pick up.  We realize that Sarah does indeed have a stalker, and it could be any number of people, either male or female.  She turns the possibilities over in her mind, trying to decide if it's just someone who found her site on the Internet or someone she knows.

We are given more insight into Seth and his life, which I found highly intriguing indeed, and can't wait to know more of; and the recent events that are surrounding Sarah's life are explained one by one as she gets closer to the killer, while giving no clues until near the end.  I can say that I was surprised by the ending, a twist I didn't see happening.  (Although I also like Mike Titone and definitely want to see more of him in later books). 

Ms. Harris certainly weaves a tale well.  I found myself engaging with the characters early on, trying to sift through the people one by one along with Sarah in order to find a murderer.  But just when we think we know the answers and how it all will come together, there is another surprise, and one that proves what a good story this is.  The story flows easily, and as things become more desperate for Sarah, you find yourself caught up in the somewhat shocking conclusion.  But please  do not peek to the end!  The ending is worth the wait.  I found this to be the best of the series so far, giving a taste of what it can become in the future, which is a very good series indeed.  Highly recommended.



More on Sherry Harris's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/sherry-harris/