Thursday, October 21, 2021

Be My Ghost (A Haunted Haven Mystery Book 1)

Author:    Carol J. Perry
Genre:     Mystery/Paranormal

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:    9781496731357
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
$13.99; $8.27 Amazon
August 31, 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Maureen Doherty and her golden retriever Finn have taken possession of a charming old inn -- only to discover that it's already possessed by tenants whose lease on life already ran out...

Maureen's career as a clothing buyer hits a snag just before Halloween, when the department store declares bankruptcy.  Meanwhile, Finn's lost his way as a guide dog after flunking his test for being too friendly and easily distracted.  Sadly, only one of them can get unemployment, so Maureen's facing ar  winter of discontent in Boston -- when she realizes she can't afford her apartment.

Salvation comes when she receives a mysterious inheritance: an inn in Haven, Florida.  A quaint, scenic town on the Gulf of Mexico hidden away from the theme parks.  Maureen believes it's a good place to make a fresh start with a new business venture.  But she gets more than she bargained for when she finds a dead body on her property -- and meets some of the inn's everlasting tenants in the form of ghosts who offer their otherworldly talents in order to help her solve the mystery...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Maureen Doherty loses her job as a clothing buyer in an upscale department store in Boston when the store closes.  But then she receives an odd letter from a legal firm in Haven, Florida, stating that she's inherited an old inn and the remaining fortune of the late tenant.  Packing up her things and her golden retriever, Finn, she heads for the sunny south to start a new life.

But when she arrives she finds the fortune isn't all that much; the inn is in need of a lot of work; several elderly people live on site in return for working there, and the manager seems to have nothing but disdain for her -- taking over the previous owner's office and giving Maureen room 27 -- which is reputed to be haunted by a nasty spirit. 

After barely settling in she finds the body of a reputed ghost hunter on her front porch, and it seems he's been poisoned -- shortly after having a drink in the hotel's bar.  Now the police are on her tail, wondering if Lorna or one of her employees could be the murderer.  Could things get any worse?

Apparently so.  She gets another big surprise when she finds that her own suite is haunted by a B startlet from Hollywood's Golden Era - Lorna DuBois.  After proclaiming she doesn't believe in ghosts, she finds herself talking to Lorna and asking her advice.  Between talking to a ghost and being a suspect on the police's radar for murder, Maureen's in a pickle, and if she can't find a murderer, her stay in Florida isn't going to be pleasant -- from the inside of a jail...

This is the first book in the series and I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely.  I love books with ghosts (friendly) and I loved the plot in this one.  It was a lot of fun to read, and the fact that Maureen goes through a lot of changes and seems to accept them shows me that she's able to give in situations and not afraid to take risks.  She's a lovely person, and her dog is quite a character, too.

The elderly tenants are a hoot, but they in turn know what they're doing and who to talk to and whom not to.  Gert is the funniest, but the others have their value also.  I do like Ted quite a bit, he's open to new things and hopefully, will become Maureen's permanent partner-in-crime, if you know what I mean.  Both romantically and in sleuthing.

I was able to follow the mystery easily and pretty much knew who the murderer was, and the reason behind it wasn't difficult to figure out; but I read a lot of mysteries so I'm always on the lookout for those things anyway.

When the ending comes it was done nicely and with everything falling into place right where it's supposed to.  Again, I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next in the series soon.  Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley but this in no way influenced my review.



More on Carol J. Perry's Books:    https://www.fantasticfiction.com/p/carol-j-perry/

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Murder and Grits (Savory Mystery Series Book 1)

Author:    Karen McSpade
Genre:     Mystery

Digital Book
ASIN #:    B09DC1LQ8N
Newcastle Media
54 Pages
$.99 Amazon
October 19. 2021

⭐⭐⭐


Going undercover just got complicated... 

She's a Chicago detective hiding in a Gulf Coast town.  When a dognapping and murder shake up the local community, Piper Sandstone finds herself tangled in the mystery.  Now, keeping a low profile is not an option anymore if she wants to survive.

After solving a case involving dirty cops, Piper is forced to hide out in Savory, Alabama until the corrupt officers land behind bars.

Savory, better known as Alligator Alley, is not your typical tourist attraction Gulf Coast town.  Why?  Because it's home to the three-time AKC champion poodle Victory Cup Valentino, but this year bad things are about to go down.  Even before Piper can get unpacked, there is a murder, and the poodle goes missing right before the Westminster Dog Show. 

Suspicions run high, especially with two other newcomers with very sketchy backstories showing up in town.  But before Piper can get any answers, all hell breaks loose when a body turns up in the bayou and she's at the center of the crime scene.

Fortunately for Piper, a group of retired ladies known and the Dentures and Diamonds Crime Squad is on her side, and they are a force to be reckoned with.  Now, they must work together to solve the crime and stop the murderer before they end up in a body bag.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Piper Sandstone is a Chicago detective who crossed some bad guys when she outed some corrupt cops, and now has to hide out in small-town Savory, Alabama and work as a waitress until she's called home.  She doesn't like it much, but she's willing to do whatever it takes to get back and stay alive.  Unfortunately, there's a dognapping while she's there of an AKC dog, and along with the help of several elderly women who want to solve it, Piper will help as much as she can without blowing her cover...

This is the first book in the Piper Sandstone mysteries, and I really am not sure what to make of it.  It's pretty short -- only 54 pages -- which is not enough to flesh out any characters, including Piper.  Almost all of this is concerned with Piper's inner thoughts, and we don't really get a feel for her character, or why she's there.  It's not mentioned in the story, only in the blurb, so that's how it was figured out.

At any rate, this is more of the first of an episodic serial, and you will have to read the others to find out what happens to Piper.  While I want to know, I'm not sure what to make of this; however, it is an interesting introduction into Piper and her newfound elderly friends down in 'Alligator Alley.'

I was given an advance copy of this story from the author but this in no way influenced my review.



Played ( Paranormal Penny Nicols Cozy Mysteries Book 5)

Author:    Sarah Hualde
Genre:     Mystery/Paranormal

Digital Book
ASIN #:    B08HYTT2TK
Indie Christian Writers
130 Pages
$3.99 Amazon
October 19, 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


A journey into the past has Penny spinning...

and the Raven plotting.

Chasing the trail of the PI who stalked her, Penny returns to her old haunts -- no matter how painful the trip might be.  Old friends and secret enemies surface in the last place Penny called home.  Her glimpses come out to play with a few new twists and tricks.

Can Penny find whoever is searching for her before the Raven shuts down her investigation -- forever?

One thing is for sure: the Raven loathes a reunion.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Penny Nicols has a 'gift,' but doesn't like it much.  She can tell when someone is about to die -- usually by seeing a Raven somewhere on or near them.  She moves around a lot, because it avoids the questions that usually follow -- questions she doesn't want to answer or people might not believe.  She lives in an old VW bus, along with her cat, Spades, and tries to keep to herself, earning just enough money to live on.

Currently she's working as a barista in a coffee shop for Ken and Janice, the owners; and their lazy son, Terrence.  When Janice asks her to breakfast one morning, Penny sees the Raven -- her harbinger of death -- near Janice.  Now she needs to find a way to keep Janice alive.  But if she does that, it might anger the Raven, and someone else might die.  How can she save everyone?  Obviously, she can't...

This is the first book in the series that I've read, and I must say that I found it quite interesting.  The plot line is different, and our protagonist has a gift I've never read before.  Not that it would be nice knowing her at all; not with her 'issue' hovering about; but the book itself is quite a good read, and I did enjoy it immensely.

I won't say too much more as to give away the entire plot, but I will say that it was nicely done, with many surprises along the way, and most of those only adding to Penny's problems.  She finds herself in the midst of something totally unexpected, and her main goal is keeping herself alive along the way.  When the ending comes, it is both sad and hopeful, as we want Penny to gain the things she's been looking for, and maybe hope comes in the most unexpected sources.  Recommended.

I received an advance copy from the author and Booksprout, but it in no way influenced my review.



More on Sarah Hualde's Books:    https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/sarah-hualde/

Monday, October 18, 2021

Deadly Brew (Dewberry Farm Mysteries Book 3)

Author:    Karen MacInerney
Genre"     Mystery

Digital Book (Audiobook Available)
ASIN #:    B072MJXGFY
Gray Whale Press
256 Pages
$4.99 Amazon
September 4, 2017

⭐⭐⭐


It's Halloween in Buttercup, Texas, and reporter-turned-farmer Lucy Resnick is up to her ears in more than goats and wayward cows.  Not only has her well dried up, but it turns out the old house Lucy recently moved to the farm has a reputation for spooks...and they are disturbingly active.  Then a tarot card reading at a local mead winery foretells death...and minutes later, exotic game ranch owner Bug Wharton goes belly-up.  Cause of death?  Murder, by a fatal dose of bee venom.

When the dimwitted sheriff fingers local witch and mead winery owner Serafine Alexandre, Lucy gets involved...and soon discovers that all kinds of things are brewing in Buttercup.

And some of them are deadly.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Lucy Resnick used to be an investigative reporter in Houston, Texas, but moved to the small town of Buttercup and purchased her grandmother's old farm and now has a new life.  Unfortunately, that new life isn't without problems.  Fraught with a well run dry, an old small historical home on her property that may be haunted, and the idea of a mythical creature called a Chupacabra killing livestock, she takes a break to attend a Halloween gathering at a local mead winery run by a new friend., Seraphine, who's also reputed to be a witch.

But shortly after someone predicts death, Seraphine and exotic game ranch owner Bug Wharton have words, after which his brother runs in stating Bug is dying -- and they discover that he's been bitten by a bee, which he's allergic to.  When it's discovered Bug has been murdered, the sheriff -- who's known to take the easy way out -- arrests Seraphine for the murder.  But Lucy and her friends have other ideas, and Lucy sets about finding a killer.  Now all she has to do is try and stay under the radar...

This is the third book in the series and I really enjoyed the first two.  Having a penchant for "reading the season," as it were, I wanted to read this because it takes place at Halloween.  However, it has very little to do with Halloween, and the holiday is really only mentioned in passing.  Just sayin'

Anyway, Lucy has a lot of troubles this time out, but spends most of her time trying to solve the murder instead of thinking of ways to save her farm, more or less depending on friends to help.  Which is fine and dandy, but you'd think she would have known how much it really takes to run a farm, and had more savings than she did.  What is she going to do if there is another problem?  Maybe she can write articles online for a newspaper or something to make extra money...

Anyway, once Lucy starts investigating, she enlists the help of her beau, veterinarian Tobias, and together they discover things they'd rather not; and when a local farmhand is attacked, they know that they're getting closer to the truth.

When the ending comes and the killer is revealed, I pretty much had it figured out by this point; it was just waiting to see how Lucy put it together that finished it.  However, the ending was done nicely and I will continue to read this series.



More on Karen MacInerney's Books:    https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/karen-macinerney/

Once Upon a Seaside Murder (A Beach Reads Mystery Book 2)

Author:    Maggie Blackburn
Genre:     Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book (Audiobook Available)
ISBN #:    9781643858326
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
October 12, 2021

⭐⭐⭐



There's no place like home for the holidays, even if home is sleepy, beachside Brigid's Island, NC.  During this season for giving, the town wakes up to a welcome throng of shoppers -- and Beach Reads is no exception.  But bookseller Summer Merriwether's Christmas cheer turns to cringing fear when she uncovers a deadly secret about her late mother -- a secret someone will kill to keep.

When the local library hosts a cozy mystery panel discussion, Summer learns that one of the authors on the panel based her book on an actual murder that shook Brigid's Island thirty-five years before.  Worse, she soon learns that her dearly missed mother, Hildy, took a disturbingly deep interest in the case, going so far as to collect clippings and keep a journal of the dark doings.  This doesn't jibe with Summer's memories of her usually cheery mother at all.

Tidings get worse when Summer learns of her long-lost biological family's involvement in the crime...and still worse when the life of the book's author is threatened.  With the help of Hildy's plucky book club, Summer puts her scholarly smarts to work on protecting the cozy author and solving the decades-old murder.

But this ghost from Christmas past may still be deadly in the present, and if she can't find the killer. Summer's future will be brief.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Summer Merriwether returned home after ten years for her mother's funeral, and learned that she'd left her precious bookstore to her daughter.  Summer didn't want it, but in the months following, she still hasn't decided whether she's going to keep it or return to her job at the university.  She's also learned that she has half-siblings who are Egyptian and very rich.  But when her half-brother Sam hands her a box of photos he'd found of her mother and father together, she still hasn't been able to go through it.  But then another box is found at the bookstore, which contains a scrapbook and newspaper clippings of a murder that occurred over thirty years ago, and had ties to her father's family.

To make matters worse, she learns that one of the cozy authors visiting has based her latest book on the murder.  Sure, she's not written about the murder itself, but she's taken the bones of the case and used her own speculations -- and personal research -- to write the book, and it turns out someone isn't happy.  Since she's received death threats, she figures the safest place to stay will be at Summer's cottage.  At least until someone keeps breaking in and takes the box of photos.  But why?  And why terrorize the author?  Unless someone has something they want to keep hidden...like murder...

This is the second book in the series, and while I thought it was better than the first, it still has issues as far as I'm concerned.  There's a part of the book in which Summer stated that she came home to see her mother last year for Christmas, but in the previous book she stated she hadn't been home for ten years.  Also, she states as how much she misses her mother, but in the last book their relationship was contentious, and for some reason or other she didn't want any part of her previous life.

Also, this book might take place at Christmas, but there is very little about the holiday.  Yes, there is decorating, and mention of vegan cookies (ugh), but there is no feel for Christmas, just as there is no feel for the characters.

Summer is all about Summer.  Much of the book is about Summer's dissecting her thoughts (the woman seriously needs a therapist) and while she has an irrational fear of spiders (having the fear is alright, but wearing a nylon mask?) it doesn't bother me much because all of Ms. Blackburn's main characters have an emotional, physical, or psychological issue.  (I am including the author's books written as Mollie Cox Bryan, too -- so I wasn't surprised when I discovered Summer's problem).

As I've stated in my last review, there are no strong male characters in the book, and I truly am surprised Cash showed up at all.  Piper's husband was a surprise -- he wasn't even mentioned in the last book, and I had no idea she was married.  He was given exactly one sentence in this book, so he may as well have been wallpaper.  The secondary characters aren't really that interesting, and the little snit that Piper had didn't even make sense (read the book and you will know).

However, the writing was good, and as we already know, Summer will solve everything to all its satisfaction, and the climax was interesting, to say the least.  The book isn't a bad book at all; and I will read the next in the series to see if Summer has softened at all.

I received an advance copy from the publisher and NetGalley but this in no way influenced my review.



More on Maggie Blackburn's Books:    https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/maggie-blackburn/

Friday, October 15, 2021

Claws for Alarm (A Mrs. Murphy Mystery Book 30)

Author:    Rita Mae Brown
Genre:     Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book (Audiobook Available)
ISBN#:    9780593130094
Bantam
288 Pages
$20.66; $13.99 Amazon
October 12, 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Pharamond "Fair" Harristeen is known throughout Crozet, Virginia, as a good horse vet and a better man.  So when Benjamin Wagner, a new vet in town, is found dead in his unopened clinic, local police turn to Fair for help getting to the bottom of things.  Fair quickly realizes Ben's clinic has been robbed of ketamine, used by doctors as a horse tranquilizer but also a popular recreational drug.  Then Fair's own ketamine goes missing from the back of his truck.  Was Ben killed for his supply?  Or was he mixed up in something bigger?

Meanwhile. Candida Perez, one of Crozet's oldest and most beloved citizens, is found dead at her desk.  Not so alarming, given her ninety years of life.  But the bickering of her children, Ballard and Constance, over her will and the family's valuable collection of historical letters threatens to drive the rest of the town to madness.  Harry tries to place peacemaker, but the bad blood between the two siblings runs deep.  Just how far will they take their family squabble?

With a little aid from hungry helpers Tee Tucker the corgi and sweet puppy Pirate, as well as feline sleuths Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, Harry and Fair team up to restore justice -- and maybe a little peace and quiet -- to Crozet.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Fair Harristeen, big animal vet, is making his rounds one day and decides to drop in on new vet Ben Wagner, to see how he's doing.  But when he arrives, he finds Ben dead, and immediately calls the police.  It seems Ben has been shot at close range, and the only thing missing from his practice are bottles of ketamine, used to tranquilize horses.  But who would want them and why?

Meanwhile his wife Harry is visiting her friend Nancy, an antiques dealer, when in walks elderly Candida Perez, who likes nothing more than to talk, and especially about her past.  With her are her children, Constance and Ballard,  After a lengthy talk with a young woman, Ballard hustles his mother out, but not before greeting Nancy and Harry.  Candida mentions as how she wants to re-read her precious family letters, some dated from centuries ago.  But while perusing them alone, Constance comes across her mother, face down at her desk, dead.  After Ballard and Constance argue about autopsies and burial, the people of the town are drawn into their squabbles about the will and their home, Lone Pine, which has also been in the family for centuries.  

Even though the upkeep is going to cost more than either can afford, Constance is determined to keep the home, while Ballard sees no way out but to sell it.  They do employ someone to catalog the letters and put them in order, but even this distresses the pair.  When there's another murder, this time the police are taking a more serious look at everything that's gone on before, and wonders what to make of it.  So does Harry, especially when she's unwittingly drawn deeper into the investigation...

This is the thirtieth book in the series and I practically devour them when they come out.  I love mysteries within mysteries, and tales within them as well.  Not only are we reading about Harry and her friends in our time, but the book takes us back to the original owners of the farms the families are living on, this time back to 1789, after the American Revolution is recently over, and the struggles the families have there to make their lives in the new country.  It's fascinating fiction, and it ties in with the present day so seamlessly that you don't even mind going back and forth in time, as it were.

In our present day, Harry can't help but be curious as to why Ben was murdered, and she shares those questions with her friends Susan, Nancy, and Tazia.  Why ketamine?  And why would he be murdered over such a small thing when there were thousands of dollars of equipment that wasn't touched?  It even gives Fair pause as he is wondering along with his wife.

Ah, but the pets -- Mrs, Murphy, Tucker, Pewter, and puppy Pirate are wondering themselves, but they are not only trying to figure out, but might hold the key to everything.  If only they can get their mother Harry to listen...

The clues are there all along, but they are given to us sparingly and we must use our own minds to put the pieces together.  Ms. Brown is one of my favorite novelists; her books are so well-written and so well thought out that I am always amazed at how she manages to write stories that are centuries apart but moments together in time.  

When we come to the end of the book and the killer is revealed, it is a motive as old as time itself.  Having been faced with the same motive from someone close at hand, it never surprises me anymore how people can allow their lives to be twisted like this.  But it is what it is, and the book not only gives us a satisfactory ending, it gives us a terrific story to read.  Highly recommended.

I received an advance copy from the publisher and NetGalley but this in no way influenced my review.



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

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Murderously Sweet (A Pumpkin Hollow Mystery Book 2)

Author:    Kathleen Suzette
Genre:     Mystery

Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:    9781983101335
Independently Published
172 Pages
$8.99; $2.99 Amazon
June 6, 2018

⭐⭐⭐


"I knew when the mayor tried to end the Halloween season he was up to no good," I said to Ethan.  But I didn't know he was going to end up dead."

Someone is trying to sabotage the town of Pumpkin Hollow and when the mayor turns up dead, Mia Jordan is on the case to save the town and catch a killer.

When rumors of a curse spread through town, Mia must head them off before they destroy the town's reputation as a family-friendly tourist destination.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Mia Jordan helps her mother run the family's candy store in Pumpkin Hollow, a small town in northern California.  She's also trying to save the town's tradition of celebrating Halloween year round, and has the support of most of the shop owners, even though the mayor opposes it.  But when she goes to a corn maze with her maybe-beau Ethan, a police officer in the town, she trips over the body of the mayor.  Now there's another murder in town, and Mia has to find a way to keep tourists from figuring it out.  It doesn't help that some people are spreading the rumor of a witch's curse, and it only makes things more difficult.  But will the killer stop at the mayor, or try again?

This is the second book in the series, and since the first was shorter, I thought I'd catch this one and see what Mia is up to next.  Like the first, the characters are the same, and we get to know a little bit more about them, which is nice.  (I would like to know what Mia's father does for a living, though; right now he's just wallpaper in the series).  Anyway, when the unpopular mayor is murdered, it seems the only ones mourning him are his widow and brother-in-law.  Everyone else seems to be glad of him, which makes finding the murderer a tough job.  Even the police are finding it difficult.

Mia is still wondering, though, and looking for clues.  But will she come up against a killer or find them and turn them over to the police?  Since the town is still divided on the will-they or won't-they get rid of Halloween traditions, anyone could have murdered the mayor.  Sifting through business owners as the main suspects, Mia isn't making herself popular, either.  She's also deciding if she wants to pursue a relationship with Ethan, who was her bane in junior high, but doesn't ask him why he did what he did.  Hmmm...

I will say that I knew who the murderer was the minute they stepped on the page.  I was wondering when Mia would figure it out, but she eventually does, as we all know she would.  Unfortunately, there was still something about the book that bothered me, and readers will eventually know what it was.  The ending was fine and I will probably read the next in the series.



More on Kathleen Suzette's Books:    https://www.fantasticfiction.com/s/kathleen-suzette/

Be My Ghost (A Haunted Haven Mystery Book 1)

Author:     Carol J. Perry Genre:      Mystery/Paranormal Trade Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:     9781496731357 Kensington Publishing 288 ...