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

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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?

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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.

https://www.amazon.com/Mulch-about-Murder-Local-Mystery/dp/1496700295/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1989040958

More on Edith Maxwell's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/edith-maxwell/

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

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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.

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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.

https://www.amazon.com/Clock-Strikes-Giulia-Driscoll-Mystery/dp/163511215X/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2064590002

More on Alice Loweecey's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/alice-loweecey/

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

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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?

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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.

https://www.amazon.com/Ivy-Get-Your-Meadows-Mystery/dp/1635112079/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2051459900

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

Cremains of the Day (A Tallie Graver Mystery)

Author:  Misty Simon Genre:  Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781496712219 Kensington Publishing 293 Pages Octob...