Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Death of a Blueberry Tart (A Hayley Powell Mystery #12)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496724939
Kensington Publishing
307 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
March 31, 2020

⭐⭐⭐⭐


It may not be front page news, but Island Times food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell is now happily married.  Before she can set sail on their honeymoon cruise, however, Hayley's mom, Sheila, pays an impromptu visit -- and promptly becomes the prime suspect in a murder.

The victim is Sheila's old high school rival, Caskie Lemon-Hogg, known for her homemade blueberry pies and her home-wrecking flirtations.  As Hayley teams up with her BFFs Liddy and Mona to clear her mother's name, Sheila reunites with Liddy's mom Celeste and Mona's mom Jane for their own amateur sleuthing.  The race is on between the moms and the daughters to find out who served this blueberry tart her just desserts...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Just as newly-married Hayley Powell and her husband Bruce Linney are about to go on their delayed honeymoon cruise, Hayley's mother Sheila calls from the airport telling her she'll be there that day.  It seems she recently broke up with her boyfriend, and wants to visit her daughter to lick her wounds.  But shortly after her arrival, she starts making Hayley crazy, so Hayley suggests that she and her friends Celeste and Jane (Liddy's and Mona's mothers, respectively) plan a high school reunion at Hayley's brother's bar, Drinks Like a Fish.  

Tickled by the idea, the three women do so and are having a lot of fun, especially Sheila, who's reconnected with an old boyfriend from school.  But things take a turn when Sheila notices that Caskie Lemon-Hogg seems to have her claws into this man, much as she did when Sheila was in school and interested in someone else.  But that's not all: both Celeste and Jane remember Caskie from their own various problems back when, and the three women have had enough.  They tell her off in the bar, and Caskie runs out crying.

Unfortunately, it's the last time the three of them see her alive.  When Caskie is found dead, Sheila is chosen as the main suspect, and now Hayley and her best friends are out to prove her mother innocent.  But so is her mother and her best friends, no matter how hard Hayley tries to talk her out of it.  With a husband who's becoming frustrated, and people who won't answer her questions, Hayley's stymied.  But when another murder occurs, it's apparent someone is out to silence anyone who might know what's going on, and Hayley could very well be next...

Having read this series from the beginning, it's turned out to be a very good one indeed.  This time we have the mothers of the three best friends, and they get up to as much trouble as their daughters.  They're also a lot like their daughters, which the daughters won't believe.  Go figure.

Anyway, in this book I actually laughed out loud at a couple of the scenarios; they were that funny.  Sheila is a hoot, even though I'm glad I don't have her for a mother, but she's a master at backhanded compliments, even acting like she didn't know what she said was an insult.  I actually felt sorry for Hayley in this book having to have been raised by the woman, all the while thinking some of the things she said and did were funny.  So sad on my part...

Anyway, when we get to the meat of the story, you start to put the pieces together and then it becomes apparent who the only person was who could have killed Caskie.  But watching Hayley voice it was still interesting, especially since she was voicing it to the killer.  The kicker came at the end of the climax, and it certainly was humorous all around.  I think that this might be my favorite book of the series, and I plan to read the next one soon.  Recommended.



More on Lee Hollis's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/lee-hollis/

Monday, August 10, 2020

Death of a Wedding Cake Baker (A Hayley Powell Mystery Book #11

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496713865
Kensington Publishing
312 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
April 30, 2019

⭐⭐⭐⭐


Liddy Crawford, best friend of food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell, is getting married.  The wedding is the talk of the town in Bar Harbor, Maine, including snide gossip about the age gap between the bride and her groom, local lawyer, Sonny Lipton.  But the cruelty of the comments is nothing compared to the nasty wedding cake baker, Liddy's quarrelsome cousin Lisa.

So when the belligerent baker is found facedown in a three-tier cake, the victim of a poisoned slice, there are more suspects in town than names on the guest list.  With Sonny getting cold feet, Liddy getting hot under the frilly collar of her wedding gown, and a killer possibly crashing the ceremony, Hayley vows to solve the crime before her best friend walks down the aisle...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Hayley Powell is chosen to be her best friend Liddy's matron of honor, she doesn't expect everything to turn into a nightmare:  a gown that makes her look like Little Bo Peep, having to deal with Liddy's horrible, over-the-top mother Celeste, and worst of all, Liddy's cousin Lisa, a baker who's been employed by Celeste to make the wedding cake.  Liddy and Lisa obviously hate each other, and it shows in Lisa's choice of cakes, when she ignores Liddy's wishes.  The only good thing in her life is her boyfriend Bruce Linney, a co-worker at the Island Times.  She never thought they'd get to the point where they'd like each other, but here they are, almost in love.

After Liddy has had enough and asks Hayley to make her cake instead, Lisa goes on a rampage, and when Hayley goes to her shop to see if she can smooth things over, she finds a very dead Lisa.  Now with Liddy front and center as a killer, Hayley decides if she wants Liddy's wedding to go off, she needs to find a killer.  That is, if she can stay alive long enough to figure it out...

I do love reading this series.  It's gotten better over time and is still going uphill, which is more than some series do, so that's a big plus.  This time out, Liddy is finally marrying her attorney boyfriend, Sonny Lipton.  But Sonny seems almost like a third party to the wedding, not having anything to do with the planning, and not even showing up on time - or at all - of some of the events.  So of course Liddy is a nervous wreck.  A raging nervous wreck.  Hayley is doing her best to help Liddy keep it together, but if Sonny doesn't get his act together, there won't be any wedding.

What ensues is not so much the actions of a bridezilla, but a bridezilla's mother.  Celeste is every man's (and woman's) nightmare.  No wonder Liddy is the way she is.  Celeste isn't someone I'd want to come across in a dark alley.  Or even a light one.  But it explains a lot about Liddy's personality, at the very least.

Then there's the murder investigation itself, which Hayley knows has to be solved before Liddy's big day.  But when Hayley starts digging, other people become involved.  People like Bruce and even Sal, Hayley's boss.  And what they discover is going to rock everyone back on their heels, and quickly...

I really enjoyed this book.  My only complaint is in a spoiler below, because it pertains to a major part of the story.  It gives the reasons why thing went the way they were, so please don't read it if you haven't read the book.  

  

At any rate, I enjoyed reading this book and I was pleased at the way everything turned out in the end.  When the murderer was discovered, the reasons, while rather twisted since the wrong party (I felt) was targeted, still made it all interesting enough that I was glad to have finished it.  Recommended.



More on Lee Hollis's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/lee-hollis/

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Boston Scream Murder (A Deputy Donut Mystery #4)

Author:  Ginger Bolton
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital book
ISBN #:  9781496725561
Kensington Publishing
256 Pages
$15.95; $9.99 Amazon
August 25, 2020

⭐⭐⭐⭐

October 31st is just around the corner and Emily Westhill's Boston cream donuts, carved with a scream, have made an indelible impression on local eccentric Rich Royalson.  So much so that he's ordered three dozen, with no screaming faces and twice the fudge frosting, for his seventieth birthday -- a special event in more ways than one.  It's to be held on fog-shrouded Lake Fleekdom where, twenty years ago, his wife mysteriously drowned.

But the next day, when Emily arrives with her Boston cream donuts, she stumbles upon Rich's corpse.  The poor guy wanted a unique birthday bash -- just not one to side of his skull.  With a guest list of possible perpetrators left at the scene, Emily soon discovers that the Royalson closet is rattling with skeletons.  As the fog thickens, motives mount, and the tricks outnumber the treats, Emily fears that Rich may not be the last one in Fallingbrook to go out screaming.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Emily Westhill, a young police detective's widow, owns and runs Deputy Donuts (named after her beloved cat), along with her father-in-law Tom.  When a man shows up and starts raving to other men about how great Boston is, it seems that's all he wants to talk about.  But Emily discovers that he's there for a date with her friend Cheryl, who is one of the single women in the Knitpickers, a group of older women who come in daily to knit, eat, and chat.

Before Cheryl shows up, the man identifies himself as Rich Royalson, and asks Emily if she'd cater donuts for his seventieth birthday party in a few days, and tells her where she should bring them -- out to nearby Lake Fleekdom where he has a home.  But when Emily arrives, she finds everything set up for a party, including food from a local caterer...and the body of Rich.  Now, with her friend Cheryl involved, an old girlfriend of Rich's, even neighbors who might have a grudge against the man, she needs to find out who killed him and what would drive someone to do so.

Standing in her way is the fact that she's planning a Halloween costume party at her home, friends trying to push her toward her late husband's partner, Brent, and she has a business to run.  It doesn't leave a lot of time for her to think about killers, but Emily wants to know the truth, even if it's closer than she might ever imagine...

This is the fourth book in the series and I absolutely loved the third, so couldn't wait to get to this one.  But there was something that bothered me, so I guess I'd better get it out there right away:  Emily is insisting she's only friends with Brent, and she still loves her late husband.  I get that.  I really do.  But her husband, Alec, has been gone for six years, and she was married to him for four.  So he's been gone longer than they were wed, and even if that sounds cold, perhaps it's time she moved on with her life.  She's only thirty-one years old, and she needs to think if Alec would want her to mourn him forever.  Would he want her living alone?  Having no one in her life?  Or would he want her happy with someone new?  After all, if you've happily loved once, it's easier to love again (at least I've always believed so).  

Emily is still living in a relationship that's gone, and she's not willing to move into one with anyone else.  I'd much rather read that she's starting to realize her life isn't over, and while Alec will always be a part of her, it would be more interesting to read about her if she were moving on.  Right now she's stagnant in her life, even if she doesn't know it.  

So there, I've made my point.  As to the rest of the book, the mystery was excellent, as always.  I enjoy the characters the book is peopled with, and I enjoyed the fact that it took place at Halloween, so we got to see what everyone's costumes were (which always give an idea of someone's personality).  Emily's friends are always there for her, and they make the book more enticing to read.

Finding the killer gave us plenty of suspects, and even though I pretty much knew who it was from the moment that person stepped onto the page (I read a lot of mysteries), it was still fun watching Emily figure it out; and even more fun watching her get out of a sticky situation with the killer.  In the end, everything came together nicely, and, I am hoping, leading us toward another chapter in her life.  Recommended.



More on Ginger Bolton's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/ginger-bolton/

Friday, August 7, 2020

Jealousy Filled Donuts (A Deputy Donut Mystery #3)

Author:  Ginger Bolton
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496711915
Kensington Publishing
276 Pages
$10.29; $9.78 Amazon
August 27, 2019

⭐⭐⭐⭐

It is a truth universally acknowledged -- cops and donuts go together.  Exhibit A: Deputy Donut Café, owned and operated by detective's widow Emily Westhill and her father-in-law, the retired police chief of Fallingbrook, Wisconsin.  Named after Emily's adored and adorable tabby, the donut shop is a favorite among cops, firemen, and EMTs, as well as tourists and townspeople.  So when Fallingbrook needs donuts for their Fourth of July picnic, Emily's shop gets deputized.

But a twisted killer has found another use for Emily's treats.  At the picnic, a firecracker is hidden in a stack of raspberry-filled donuts and aimed at the unwitting queen of the festivities.  When it explodes, she is killed.  Having her jelly donuts involved puts Emily in a sticky situation, and when a shady shutterbug tires to frame her with incriminating photos, she finds herself in quite a jam.  To preserve her freedom and her shop's reputation, Emily needs to solve this case -- before the fuse-lighting felon goes off again...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Emily Westhill is the young widow of a cop who was killed in the line of duty.  She now runs a donut shop along with her father-in-law, Tom, and is fairly happy with the life she's created for herself in the last five years since his death.  Right now she's creating donuts to sell at the Fourth of July picnic, and also gets to drive her "donut car," -- an old 1950s police car that has a giant donut on top -- in the parade while escorting the king and queen of the Fabulous Fourth Festivities.  But when queen Taylor  arrives late, she refuses to ride in the old car, so Emily finds herself escorting the duke and duchess, who love the car.  Emily can't help but notice that Taylor isn't nice, and neither is the duchess, who is supposed to be her best friend,

When Emily returns to the shop, she notices something else: that her young employee Jocelyn disappears every time an oily-looking photographer comes into the shop, especially when he's taking pictures of his surroundings.  Asking her about it, she admits to nothing, so Emily lets it go.  But later on at the fireworks, Emily sees her own donuts being used to set off a firework - aimed directly at Taylor's back.  She yells at Taylor and her date to run, but neither hear her, and the firework hits her.  So when Emily is later accused of being the one who rigged it, she needs to figure out who really killed the woman and why.  Otherwise, Emily might find herself in the line of fire herself...

This is the third book in the series and I have to say that I enjoyed it much more than the first two.  Not that there was anything wrong with them; but they did have the 'evil nemesis,' and I do so abhor that situation in any book.  Personally, I feel that there's no need for one at all to make a book interesting, and this book proves that to be true.

Emily is unfairly accused, so naturally she wants to find out who's trying to frame her and the reason why.  Knowing who, is easy, but the why not so much.  She also wants to find out who killed Taylor, and she knows enough not to go around blindly accusing people of murder without gathering all the information she can, which she proceeds to do admirably.

In the meantime, her matchmaking skills have been tested with her friends, and everything seems to be working out, while they are trying to match her with her late husband's partner Brent Fyne, which she is fighting with everything she has, telling herself she doesn't want a relationship again.  She's also trying to figure out where her parents are, and why they haven't arrived at their campsite which they pay for year round at the RV park.  But the big thing concerning her is why Jocelyn leaves the room every time a certain photographer enters, but won't tell her the reason; then when she disappears altogether, Emily starts to get worried.  

So what ensues next is the heart of the book:  the climax brings us to quite an unusual one: finding Jocelyn, the killer, and perhaps even more -- and hoping she can reach her friends in time for help.  If not, she'll need to depend upon her own skills to save her life, which might not be enough...in the end, when the murderer is discovered, I honestly thought the person was deranged to have such a reason, but who knows how the mind of a killer works?  I am also looking forward to reading the next in the series, since I have come to enjoy it so much that I read this in one night.  Recommended.



More on Ginger Bolton's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/ginger-bolton/

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Death of a Cookbook Author (Hayley Powell Mysteries Book #10)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; [Audio CD]; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496713841; [9781977354884]
Kensington Publishing; [Tantor Audio]
320 Pages
$7.99; [$23.29]; $6.89 Amazon
April 24, 2018

⭐⭐⭐⭐


When Hayley's idol, cookbook author and TV personality Penelope Janice, invites her to participate in a Fourth of July celebrity cook-off at her seaside estate in Seal Harbor, Maine, Hayley couldn't be more flattered.  She just hopes she can measure up.  With a who's who of famous chefs whipping up their signature dishes, this holiday weekend has all the ingredients for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience.

Instead, Hayley gets food poisoning her first night and thinks she overhears two people cooking up a murder plot.  The next morning, a body is found at the bottom of a cliff.  Tragic accident or foul play?  To solve a real cliffhanger, Hayley will need to uncover some simmering secrets -- before a killer boils over again...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Hayley Powell is at a book signing for a famous cookbook author that she loves, Penelope Janice, who also has a summer home nearby.  When Penelope unexpectedly asks Hayley to substitute as a guest cook at a Fourth of July gathering at her home, Hayley's stunned.  It seems someone backed out at the last minute, and Penelope follows Hayley's food column in the newspaper.  The catch is she's expected to stay the entire weekend since Penelope is filming the entire thing for a TV special.  Of course, Hayley agrees.

But the first night there, dinner isn't a pleasant affair.  Penelope is arguing with her husband Conrad, and then Hayley gets a bout of food poisoning, and needs to find a bathroom.  When exiting to go back to her room, she overhears two people have a conversation about murdering someone, and she thinks Conrad and Penelope's secretary Lena are the two people talking.  So early the next morning she calls her brother-in-law Sergio, who's chief of police, to ask his advice.  He arrives to question Penelope, but she blows it off and Conrad, of course, tells Hayley she was having hallucinations.  But then Conrad is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, and Hayley wonders if it was truly an accident.  Especially when she has an 'accident' of her own that she knows was on purpose.  Still, she has no proof.  So with the help of her co-worker Bruce Linney, Hayley sets out to find out who wants someone dead...and if she can keep that person alive before she's the next victim...

After a slow start to the series where all I saw was Hayley and her friends doing nothing but getting drunk, this series has improved to the point where I'm actually enjoying reading it, and I'm glad I stuck with it.  We don't see a lot of her cronies Liddy and Mona, but then the story is written in such a way that there wouldn't have been much point to them being around, anyway.  However, in this one, Bruce makes quite an appearance that is very telling as to where the story line is heading, and it might actually become interesting along the way.  We also have the reappearance of one of Hayley's ex-boyfriends added into the plot.

The death occurs early on, and Hayley knows that someone in the household had to be the killer, but she can't imagine it being Penelope, even if it's become apparent that Penelope's marriage was on the rocks.  However, with the woman insisting no one would kill him, Hayley's on her own.  Then there's an attack on Hayley's life, and she knows she's on the right track.  She also discovers that her idol has cracks in her veneer and may not be the person she's thought and admired for years.  

When there's another attack on someone else, Hayley's determined to figure things out, even if it puts her in the sights of a killer.  By the end of the book, more than one surprise comes forth, and everything comes together nicely, giving us an ending that makes us want to read the next in the series.  Recommended.



More on Lee Hollis's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/lee-hollis/

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Diva Cooks a Goose (A Domestic Diva Mystery #4)

Author:  Krista Davis
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; [Audio CD]; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425238257; [9781515950059]
Kensington Publishing; [Tantor Audio]
304 Pages
$7.99; [$29.99]; $7.99 Amazon
December 7, 2010

⭐⭐⭐⭐


It promises to be a jolly holiday for Sophie until a Scrooge steals the Christmas gifts from her family and neighbors.  The evil elf even pinches their Christmas dinners!  Sophie quickly ends the neighbors' finger-pointing by organizing a toy swap for the kids, restoring the spirit of Christmas.  But not for long...

When her sister-in-law's father shows up to the Christmas celebration with a diva girlfriend just a month after his separation, someone carries out everyone's thoughts of murder.  With relatives and friends under suspicion for the deadly deed, and Sophie's detective boyfriend Wolf out of town, it's up to Sophie to chase this goose and cook it.  Nobody ruins her Christmas!

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Sophie Winston's sister-in-law Laci is entertaining her friends and family for Christmas Eve dinner, and while she thinks everything is going to be fine, it's not.  Someone is stealing everyone's Christmas gifts, and their house is now the latest on the block to be emptied.  As if this isn't enough, Laci's father shows up with his new girlfriend, Bonnie -- angering her mother Marnie, since they've only been separated a month.  As if that isn't enough, they discover that Laci's younger sister Shawna is nearly engaged to Bonnie's son Beau.

But at another event, there's an altercation that sends Shawna running out in tears, and no one knowing how to handle it.  Not even Sophie, who discovers Bonnie's body at her home and needs to call the police, wishing her detective boyfriend Wolf was in town instead of spending the holidays in Maine.  Now, the hunt is on for a killer, and with a plethora of suspects, it's all Sophie can do to keep her family from fighting and try to figure out who left a basket of Ragdoll kittens in her sunroom...

This is the fourth book in the series, and I probably like it better than the others, although I still think that Sophie needs to grow a spine.  She never says no to anyone, even when she knows she should.  Another thing I don't care for is the fact that she practically thinks everyone on her suspect list is the guilty party at one time or another...and she's always wrong.  Where is she getting her clues from in the first place?  Just because someone acts what you think is suspiciously, doesn't mean they're a murderer.  As Laci said, they all have secrets.

But, it was interesting all the same to watch everything play out with the kittens (which I do love) and find out that Mars has a backbone after all.  Now we get to wait and see what happens in the next book, and if he'll revert to being wallpaper.  Something to look forward to.

In the end, it all came together just the way I thought it might, since the clues were leading in that direction all along, and as we expected, the murderer was caught and the reasons for the murder were what we thought.  I will read the next in the series, because this one had enough action to keep me interested enough to keep reading.  Recommended.



More on Krista Davis's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/krista-davis/

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Tea and Treachery (Tea by the Sea Mysteries #1)

Author:  Vicki Delany
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496725066
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$19.53; $12.99 Amazon
July 28, 2020

⭐⭐⭐⭐


As the proud proprietor and head pastry chef of Tea by the Sea, a traditional English tearoom on the picturesque bluffs of Cape Cod, Lily Campbell has her hands full, often literally.  But nothing keeps her busier than steering her sassy grandmother, Rose, away from trouble.  Rose operates the grand old Victorian B&B adjacent to Lily's tea shop...for now.  An aggressive real estate developer, Jack Ford, is pushing hard to rezone nearby land, with an eye toward building a sprawling golf resort, which would drive Rose and Lily out of business.

Tempers are already steaming, but things really get sticky when Ford is found dead at the foot of Rose's property and the police think she had something to do with his dramatic demise.  Lily can't let her grandmother get burned by a false murder charge.  So she starts her own investigation and discovers Ford's been brewing bad blood all over town, from his jilted lover to his trophy wife to his shady business partners.  Now it's down to Lily to stir up some clues, sift through the suspects, and uncover the real killer before Rose is left holding the tea bag...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Lily Campbell has shucked her job as a pastry chef back in Manhattan and moved to Cape Cod to be closer to her grandmother Rose, who runs a B&B by the sea.  She's doing what she loves best -- creating delicious delights for her tearoom, Tea by the Sea.  But lately there's been a problem: developer Jack Ford wants to buy the Victorian next to Rose's home and turn it into a gigantic golf resort.  While both women are against it, Rose is extremely vocal, going so far as to write a letter to the editor about it.  When Ford is found dead at the bottom of the stairs on Rose's property, the detective in charge, Williams, is sure that she's done it, and doesn't seem to be looking for anyone else.

Luckily - or not so luckily - there's a new detective in town that is listening to Lily, even if she can't do much about it.  But Lily, in between trying to run a business and cook breakfast for guests over at the B&B, has her best friend Bertie to help, along with her new British gardener, Simon.  While Lily doesn't want to investigate at all, Rose does, and she knows she has to if she's going to keep Rose safe.  But will she put her own life in hot water by looking for a killer...

This is the first in a new series and I did like it quite a bit; although I felt there were a lot of characters to sift through.  There were employees at the B&B and the tearoom that offered up conversation and were ever-present along with the main characters.  Then there were the guests at the B&B and the suspects, of which there were many.  It was a lot to take in at once, and even with clues, it was difficult to point the finger at any one person for quite awhile.  It did feel slightly 'cluttered with characters.'

However, I did like the mystery and the way it was carried out, and the descriptions of different types of afternoon teas was very nice.   The recipes in the back are a bonus, too.  I would have liked to have more description of the seacoast, but perhaps that will be in later books.

When we get close to figuring out the murderer, it comes as a surprise right along the time that Lily figures it out, and I'm glad to say that she doesn't panic and is capable of keeping her head while in a dangerous situation.  When the ending comes everything comes together nicely, and I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.



More on Vicki Delany's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/vicki-delany/

Death of a Blueberry Tart (A Hayley Powell Mystery #12)

Author:  Lee Hollis Genre:   Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781496724939 Kensington Publishing 307 Pages $7.99; $5.99...