Friday, June 24, 2016

The Bluebonnet Betrayal: A Potting Shed Mystery

Author:  Marty Wingate
Genre:  Mystery

Ebook
Alibi Publishing
$2.99 Amazon
August 2, 2016

Five Stars

Pru's life in England is coming full circle.  A Texas transplant, she's married to the love of her life, thriving in the plum gardening position she shares with her long-lost brother, and prepping a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit featuring the beloved bluebonnets of the Texas hill country.  Technically, Twyla Woodford, the president of a gardening club in the Lone Star State, is in charge of the London event, but Pru seems to be the one getting her hands dirty.  When they finally do meet, Pru senses a kindred spirit - until Twyla turns up dead.

Although Twyla's body was half buried under a wall in their display, Pru remains determined to mount a spectacular show.  Twyla would have insisted.  So Pru recruits her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, to go undercover and do a bit of unofficial digging into Twyla's final hours.  If Pru has anything to say about it, this killer is going to learn the hard way not to mess with Texas. 

********

Pru Parke is a master gardener who moved from Texas to Great Britain after her father's death, in hope of connecting with her older brother Simon, whom she didn't even know she had.  Now, a couple of years later, she is happily tending the gardens at Greenoak in Hampshire with Simon, while living there with her fairly-new husband, Christopher Pearce, who retired as a London DCI and now works as a local constable.

She has been contacted by a friend she once knew in Austin regarding a Texas garden at the annual Chelsea Garden Show; it seems the organizer and president of the Austin Rock Garden Society, Twyla Woodford, it isn't able to arrive for a day or so and has asked for Pru's help to oversee the installing of the garden, and knowing Pru's reputation, has asked her to fill in until then.  Pru will have help from the rest of crew - Ivory, Rosette, Sweetie, KayAnn and Nell - so it's not as if she'll be on her own.

Once everything is in full swing, Pru is called to the garden one evening to finally meet Twyla.  She feels an immediate bond with her, and listens to Twyla's enigmatic ramblings about the garden and some sort of danger.  The next day, she arrives at the garden and sees Sweetie, who starts to scream.  Looking into the hole that will become More Than Rock and Stone, she sees Twyla, buried under a pile of rocks.

Once it has been determined that Twyla was murdered, Pru begins to wonder who would do such a thing.  One of the women?  The contractor, Chiv, or his partner, Iris?  And what connection to Twyla is there between the designer, Roddy MacWeeks, the sponsor, Forde, and Twyla's ex-husband, Damien, who is footing the entire bill?  Even though she's warned right from the beginning by DCI French to stay out of it, she begins to sense that something just isn't right and decides to do a little sleuthing - along with a help from Christopher, who goes undercover - to see if she can discover who would want Twyla dead, and why...

I truly enjoyed this book.  I felt the mystery was 'held back' in the way of not giving out clues right
away to the murderer, and that is a very good thing..  You had to search them out, and since the main clue was a sweatshirt the color of bluebonnets - a unique shade of blue - (I know from personal experience, since my Dad was a Texan), it didn't come easy, as the they were given to everyone on the team, which left us with quite a dearth of suspects, and leaving Pru with plenty of people who had alibis that were less than stellar.

She sifts through her list of suspects, but there is really no evidence to rely on.  It all comes down to things people say and do.  But with everyone keeping secrets (whether they be large or small), it makes it that much tougher for both Inspector French and Pru to find the truth of the matter.  As Pru gets closer to the truth, it becomes apparent that danger also involves someone wanting Pru out of the way permanently.

When the killer is finally revealed, the answers are all given, and we are left with the satisfaction of not only finding out the truth, but also the truth that we have been highly entertained for several hours in a very good book.

As always, Ms. Wingate has given us another wonderful tale that provides us with enjoyment and is full of interesting characters.  There is not only Pru and Christopher, whose love and affection for each other is apparent by something as simple as a wink, but the many of the secondary characters are worth knowing as well.  You might begin not liking a character, but halfway through the book, you begin to see things as they do, and suddenly you change your impression of them.  Such is the power of Ms. Wingate's writing.  The characters are engaging, three-dimensional, likable, and, all in all, they grow on you.

The Bluebonnet Betrayal is the fifth book in the Potting Shed mysteries.  I have given a little information in the beginning paragraph for those who have not read the previous entries in this series.  If you have not, I urge you to do so; you will not be disappointed.  Highly recommended.



More on Marty Wingate's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/marty-wingate/                                                        

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Madness of Mercury (A Zodiac Mystery)

Author:  Connie di Marco
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback, Ebook
ISBN:  9780738749125
Midnight Ink
312 Pages
$1257; $7.99 Amazon
June 8, 2016

Four Stars

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti's life is turned upside down when she becomes the target of the city's newest cult leader, Reverend Roy of the Prophet's Tabernacle.  Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who's caring for two elderly aunts.  One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy.  To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long-lost nephew arrives.  The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become.  Is the young man truly a member of the family?  Can astrology confirm that?  Julia's not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn't merely the messenger of the gods - he was a trickster and a liar as well.

********

Julia Bonatti is an astrologer living and practicing in San Francisco.  When she returns home from a visit to her friend Dorothy's - where the body of the gardener, Luis, is discovered - she finds a bit of a problem:  people are picketing her home and later, are deeming her a witch.  To boot, someone has hacked into her email, she's been threatened at knifepoint, her window has been broken, she has to leave her apartment and move to her grandmother's (where the heater isn't working and it's December) - well, you get the drift.  Her life isn't exactly a bed of roses right now; in fact, it's pretty much nothing but thorns.

Since her fellow members of the occult are also being targeted, they're all but sure it's due to the Reverend Roy's followers:  a charismatic man whose people are devoutly devoted to rooting 'sinners' out of San Francisco; and to make matters worse, Julia discovers that Dorothy's elderly Aunt Eunice is under his spell along with her caretaker, Gudrun.  As if that weren't enough, Dorothy's other aunt, Evandra, is convinced that Dorothy is attempting to kill her, because Dorothy inherits everything if the sisters die...that is, until a handsome young Australian shows up on the doorstep of the Telegraph Hill home and states he's Reggie, the last male heir and the fortune goes to him.

The police, on the other hand, are being told to 'lay off the reverend,' and so aren't doing much of anything to help the people being harassed, which isn't helping the situation any, and it only seems to be worsening, with her friend's shop being firebombed.

When Eunice packs up and leaves Gamble House for Prophet's Paradise, the reverend's compound, Julia knows she can't sit by and watch the elderly woman be taken advantage of, so decides to find Prophet's Paradise and rescue Eunice, but it's not as easy as it seems...

The Madness of Mercury is the start of a new series centering around Astrology, and how it affects peoples' lives.  I found the mystery to be quite good, with enough twists to keep the plot interesting, but not so many as to seem unbelievable.  Julia herself is a level-headed woman who doesn't go out and take chances without thinking things through.  While the other characters weren't as well-defined, there was still enough to them that they didn't feel one-dimensional.

There's a lot about Astrology, a little paranormal (as in ghosts), and it's all wrapped up in an entertaining package that's enjoyable to read.  When we finally find out the killer, it comes as a surprise, even though there were clues along the way; but enough red herrings to keep us wondering almost to the end.  Recommended.



More on Connie di Marco:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/connie-di-marco/                                                                          

Friday, June 17, 2016

With a Vengeance (A Zoe Chambers Mystery #4)

Author:  Annette Dashofy
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635110203; 9781635110173
Henery Press
272 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $4.99 Amazon
May 3, 2016

Five Stars

Paramedic Zoe Chambers and the rest of rural Monogahela County's EMS and fire personnel are used to wading into the middle of trouble to rescue the sick and the injured.  But when someone with an ax to grind seeks retribution by staging accident scenes and gunning down the first responders, Zoe finds herself forced to not only treat her own brethren of the front lines, but also, in her role as deputy coroner, seek out whoever is killing her friends.  At the same time, Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams races to track down a gun, a mysterious all-terrain vehicle, and the sniper before Zoe goes back on duty, placing herself - and Pete - firmly in the gunman's crosshairs.

********

Zoe Chambers is taking a Citizen's Police Academy class when a chilling call comes in to Pete Adams, Vance Township's police chief and Zoe's boyfriend.  He motions for Zoe to go with him, and what they find isn't pretty:  two of Zoe's fellow paramedics have been ambushed, leaving one of them dead and another seriously injured.  But things get worse the next night when two firefighters are ambushed, again leaving one dead and another injured.

They now know there's a sniper out there gunning for first responders, but who?  And why?  Pete does what he can: while searching for the killer, he orders his officers out on all calls with the medics and firemen, but even he knows it's only a temporary fix.  And he can't help worrying even more because Zoe is one of those medics.

His only leads are a local wanna-be thug who seems too dumb to be true, and eventually someone a little closer to home, who may also not be the right person, but Pete can't afford to take chances.  At least he's got help from the county, with Detective Wayne Baronick on his side, but it doesn't seem to be enough, and Pete is rushing against the clock to find the killer.

But Zoe has problems of her own:  she isn't finding much time to spend with Pete, and she's also pretty much homeless:  with her home destroyed by fire, she's taken refuge with a friend, Rose, but even though they've known each other their entire lives, Rose is a recent widow, and things don't go as swimmingly as planned...

I loved this book.  It has all the elements of a great read:  intrigue, suspense, a little romance, and not one, but two intelligent protagonists.  Ms. Dashofy's characters are warm, palpable, well-defined people you'd like to know and spend time with.  The writing is full of dynamism and energy; it makes you want to read non-stop until the book is finished.  You feel involved in the action, and that is a very good thing indeed; it shows a flair for writing and making the words and characters come alive on the page.  If a series can indeed get better with the passage of time, Ms. Dashofy proves it to be true.

When we reach the end of the book and the killer is finally revealed, it puts together a twisted plot from a deranged mind that even as it makes sense, leaves one feeling with a sort of sorrow that someone could be driven to the edge of insanity for more reasons than we can imagine.  It is, however, an extremely satisfying ending, in more ways than one, even while leaving questions for the next in series, which I greatly anticipate.  This is the fourth book in the series, although it can be read as a stand alone.  Highly recommended.



More on Annette Dashofy's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/annette-dashofy/

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Maggie Dove: A Mystery

Author:  Susan Breen
Genre:  Mystery

Ebook
Alibi Publishing
225 Pages
$2.99 Amazon
June 4, 2016
Four Stars

When Sunday School teacher Maggie Dove finds her hateful next-door neighbor Marcus Bender lying dead under her beloved oak tree - the one he demanded she cut down - she figures the man dropped dead of a mean heart.  But Marcus was murdered, and the prime suspect is a young man Maggie loves like a son.  Peter Nelson was the worst of Maggie's Sunday School students; he was also her late daughter's fiance, and he's been a devoted friend to Maggie in the years since her daughter's death.

Maggie can't lose Peter, too.  So she sets out to find the real murderer.  To do that, she must move past the grief that has immobilized her all these years.  She must probe the hidden corners of her little village on the Hudson River.  And, when another death strikes even closer to home, Maggie must find the courage to defend the people and the town she loves - even if it kills her.

********

Maggie Dove is a middle-aged woman who lives in the small village of Darby, and has done so her entire life.  Both her husband and daughter are deceased, she teaches Sunday School, is a mystery writer with writer's block since her daughter's death, and her most important link to Juliet, her daughter, is Peter Nelson, her late daughter's boyfriend.

She also has a neighbor. Marcus Bender, whom everyone (including his wife) refers to by his last name.  And he hates Maggie, and she hates him.  Mainly because he's a fairly newcomer to town, and he wants her to cut down her oak tree, which has been there since she was a small child, and holds fond memories for her.  Maggie refuses, and soon discovers that Bender attempted to poison her tree to get rid of it.  One evening, she confronts him about it and tells her to stay away from her tree - and the same evening she finds Bender dead - in front of her oak.

At first everyone thinks Bender merely died of a heart attack, but it is later discovered that he was poisoned by an overdose of Ecstasy.  Walter Campbell, the police chief, thinks the killer is Peter, since he had a past history of misuse before Peter himself became a police officer.  But Maggie knows in her heart that there's no way Peter could have committed murder, and decides to try and find the real killer.

When there is another murder by the same means, and Peter was known to have a recent argument with this victim, it only makes it look worse.  Maggie is more determined than ever to find out the truth, even if it means putting herself in danger...

This is a book that is more than a mystery:  It's not a light read; in fact, it's rather dark.  It's about a woman who has lost both her husband and her daughter, and after twenty years is slowly finding a way to let go of her grief, and Peter, who is hanging onto guilt and it's tainted his life evermore because of that.  It's about their relationship to each other - Peter was with Juliet on the night she died - and how it's left them co-dependent upon each other and not able to move on.

When Maggie finally figures out the killer and why, it is almost too late, but it all makes sense.  We are left with the hint that there will be others in this series, and Maggie will have found a new purpose to her life, and sometimes you discover that people you thought you knew can still surprise you.  Recommended.


Goodreads:   https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1669666241                                             

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Death at a Fixer-Upper (A Home Sweet Home Mystery)

Author:  Sarah T. Hobart
Genre:  Mystery

Ebook
Alibi Publishing
255 Pages
$2.99 Amazon
May 17, 2016

Two Stars

Newly armed with her real estate license, Sam Turner loves Arlinda, her quirky seaside hometown in Northern California.  But life by the beach isn't exactly a breeze:  She and her teenage son, Max, are being evicted from their apartment, her long absent ex-husband unexpectedly resurfaces, and her possibly romantic relationship with sexy Chief of Police Bernie Aguilar is, well...complicated.  All Sam wants is a quick and easy sale.  What she gets instead is a killer headache - or three.

Sam's trying to drum up interest in 13 Aster Lane, a rambling Victorian fixer-upper that's more than a little neglected - and possibly haunted - so when a trio of offers arrive out of the blue, she can't help thinking it's too good to be true.  But after a new client drops dead on the property, she fears she's lost more than a commission.  Before Sam's out of house and home, she must unmask a killer targeting her clients, or the only property she'll be moving will be plots - at the local cemetery.

*******

The book starts off with Sam Turner, new real estate agent, getting ready to do a walk-through on a home that's been in disrepair for years, joined by Biddie, a seasoned co-worker.  The front door is boarded up, as are most of the windows, and they must enter through the back.  There is a tenant in the house, the ex-nurse of the man who lived there, so I wondered: why the boards?  (I mean, there's the back entrance, but if there was a kitchen fire, well..you get the drift).  This question wasn't answered until fairly late in the book, but I felt we should have known long before then.

Anyway, Biddie apparently sees something that isn't there, mutters about blood and roses, and passes out.  But Sam sees nothing, and when Biddie awakens, they leave.  When she arrives back at her office there are three offers on the dilapidated mansion, which surprises her.  Later on, when one of the people who made an offer is found dead on the unkempt grounds of the home, the chase is on for a killer...

I felt that this book could have been oh-so-good if there were less detail paid to things that really didn't matter (why all the attention on the kinetic race?  What was pertinent in that could have been said in a page instead of all the detail on things that had nothing to do with the murder).  As it were, because of this, we didn't get to know any of the characters:  there was really no depth to any of them, not even Sam.  Also, it seemed to me that there were a lot of people who were used as "plot lines"; people who show up in the book who become part of a plot - Gail, Biddie, etc., but we never see nor hear anything about them again - and they don't have a whole lot to do with the plot, anyway.  All we do know about Sam is that she has a short fuse (her reactions to a stranger in town who shows up a little later in the book for no reason at all).  Even her ex-husband only makes a quick cameo appearance, and that's to add to the plot, and then he disappears from the book again.  The characters aren't engaging, and they must be in order to create a series that you want to read.

There were other things that bothered me:  Why has she been living in a dump? What has she been doing for a living previously to try and give her son a better place to live?  She doesn't spend a lot of time trying to get clients, or even working, and she comes off as having no ambition whatsoever (which would explain the above questions somewhat).  There's also the fact that she's a real estate agent who doesn't like people.  Say what?  Why would you go into a people-oriented profession if you didn't like them?  That's like being a veterinary assistant but not liking animals.  It doesn't make any sense - like a lot of this book.

Bernie, her love interest, is her sister's ex-husband, and she wants to sleep with him...which, unfortunately, gave me an 'ick' factor.  Did she want to sleep with him when he was married to her sister?  (Yes, another 'ick).  It will certainly make future books interesting.  Not to mention the fact of what will Max call him?  Uncle Bernie?  Dad?

When we finally find out who the killer is, and why, we realize there have been no clues to the identity, because, like many of the others, the person wasn't in the book enough to really give us any.  I felt that if there less description of things that didn't matter then perhaps more could have been given to character development, and it would have made for a much better book in the end.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Fixer-Upper-Home-Sweet-Mystery-ebook/dp/B012089P3W/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1668578893

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Sound of Murder (An Ivy Meadows Mystery #2)

Author:  Cindy Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781493390045; 9781493390014
Henery Press
256 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $2.99 Amazon
October 6, 2015

Five Stars

All Ivy Meadows wants is to be an actor.  And a private investigator.  Plus she'd really like a pair of clean underwear, a place to stay since her apartment caught fire, and to overcome her fear of singing in public.  Minor inconveniences aside, Ivy might be on a roll.  She's just landed her first real PI case, a seeming suicide in a retirement community.  Not only that, but a big New York producer is coming to Arizona to see Ivy in the world premiere of The Sound of Cabaret (singing nuns AND Berlin burlesque).

But all is not raindrops on roses.  A creep in a convertible is tailing Ivy, a local posse member is way to interested in her investigation, and something is seriously wrong with one of her castmates.  And that suicide -- could it be murder?  As the curtain rises, Ivy finds herself smack in the sights of a serial killer.

********

Ivy Meadows (nee Olive Ziegwart) begins her day by telling her Uncle Bob she's just managed to set her apartment on fire, leaving her temporarily homeless.  While trying to juggle two jobs - working for her uncle in his P.I. business and act in the local dinner theatre - she is given a great (what she thinks) offer by her friend Marge:  temporarily move into the senior community Sunnydale and house sit for Marge's friend Bernice while she is out of town.  Accepting with alacrity, Ivy thinks everything will be hunky-dory from here on in.  But, as Ivy should already know, nothing in her life is ever that easy...

She's just started seeing the cute firefighter that helped put out the fire.  She has a semi-starring role in the new play, The Sound of Cabaret, which is a conglomeration of The Sound of Music-meets-Cabaret.  She has a beautiful home where she can temporarily live...and a pool to clean, which terrifies her, since she's afraid of water.  Her car keeps combusting at random moments.  Ivy has to sing in front of an audience, and she has a serious case of stage fright.  And, of course, there's the issue of Charlie, the dead guy across the street who committed suicide, but his daughter doesn't think so, and wants to hire Ivy to find out the truth.

After she convinces her uncle to let her accept the case (because he thinks the man did commit suicide merely because he was old and recently lost his beloved wife), Ivy begins her investigation.  But then Marge takes a nasty fall in her garage and has to be hospitalized, leaving Ivy to move into Marge's to stay with her pug Lassie - which also means Ivy has to go next door to Bernice's to water the plants every day - and now she has two pools to contend with - but seems to have an answer to that one at least, since her fellow actor Roger agrees to clean the pools for the occasional home-cooked meal.

Still, Ivy soon realizes things aren't adding up the way they should, and she's convinced Charlie didn't kill himself.  She also thinks Bob's friend Hank may have had something to do with the murder.  Ivy's life has certainly become complicated, and finding out the truth this time might actually force her to confront her own demons...

Ivy wants to have two careers - be a private investigator and an actress, and sometimes has trouble balancing them, not always realizing that in order to achieve a dream that combines two careers, something's always got to give.  She manages to keep it all together - just barely - while trying to multi-task, and it's almost too late when she finally manages to put everything together.  When we finally get to the end, Ivy's disbelief mirrors our own at the reasons why and the callousness of it all.

I really loved this book.  The locations were expressive and realistic; Ivy is a bundle of energy and has a good heart, even though she's forgetful at times.  She wants things to work out for others, but sometimes forgets to take care of herself.  The characters are written singularly well, with their own eccentricities and characteristics.  Ms. Brown has a knack for creating people out of paper and bringing them to life on the page, mixing mystery with humor, which makes for a very good book indeed.  Highly recommended.



More on Cindy Brown's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/cindy-brown/                                 

Oliver Twisted (An Ivy Meadows Mystery #3)

Author:  Cindy Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635110449; 9781635110418
Henery Press
280 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $4.99 Amazon
June 21, 2016

Five Stars

Thieves.  Murder.  And an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet!  When Ivy Meadows lands a gig with the book-themed cruise line Get Lit!, she thinks she's died and gone to Broadway.  Not only has she snagged a starring role in a musical production of Oliver Twist, she's making bank helping her PI uncle investigate a string of onboard thefts, all while sailing to Hawaii on the S. S. David Copperfield.  But Ivy is cruising for disaster.  Her acting contract somehow skipped the part about aerial dancing forty feet above the stage, her Uncle Bob is seriously sidetracked by a suspicious blonde, and - oh yeah - there's a corpse in her closet.  Forget catching crooks.  Ivy's going to have a Dickens of a time just surviving.

********

Ivy Meadows is on a cruise ship, ready to perform in a seagoing version of Oliver Twist.  But she's not there as just a performer - both she and her Uncle Bob are undercover (he as a wealthy rancher) in order to discover who is stealing items from passengers traveling on the Get Lit! cruise line.  If they do solve the mystery of the thefts, they'll each receive a healthy bonus which will put a nice amount in Ivy's bank account.

But it doesn't bode well when Ivy enters her small stateroom and finds the body of her roommate stuffed in the small closet.  Nor when she's forced into another stateroom with a performer who hates her and doesn't try to hide it.  It also doesn't help that she's still not fond of the water, a precocious child actor is doing his best to cause problems (including pickpocketing tourists), a Russian performer is trying to get her in the sack, she has to perform forty feet above the stage (without a net) and her uncle is apparently hooked but good on an attractive blonde who may not be who she claims she is.  There's also the fact that her brother Cody has disappeared, and Ivy, stuck on the boat, can't do anything about it, especially with the spotty cell reception.

So how is she going to find out who the guilty parties are?  Along with those mentioned above, there's also Jonas, the director of the play, who brought along his stepfather Theo Pushwright, who has no problem proselytizing his beliefs to anyone who will listen, and selling his book, Positively Powerful, and his ghostwriter, Madalina; not to mention it could also involve any one of the crew members.  Eventually Ivy even has nagging suspicions about her friend and fellow actor Timothy, who got her the job in the first place.

With no dearth of suspects, and no real clues to go on, Ivy and Bob have their work cut out for them.  But it's even tougher when Ivy is supposed to remain in character - as Nancy, a character from Oliver who is murdered by her boyfriend - at any and all hours, to 'work the ship,' so to speak.  It isn't until there's a second death that Ivy starts to put the pieces together, but discovers she still may not have it right, and gets help from an unlikely source...

This is the third book in the Ivy Meadows series, and just as much fun as the first two.  Ms. Brown grabs us with the first few paragraphs and keeps our attention throughout the book, wanting not only to know who committed murder, but also the outcome of the many subplots, which includes Ivy's predilection for originally 'picking the wrong horse'.  Ivy is an endearing character, and even though she has flaws like anyone else, her love of both her brother and her uncle show us that her heart is always right where it's supposed to be.  She somehow manages to juggle both her careers (as an actress and a private investigator) and still come through shining in the end.

When we finally find out who the murderer is, and why they did it, it is rather sad, but we still feel justified in the action.  And there is a very funny scene toward the end involving Oliver (don't peek!) that makes it all worthwhile.  Ms. Brown manages to create delightful characters, humorous situations, and even somewhat likable killers, which makes for a very good book indeed.  Highly recommended. 



More on Cindy Brown's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/cindy-brown/                                                       

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fixin' to Die (A Kenni Lowry Mystery Book 1)

Author:  Tonya Kappes
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #: 9781635110401; 9781635110371
Henery Press
224 Pages
$31.95; $14.40; $2.99 Amazon
June 14, 2016

Five Stars

Kenni Lowry likes to think the zero crime rate in Cottonwood, Kentucky is due to her being sheriff, but she quickly discovers the ghost of her grandfather, the town's previous sheriff, has been scaring off any would-be criminals since she was elected.  When the town's most beloved doctor is found murdered on the very same day as a jewelry store robbery, and a mysterious symbol ties the crime scenes together, Kenni must satisfy her hankerin' for justice by nabbing the culprits.  With the help of her poppa, a lone deputy, and an annoyingly cute, too-big-for-his-britches State Reserve officer, Kenni must solve both cases and prove to the whole town, and herself, that she's worth her salt before time runs out.

********

Kendrick 'Kenni' Lowry is the sheriff of small town Cottonwood, Kentucky, and has been so for the past two years...the past two quiet, peaceful years - but that's about to end.  One early morning she gets a call on her radio that Doctor Ronald Walton has been found dead in his home.  Kenni is stunned; this is the doctor that delivered her and served the town loyally.  But when she arrives, she's not prepared for seeing her first dead body - especially this one.  Doctor Walton has been killed in a most brutal way, and she knows she's going to need help in solving the murder, so she calls the Kentucky State Reserves for help, and they send her one Finn Vincent, who shows up in an out-of-place suit and by-the-book look.

Even though she also has the help of her jailer, Wyatt Granger, it doesn't seem enough when there is also a break-in at White's Jewelry.  When Kenni goes to investigate, she finds not the owner, Viola, but Polly Parker, who had offered to take her place due to Viola's being ill.  When Polly tells her that she had to use to key to enter and found the place in a mess, Kenni becomes suspicious and decides to watch Polly in the future.

Soon the townspeople are talking about a serial killer on the loose, and it's all Kenni can do to keep her wits about her while trying to solve the two cases and wondering if they're related.  Then she learns something from the coroner that convinces her they are, but she still doesn't know who would want Doc Walton dead, and rob the jewelry store to boot.

But Kenni doesn't realize just how complicated her life is about to become: at least not until the ghost of her grandfather (and former sheriff) shows up right in the middle of the investigation.  Once she realizes he's really there (after several incidents where various townspeople are sure she's about to pass out) she embraces the fact that her beloved Poppa is there to both help her and guide her through the investigation, even if it means that others might think she's suffering a tad from the stress of trying to solve the murder...

When I first started reading this book, I thought 'oh, great, stereotypes' but as I kept reading I really began to enjoy it.  Kenni is used to being the sheriff in a small town - one so small the local movie theater is someone's basement - and feels out of her league with the occurrence of a murder.  But she's determined to solve it, partly because she wants to prove to the town she can, and partly because she wants to make her late grandfather proud.  What isn't helping is there's a slight problem with her mother, who wants her to give it all up and become a hairdresser, and also the teeny fact that she's attracted to her newly appointed deputy Finn.

But Kenni plods on, even though she knows some of the townspeople aren't happy with her questions, and with the help of Poppa, who can go places that she can't, she begins to put together the evidence to solve the murder and the robbery, which she knows are tied together.  But what is, isn't; and there are red herrings aplenty which almost lead her down the wrong path.  When the killer is finally revealed, it comes as a surprise, and the clues weren't even thought of as such, which is how it was supposed to be.

Ms. Kappes has put together a group of quirky characters in a small-town setting that absolutely works and would make us feel right at home in Cottonwood, having coffee at the local diner to start our day.  An altogether delightful book that makes me eager for the next in the series.  Highly recommended.



More on Tonya Kappe's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/k/tonya-kappes/                        

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cracked to Death (A Webb's Glass Shop Mystery)

Author:  Cheryl Hollon
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback, Ebook
ISBN #:  9781617737640
Kensington Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99, $5.99 Amazon
June 28, 2016

Five Stars

When a treasure hunts leads to deadly plunder, it's up to glass shop owner Savannah Webb and her trusty investigative posse to map out the true motives of a killer...

It's the dog days of summer in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Webb's Glass Shop proprietor Savannah Webb has an eco-friendly plan to help locals escape the heat -- a recyclable bottle-crafting workshop taught by reticent store manager Amanda Blake.  Turns out, the class is a bigger smash than expected, thanks in part to a pair of staggeringly old bottles brought in by snorkeler Martin Lane...

 Linked to a storied pirate shipwreck, the relics definitely pique Savannah's interest.  But intrigue turns to shock when Martin's lifeless body washes ashore the next morning, another glass artifact tucked in his dive bag.  With cell phone records connecting Amanda to the drowning, Savannah must voyage through uncharted territory to exonerate her colleague and capture the twisted criminal behind Martin's death...

********

Treasure hunting in Florida doesn't always end the way it should...

Savannah Webb has finally opened Webb's Glass Studio, where advanced students can create their works of art.  In her original Webb's Glass Shop, she is still conducting classes for beginners, and her friend Amanda Blake is all set to teach the first class.  Even though Amanda is eager, she's nervous and asks for Savannah to stay for a time until she feels confident.  Even though Savannah agrees, she's sure Amanda will be fine.  When almost all the students have arrived, one latecomer, Martin Lane, arrives with an extra - two old cobalt blue bottles, and asks for help in determining the age, and if they are worth anything.

The next day, a couple out walking their dog stumble across the body of a dead diver, who also happens to have the fragments of another cobalt blue bottle in his dive bag.  Homicide Detective Parker takes the fragments to Savannah and asks her if she can determine anything about the bottle.  After putting two and two together, Savannah realizes the diver is none other than Martin.

Once it is also determined that Martin's death was a homicide, the next question is who is the killer, and why anyone would want him dead.  She's not getting any help from Captain Collins, who was a friend of his, nor from his ex-girlfriend, Vicki.  One would go so far as to say that she's even being warned away from asking any questions at all.

But something else is in the works, and even Savannah couldn't have guessed this:  Amanda is slowly becoming the prime suspect in Martin's death, even though she swears she had nothing to do with it.  So this leaves Savannah and her 'crew' - Edward, her neighboring pub owner and maybe-could be-boyfriend, and Jacob, a teenager with Asperger's syndrome and an uncanny ability to decipher things - to help her clear Amanda and find out who the true murderer is.

I really enjoyed this book, the third in the series (following Pane and Suffering and Shards of Murder).  It is filled with a cast of characters who have become fast friends in a short amount of time.  One can't help but like them, quirks and all.  It's also fun to watch Savannah's growing fondness for Edward, and listening to her inner voice give us her  clues to the type of boyfriend he'd be if she decides to move forward with the relationship (along with other things she's thinking about at any given time).

When the killer is finally revealed, it happens rather quickly but all makes sense.  Yet it is the fact of what seems to be finding more about the bottles - which are rumored to be part of Gaspar the Pirate's treasure - and how it becomes the key to the murder - that holds this mystery together, and shows us that true friends will always believe in you, even though you may disappoint them sometimes.  But it also brings their friendship to new levels, and brings Savannah closer to the person she was meant to be.  Highly recommended.



More on Cheryl Hollon's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/cheryl-hollon/


                                                                                               

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Without a Doubt (A Carol Childs Mystery Vol. 3)

Author:  Nancy Cole Silverman
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback, Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635110258
Henery Press
258 Pages
$15.95; $4.99 Amazon
May 24, 2016

Five Stars

As radio reporter Carol Childs investigates a series of Beverly Hills jewelry heists, she realizes her FBI boyfriend, Eric, is working the same case.  Even worse, she may have inadvertently helped the suspect escape.  The situation intensifies when the suspect calls the radio station during a live broadcast, baiting Carol deeper into the investigation.  In order for her to uncover the truth, Carol must choose between her job and her personal relationships.  What started out as a coincidence between Carol and Eric becomes a race for the facts - pitting them against one another - before the thieves can pull off a daring escape, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, and taking the jewels with them.  

********

Carol Childs is on the street with her microphone and her best friend Sherri, taste testing specialty chocolate shops for charity.  Just when they are ready to leave they look across the street and see Carol's FBI boyfriend Eric...with another woman, the socialite Carmen Montague, leaving a high end jewelry store.  She knows he's probably undercover, and resolves not to think any more about it, when, right as they're entering the limousine, a bomb goes off in the store.  Carol, her reporter's instinct kicking in, heads over to the store to see if she can find out the truth of what's going on.

After interviewing a couple of people and relaying the information to her station manager, Tyler Hunt, she heads back to her jeep, meeting an old woman with shopping bags heading in the same direction.  Carol offers to help her, and in return, the old woman presses a gift into her hand and disappears - a lovely, jeweled phoenix brooch.

When Carol returns to the station, she finds that Kari Rhodes, the entertainment reporter, is out ill with chicken pox and Carol will have to do Kari's job until she returns.  Which seems easy enough, but all is not what it seems...

Carol soon finds herself mixing with the celebrity crowd, and that means mixing with Carmen Montague and her escort, the now-she's-sure-he's-undercover Eric.  And he isn't pleased by the intrusion, even though she assures him that she had no choice in the matter.  It also isn't helping that the station owner's wife, Bunny Morganstern, has insinuated herself into the mix and decided she wants to take over for Kari instead.  But when Carmen unexpectedly dies at an awards after-party, with dozens of people around, has Carol wondering if she wasn't murdered, and if so, who would want her dead and why?  And then there's the little fact that there are high-end jewelry heists going on, and that the old woman may not have been an old woman after all, but a jewel thief - and Carol's suddenly smack-dab in the center of the action.

Carol, her reporter's instinct always on, is determined to find who murdered Carmen while trying to stay out of what is obviously an FBI investigation.  But she finds it's not so easy when the FBI knows the jewel thief has suddenly decided to make her the person they'd most like to speak with instead...

What we have is another lively book by Ms. Silverman that is filled with intrigue, action, and more than one person who isn't what they appear to be.  She has a true talent for filling the pages with engaging dialogue, interesting characters, and a plot that is taut, well-written, and draws you into the tale right from the beginning.  When we reach the climax, there is both completion and a promise of what is to come, leaving the reader with a feeling of bittersweet satisfaction and sanguine expectations.

I truly enjoyed this book and it kept me riveted from beginning to end.  This is the third book in the series, but can be read as a stand alone.  Highly recommended.



More on Nancy Cole Silverman's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/s/nancy-cole-silverman/                                                                               

Watching the Detectives (The Country Club Murders Book 5)

Author:  Julie Mulhern Genre:  Mystery, Suspense Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781635112146; 978163511211...