Friday, January 30, 2015

Bridges Burned (A Zoe Chambers Mystery Book 3)

Author:  Annette Dashofy
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars

Paramedic Zoe Chambers is used to saving lives, but when she stops a man from running into a raging inferno in a futile attempt to rescue his wife, Zoe finds herself drawn to him, and even more so to his ten-year-old daughter.  She invites them both to live at the farm while the grieving widower picks up the pieces of his life.

Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams, of course, is not happy with this setup, especially when he finds evidence implicating Zoe's new house guest in murder times two.  When Zoe ignores Pete's warnings, she runs the very real chance of burning one too many bridges, losing everything--and everyone--she holds dear.

********

Zoe Chambers is a paramedic/deputy coroner in a small town in Pennsylvania.  She lives in a farmhouse, part of which has been converted for an apartment; and when she's off-duty gives riding lessons and boards horses along with her own.  A local land developer is trying to buy the farm where she lives - which she is against, since it was difficult enough for her to find a place to live that would house her cats and horse as well.  She is also just beginning a new stage to her relationship with Chief of Police Pete Adams, even though they're finding it hard to get any real time together.  Zoe, it seems, has a full life...

...which just began to become complicated.  While responding to a fire in a newly built housing project, a man runs toward the burning building screaming his wife is in there and Zoe tackles him, learning he is Holt Farrabee, and also has a ten-year-old daughter, Maddie.  When things begin to calm down, it is discovered that Holt's wife Lillian was indeed in the building, and now he not only has no place to live, he also has no job, and he and Maddie are reduced to residing in a local run-down motel.

Since her landlord Mr. Kroll is in the hospital, and Mrs. Kroll is elderly, Zoe, feeling sorry for Maddie and with memories of her own past dredged up (losing her father as a child), learns Holt is a carpenter, and offers them a place to stay (with Mrs. Kroll's blessing) in return for doing work around the house and barn that she can't do herself.  Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Pete, who thinks Holt could be guilty of murdering Lillian.

It is soon learned that Holt and his family wasn't supposed to be in the house at all.  They had been evicted, yet returned to the home a few weeks later.  And as more things come to light, Pete must deal with his jealousy, his suspicions, and Zoe, who refuses to give in.  Add in a domestic dispute between a man and his father-in-law that soon escalates into something else, and things become very sticky very fast.

What we have here is a book that is sheer enjoyment.  Ms. Dashofy has created a mystery you can get your teeth into.  The characters are well-written and have depth.  Although the book starts out a tad slow, it soon picks up and you find yourself caught up in the murder and who committed it.  Although this is the third in the series, it can be read as a stand alone.  You don't learn everything about Zoe's past, but you learn enough to understand 'where she's coming from,' as it were.  You know that she wants to help the little girl get through a difficult time in her life, and that by doing so, she is helping herself.  And when there are issues between Zoe and Pete, you want to see them resolved, because they have waited so long to get this far in their relationship.

What else can I say?  I enjoyed this book so much that I will be reading the first two in the series as soon as I can find the time.  Highly recommended.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Toured to Death (An Amy's Travel Mystery)

Author:  Hy Conrad
Genre:  Mystery

Four Stars

A mystery series featuring Amy and Fanny Abel, a spunky mother-and-daughter duo of travel agents who find their mystery tour becoming all too real. . .

While Fanny takes care of the business end of Amy's Travel in New York City, Amy is traipsing around Monte Carlo, managing their first mystery-themed excursion, a road rally in which guests compete to solve a fictional murder along the way. Amy still has reservations about partnering up with her mother. But both women, having lost the men in their lives, need a fresh beginning.

The trip starts off without a hitch. Clues quickly mount, the competition is lively, and just when the suspense is peaking, the writer they hired to script their made-up mystery is found murdered in his New York apartment. Suddenly, on top of running a new venture together, mother and daughter must solve a real-life case of foul play, while trying not to drive each other bonkers. But Amy and Fanny are ready, willing, and Abel to track down a clever killer with some serious emotional baggage, one who will go to any lengths to keep dark secrets from seeing the light of day.

********

Amy Abel has recently opened a travel agency, one specializing in mystery tours - the equivalent of a murder mystery evening but one that takes place through several locations in several countries - and caters to the rich.  This first time out, they will be travelling through Monte Carlo, Italy and France.  Each attendee is assigned a group, which represents one of the people in the play.  At the end of the tour, each group will make an announcement about who they think killed the missing person, and why.  When one of the guests is murdered for real, and another is arrested for the crime, it is up to Amy and her friends to figure out who really committed the murder.

I enjoyed the travel information, the description of places that were visited. I thought the main characters were well-drawn, (although if I myself had a mother like Fanny I'd probably run away from home.)

The book was basically sectioned off into two pieces:  the tour in Europe and the murder mystery tour and where the murder takes place, and then New York, after everyone returned home, and the solving of the murder.  Unlike others' reviews, I had no trouble keeping everyone straight throughout the book, and there were actually only a few main characters, so that helped quite a bit.

I began to be suspicious of a couple of people somewhere in the middle, and when the murderer was revealed, it was nice to know the killer was one of them.  The murder itself was well-thought out, and unusual in the fact that I don't think I have ever read a motive quite like this one.  All in all, a nice mystery for a rainy day.  Recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Toured-Death-Amys-Travel-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00M4ASP1K/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1182468197


Monday, January 26, 2015

Candy Apple Dead (A Candy Shop Mystery #1)

Author:  Sammi Carter
Genre:  Mystery

Two Stars

Abby Shaw has returned  to her hometown of Paradise, Colorado--leaving behind a career in corporate law and a cheating husband--to take over her aunt's candy shop, Divinity. But her sweet new life quickly turns sour when a fellow merchant dies in a fire. With all clues pointing to arson--and Abby's brother as the number one suspect--she must sink her teeth into finding the killer.

********

I know I don't give spoilers, but in this instance I feel I must in order to explain why I only gave this book two stars; that and the fact it is an older book and many readers have probably already read this, so you are forewarned...

Well, the mystery was decent, except.....

Abby moves to CO to take over her aunt's candy shop. Another shop owner is murdered and she wants to know why because a) they had a date that night and he didn't show up - yes, this is a big deal for her; the guy's dead but she still wants to know if she was just 'going to be another notch on his headboard' (go figure); and b) her brother is accused of the crime.

She also spends a lot of time harping on the fact that her ex-husband cheated on her. We get it. And she decides to question everyone in town - and there were quite a few - about the murder. So we get to meet a lot of really boring people.

Also, she sure has a lot of time on her hands for someone who's running a candy shop. She's the main cook but doesn't really spend any time cooking. And there is one scene where she's hosting a book club or something (it's her turn), and she puts out trays of candy for everyone - and silverware. I don't know about you, but I've never eaten a piece of candy with a fork. And I certainly wouldn't make that my staple for a couple of hours. You'd make yourself ill if that's all you ate (but she didn't mention any other food, so I guess).

The big thing that bothered me was the way she ate. She makes herself grilled cheese sandwiches and eats at Burger King and McDonald's. No home cooked meals for her. Fast food and fat, that's all she's interested in. Not to mention all the candy she consumes throughout the book. Yet it doesn't seem to do any damage to her physically. Huh.

The last things are the murderer doesn't even appear anywhere in the book until the last few pages - perhaps the author got attached to the people in the town and didn't want to kill any of them off, which happens occasionally, but I still find that annoying. It's almost like you're supposed to get involved with the characters, but so involved that we'll just throw someone else in here so you don't have to feel bad when they get caught; and that old standby of The Cop Who Likes You and Wants to Have a Relationship. There are so many books out there where the cop decides to get involved with the main character. Oh well.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/432301249

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Macdeath (An Ivy Meadows Mystery Book #1)

Author:  Cindy Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars

Like every actor, Ivy Meadows knows that Macbeth is cursed. But she’s finally scored her big break, cast as an acrobatic witch in a circus-themed production of Macbeth in Phoenix, Arizona. And though it may not be Broadway, nothing can dampen her enthusiasm—not her flying cauldron, too-tight leotard, or carrot-wielding dictator of a director.

But when one of the cast dies on opening night, Ivy is sure the seeming accident is “murder most foul” and that she’s the perfect person to solve the crime (after all, she does work part-time in her uncle’s detective agency). Undeterred by a poisoned Big Gulp, the threat of being blackballed, and the suddenly too-real curse, Ivy pursues the truth at the risk of her hard-won career—and her life.

********

Ivy Meadows (real name Olive Zeigwart) is an actress in Phoenix, Arizona.  Unfortunately, it's not yet a lifetime career, and she's barely struggling to get by.  So when she's given the opportunity to act in Macbeth, she jumps at the chance, and finds out she'll be working with a famous actor who also happens to be a personal friend.

Yet almost from the beginning, things begin to go wrong.  For anyone who knows about theater (and for those who don't) the name Macbeth is never spoken in a theater, attributed to a curse dating back to Shakespeare's time.  When someone unexpectedly mutters it, Ivy and the rest of the crew believe it to be a bad omen - which proves to be true.  Someone dies (which we already know, since this is a mystery, after all), and although it is deemed to be an accident both by the police and her P.I. Uncle Bob, Ivy believes in her heart that the person was murdered, and sets out to prove it.

I absolutely loved this book.  It combines theater (which I love), Shakespeare (which I love), and murder (which I love - in books, to set that record straight).  Watching Ivy stumble through life trying to solve a murder, and not so successfully at times, trying to follow her uncle's instructions on how to question people, is fun.  She's also trying to navigate a possible new relationship, and decide who she can and cannot trust at the theater.  

Her missteps are part of the enjoyment in the book, because she isn't a professional investigator nor a police officer, and she has pitfalls that would occur to anyone who hadn't done this before, which is refreshing.  She is also struggling through life, literally, with little money and keeping her apartment at ninety degrees (this is Phoenix, and it's hot, which I know for a fact, having lived in Tucson for several years myself) in order to keep her electric bill low.

We find out about her past in bits and pieces - her relationship with her parents, her uncle, and her beloved brother, Cody.  Although nothing is said about past relationships with boyfriends, we learn that in this area she might be a little too trusting, and even when she finally figures it all out, we end up thinking we would do the same as her in the situation.

The book is altogether engaging, quite funny at times, and the resolution to the murder at the end interesting and worth the wait.  Highly recommended.






Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gilt by Association (A Caprice DeLuca Mystery #3)

Author:  Karen Rose Smith
Genre:  Mystery

Four Stars


Caprice DeLuca's latest house staging is all about hearts, flowers, lace and chintz since Valentine's Day is around the corner. She never expects her client to be murdered in the greenhouse the day of the open house.

With her six-month-old pup Lady by her side and her own love life in disarray, Caprice ferrets out clues from the victim's best friend, Caprice's mother, the housekeeper and a special male friend who insists his relationship with the victim was platonic. However, as Caprice digs deeper, she finds the victim's past is filled with secrets that she kept from her husband for thirty years.

The past isn't merely history. The present isn't always what it seems. When hearts are involved, passion and even murder aren't far behind.

********

Caprice DeLuca is a home stager.  She takes homes that are for sale, and furnishes them in such a way that they will sell faster.  She does this by not only changing furnishings to suit the home, but also by having open houses, with her sister Nikki as a caterer, "theming' the food to the home (in this book, for example, one of the homes is rather rustic, so she and Nikki have 'themed' the home Sherwood Forest, with typical English food).

Her latest client, Louise, is a close friend of her mother's for around thirty years.  She and her husband are downsizing so they can travel.  Upon the afternoon of the open house, Caprice finds Louise in the greenhouse - dead.  Since this is the third book in the series, we already know that Caprice will agree to her mother's wishes that she look into the murder and find the killer.

I enjoyed reading the book, but there were a couple of things that bothered me:  First off, if you know there's a killer out there, why would you even ASK your own daughter to look into the murder?  Doesn't it occur to you that if someone has killed once, they might do so again, and your child could be the victim?  I would have been better pleased if one of the police officers asked her to do it on the sly (even though we know that probably shouldn't happen).

The second thing was Caprice was trying to decide if she wanted a relationship with Grant or not, but instead of pursuing it further and having "the conversation" with him, she treated him pretty cavalierly at times.  I understand his background of losing his child and his marriage falling apart, but if he's interested in her at all, tiptoeing around the subject isn't helping anyone.

And thirdly, when the killer was revealed, I felt that the author didn't give us any clues beforehand who it might have been.  And she didn't.  The mystery made sense, but the killer just seemed to be thrown in as if the author couldn't decide who to have the murderer be.

So you ask, if I found these problems, why did I still give the book four stars?  Because it was written well, and I enjoyed reading about the home staging and reading about the family dynamics.  Everyone has problems in their families, but it is still refreshing to read about two sisters who are close and share things with each other (I have much the same relationship with one of my own sisters).  I loved the fact that Caprice rescues animals and finds good homes for them.  Since I do this myself, I have a soft spot for it.  I also enjoyed the fact that Caprice wasn't a stick-thin protagonist who wears no makeup except "lip gloss."  I get very tired of hearing about characters who think lip gloss is all the makeup they need (if that were the case and most women thought that way, then the cosmetic industry wouldn't be as successful as it is.  The only people I know who wear nothing but lip gloss are thirteen-year-old girls).  Trust me, just throwing on an old pair of jeans, a tee shirt and lip gloss doesn't make you look irresistible, regardless of what some authors believe.  But I digress...

So finally, I found the book enjoyable and the ending satisfying, even with the problems I mentioned above.  I hope others will feel the same.  Recommended.  This book will be released January 27, 2015.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Quicksand (A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #3)

Author:  Gigi Pandian
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars
A thousand-year-old secret room. A sultan’s stolen treasure. A missing French priest. And an invitation to Paris to rekindle an old flame....
Historian Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of enigmatic Lane Peters and a 90-year-old stage magician, Jaya delves into France's colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.

********

When Jaya Jones, historian at a university in San Francisco, receives a first-class ticket and hotel reservation at an upscale property in Paris from her sometime-boyfriend Lane Peters, she hops on a plane to visit him.  When she arrives at the hotel, she finds Lane didn't send the ticket, and didn't know she was coming.  It was a ruse to get her there, because Lane has been recruited for an art heist from the Louvre, and Jaya is insurance that he'll do the job...

Once Jaya has resigned herself to what is happening, things begin to go horribly awry.  When someone who was supposed to help can't be reached, Jaya is reluctantly recruited to take over.  When the theft is complete, Jaya also sees something she's not supposed to, and realizes there is something more going on, something she isn't supposed to find out.

I must say that I enjoyed this book immensely, partly because I enjoy mysteries, and partly because I love history.  The author weaves fact with fiction in such a way that it all seems believable, and that is exactly what a book is supposed to do.  I really don't want to say much more about the plot, because I want everyone who reads it to find out what's happening at the same time as Jaya, and that will only occur if they read themselves.  But I do want to tell you that it is an excellent mystery with enough twists to keep even the most seasoned mystery buff interested.  For myself, I was interested in the imagery of the abbey, and the persona of Sebastien, whom I found delightful.  Highly recommended.  This book will be released in March 2015.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Matchmaker's Christmas

Author:  Donna Lea Simpson
Genre:  Regency/Romance

Four Stars

Lady  Elizabeth Bournard decides a spot of matchmaking is a fitting way to celebrate her 80th birthday and the coming Yuletide. What better way to reward Beatrice Copland, her faithful companion for ten years, than to introduce her to her dashing godson, Sir David Chappel? But unbeknownst to her, Beatrice and David share a history--one that didn't end well.

********

Beatrice Copeland is the companion to Lady Elizabeth Bournard.  One day nearing the holidays, Lady Bournard tells Beatrice she wants to invite several people for Christmas.  She also tells her that she wants to have a real Christmas, something she hasn't done since before her husband died.  When Beatrice sees the names on the invitations, she begins to panic and think of a way out - for one of the names is Sir David Chappel, a man she once knew in London years ago and believes herself partly responsible for the death of David's wife.

I found this a sweet tale of romance centered around Christmas.  There are six people at the estate, and Lady Bournard has decided to pair them off.  Lady Silvia, an Earl's daughter; Verity Allen, a young relative from Canada; Mark Rowland, a young vicar; Lord Jacob Vaughn, a viscount, who is an uninvited guest, stranded at the estate during a storm but asked to stay; and the aforementioned Beatrice and Sir David.  Shortly after all the guests have arrived, things begin to go awry. 

The book was a typical Regency in that everything worked out well in the end.  But I enjoyed it because even though they didn't always behave the way they would have during the Regency period, it was still a delightful read.  There was just enough romance without too much cloying, a little bit of intrigue, a secret or two, misunderstandings, the usual arguments.  And though things aren't always what they seem, I read it in one sitting and recommend it to others.  



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Criminal Confections (A Chocolate Whisperer Mystery)

Author:  Collette London
Genre:  Mystery

Four Stars

Hayden Mundy Moore is an expert on everything chocolate, helping clients develop new products and revamp recipes until they're irresistible. But sometimes, a dash of murder finds its way into the mix...

Hayden Mundy Moore has bushwhacked through African jungles and haggled in exotic markets to find the finest cacao beans and the most flavorful blends. It's thrilling work but rarely dangerous--until a colleague turns up dead at the exclusive chocolate-themed Lemaître resort spa in San Francisco.

Adrienne Dowling's heart attack is blamed on an accidental overdose of the secret ingredient used in Lemaître Chocolates' new line. Hayden can't believe that conscientious Adrienne would make that mistake. And between chocolate body scrubs, cocoa mud baths, and a non-stop frenzy of chocolate-based treats, Hayden starts to suspect that she, not Adrienne, was the intended target. Finding a killer among the rival chocolatiers and potential suspects won't just be satisfying--it might save her life...

********

Hayden Mundy Moore works as a 'chocolate consultant,' which means her clients are chocolate companies (and businesses that deal heavily with chocolate) to find out how they can improve and streamline their products for a larger profit.  When she accepts a job at Lemaître resprt, she also gets more than she bargained for.  While attending a private function at the resort, her friend Adrienne dies under suspicious circumstances, but it is ruled a terrible accident; an overdose- but Adrienne was young, and had no problems as far as Hayden knew.  And when there is an attack on Hayden, she knows there is something else going on.

At least she has her friend Danny, a security expert with a shady past, with her to help.  As Hayden questions the resort's employees and guests, she finds that there are more than a few skeletons in the closet that people don't want exposed.

As the first book in a new series, I believe that this one is good.  Hayden is skilled and well-traveled.  She's good at what she does, fiercely loyal to her friends, even the ex-con Danny; but in turn, he's also fiercely loyal to her.  The mystery is well-written, and even though I figured out who the killer was before Hayden (I'm pretty good at it though; I read a lot of mysteries), it was fun getting there.  But I didn't understand why there were no police involved, even when there was a second 'accident.'  You'd think by this time people would be questioning, but only Hayden and Danny were even interested in finding out the truth.

If there was one part that I didn't care for, it was when I learned that her uncle's will allowed her all the money she wanted, but only 'if she kept moving.'  In my book, this isn't conducive to anything remotely resembling a relationship, and doesn't allow her at any time in her life to want to put down roots anywhere.  You'd think even the most adventurous traveler would want to have some sort of a home someday, and possibly a significant other of sorts.  Aside from this, I enjoyed the book and look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Drawing Conclusions (A Sketch in Crime Mystery)

Author:  Deirdre Verne
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars
 
CeCe Prentice - environmentalist, peace-lover, artist—will stop at nothing to discover the truth behind her twin brother’s untimely death.
 
While she never saw eye to eye with her father—the ambitious director of a renowned genetics research center—CeCe Prentice always remained close to her brother, Teddy. When Teddy is found dead at the lab where he worked for their father, CeCe’s efforts to mourn the tragic loss are interrupted by several attempts on her own life.

CeCe is naturally drawn in to the investigation, teaming up with Detective Frank DeRosa, the officer assigned to protect her. Together, they begin looking into the circumstances surrounding Teddy’s death, only to discover the truth may be found closer to home than they think—in CeCe’s own paintings.

********
 
CeCe Prentice is a Freegan - someone who gets as much as they can for free, to use or repurpose it - and lives with several friends in a home left to her by her grandmother.  She is also a portrait artist, and excellent at it.  When her brother Teddy is found dead, she is stunned - after all, he was only twenty-eight - and when there is an attack on her own life the day of Teddy's funeral, she is suspicious.  Then, when Teddy's ex-fiancee kills herself, CeCe is concerned; and when it is discovered that Teddy's death wasn't an accident, she is determined to find out who murdered him and why.
 
When her father has a police detective assigned to watch her day and night, CeCe at first clashes with and dislikes Detective DeRosa, but soon enough she discovers she's beginning to appreciate his attention to detail and the way he thinks, and he begins to remind her of her deceased twin, Teddy; so while she reluctantly accepts the fact that he is there to keep her from harm, she doesn't like it.
 
To say any more would be giving away the premise of the book, so, unfortunately, I will have to leave my description such as it is.  I will tell you that as you read, you begin to see things through the eyes of CeCe, which includes her perceptions of the detective, and those of her parents and her friends.  The story we have before us is a tale of medicine, family, revenge.  At what point do medical experiments become more than that?  At what point do people matter more than medicine?  While most of the lives entwine together in one way or another, it is the sense that you have to decide whether something was wrong in and of itself, or not.
 
I found the book to be quite interesting, the tale worth reading.  Almost immediately we are given bits of information to digest and think about, and I enjoyed that immensely.  And while I understand the Freegan lifestyle, I don't agree with it completely (I am much too comfortable not eating food from a dumpster and food that has been partially consumed by a stranger), so yes, I did have the 'ick factor' that CeCe referred to when she did this (it is in the beginning of the book, so no spoiler there).  That notwithstanding, highly recommended.
 
 
 
 
**Note:  I am a member of the Freecycle Network, and offer items without cost to others if they can use them.  However, I do not "dumpster dive" as CeCe does in order to do so!**

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Deep End (The Country Club Murders Book 1)

Author:  Julie Mulhern
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars
 
Swimming into the lifeless body of her husband’s mistress tends to ruin a woman’s day, but becoming a murder suspect can ruin her whole life.
 
It’s 1974 and Ellison Russell’s life revolves around her daughter and her art. She’s long since stopped caring about her cheating husband, Henry, and the women with whom he entertains himself. That is, until she becomes a suspect in Madeline Harper’s death. The murder forces Ellison to confront her husband’s proclivities and his crimes—kinky sex, petty cruelties and blackmail.

As the body count approaches par on the seventh hole, Ellison knows she has to catch a killer. But with an interfering mother, an adoring father, a teenage daughter, and a cadre of well-meaning friends demanding her attention, can Ellison find the killer before he finds her.

********
 
Ellison Russell swims every morning in the pool at her Country Club.  This morning, however, there's a difference...while on her first lap, she touches the body of her husband's mistress - and instantly becomes a suspect in the murder.  To make matters worse, her husband has disappeared also.  It doesn't help when she tells Detective Jones, the police detective investigating the murder, that she and her husband were on the verge of divorce, and she knew about the mistress.
 
But what has happened is more than just the death of Madeline, the mistress.  Ellison is quickly discovering that there is more to the murder than meets the eye.  In fact, things are getting sticky rather quickly when she begins to find out about her husband's private life and his "friends."  What makes it worse is when there is a break-in at her home and she opens her husband's safe and finds out what he has been doing as a sideline.
 
Suddenly, her entire life is reeling around her and her only thought is to protect her daughter Grace from all the talk and the fact that someone around them could be, and probably is, a murderer.  In doing so, she puts her own life in danger whether she realizes it or not.
 
What we have here is an excellent first book and an excellent mystery.  Ms. Mulhern weaves a tidy tale of murder, blackmail, and life behind the scenes in the Country Club set of the 70's.  In fact, it could even take place today, and if it weren't for the references to music and television of that time, you might never know when everything occurred.  We believe Ellison is only trying to protect her daughter, and that without taking chances she still puts herself in danger.  Her attempt at keeping herself removed from the situation while still involved with all the people she knows, eliminating them one by one as the guilty party, is easy enough to see, and like real life, she makes missteps along the way in those she thinks might be the murderer.
 
There are hints of attraction to both Detective Jones and Hunter Tafft, the attorney her mother has obtained for her, and we see Ellison fighting her emotions down and feeling guilty that she has them in the first place.  We also are with her when she comes to the realization of who the murderer is, and when discovered, the reasons behind it make perfect sense.  When I discovered the killer (before Ellison herself did) I had that 'aha moment', yet it did not detract at all from the rest of the book.  And although I was tempted several times to look at the last few pages and discover if I was right, I did not, and implore you not to do so either, because it will be worth it in the end to 'see how it all comes out.'
 
All in all, again an excellent mystery, highly recommended, and I eagerly await the next in the series.  This book will be released in February 2015.
 
 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Death and the Redheaded Woman (An Auction Block Mystery)

Author:  Loretta Ross
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars
 
When auctioneer Wren Morgan  begins cataloging the contents of the Campbell mansion, she’s unprepared to find something that can’t be appraised—a dead man. After the body turns out to be a criminal with ties to a recent jewel heist, Wren comes face-to-face with Death Bogart. A private eye and part-time bounty hunter, Death is searching for the stolen jewels needed to convict a murderer.
 
Death finds a friend and willing ally in Wren, but they aren’t the only ones searching for treasure. Two ruthless men are also on the hunt, and they will do anything to eliminate the competition. To survive, Death and Wren must solve two mysteries spanning a century and a half and outwit a pair of cold-blooded killers.
 
********
 
Wren Morgan works for the Keystone brothers as an auctioneer.  When the Campbell house needs to be gone through and catalogued, she steps into the house and finds a dead man, who turns out to be a thief looking for jewels from a heist a few years ago.  While at the police station, she runs into a newly licensed bounty hunter, Death Bogart (pronounced "Deeth"), who hears the description and knows who the dead man was.

But there are also rumored to be other jewels missing; those dating back to the Civil War, when the tenant of the house hid them so that the soldiers wouldn't get them, and no one has been able to find them since.  As it turns out, the dead man wasn't the only one searching.  Declan Fairchild, nephew of Ava Fairchild, who willed the house to the historical society, escaped from prison and is also looking for the jewels from the heist, which he hid there - and will do whatever it takes to get them, even murder.

Death is an interesting character in that he's broken in body; he was injured in Afghanistan and is still physically weak at times, but his mind is sharp and he's intelligent, able to think quickly and find a solution to a problem when he knows he can't depend on his physical strength to get him through.  Wren for her part is resourceful, not exactly fearless but not afraid to do what's necessary to achieve her means, either.  Watching these two discover each other and work together makes for a satisfying read.  Even those these two carry most of the book, the secondary characters of the Keystone brothers are amusing to watch.  They look upon Wren as one of their own, while trying to push her and Death together, and not being subtle about it.  In fact, even the police chief isn't subtle about it.

The mystery was involved and moved along at a quick pace, which made it a pleasure to read.  Rarely do I read a book in one sitting, but this one I did.  While I won't say it kept me riveted, I put it down for an hour or so and found myself wanting to finish it, which is praise enough.  This appears to be the beginning of a new series and I look forward to the next book.  Highly recommended. 
 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Twisted Threads (Mainely Needlepoint #1)

Author:  Lea Wait
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars
 
Returning to the quaint coastal town of Harbor Haven, Maine - a place she once called home - Angie Curtis finds her memories aren't all quite pleasant ones...After leaving a decade ago, Angie has been called back to Harbor Haven by her grandmother, Charlotte, who raised her following her mother's disappearance when she was a child. Her mother has been found, and now the question of her whereabouts has sadly become the mystery of her murder.
 
The bright spot in Angie's homecoming is reuniting with Charlotte, who has started her own needlepointing business with a group called Mainely Needlepointers. But when a shady business associate of the stitchers dies suddenly under suspicious circumstances, Charlotte and Angie become suspects. As Angie starts to weave together clues, she discovers that this new murder may have ties to her own mother's cold case...
 
********
 
Angie Curtis has been living in Arizona as an assistant to a P.I.  But when her mother's remains are discovered - nineteen years after she disappeared - Angie returns home to Maine and to her grandmother.  While there, it's discovered that her mother had been murdered, and that her grandmother, Charlotte, is in a bind due to some shady financial dealings, so Angie decides to stay, at least for the time being, to help her grandmother out, and to find out the truth about her mother.
 
It was her friend Lauren who found the body, and some people think that Lauren's father committed the murder, while others don't believe it, but there aren't any other suspects.  To make it worse, the investigating officer is Angie's high school crush, who is now married and has a child.  And when there's another murder, everyone in Mainely Needlepointers is a suspect, but especially Charlotte.
 
I'm not giving away any more of the plot, but I will tell you that this is a very good book.  Ms. Wait offers us a real mystery, one you can get your teeth into and get interested in almost immediately.  I have never been to Maine, but her descriptions are such that you can almost imagine yourself there.  The characters are and situations are believable, without anything that seems far-fetched.  If I have any complaints about the book, it is the fact that Angie drinks and drives.  Yes, I know it only "one beer," but still, it is drinking and driving, and not a good thing at all.  This is one thing I would like eliminated from future books.  (These are the kinds of details I notice).
 
Since there is no love interest (her "crush" is married, alas!) the book concentrates on the murders and how she goes about gathering information to solve them.  A different approach, but one that works.  All in all, highly recommended.
 
 
 


Monday, January 5, 2015

Plain Killing (An Amish Mystery)

Author:  Emma Miller
Genre:  Mystery

Four Stars
 
When the Amish community of Stone Mill, Pennsylvania, refuses to discuss a murder with the police, it's up to Rachel Mast to bridge the cultural gap and stop a killer from striking again. . .While swimming in a local quarry, Rachel and her cousin Mary Aaron discover the body of an Amish girl, fully clothed in her white bonnet, floating face down in the water. The drowned young woman, Beth Glick, had left Stone Mill and her Old Order Amish life a year ago, causing her to be shunned by her family and her people. But if Beth had joined the English world, why was she found dressed in Amish clothing and strangled? Rachel's boyfriend, police detective Evan Park, is getting nowhere with questioning Beth's family. He's also troubled over the fate of three other Amish girls who left Stone Mill in the last two years. As someone who gave up the Plain lifestyle herself then returned to operate a B&B, Rachel is able to use her ties to the community to learn more about the missing girls. But when her search eventually leads to the dark underbelly of the secular world, Rachel finds her own life in dire jeopardy...
 
********
 
Rachel Mast left the Amish sect she grew up in to live in the outside world, and now owns a B & B nearby her family.  She still maintains ties with friends and relatives, and one day gathered a group of Amish girls, including her younger sister and cousin Mary Aaron, for an afternoon of swimming and a picnic at the local quarry.
 
She finds, however, more than an afternoon of fun:  a dead body floating in the quarry.  But not any body:  this is the body of an Amish girl, Beth Glick, who left Stone Mill and her Order over a year ago for the outside world.  Reeling from the shock, she calls a friend to escort the girls back to their families and then waits for the police, including her boyfriend Evan, who also is a police officer.
 
It isn't long before Rachel discovers that other girls have gone missing from the community and resolves to try and locate them.  Even though Evan wants her to stay out of the investigation, the Amish won't talk with him and he knows that he needs Rachel's help if he is to find Beth's killer.
 
This is the second in the series, but it can be read as a stand-alone.  There is enough background given so that we know why Rachel left and how she is coping the world of the Englishers, and her relationships with her friends and family. 
 
When Rachel discovers that there is something deeper occurring than just runaways, she knows that she must try and locate the rest of the girls, with or without Evan's help.  She does, however, have the help of her cousin Mary Aaron, who will prove to be a valuable asset indeed in the investigation.  We are taken from the lush Pennsylvania countryside to a seedy area of New Orleans and back again before we find out the truth.
 
Ms. Miller has a definite way with words, and having been to Lancaster, Pennsylvania many times myself (having relatives near there), I can tell you that her descriptions are right on the mark as far as the area and peoples of the Amish.  We are given a glimpse into the lives of those who generally shun the outside world; and the mystery is well-woven into their world and our own.  What emerges is a strong mystery with dark undertones, but well worth reading.  Recommended.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Cat, the Devil, the Last Escape

Author:  Shirley Rousseau Murphy/J. J. Murphy
Genre:  Drama/Paranormal

Five Stars
 
A ghost cat, the Devil, a deceitful criminal, a father framed for murder, and a vulnerable young girl combine in this magical tale from the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of the Joe Grey feline mysteries, Shirley Rousseau Murphy, and her husband Pat J.J. Murphy.
 
The Devil has been up to no good . . .

Brad Falon, one of Satan’s longtime puppets, orchestrated a deadly robbery and set up his old friend Morgan Blake to take the fall. Now, Morgan has been sentenced to life in prison, and his wife Becky and young daughter Sammie are devastated. Alone and afraid, in need of comfort and a friend, Sammie turns to Misto, the ghost cat.

Behind bars, her father Morgan makes fast friends with an old con named Lee Fontana who knows a few tricks about outwitting evil. They plan a wily escape to bring the real killer to justice and clear Morgan’s name for good. All it will take is outsmarting the Devil one more time...

********
  
A young girl holds the key...
 
I really didn't know what to expect when I read this book.  Having been a fan of the author's for quite some time, I knew beforehand that it would be good.  I just didn't realize that it would be, well, as intense a read as it was.  It seems that years ago, the devil lost a bet to a late relative of Sammie's, and he's been trying to collect ever since...
 
Lee Fontana is serving time in prison for past crimes committed.  There is nothing spectacular about the crimes he committed, or why he is there.  He isn't in the best of health, but when he improves slightly, he is moved to a prison in Atlanta, where he encounters another inmate, Morgan Blake. 
 
Morgan is innocent of the crimes he committed, and his wife Becky is trying to get an appeal for him to prove this.  But the man who set her husband up, Brad Falon, wants him right where he is, because he wants Morgan's wife Becky.  And he will stop at no means to get her;even breaking into her house or threatening her or her young daughter, Sammie.
 
But Sammie has a protector - the ghost of her dead cat, Misto, who was killed while trying to protect his family from Brad once before.  And Misto also protects Lee, who can see the cat as much as Sammie, the cat being as much a part of the story as the others.
 
Soon the lives of all will intersect with each other, and those of even more.  For it turns out that Sammie has a gift and a curse.  She has dreams that foretell the future, and know that past.  Even at her young age of nine, she dreams things that will occur.  She knows there is a connection between herself and Lee, and when Lee is confronted with this, he at first denies it, then realizes he must face his own past to free his future, and that of Morgan and his family.
 
I don't want to say anything more, but I will tell you that this book has a feel to it of the past.  Almost as if everything you are reading takes place in the past, not the present.  It drew me in and kept me reading through most of the night.  The characters are well-drawn, the plot is profoundly thoughtful.  Could this happen?  Would this happen?  You feel as if you are there in the middle of the story, watching, hoping for the best of outcomes while wondering if the danger has passed.
 
This book is is a sequel to The Cat, the Devil and Lee Fontana, and is definitely worth reading even if you have not read the first book (which I have not but intend to).  Highly recommended. 


 
 

A Hiss Before Dying (A Mrs. Murphy Mystery)

Author:  Rita Mae Brown Genre:  Mystery Hardcover; Ebook ISBN #:  9780553392494 Bantam Publishing 384 Pages $14.16; $13.99 Amazon Ma...