Thursday, June 13, 2019

Designs on Murder (A Ghostly Fashionista Mystery #1)

Author:  Gayle Leeson
Genre:   Mystery

Digital Book
Grace Abraham Publishing
212 Pages
$3.99 Amazon
March 26, 2019

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Amanda Tucker is excited about opening her fashion design studio in Shops On Main, a charming old building in historic Abingdon, Virginia.  She didn't realize a ghost came with the property!  But soon Maxine "Max" Englebright, a young woman who died in 1930, isn't the on;y dead person at the retail complex.  Mark Tinsley, a web designer with a know-it-all attitude who also rented space at Shops On Main, is shot in his office.

Amanda is afraid that one of her new "friends" and fellow small business owners is his killer, and Max is encouraging her to solve Mark's murder a la Nancy Drew.  Easy for Max to want to investigate - the ghostly fashionista can't end up the killer's next victim!

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Amanda Tucker lives in Abingdon, Virginia.  She's a twenty-four-year-old young woman with a recent business degree, and she's just concluded a disappointing job interview, realizing that she doesn't want to work in an office for the rest of her life.  Therefore, when she sees an 'available' sign in the window of a Victorian home that's been converted into shops, she decides then and there that she wants to follow her passion and open her own custom clothing shop, and goes to look at the empty space.  While there, she meets a young woman dressed like a flapper, who tells her that her name is Max - short for Maxine, and helps convince her that this would be perfect for her new venture.

After talking with her grandfather, Dave, he agrees and loans her the funds needed to begin her dream.  The owner, Mrs. Meacham, takes her around and introduces her to the other tenants, and it's not long after that when Amanda discovers that Max is a ghost - and she's the only one who can see or hear her.  But before she thinks she's losing her mind, she tells her grandfather, and when he comes to the shop, it turns out he can also hear and see Max...along with Amanda's cute cat, Jazzy. 

While she's ready to embark on her new career, it needs to be put temporarily on hold when one of the tenants is murdered.  While Max wants her to investigate, Amanda refuses to have anything to do with it.  Then she meets new tenant Jason, who's moving into the space recently vacated by the death.

Now Amanda is trying to make a go of her clothing business, trying to keep Max out of her love life, and trying to stay as far away from a killer as she can -- because Max is convinced, along with her grandfather -- that maybe one of her co-tenants might be a murderer, and she doesn't want to be next on the list...

This is the first book in a new series, and I'm pleased to say that I really enjoyed it.  Amanda honestly doesn't want to get involved in a murder investigation, which is a breath of fresh air, but she's being pushed by her new resident ghost Max.  Also, Amanda actually spends time in her shop and works, unlike a lot of other amateur sleuths, who always have time for investigating but never seem to be in their stores to actually do anything.

I also like the fact that she pays attention to her cat Jazzy - keeping her indoors instead of letting roam around outside, making sure she's fed and safe, etc.  This also pleases me, as I love cats and hate it when the protagonist just allows her pet to run wild, never caring if being outdoors can get her cat killed.  So that's several pluses to begin with.

I do like ghosts in books as long as they're not poltergeists and not boring.  Max is as vibrant as if she were living; as Grandpa Dave would say, she's a firecracker.  I love her personality and the fact that she says things that Amanda echoes without thinking.  It's pretty funny at times seeing Amanda flustered and trying to cover her tracks.

Although Jason wasn't in the book constantly, he shouldn't be because he has his own career to worry about, and again, I like the fact that he's a photographer and not the ubiquitous police officer who usually winds up as the love interest.  But I really like Dave, because after his wife's death he still manages to keep going as a carpenter and restoring furniture, and it shows that he's not going to be cantankerous, sit in a chair and watch television all day while offering advice about 'back in the day.' 

In other words, these are characters that are an integral part of bringing fresh eyes to a tried-and-true genre.  They make for a book that was a delight to read, because as much as the plot (which we'll get into in a minute) is good, the characters are what bring it all to life, and these characters are certainly different than the norm.

As to the plot, when the murder occurs, it seems that while everyone was surprised, only Amanda seemed outright nervous while everyone else was willing to sit back and let the police handle it.  But the police were basically a non-presence, and they weren't reassuring anyone that they had suspects in mind, so of course she'd be nervous.  When Amanda discovered that there was more to the murder than meets the eye, it propelled the story forward, because she didn't know which - if any - of her coworkers she could trust, so she didn't trust anyone except Max and Dave.

When the ending came it wasn't terribly climactic, but then again, I don't always care for nail-biting scenes all the time, anyway.  When the killer was revealed, it wasn't too much of a surprise, because the clues were there; but if you happened to miss any along the way, Amanda enumerated them shortly before the scene with the killer (as we knew there would be one) so it was pretty much laid forth for you, which was a nice touch.  The reason for the murder made sense in the mind of the murderer, for as anyone knows, some things are better left alone than to lose your life.

All in all, I found it a pleasing tale that was a decent introduction to a new series, and hopefully it will be around for a good long while.  I look forward to reading the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Designs-Murder-Ghostly-Fashionista-Mystery/dp/0996764763

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2856458097

More on Gayle Leeson's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/gayle-leeson/

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Sprinkle with Murder (A Cupcake Bakery Mystery #1)

Author:  Jenn McKinlay
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Paperback (LP); Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425233429; 9781410426222; 9781520060941
Berkley Publishing
240 Pages
$7.99; [Various Prices]; $34.19; $7.99 Amazon
March 2, 2010

⭐⭐⭐



Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura are finally living out their dream as the proud owners of the Fairy Tale Cupcakes bakery.  But their first big client is a nightmare.  She's a bridezilla who wants 500 custom cupcakes for her wedding.

When Mel stumbles upon the bride-to-be dead-by-cupcake, she becomes the prime suspect.  To save themselves and their business, the ladies need to find the real murderer before the cupcake killer ices someone else.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Melanie Cooper is realizing her dream.  She's recently opened a cupcake bakery with her friends Angie DeLaura and Tate Harper.  Angie quit her job as a teacher to work in the restaurant, and Tate funded it.  Since they've known each other since middle school, they're pretty close, and always want each to be happy.

But both Mel and Angie are in a conundrum.  Tate's getting married, and they can't stand the bride-to-be.  Christie Stevens is a fashion designer and the worst bridezilla that anyone's ever heard of.  When Tate insists that they have Mel make their wedding cake (consisting of cupcakes, naturally), Christie shows up for the meeting late.  Then she insists that Mel make five different flavors - five new flavors that have never been done, and expects her to sign a lengthy agreement.  One that gives Christie full ownership of the flavors - which means that Mel can never make them again.  Ever.  Bristling at the thought that she's going to put a lot of work into this, she has Angie's brother Joe, who is an assistant district attorney, look over the agreement, but he finds it ironclad.

Not wanting to upset Tate, she does as she's asked, and turns the box of sweets over to two of Christie's assistants.  She then goes to Christie's shop the next day and finds her dead on the floor, with one of the cupcakes in her hand.  Now she's suspected of poisoning Christie to get rid of her, and Mel knows this is going to be a nightmare.

But how much so she's not prepared for.  To top it off, she has a rival baker driving by her shop several times daily, and the police are looking at Tate also, using the old tale of a love triangle gone wrong.  It doesn't help that her deluded mother thinks she's in love with Tate and might be guilty.  So Mel does the only thing she can - she sets out to discover who wanted Christie dead - but finds out that nearly everyone she's talked with is guilty of that.  So who did the deed?  And will she find out in time to save her business?

For the most part, I enjoyed reading this book.  The story line is interesting in that it's not only Mel who's being affected by the murder, but the people closest to her - her friends Angie and Tate.  Mel and Angie are as different as day and night; and while Angie has a hot temper, Mel is more level-headed and still has body issues which are put forth from time to time.

There's an easy camaraderie between the three, and none of them will believe the others capable of such a heinous crime.  Still, eventually secrets will come out, and they invariably do, and while it doesn't change their attachment to one another, it does change them in other ways.  It also doesn't help that Mel is having feelings about Joe, even when there's time she wants him to just go away and leave her alone.

While I knew the murderer the minute the person stepped onto the page (I read a lot of these), it didn't keep me from enjoying the book one whit; however, what I didn't like was the fact that  it seemed the women in the book to be lacking in character.  Angie is quick with her fists; Mel's mother is deluded on Mel's love life and thinks her capable of murder; a rival business owner is as nasty as they come; etc.  It doesn't portray any woman in a favorable light, including Mel's aforementioned self-esteem issues.

Also, Christie's father did something truly reprehensible and there was no comeuppance - not even an apology; and Mel should have, at the very least, gotten a restraining order against the rival business owner.  Unfortunately, neither of these things happened in this book, but maybe they will in the next.

I likewise didn't understand why Mel didn't sit her mother down and have it out with her.  She didn't get angry that her mom thought she was capable of murder, and she could have (if she tried)  convinced her mom that she wasn't romantically interested in Tate.  But she basically just shrugged her shoulders and allowed her mom to be deluded.  (Maybe if she had convinced her that she didn't love Tate, her mom might not have believed her capable of murder?)  My conclusion is that Mel's self-esteem has been battered so hard by her past she's afraid that her mom won't love her if she yells at her or demands she listens.  It's a rather co-dependent relationship - and that's not good for anyone.

When the ending comes it might not have been a nail-biting climax, and it was a bit funny to boot, but still was a refreshing way to catch a killer.  All in all, not a bad start to a new series, and I will probably read the next, because while it wasn't a thought-provoking book nor terribly deep, it was a quick read, and since it's the first in the series, I am sure the author will tweak it here and there.

https://www.amazon.com/Sprinkle-Murder-Cupcake-Bakery-Mystery/dp/0425233421/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2855864197

More on Jenn McKinlay's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/jenn-mckinlay/

Monday, June 10, 2019

Pride, Prejudice and Poison (A Jane Austen Society Mystery #1)

Author:  Elizabeth Blake
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN :  9781683315742
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
August 13, 2019

✮✮✮


Erin Coleridge's used book store in Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, England is a meeting place for the villagers and, in particular, for the local Jane Austen Society.  At the Society's monthly meeting, matters come to a head between the old guard and its young turks.  After the meeting breaks for tea, persuasion gives way to murder - with extreme prejudice - when president Sylvia Pemberthy falls dead to the floor.  Poisoned?  Presumably...but by whom?  And was Sylvia the only target?

Handsome - but shy - Detective Inspector Peter Hadley and charismatic Sergeant Rashid Harral arrive at the scene.  The long suspect list includes Sylvia's lover Kurt Becker and his tightly wound wife Suzanne.  Or, perhaps. the killer was Sylvia's own cuckolded husband, Jerome.  Among the many society members who may have had her in their sights is dashing Jonathan Alder, who was heard having a royal battle of words with the late president the night before.

Then, when Jonathan Alder narrowly avoids becoming the next victim, Farnsworth (the town's "cat lady") persuades a seriously time-crunched Erin to help DI Hadley.  But the killer is more devious than anyone imagines.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Erin Coleridge owns a used book store in Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, England.  Her social life is pretty much centered around the members of the Jane Austen Society.  This evening there is a particularly contentious meeting causing arguments between the president, Sylvia Pemberthy, and some of the more vocal members.

But no one expects that at the next meeting Sylvia will fall ill and die - poisoned - and that one of the members will be suspected of the murder.  When the police have Erin's best friend Farnsworth in their sights, she promises to investigate and find the killer.  Even though she's warned away, it's not enough to keep her from searching.  But will she find the killer or will the killer find her first?

This book started out well enough - a group of people who come together through their love of Jane Austen, but it got rather confusing almost immediately.  From the description of Sylvia (which wasn't much) I supposed that such a harridan would be elderly; imagine my surprise when I discovered that she wasn't old at all.

Then there's Erin, who's strange, to say the least.  She wears thick black glasses (only sometimes, so her eyes can't be that bad), which got me wondering why, if she's comfortably set enough to open her bookstore when she feels like it, she hasn't gotten a pair of attractive glasses or contact lenses?  Who on earth would willingly wear thick black glasses if they were given other options?  And in these days, there are plenty of other options.  She pretty much dresses dowdy - yoga pants (!) and pulls her hair up in a mess on her head.  Must be fun combing all the knots out at night.  Yes, I'm being harsh, but really, there's no excuse for laziness, and that's all it is.  I began to wonder if she was the only young woman in the village, since men were attracted to her - yoga pants, messy hair, black glasses, no makeup.  She doesn't even have any friends her own age.  All I was seeing was someone who was too lazy to look their best when they left the house.  Sadly, she will never be a favorite character of mine.

I also got tired of people constantly quoting Jane Austen.  I get that the book is the Jane Austen Society, but I imagined it would be a group of people trying to solve a murder, not people who strive to 'out-quote-Austen' each other.  It got tedious after awhile, and I began to wonder if they were home re-reading all six of her novels, trying to find quotes no one else had said yet, and underlining those they'd already used.  Eventually they'll run of lines to quote to each other.  (Yes, I love Jane Austen, but this was starting to get on my nerves).

Then, Erin supposedly likes DI Hadley but kisses Jonathan in a public setting.  Say what?  Was that supposed to put him at ease?  Please, please don't give us a love triangle.  I've said it many times before:  I absolutely abhor them.

I guess the big thing is I never got invested in any of the characters - Erin is lazy, not taking the time to make herself look decent and only opening her store when she's bored; she wasn't even online selling books, so I can't imagine how she makes a living.  DI Hadley seemed nice enough, but there was no (very little) background, so how old is he?  How long has he been an officer?  We didn't even find out his hair color until later in the book.  From his initial description at the hotel, I thought he also was an older man.  Physical descriptions should be one of the first things given in a book, and there were very few.  Plenty on how people dressed, but few on their physicality.

The mystery itself was fine, and Erin is another one of those amateur sleuths who just walks up to people and questions them about the murder, not even trying to be inconspicuous about it.  It was only a matter of time before someone tried to kill her. 

In the end, I felt as if there were more to be written - the book felt unfinished to me.  The murder was solved and everything was tied up nicely, but it just felt...off.  Like there should have been a continuation of the last few pages that never came.  I will say that the ending really makes the book.  And because of this, I wasn't enthralled with this one.  While I may or may not continue with this series, it will certainly depend on whether I feel that it has any great potential.

https://www.amazon.com/Pride-Prejudice-Poison-Society-Mystery/dp/168331574X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2853468667

More on Elizabeth Blake's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/elizabeth-blake/

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Telephone Line (The Country Club Murders Book 9)

Author:  Julie Mulhern
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; ; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #: 9781635115505; 9781635115475; 9781515963738
Henery Press [Tantor Audio]
304 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $; $24.99; $6.99
June 18, 2019

✮✮✮✮✮



A killer is calling, and Ellison's life is on the line.

Ellison Russell is planning the event of the season -- and she's stressed.  Why not yoga?

Because the yoga instructor gets murdered during class -- and Ellison's stress level rises exponentially.  Now, in addition to raising a ridiculous amount of money, she's babysitting for a deranged cat (named after the devil himself), taking ten million phone calls (most of them from Mother), and finding more bodies (they're popping up like dandelions after a spring rain).

There's no such thing as balance when the killer makes it personal.  Can Ellison catch a murderer or will her namaste be her last?

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Ellison Russell is an artist and mother who lives in 1975 Kansas City - before cell phones, computers, and the Internet.  This was a time when people actually had to communicate with each other by talking on the phone or visiting in person.  No selfies, no Instagram, no Facebook.  It was a time when people actually had relationships with other people, and didn't have thousands of 'friends' that they'd never met.

Ellison is a well-to-do young widow who's doing her best to raise her teenage daughter Grace and cope with her overbearing, social-conscious mother.  She's attending a yoga class at her friend Winnie Flournoy's home to de-stress and the instructor, Marigold, has told everyone to relax and wind down.  Ellison has had enough of winding down and just wants to leave.  But she can't, because Marigold has locked them in.

After calling for help from a passing elderly neighbor, Ellison is wondering why, instead of letting them out, the neighbor leaves and runs from the home.  Elderly.  Runs.  This can't be good.  But surprise turns to resignation when she hears the sirens and sees her boyfriend, homicide detective Anarchy Jones, arrive.  It turns out that Marigold is dead, and once again Ellison is involved in murder.

Ellison wants to stay out of the murder but can't.  Her late husband was worse than anyone ever knew.  He kept secret files of people - people he was blackmailing, and Lark Flournoy was one of his victims.  She wonders if something in those files might tell her why someone was killed in Lark's home...

However, things don't end there.  When Ellison gets home, her mother calls (the grapevine in this city is admirable) and asks her about finding another body, practically insinuating that Ellison does it on purpose.  After she gets her mother off the phone, someone is at her door, and she's surprised to discover it's the mother of Grace's best friend Debbie.

Martha Clayton wants to know about Grace being at a bar on Saturday with Debbie, and Ellison gives her an alibi (Grace was with her all night), but Martha, distraught about Debbie, leaves unsaid things hanging in the air and leaves - and Ellison is determined to ferret out the truth from Grace.

She also is hosting a dinner for her new neighbor Jennifer, who has moved from California to Kansas City with her husband.  Jennifer appears to be some sort of hippie, while Marshall is rarely home, being a pharmaceutical salesman, so there goes Ellison's last hope of getting any rest that night.

Ellison is also chairing a gala for an art exhibit at the museum and gets a phone call from her mother Frances who demands she 'raise the stakes'.  It seems the other cities where the event was held all raised a million dollars, while Ellison has raised a paltry three hundred fifty thousand.  Never mind that they are larger, coastal cities.  Frances Walford will not be thought a yokel, and demands Ellison do something, and right now. 

When another murder occurs, Ellison is getting suspicious, because she's the only one who knows (courtesy of Henry's files) that the two might be connected.  She knows she should tell Anarchy, but for obvious reasons doesn't want him - or her daughter - to know how vile Henry was.  Only she and her attorney Hunter Tafft are aware of the nefarious practice.

Then Lark is run down by a car while leaving work.  Anarchy calls and tells her, asking if she'll stay with Winnie.  Just as things seem they can't get any worse, they do.  When Ellison leaves the table for a moment, Winnie collapses, and it's later discovered she was poisoned.

Ellison  wants to know what's going on.  The problem is the killer doesn't want her to find out...

This is the ninth book in the series and just as much fun to read as the first.  Although this book touches on the subject of rape and its aftermath on the victims, it is interwoven with lively banter between Ellison, her family, and her friends regarding murder - mainly because Ellison seems to always be in the center of it.

There are also a few hilarious scenes, one in particular involving a strange Jell-O mold made by Jennifer that Ellison and Grace are forced to eat, and dinner table conversation that is priceless - mostly by Grace.  (Whom, coincidentally, is rapidly developing the same dry wit as her mother).  I may never eat Jell-O again.

We also have the relationship between Ellison and Anarchy ready to reach a new stage in development.  Ellison is an extremely strong woman, but in one area she's extremely vulnerable, and it is this that is focused upon (and it's about time).

Watching Ellison find the clues and put them all together is fascinating.  She takes each piece of the puzzle and tries it one way, then another, and then at last another until she figures out where it's supposed to go.  It's a delightful romp of a tale, pulling the reader in from the first page that leaves you holding on tight until you reach the end. 

The use of wordplay is paramount, and it conveys more than any descriptions (of which there are many) could do.  It is the crux of the story, the heart of who these people are.  And it's winsome, lively, and thoroughly delicious.  Ellison is no fool, nor is she foolish, and she can hold her own with the best of them (and often has to).

Therefore, I should really learn not to read one of Ms. Mulhern's books when I go to bed, because it means that I won't get any sleep.  Her books are that good.  Really. She's one of those authors that you know you're going to like the book even before you've passed the first page.  Unfortunately, the side effect is I'm groggy in the morning from lack of sleep and it takes more coffee than Ellison drinks on a bad day to get me moving again.

When the ending comes and the killer is revealed, it comes as a bit of a surprise.  The clues are there, if you look for them but they're not overt.  They don't hit you over the head and you get the 'aha' moment almost the same time as Ellison.  It's a revelation, and a bit sad at the same time.  One realizes how easy it is for someone to lose a tenuous grip on reality without anyone even noticing. 

All in all, this is one of my favorite books in the series, and I've been enchanted with them all.  Ms. Mulhern is a wonderful writer who manages to not only put words on a page, but people as well.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Telephone-Line-Country-Club-Murders/dp/1635115477/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2847599913

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

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Buried in the Stacks (A Haunted Library Mystery #3)

Author:  Allison Brook
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover: Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643851389
Crooked Lane
[Page # TBA)
[$ TBA] $12.99 Amazon
September 10, 2019

✮✮


In winter, the Haunted Library is a refuge for homeless townspeople.  When a group purchases a vacant house to establish a daytime haven for the homeless, Carrie offers the library as a meeting place for the Haven House committee, but quickly learns that it may be used for illegal activities.

As the new Sunshine Delegate, Carrie heads to the hospital to visit her cantankerous colleague, Dorothy, who had fallen outside the local supermarket.  She tells Carrie that her husband tried to kill her -- and that he murdered her aunt Evelyn, the library's resident ghost, six years earlier.

And then Dorothy is murdered - run off the road as soon as she returns to work.  Evelyn implores Carrie to find her niece's killer, but that's no easy task.  Dorothy had made a hobby of blackmailing her neighbors and colleagues.  Carrie, Evelyn, and Smoky Joe the cat are on the case, but are the library cards stacked against them?

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Carrie Singleton works as a librarian in the town of Clover Ridge, Connecticut.  She's been asked to be the new Sunshine Delegate - who sends cards and gifts to employees - and unfortunately her first assignment is Dorothy Hawkins, who dislikes Carrie because she believes Carrie's job should have gone to her.

When Carrie visits Dorothy in the hospital, she tells her that her husband tried to kill her.  Carrie doesn't know what to think, but allows it to pass.  Then, when Dorothy is murdered, she wonders if she could have prevented it and if Dorothy was really afraid of her seemingly gentle husband, Fred.

There's also a homeless problem in the library - they come there to keep warm this February, but several of them are disruptive and the patrons want them removed.  When a solution is offered, Carrie jumps at the chance to help.  But she soon finds that all is not what it seems, and the solution might be hiding something illegal.

Her ghost-in-residence Evelyn, Dorothy's aunt, asks her to find out who killed Dorothy.  But when she starts investigating - against the wishes of the police - she discovers that it might be her who's next on the killer's list...

This is the third book in the series and I will say that it is better than the first two, but I have to wonder if anyone in this library ever comes to read books.  People come in looking for solutions to household problems that they can figure out themselves on their own computers (unless they're dumber than a box of rocks you don't need books to figure out any of these problems), hold meetings, watch programs, etc.; but no one is ever reading (except the homeless people).

I'm also amazed at how much money this library has for extra things - a charge card for gifts for employees?  At most businesses, they take up a collection among employees for flowers when someone takes ill or dies, but I've never heard of a specific job for this.  If this library has all this extra money - for programs, cafes, gardens, etc.; why doesn't the town have any money to help the homeless?  As a note, you can't kick homeless people out of a library because patrons don't like them there.  It's a public institution paid for with taxpayer dollars and is open to the public.  The ACLU would make quick work of them.

I was irritated at Doris and Henry's son for not finding a way to keep his parents with him.  They lose their business, and in order to live with him at all, he makes them get rid of their beloved pet, then gets a one-bedroom apartment and throws them out on the streets.  What kind of jerk is he?  I'd sleep on the floor and give my parents my bed before I'd allow this. 

Also, Angela states how Carrie is her maid-of-honor, then later mentions how her cousin is, then even later it's back to Carrie; and more than once Carrie tells us that she wanted to live with her mother but she wouldn't let her.  These are details that should have been picked up on but weren't.  Honestly, we really don't care about Angela's wedding.  We all know what brides are doing to prepare, and it's not interesting at all.  (Although I did figure out that Carrie's favorite style of dress is sweetheart neckline).

As to the murder, I found it odd why Carrie would stand up at the funeral and basically tell people she was going to find the murderer.  Nice way to make yourself a target, and then she's surprised when someone notices her investigating.  Why would she do that?  Announce it to all and sundry?  It didn't make any sense.

I guess the truth of the matter is the book was disappointing.  There was so much back-and-forth in the book so you really couldn't get into the murder at all: the murder, the homeless, the wedding, Dylan's business, Carrie's baggage, the library programs (which are mostly not plausible), Carrie's meals, Evelyn's withholding of information, looking for Smokey Joe, etc., and not enough on the straightforward murder investigation, which should have been the crux of the book.  You couldn't really get drawn in when everything else was taking you back out.

I never felt that we really got to know the suspects, because there just wasn't any time given to any of them, so while the murderer was a surprise, it would have been no matter who the murderer was because we never got to investigate anything.  We weren't given any clues at all because of the aforementioned back-and-forth. 

I would have liked to have enjoyed the book more, but I basically finished it in order to find out the killer, and if I had realized the plot device addition, I would have known who the killer was (I'm not saying it here, but it pretty much explained it all).  Anyway, I think I'm done with this series as it just doesn't seem believable to me.  Sorry.

https://www.amazon.com/Buried-Stacks-Haunted-Library-Mystery/dp/1643851381/ref=sr_1_1?

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2840279274

More on Allison Brook's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/allison-brook/

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Whiskers in the Dark (A Mrs. Murphy Mystery #28)

Author:  Rita Mae Brown
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover: Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425287187
Bantam
288 Pages
$18.30; $7.99 Amazon
June 4, 2019

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A massive nor'easter has hit northern Virginia, where Mary Minor "Harry" Harristeen joins groundskeeping efforts at the National Beagle Club at Aldie as the date for its springtime Hounds for Heroes veterans' benefit approaches.  Harry's fellow volunteers, including her oldest friend, Susan Tucker, comprise a spirited group of hunting enthusiasts, some former service members themselves.  But things take a sinister turn when, after a routine tree cleanup along the Club's hunting trails, retired foreign services officer Jason Holzknect is found dead, throat slit from ear to ear.  Soon enough, another murder in their midst jolts the preparations, convincing Harry that the killer is familiar with the Club - and must be close by, masked in plain sight.

The intrigue extends to the grounds of Harry's beloved local church, where the identity of an eighteenth-century skeleton wearing precious pearls remains a mystery.  The anonymous woman's neck had been snapped, and marks on the grave where her body was secreted indicate that someone recently tried to remove it, leading Harry to question how well she really knows those around her.

As always, Harry's crime-solving cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker the Corgi share her determination to sniff out the foes among friends, even those long buried.  Harry will need her four-legged companions' help more than ever, a ghostly beagle only they can see may hold the key to the culprit.

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Harry and her friend Susan are helping out clearing the grounds for the Hounds for Heroes run for Bassets and Beagles.  Along with other volunteers, they find a problem on the road that needs the help of a tractor, and one of their friends, Jason Holzknect, sets off to find one.  But when he doesn't return, they set off to find him...and they do, with his throat slit.  While Harry is convinced someone at the club killed Jason, everyone wants her to let the police handle the case.  And when another body is found Harry begins to connect the dots, never realizing that the truth is indeed stranger than fiction...

Meanwhile, the discovery of a centuries-old skeleton in a grave marked for another leads to other questions: who killed the woman and why put her on top of the casket of someone else?  Why a couple of parishioners are more interested in the expensive jewelry she wore, Harry, of course, is interested in her origins and who hated her enough to leave her there...

This is the 28th book in the series, and I am happy to say that it's just as intriguing as all the previous ones.  As a matter of fact, I find each book better than the last one I read.  Perhaps it's just that I truly enjoy Ms. Brown's writing, but I also love a good mystery, and these books not only give you that, they give you tales that span the centuries.

Harry's joined, of course, by her faithful friends: cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, dogs Tucker and new friend Pirate, who's recently adopted and still growing.  The animals make their own friend in this book, that of a ghost Beagle named Ruffy who has a tale of his own, and hopes his new found friends can help him.  It's a mesmerizing story of love, betrayal, death, revenge, and money, and the author tells it well.

As Harry refuses to let go of Jason's murder, she's warned off gently but it doesn't stop her, and she's determined to solve the case.  She begins to put the pieces together and convinces herself of the reason why the man was murdered; and through her determination and self-will, she keeps going, knowing there's more to the story.

Once again we revisit the eighteenth century where the Ewings and Holloways are neighbors, and we see how difficult life was in that century, where the author puts a different spin on the thoughts of certain beliefs of that era.  I do believe that people forget that all souls are products of their time, and to expect anything different is sheer foolishness.  I, for one, understand this and never expect the past to be the same as the present, nor would I wish it to be.  It was a different world, when America was new and people were learning to survive in this country - any way they could. 

Together both stories make for quite an absorbing narrative, which kept me reading all the way through to the end in nearly one sitting (sleep does reluctantly come).  Just when I would find myself engaged in the past, I was pulled into the present, back again to Harry and her tenacity.  But be aware that I never felt it was an intrusion or disruption of the story, and both seemed to meld together seamlessly.

When the truth of the murder is found, I had already figured out the killer as I read a lot of mysteries and for the most part it's rarely difficult, but I have always stated that it's the journey that's the most fun in mysteries - watching how the protagonist puts the pieces together, and Harry's almost an expert in this.  It brings home a few questions of our own to answer, and our answers will tell us how we feel about this book. 

I, for one, absolutely loved it, and felt that justice was done.  I was satisfied with the ending, and although I do feel that Megs and Janice are just too avaricious for their own good, (although this is a personal feeling and nothing was alluded to it in the book) I look forward to the next in the series, where I can continue visiting with Harry and her friends, and of course the Ewings and Holloways.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Whiskers-Dark-Mrs-Murphy-Mystery/dp/0425287181/ref=sr_1_1?

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2837832766

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

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Calamity Café (A Down South Café Mystery #1)

Author:  Gayle Leeson
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #: 9781101990780; 9781520017044
Berkley Obsidian
304 Pages
$6.80; $23.54; $7.99 Amazon
June 7, 2016

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Tired of waiting tables at Lou's Joint, Amy Flowers doesn't just quit - she offers to buy the place from her bully of a boss so she can finally open the café of her dreams.  Amy can't wait to serve the kind of down-home Southern treats and dishes that her grandmother always loved to the kooky cast of regulars at the restaurant.  She knows her comfort food will be the talk of the sweet small town of Winter Garden, Virginia.

At first Lou Lou refuses to sell, but when she seems ready to make a deal, Amy goes to see her.  Showing up at the eatery ready to negotiate, Amy is shocked to find her former employer murdered.  As the prime suspect, Amy will have to clear her name by serving up the real killer - and with Lou Lou's stack of enemies, that's a tall order.

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Amy Flowers lives in Winter Garden, Virginia and works at a diner, Lou Lou's Joint - and hates her job.  She trained as a chef out of state but moved home when her grandmother became ill.  When her Nana passed away, she left her some money.  Now Amy wants to buy the Joint and open her dream café, but Lou Lou won't sell.

That evening Amy receives a call from Lou Lou's son Pete, and he tells her he's convinced his mother to sell, and would she meet him at the diner, which she agrees to do.  But when Amy arrives, the only person there is Lou Lou...and she's not going anywhere.  She's dead, and when Amy can gather herself, she calls the police.

Amy discovers she's a person of interest because she found the body, and even though Deputy Ryan Hall tells her he doesn't believe she's guilty, she still doesn't want it hanging over her head, so decides to do a little investigating of her own.  But when she inadvertently gets a little too close to the truth, the killer gets a little too close to her...

I did like this book.  I didn't understand, though, why Amy would be so intent on finding the killer when Deputy Hall told her that she wasn't suspected of murder.  She somehow had it in her head that she was going to be arrested, and hyperventilated at the thought of it, and this spurred her on to find a murderer.  There was nothing pointing to her being guilty, and no one thought she was capable or even had a real reason, yet she was convinced in her mind that it was so.

While Amy isn't stupid enough to walk into situations that will get her killed, she shares all of her findings with Deputy Hall - but he, in turn, doesn't share his information with her, which is exactly how it should be.  He keeps his cards close to his chest, and isn't giving her anything she can run with, which is his way of keeping her safe.

However, I did feel that she went to tears and panic a little too quickly; and that didn't ring true for someone who wanted to investigate the way she did.  If she's going to be doing this, she needs to get her emotions under control.

Her friends are also an interesting bunch: she works with Jackie, a lifelong friend, and Roger (also a lifelong friend) is doing the construction on her new restaurant, and both seem like they have their heads on straight.  Homer is quite deep in his own way, with a new hero every day that he quotes every so often, and more to the point, his quotes fit right in with what's going on.  A pretty decent bunch.  The one I don't care for is the head of the Chamber of Commerce, who's angry he couldn't get the diner and raze it, but he wasn't in the story much and I sure hope he doesn't become the 'evil nemesis' who wants to make Amy miserable.  Even Amy's mom and Aunt Bess are great; and I've taken a liking to Pete, who unfortunately goes from one bad situation to another.

The only thing that seemed odd to me were the many characters who were left by their fathers at an early age; that much didn't seem realistic, and it bothered me a tad.  I can't see that Amy and her friends would have been raised in single-parent households and still trusted men.  It didn't ring true.

I did find that the book was written well, and I thought the plot was interesting; and I felt that the story is put together nicely, with Amy following a trail to find out who hated Lou Lou enough to kill her, and there are a plethora of suspects she needs to sift through.  The woman wasn't well-liked by anyone, treated her employees horribly, and doted on her son.  So Amy does a lot of thinking that we are privy to, and eventually comes to a conclusion at the same time as the killer.

When the ending comes and the killer is revealed, there's a bit of a climactic scene, but Amy doesn't lose her head, preferring to keep it right where it is, thank-you-very-much.  And while it isn't at all a nail-biter, it's still done well, and I liked the way everything tied up together.  This book is a quick and easy read with a pretty good ending.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Calamity-Café-Down-South-Mystery/dp/1101990783/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2831626375

More on Gayle Leeson's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/gayle-leeson/

Designs on Murder (A Ghostly Fashionista Mystery #1)

Author:  Gayle Leeson Genre:   Mystery Digital Book Grace Abraham Publishing 212 Pages $3.99 Amazon March 26, 2019 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Aman...