Monday, August 21, 2017

A Tale of Two Kitties (Magical Cats #9)

Author:  Sofie Kelly
Genre: Mystery

Hardcover; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780399284572; 9781541453654
Berkley Publishing
336 Pages
$14.06; $29.99; $11.99 Amazon
September 5, 2017


With a well-placed paw on a keyboard or a pointed state, Kathleen's two cats, Hercules and Owen, have helped her to solve cases in the past - so she has learned to trust their instincts.  But she will need to rely on them more than ever when a twenty-year-old scandal leads to murder...

The arrival of the Janes brothers has the little town of Mayville Heights buzzing.  Everyone of a certain age remembers when Victor had an affair with Leo's wife, who then died in a car accident.

Now it seems the brothers are trying to reconcile, until Kathleen finds Leo dead.  The police set their sights on Leo's son and Kathleen's good friend Simon, who doesn't have much of an alibi.  To prove her friend innocent. Kathleen will have to dig deep into the town's history - and into her sardine cracker supply, because Owen and Hercules don't work for free...


Kathleen Paulson is head librarian at a small town in Minnesota.  She has two cats - Owen and Hercules - with a little magic in them.  Not only can Hercules walk through walls and Owen make himself invisible at will, they understand what their human (and others) is saying, and help her solve crimes.

The grandfather of one of her employees, Mia, has arrived in Mayville Heights for Thanksgiving.  While Mia is excited to see her grandpa, she's not as happy to find out her Grandpa Leo has asked his twin brother Victor to come as well.  The reason she's not happy is apparent to anyone who knew them back in back when Victor ran off with Leo's wife, depriving Leo's son Simon of a mother and eventually Mia of a grandmother she would never know.  But the tale gets sadder when shortly after leaving Leo's wife Meredith died in a car accident.

Now Leo is dead; murdered.  And with suspects aplenty, and the police thinking it had to be Simon, Kathleen takes it upon herself to find out who really killed Leo, and why.  But can she catch a killer before the police convict the wrong man and throw away the key?...

I love mysteries, and I love mysteries that have animals, especially cats.  This one was no different.  Kathleen's two magical kitties are indeed endearing; Hercules is quieter and Owen is feisty, but both do their part to help her any way they can.  While no one else is aware of their abilities, she depends on them for advice, and they never let her down.

The book had a very nice plot, and I enjoyed watching as Kathleen sifted through suspects one by one.  But unfortunately, I kept getting sidetracked by subplots that had absolutely nothing to do with the murder,.  (Marcus and Eddie going to Minneapolis, for one).  It's a quirk of mine, but I really don't care for subplots unless they actually connect to the main plot somehow - for example, if when Marcus returned he mentioned something the person they were going to see had said something - but no, nothing except to give Kathleen more time to investigate without police presence.

Aside from that, there were enough red herrings thrown in and enough suspects thrown around to confuse matters, and that's what a mystery is all about.  In the end, when we learn the identity of the killer and the reasons why, we knew there was no other way it could have ended; and that's what a mystery is all about.  Recommended.



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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Bearly Departed (A Teddy Bear Mystery)

Author:  Meg Macy
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #"  9781496709639
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
May 30, 2017


As manager of the family teddy bear shop and factory, thirty-one-year-old Sasha Silverman leads a charmed life.  Well, except for the part about being a single divorceé with a ticking biological clock in small-town Silver Hollow.  And that's just kid's stuff compared to Will Taylor, the sales rep who's set on making drastic changes to the business her parents built from scratch - with or without Sasha's approval...

But before Will digs his claws in, someone pulls the stuffing out of his plan...and leaves his dead body inside the factory.  Reeling from shock, Sasha's hit with more bad news - police suspect her hot-tempered Uncle Ross may have murdered him.  Sasha knows her uncle would never do such a thing, and she's launching her own little investigation to expose the truth.  As she tracks Will's rivals and enemies for clues, Sasha can't get too comfy - or she'll become the next plaything for a killer...


Sasha Silverman and her family own a teddy bear shop in Silver Hollow, Michigan.  She and her sister Maddie run the shop, along with her Uncle Ross who heads production; and they also have several employees.  One of these employees is their sales rep Will Taylor, who's a thorn in everyone's side and has just returned from a business trip.

It seems on this particular trip he met their father, and now tells everyone that they're possibly moving production to China which will lower costs - and means that employees will lose their positions.  Sasha is determined that this will never happen, but before she can speak with her father, Will is murdered - found dead in their shop with his mouth full of stuffing.

While at first it seems her uncle is the most likely to have killed Will, when details of his life are made public the suspect list starts growing, and soon there's enough of them to put her uncle all but in the clear.  It also doesn't help when Sasha's cheating ex-husband turns up unexpectedly, and she finds out he's moving back home.  Trouble looms for both the shop and Sasha, and now she has to decide how to tackle both situations without losing either her living or her sanity...

I really wanted to like this book more than I did.  It had a cute premise (a teddy bear shop) and a mystery to boot.  But it just had Too Much Detail.  Too much detail on homes and businesses, and too many characters.  The amount became staggering, and unfortunately, because of that none of the characters had any depth.  I didn't really care for Sasha or her family.  Her mother even came off as rather unlikable, so it wouldn't pain me not to see her in future books.

While I understand this is a first book, and we know they need to be tweaked, I felt without this much detail the book would have been more interesting, and we would have really been able to 'sink our teeth' into the murder.  But without character development, it's hard to know or care about them.

When the murderer was discovered, while it was no big surprise the ending was satisfactory.  Also, the writing is good, and the idea of a teddy bear shop has promise, so I hope to see that the author continues with this series.


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Thursday, August 3, 2017

One Fete in the Grave (A Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery)

Author:  Vickie Fee
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback, Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496700667
Kensington Publishing
352 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
May 30, 2017


Party planner Liv McKay has outdone herself this time.  She's put together an unforgettable Fourth of July celebration for the town of Dixie, Tennessee - including breathtaking fireworks and an exciting Miss Dixie Beauty Pageant.  Maybe a little too exciting.

As the party is winding down, Liv's sense of triumph fizzles when the body of councilman Bubba Rowland is discovered on the festival grounds.  And now the prime suspect in his murder is Liv's mother's fiancé, Earl, who had a flare-up recently with Bubba.  To clear Earl's name, Liv and her best friend Di burst into action to smoke out the real killer before another life is extinguished...


Liv McKay is a party planner in the small town of Dixie, Tennessee.  She's very pleased with the way her Fourth of July celebration has been going - everyone seems to be having a good time, and enjoying the day.  Well, almost everyone - town councilman Bubba Rowland has just been found dead in a porta-potty, shot through the rear of the receptacle, and with so many people attending the event, it seems Sheriff Dave Davidson has his work cut out for him trying to find a killer.

Liv McKay has a habit of finding bodies.  Well, not really, but they sure have a habit of finding her, and this time is no different.  While she didn't technically find the body of Bubba Rowland, she's thick in the middle of it, because the day after his murder, Liv's mother Virginia announces her engagement to Earl Daniels, who's been Bubba's business rival and a thorn in his side for years.  When it's discovered that Bubba was killed with Earl's shotgun, which was in his locked truck, it looks as if the sheriff has the crime locked up as well.  But with Liv's Mama pleading for her help to free Earl, Liv enlists the aid of her best friend Di Souther, and while the Fourth ended with a bigger bang than was what originally intended, their plan to unearth Bubba's real killer could send them both permanently underground if they're not careful...

What a delightful mystery to unravel.  It appears that it's already solved, with no access to the murder weapon by anyone except Earl, and he's so forthcoming about that information that he's practically putting himself in the electric chair.  But Liv believes he's innocent, and isn't about to have her mother's heart broken, so once again she enlists the help of her best friend Di to find out who got his gun and framed him for the crime.

It could have been a number of people who were attending the celebration, but sorting through the suspects isn't going to be easy, since there were so many there.  And to top things off, her mama's now decided she wants Liv to plan her over-the-top wedding, complete with swans and a gondola.  It also doesn't help that her sister Emma is dead-set against the wedding, and her father-in-law is acting strange to everyone.  So will Liv be able to set Earl free or will Emma get her way and the wedding will be called off due to imprisonment?

What a delightful read this turned out to be.  While I have enjoyed the series from the beginning, I believe this one is my favorite.  The characters are rich and lively, their growth apparent as the series progresses.  The interaction between them is realistic, and with just enough brass on Liv's part to be convincing without being exaggerated.

When we find out who the murderer is (because we know it just can't be Earl), it's believable and deftly done; the ending is satisfying and even a hint of the next book is given.  Ms. Fee is a talented writer and in this book she serves up a real slice of southern charm, wit, and humor.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.


More on Vickie Fee's Books:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mulch Ado About Murder (A Local Foods Mystery #5)

Author:  Edith Maxwell
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496700292
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
May 30, 2017


It's been a hot, dry spring in Westbury, Massachusetts.  As organic farmer Cam Flaherty waits for much-needed rain, storm clouds of mystery begin to gather.  Once again, it's time to put away her sun hat and put on her sleuthing cap...

May has been anything but merry for Cam so far.  Her parents have arrived unexpectedly and her crops are in danger of withering away.  But all of that's nothing compared to the grim fate that lies in store for one of her neighbors.  Nicole Kingsbury is the proud owner of the town's new hydroponic greenhouse.  She claims the process will be 100% organic, but she uses chemicals to feed her crops.  To Cam's surprise, her mother embarrasses her by organizing a series of loud public protests against Nicole's operation.

When Nicole is found dead in a vat of hydroponic slurry - clutching another set of rosary beads - Detective Pete Pappas has a new murder to solve.  Showers may be scarce this spring, but there's no shortage of suspects, including the dead woman's embittered ex-husband, the Other Man whose affair ruined their marriage, and Cam's own mother.  Lucky for Cam, her father turns out to have a knack for sleuthing - not to mention dealing with chickens.  Will he and Cam be able to clear Mrs. Flaherty's name before the killer strikes again?


It's springtime in Massachusetts, and organic farmer Cam Flaherty is receiving an unexpected and rare visit from her parents whom she's never had a "traditional" relationship with.  But life goes on, and Cam has duties; so she leaves her father to help out at the farm while she makes a delivery to Nicole Kingsbury, with whom she has contracted to provide her with seedlings for her hydroponic farming.

When she arrives at Nicole's, she doesn't expect to see a line of protesters condemning her operation, and she certainly doesn't expect to see her mother in the group.  Trying her best to ignore them, she enters the greenhouse and calls out to Nicole.  But it's apparently deserted so she decides to leave the flats and also text her a message stating she's done so.  But when she hits 'send' she hears the distinct ping of a cell phone, and goes to investigate.  Unfortunately, what she comes across is Nicole's body, slumped over a vat of the slurry she used to feed the plants.  Shaken, Cam calls the police.

After being questioned and released, she returns home to tell her father that her mother is also being questioned and will return later.  But since her mother Deb admits she went in to speak with Nicole, it unfortunately puts her in the area of being a suspect, and Cam isn't pleased.  She also isn't pleased that her boyfriend, Detective Pete Pappas, removes himself from the case and to make matters worse, until they figure out what happened to Nicole, he can't spend any time with her.

But as the case progresses, it turns out that it wasn't an accident but possible homicide, and Cam is convinced her mother is hiding something both from her and the police.  While she's positive her mother didn't kill Nicole, it's obvious she's not telling everything.

What makes it harder is that Cam's parents are not ones for demonstrations of affection; neither parent has ever given her the indication that they even cared much about her but even so, she loves her mother and believes in her innocence, and will do whatever it takes to keep her out of prison, even if it puts her own life in danger...

I found this book not only to be a very good mystery, but it also gives us a lot of insight into Cam's parents and her (at times) tenuous relationship with them.  When it begins it appears that her parents arriving during prime planting season is more of a hindrance and inconvenience, but as the days go on, the relationship between them changes and grows.  Regrettably, it's taken a murder to effect that change.

Cam, although strong and independent, seems unsure where her parents are concerned; it's as if she's walking on eggshells around her mother, while her bond strengthens with her father who, surprisingly, while at first seems to be a disaster at the farm eventually becomes quite a help to her.  It takes a bit more however, for her relationship with her mother to truly connect and become closer.  This, in my opinion, is the true crux of the book; not only trying to help solve a murder (even if the police don't want her help) while forging a new relationship with, and understanding her mother.  It is a delight to watch the changes between them.

As to the murder itself (and we know it must be), I found it to be quite a treat indeed to have several red herrings thrown in, only to find that my initial thoughts came full circle.  But unfortunately I can't tell you what those thoughts were, or it gives away the ending.  Ah, well...suffice it to say that around nearly every corner we have Cam trying her best to keep the farm up and running, her parents entertained properly, and search for clues whenever she gets the chance.  This is one busy woman.

When the murderer is revealed and the reason for it discovered, we understand all too well the machinations, while thinking how easy it is for some people to do evil.  This is the fifth book in the series, and is an easy read and well written.  It can be read as a stand alone, but if you haven't read any others in the series I suggest you do so, because they're all quite as fun as this one.  Highly recommended.


More on Edith Maxwell's Books:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Clock Strikes Nun (A Giulia Driscoll Mystery Book 4)

Author:  Alice Loweecey
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635112184; 9781635112153
Henery Press Publishing
268 Pages
$27.52; $15.95; $4.99 Amazon
May 30, 2017


When terrified Elaine Patrick knocks on Driscoll Investigations' door and insists her house is haunted, Giulia Driscoll's first response is "we don't handle ghosts."  When Elaine's housekeeper and crackpot filthy rich cousin descend on Giulia and demand she find out who's trying to steal sweet, fragile Elaine's family business out from under her, that's a different story.  They want DI to provide Tarot readings, ghost hunting sessions, and even an exorcism.  Ghost hunting?  There are apps for that.  Tarot readings?  Experts in the skill are right across the street.  Exorcisms?  Having a priest for a brother-in-law comes in handy.  Giulia plunges into a crash course in all things supernatural, convinced everything happening to Elaine is stagecraft.  Except when it isn't.  Giulia's about to discover a new dimension to sleuthing, if she can survive attempted murder long enough to see through the web of lies around her client.


Giulia Driscoll doesn't know what is in store for her when a young woman basically pushes her way in to see her.  It seems that Elaine Patrick is convinced there are ghosts inhabiting her home, determined to drive her insane.  But before she can hire a skeptical Giulia, her husband Pip arrives and whisks her away.  That should be the end of it, but it isn't...

The next day she is visited by a Victorian throwback named Muriel Lockwood, who is Elaine's cousin and fills in Giulia on Elaine's history.  It seems Elaine was orphaned many years ago when her parents were brutally murdered in their home, and she has been raised alone since.  She is also the sole owner of a wildly successful internet company that sells clothing - Dahlia - and both Muriel and Elaine's housekeeper Cissy think the three members of the Board of Directors at Dahlia is behind it, trying to keep the power within their reins.

So it appears Giulia has a new client - albeit one who thinks there's ghosts to be exorcised - and her job is to discover if one or more of the board members is behind the haunting.  To this end, she sets appointments to meet with each of them separately, but after one of the meetings, she is nearly run off the road and killed, bringing her investigation to a whole new level.

 Now Giulia is determined, if only for herself, to find out the truth of the matter, even if it means learning a little of the spiritual arts.  But what Giulia wants to really know is:  Is she going to exorcise a spirit, or a killer?

First off, let me say that I love mysteries with ghosts.  But I felt that as Giulia is an ex-nun and as such, it seemed rather odd for her to embrace all the spiritual trappings she used on this case - Tarot, exorcism, EMF detectors, etc.  I would think she would have been less willing to do so because of the way she was raised, as she puts it herself - a 'cradle Catholic.'  Saying that, the mystery itself was enjoyable, and the writing is, as always, top notch.  Ms. Loweecey is a talented author with tales to tell, and an entertaining manner.  It is only that I feel in this book she is veering into territory (ghostbusters-like) that seems so out of character of the other three books.

However, the mystery was done well with unexpected twists, and enough suspects to please even the most hardened mystery reader.  It is written well enough that one doesn't even realize for quite a while that this is not your usual mystery - and when you discover why, the story is neatly finished and tied up pleasantly.  While there is no happy ending, per se for the clients, it was still quite engaging and I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.


More on Alice Loweecey's Books:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ivy Get Your Gun (An Ivy Meadows Mystery Book 4)

Author:  Cindy Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635112108;  9781635112078
Henery Press Publishing
234 Pages
$28.06; $15.95; $4.99 Amazon


There's a new sheriff in town -- and she can sing!  When Gold Bug Gulch's actor-gunslinger Mongo winds up shot for real, actress and part-time PI Ivy Meadows goes undercover as the ingénue in the tourist town's melodrama.  Unfortunately, she's distracted by a pack of marauding Chihuahuas, a problematic love life, auditions for Annie Get Your Gun, and a personal mission:  to show people the real Annie Oakley.  What's more, the no-good, yellow-bellied varmint who killed Mongo isn't finished with the Gulch -- or with Ivy.  Will our heroine prove she can get a man with a gun - before the killer gets her?


Ivy Meadows, an actress and part-time PI who lives in Arizona, is hoping for the lead role in Annie Get Your Gun.  But while she's waiting, she receives a frantic call from her fellow actress and friend Marge, who wants to hire her to find Lassie, Marge's pug, who has disappeared into the desert with a pack of Chihuahuas.  Knowing the desert is dangerous for small animals, Ivy agrees.  But then Marge tells her that Arnie, her husband, has discovered he's a father, and Arnie has invested tons of money in a ghost town named Gold Bug Gulch, run by Arnie's son Nathan.

Marge is afraid Nathan is taking advantage of Arnie, and not be his son at all, and wants Ivy to go undercover in the Gulch as an actress in their little melodrama for the tourists, in order to learn more about Nathan.  How can she say no?

But on her first day, one of the town's actors is killed by a real bullet, and now Ivy wants to know if it was an accident or intentional.  While she's in the town, she not only meets interesting characters, she's in the middle of several "accidents" that all seem to be intent on closing down the Gulch.  But with a host of suspects, it won't be easy to sift through them, and if she doesn't figure it out soon, she could find herself in a role she won't be happy to play - permanently dead.

Once again, Ms. Brown has written an engaging mystery that will keep you reading right through to the end.  She peppers the book with interesting characters who may or may not be who they claim to be; interspersed with humorous situations, dangerous ones, and a new talent that Ivy - nor anyone else - knew she had.

While she's still trying to circumvent her boyfriend Matt's insistence that they tell people they're a couple, she doesn't want to lose him but realizes that with him leaving the group home her brother Cody is in, she's going to have to make a decision soon.  And no one is more shocked than herself when her father visits and she discovers a few things about him that she never knew.  To top it off, she learns more about sharpshooter Annie Oakley than the 1950 film shows, and proceeds to educate others, even incorporating it into the daily "melodrama."

With a full plate indeed - auditioning for a stage role, working in the Gulch, searching for a lost pug, investigating both Nathan and a murder - Ivy's life is nothing more than normal (for her), and it is very enjoyable indeed to watch her navigate through the pitfalls and surprises that await her around every corner, as she tries to remain unobtrusive, but manages to create havoc wherever she goes.

This is a book that is fun to read; both whimsical and, at times, suspenseful; when we discover who the murderer is, as we know we will, it comes as a surprise; and although there are a few clues scattered about, it is hidden well enough to give us plenty of red herrings to follow.  Highly recommended.


More on Cindy Brown's Books:

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Murder, Stage Left (The Nero Wolfe Mysteries)

Author:  Robert Goldsborough
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781504041119
Mysterious Press/Open Road Media
246 Pages
$14.97; $9.99 Amazon
March 7, 2017


When a renowned theater director senses something amiss during his latest production, he calls in Nero Wolfe.  Though the corpulent genius wouldn't normally accept a job this vague, a mutual friend dangles the prospect of a very rare orchid in exchange for his services, and Wolfe can't resist.

With a mind to suss out backstage gossip, Wolfe turns to his faithful assistant, Archie Goodwin, to impersonate a journalist in order to speak to the cast.  Though Goodwin's conversations prove unfruitful, on his last day at the theater, the director is murdered in his soundproof booth, poisoned by an unseen culprit during an evening performance.  In short order, an actor whose health is failing, attempts suicide with the same poison.

Now Goodwin is a prime suspect in the director's demise, effectively sidelining him for the rest of the case, and freelance gumshoe Saul Panzer must step in to help wrangle the various members of the play - from the ingenue and the diva to the handsome movie star and the surly stage manager - so New York's smartest, and most reclusive, private detective can determine who is responsible for these dramatic deaths and clear Goodwin's name once and for all.


When Nero Wolfe is asked to see a New York theater director at the behest of a fellow orchid lover, Lewis Hewitt, Wolfe's first response is No.  But then through Archie, his right-hand man, he is told to tell Wolfe these two words: Grammangis spectabilis.  With those two words, Wolfe has a new case on his hands, and Archie has a new assignment.

To wit:  Roy Breckenridge, the theater director in question, feels his life is being threatened, and all because of contention among his cast.  He asks Wolfe to investigate and find out which one of the cast members is causing the strife among them all; and to this end, it is decided that Archie will pose as a Canadian magazine writer who is interested in the play and its cast, for his publication.  But unfortunately for everyone involved, his charade does not go according to plan.  While posing undercover, someone murders Breckenridge while Archie is at the theater, not only ending his assignment, but effectively removing him from the case.  Therefore, Wolfe has only one option left:  Saul Panzer, whom he is sure can get to the crux of the matter and, by bringing the principals before Wolfe to interrogate, discover who the guilty party is.

With the cooperation of Mr. Hewitt, and a little help from newsman Lon Cohen, Wolfe sets to work not only to discover Mr. Breckenridge's murderer, but to do so in order to obtain what his heart desires: rare Madagascar orchids that are now in Mr. Hewitt's possession but Wolfe wishes to be his.  What follows is another masterful mystery involving the brilliant mind of Nero Wolfe, and the sharp wit of Archie Goodwin.

I cannot put into words how much I enjoy these mysteries, first started by the late Rex Stout and carried on beautifully by Robert Goldsborough; whose own voice speaks to us just the same.  He has given us another thought-provoking mystery - this time involving the New York theater and the personal egos of its members - and done so in such a lively way that it is indeed easy to get involved in the story quickly and stay there through the end.  In fact, one becomes so involved that in trying to decipher Mr. Wolfe's nuances you are never quite able to do so; and when he solves the crime (as we know he will) you are as surprised as anyone else.

This, my friends, is what a true mystery is about, and how it indeed should always be.  Nero Wolfe is one of a kind, a man with a brilliant mind who knows it to be true; who is haughty and unconcerned about the wants of others, but who values Archie and his staff, even if he does not show it.  He appreciates beauty and true friendship, all the while keeping himself aloof and unemotional  He is able to solve whatever crime is put before him effortlessly, and it is a pleasure to watch him do so.  This is a sparkling mystery full of intrigue and secrets, and I eagerly await the next in the series.  Highly recommended.


More on Robert Goldsborough's Books:

A Tale of Two Kitties (Magical Cats #9)

Author:  Sofie Kelly Genre: Mystery Hardcover; Audio CD; Digital Book ISBN #:  9780399284572; 9781541453654 Berkley Publishing 336 Pag...