Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Thread the Halls (A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery #6)

Author:  Lea Wait
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496706300
Kensington Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
October 31, 2017

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This Yuletide season, there's no time for Angie Curtis and Patrick West to linger under the mistletoe.  Patrick's being needled by his mother - movie star Skye West - to set the stage for a perfect white Christmas as she brings her costar, screenwriters, and director home for the holidays.  With his mother's long list of wishes, Patrick's becoming unraveled.  To help, the Mainely Needlepointers offer to decorate Skye's Victorian mansion and create needlepoint pillows as gifts for the guests.

But not long after the celebrity celebrants invade Haven Harbor, an unscripted tragedy occurs.  Then some questionable Christmas cookies make Patrick sick.  Before Santa arrives at the town pier on a lobster boat, Angie and the Needlepointers need to trim down the naughty list, catch a cold-hearted killer, and wrap up the case...

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Moving back home to Haven Harbor, Maine after ten years away, Angie Curtis is getting ready to celebrate her first Christmas with her friends and family.  While having a tree decorating party at her home with everyone, her new beau Patrick West, son of famous actress Skye West, asks everyone's help in decorating his mother's mansion - Aurora - for the holidays.  It seems he just received a phone call from her where she's filming in Scotland, and she wants her costars, screenwriters and director to experience a 'real Maine Christmas.'  But with Christmas only days away, how can they get ready in time?

Everyone already has plans of their own, but with the offer to pay well and the fact they like Patrick, they agree.  Everyone in the Mainely Needlepointers has agreed to make small gifts for the guests, and others have offered what they can - knowing the extra money wouldn't hurt.  They've even convinced a local widow to become a live-in cook at Aurora during the visit.  It's not going to be easy, but Angie, with some trepidation and the help of her friends and family, thinks it can be done in time; although it means changing some of her own holiday plans.

Once everything has been done and the guests have arrived, Patrick asks Angie to come and meet everyone.  But before they enter the home, they decide to take a walk around the estate to look at the stars in the clear night sky.  On their way back, Angie sees something in the snow, and even though Patrick tells her it's probably nothing, her curiosity - and the fact that she worked for a private eye in Arizona for ten years and has a natural instinct - tells her to look closer.  She discovers that it's a body, and calls in the local police.

The dead man turns out to be one of the actors from the movie, but no one seems to remember him going outside or seems to have any reason to kill him.  Yet he's dead, so someone must have had a motive.  They soon realize that the murderer had to be someone from the house party, but who?  They were nearing the end of the film, and why would they jeopardize all their jobs for murder?

Angie tries to stay out of the investigation as she has other things to worry about.  A storm is heading their way, everyone has been invited to the Christmas Eve party at Aurora, and there's an annoying potential customer from Texas who's enthralled with Skye and keeps showing up at Angie's unannounced peppering her with questions and trying to get her to introduce her to Skye.  When it becomes apparent the killer has another target in mind, Angie begins to wonder if her life is going to crumble like Christmas cookies before she's able to wrap up a murder...

I love reading about Angie and her friends.  Although I do have reservations about the newest addition to her circle - Clem - who showed early on (no spoiler here since it's almost immediate) that she's not much of a friend at all.  Angie's grandmother Charlotte is settling into her new life as the wife of Reverend Tom, Angie and Patrick are well on their way to becoming a couple, and reading about the local trimmings - home grown trees, handmade wreaths, food, etc., is a nice way to bring you into the Season.

The mystery itself is done well.  We're drawn into the story early on, and looking for clues along with Angie into who would want Paul dead.  Even Angie herself is considered the main suspect at one point.  The mystery is interspersed with the sights and sounds of Christmas, including an old-fashioned (sort of) sleigh ride, a parade, and the arrival of Santa Claus by boat.  It's a delightful way to investigate a murder.

All that aside, there is enough action to keep one interested, a few red herrings and people of questionable behavior, and a tight little mystery to solve.  The characters are convincing, with a sweeping descriptions of Haven Harbor and what it must look like during Christmas.  We are brought into the town as if we were there, a place that would be wonderful to visit.  All in all, it's a pleasant way to spend an evening.

When we come to the end and the murder is solved (as we know it must be) it is satisfying and yet a bit sad.  There is also a bit of a surprise attached to it, and given the circumstances, I don't think anyone would know how they might react in the same situation.  This is the sixth book in the Mainely Needlepoint Mysteries, but can be read as a stand alone.  If you choose to go back to the beginning, the first book is titled Twisted Threads.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended. 

https://www.amazon.com/Thread-Halls-Mainely-Needlepoint-Mystery/dp/1496706307/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2169698871

More on Lea Wait's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/lea-wait/

Monday, October 30, 2017

Best Laid Plants (A Potting Shed Mystery #6)

Author:  Marty Wingate
Genre:  Mystery

Audio CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781515962700; Tantor Audio
Alibi Publishing
281 Pages
October 17, 2017

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Pru and her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, are long overdue for a getaway.  So when Pru is invited to redesign an Arts and Crafts garden in the picturesque Cotswolds, she and Christopher jump at the chance.  Unfortunately, their B&B is more ramshackle than charming, and the once thriving garden, with its lovely Thyme Walk, has fallen into heartbreaking neglect.  With the garden's owner and designer, Batsford Bede, under the weather, Pru tackles the renovation alone.  But just as she's starting to make headway, she stumbles upon Batsford's body in the garden - dead and pinned beneath one of his limestone statues.

With such a small police force in the area, Christopher is called upon to lead the investigation.  Pru can't imagine anyone murdering Batsford Bede, a gentle man who preferred to spend his time in quiet contemplation, surrounded by nature.  But as her work on the garden turns up one ominous clue after another, Pru discovers that the scenery is more dangerous than she or Christopher could have anticipated.

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When Pru Parke, master gardener, and her husband Christopher Pearse, are invited to the Cotswolds for a working vacation (for her), it seems like an easy job.  She is there to help out with the renovation of the decaying gardens of Glebe House and is looking forward to it.  But she's more than surprised at the condition of the B&B she's been booked into - soon after arriving she finds the body of Batsford Bede, owner and designer of the once-lovely place.

Although it looks like an accident at first sight, Pru knows better - especially since the heavy statue that was set to look like it fell over on him hasn't touched his body.  And with the local police force short-handed, Christopher is dragooned into Chief Inspector once again, taking over the investigation.

But who would want to kill an old man who was already ailing?  At first the signs point to Coral Summersun, who grew up there and whose mother Batsford was in love with; but then others begin to enter the picture - others who might have had a better reason to want him dead.  What reason?  Who would want a decaying garden badly in need of renovation?  Christopher and Pru have more than enough suspects, and with a killer still on the loose, it's up to them to dig deep and weed out a killer...

 I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this book.  Each chapter is headed with a fictional entry into Batsford's gardening journals, which Pru has borrowed to read.  We are given information on numerous plants, which I always find interesting, and a glimpse of life into an English garden. 

We begin with Pru and Christopher thinking they're going to have a nice getaway at a local B&B only to find it's rather a nightmare, but since the proprietor is an elderly woman and very nice, stay, rather than feel guilty about going somewhere else.  They're also there to help out at an autumn fete at the home of old friends who also live in the area.

I enjoy watching the relationship between Pru and Christopher.  Their affection for each other is apparent, but never over the top.  There's a nice scene or two where Pru is having to deal with a tad bit of jealousy, but it's done more with humor than anything else; and there's also humor in the fact that the B&B owner is a horrible cook.

But the murder definitely changes things, and the renovation is put on hold as Christopher brings Pru into the investigation as an assistant, knowing her keen eye for detail will be invaluable.  While there weren't tons of red herrings thrown about, there were still quite a few suspects, even though the reason for someone wanting Batsford dead wasn't immediately apparent.

When we come to the end and the murderer is revealed, it's a reason as old as time itself.  I'm never surprised what a twisted mind is capable of.   The story is well written, the characters believable, and the journey to the end was was quite fun and interesting as well. 

   This is the sixth book in the series and can be read as a stand alone, but I enjoy the series more having read them from the beginning.  A delightful book that can be read in one sitting, and I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Best-Laid-Plants-Potting-Shed-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01MSAATUW/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2168702694

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cat Got Your Diamonds (A Kitty Couture Mystery)

Author:  Julie Chase
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781629538426; 9781683311973
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$17.67; $10.87; $1.99 Amazon
November 8, 2016

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Grandeur and opulence are everything in the famed New Orleans Garden District where pets are family and no bling is too big.  Opening Furry Godmother, pet boutique and organic treat bakery, is Lacy Marie Crocker's dream come true -- until the glitter gun used to make her Shih Tzu tutus becomes a murder weapon.  And Lacy becomes public enemy #1.

Now Detective Jack Oliver is hounding Lacy, and her Furry Godmother investor wants out before his name is tarnished by association.  To make matters worse, a string of jewel heists with suspicious ties to the murder case has New Orleans residents on edge.  To save her dream, Lacy must take a stand, put her keen eyes to work, and unravel what really happened at her shop that night.  But can Lacy sniff out the killer cat burglar in time to get her tail-raising designs on the catwalk?

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Lacy Crocker was born to wealth but wants to make it on her own in New Orleans by opening a pet fashion store.  Yes, that's right - a pet fashion store.  She makes clothing for animals; but also sells homemade treats on the side.  I say 'on the side' because her main business is selling clothing.

She is conducting business one afternoon when a shady-looking character enters her store and she can't wait to get rid of him.  What happens, though, is she returns to the store after hours and realizes someone else is there.  She is surprised by the same man, runs through the back door, and before he can catch her she sprays him with her glitter gun, effectively blinding him, and leaves.

When she calls the police and is asked to return to the store she is surprised to find the man dead, and the police detective thinks she did it.  Her investor, Mr. Tater, tells her he will have to pull funding from her store because he can't be associated with it right now, and she's desperate to find a way to keep the store open, even if it means taking on extra work.

With her store on the line, and Detective Oliver seemingly not looking for any other suspects, Lacy decides to do a little investigating on her own, trying to find out the identity of the dead man and who might want him dead.  But she soon realizes that there's more at stake then losing her shop; if she's not careful, she could also lose her life...

 I felt that the story started out S-L-O-W.  So slow I had to stop a couple of times and start again.  Probably because the first part dealt with dressing up dogs.  I have to say this is something I don't agree with.  Dressing up dogs like people is, in my opinion, odd to say the least.  They're not toys or even children.  Putting them on display for your pleasure isn't right.  They want to run and play and get dirty, not perform like a seal.  Secondly, I thought - because it's listed as a Kitty Couture Mystery - that it would be about cats, or at least one cat.  Not so.  I also didn't like the idea that Jack Oliver called her 'kitten,' it wasn't professional; it was condescending.

But once I got a little deeper into the story the plot seemed to pick up, and that was a good thing.  We began to learn a little more about Lacy's life and the people in it, and more about the dead man - Miguel - and who wanted it that way.  There were plenty of red herrings and just enough of a mystery to keep me reading through the night.

When all is said and done, the ending was satisfactory and it all came together nicely.  Since this is the first in the series, I feel that the author is still learning her way around all the characters, and I will read the next in the series.  All in all, and enjoyable read for a quiet evening.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Room for Doubt (A Carol Childs Mystery Book 4)

Author:  Nancy Cole Silverman
Genre:  Mystery/Suspense

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635112382; 9781635112351
278 Pages
Henery Press Publishing
$30.52; $15.95; $4.99 Amazon
July 18, 2017

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When radio reporter Carol Childs is called to a crime scene in the Hollywood Hills at five thirty in the morning, she's convinced it must be a publicity stunt to promote a new movie.  That is, until she sees the body hanging from the center of the Hollywood sign.  The police are quick to rule it a suicide, but something doesn't add up for Carol.  Particularly after a mysterious caller named Mustang Sally confesses to the murder on the air and threatens to kill again.  With the help of an incorrigible PI, her best friend, and a kooky psychic, Carol is drawn into the world of contract killers and women scorned.  As she races to find the real killer, she finds herself faced with a decision that will challenge everything she thought she knew.

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Carol Childs, radio reporter in Hollywood, has been called by her boss Tyler because a body is hanging from the Hollywood sign.  When she arrives, she speaks with a police detective who will only tell her that it was a suicide.  But he hasn't even seen the body up close, and she's not convinced.  Then she's contacted by a private detective named Gerhardt Chasen "Chase" who tells her he thinks it's the work of a serial killer.

But things begin to take a bizarre turn when Carol, on her new Sunday evening program, gets a call from a woman who will only identify herself as Mustang Sally.  She tells Carol that it wasn't a suicide, but the man was murdered by a 'tribunal' and that he's not the first one.

While she's trying to avoid Chase, he's meanwhile talking to Tyler, and convinces him that Carol's show should take a different turn.  And when Sally calls in again with information not given to the public, Carol begins - reluctantly - to take her more seriously.

But who is Sally, and is she telling the truth?  Carol's head is screaming at her to stay away from Chase and what she considers a nutcase, but her instincts are telling her something else.  When other information begins to come to light, Carol realizes that in order to find out the truth and close the lid on this case, she may have to step outside the bounds of the law and her own conscience...

What begins as a strange murder, then perhaps the work of a serial killer, begins to take a darker turn into the world of domestic violence and stalkers.  Anyone who's ever been a victim or known one knows that a stalker finds you, and once that happens, it's not so easy to walk away.  Not everyone has the strength, stamina, financial resources, etc.  Not everyone believes it's not their fault.  But everyone deserves the freedom from it.

Ms. Silverman has a rare quality of being able to begin one book and segue into another one entirely, and keep her audience engrossed in the story.  She draws her subjects not only from fiction, but also from subjects not discussed in every day life and makes you think about possibilities - and probabilities - in the process.  It is quite clever and done beautifully.

We also see a new chapter in Carol's life - she's moving on after a breakup and trying to focus on her professional life (which isn't easy, and you'll figure out why) and deal with her new housekeeper - Misty Dawn, psychic to the stars (retired).  While we don't see a lot of her personal life, the book is so filled with action that we don't miss it too much, either.

When we come to the end of the book it is quite satisfactory; saying any more would be giving too much away.  Although this is the fourth book in the series, following Without a Doubt, it can be read as a stand alone, but I recommend you read all books in order to be fully drawn into Carol's life thus far.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Room-Doubt-Carol-Childs-Mystery/dp/1635112354/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2164975168

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Killer Party (A Tourist Trap Mystery #9)

Author:  Lynn Cahoon
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN#:  9781601836366; 9781515968252
Lyrical Underground Publishing
188 Pages
$15.00; $23.02; $5.99 Amazon
July 18, 2017

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For a gang of old college buddies, the quaint resort town of South Cove, California, is the perfect spot for a no-holds-barred bachelor party.  But for Jill Gardner - owner of Coffee, Books and More - this stag party is going to be murder...

After a few months of living with her boyfriend Greg, Jill is still getting used to sharing such close quarters, but she's got no hesitation about joining him for a weekend at South Cove's most luxurious resort.  While Greg and his college pals celebrate their buddy's upcoming wedding, Jill intends to pamper herself in style.  But when the groom is found floating facedown in the pool, Jill must find the killer fast, or she might not have a boyfriend to come home to any more...

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Jill Gardner, - owner of Coffee, Books and More - is still new to having her boyfriend Greg King, South Cove's police chief, living with her when they're invited to a weekend getaway.  Well, not so much of a getaway when it takes place at The Castle, which is only ten miles out of town.  But still, it's a weekend she doesn't have to work or think about anything but fun...or at least that's what she expects.

The reason they're even there is because Greg's friend Levi, a tech millionaire, is getting married and has rented the entire place for his close group of friends.  What Jill doesn't expect is how close this group is.  Greg's known everyone since he was a kid, and they pretty much stick together; albeit not the way she'd expect.  The girls are in one place, and the guys another.  No mingling with their spouses here!  Not something she likes, but it's only for a weekend, right?

Wrong...before Jill even has a chance to get to know anyone, Levi is found dead floating in the swimming pool, and since Greg knew the victim, it's the job of a neighboring town to investigate the murder.  However, since he can't officially investigate and doesn't want to jeopardize his own job, he calls on the sleuthing skills of his girlfriend to help him (surreptitiously, of course) find out who the murderer might be.  While he doesn't want to believe it's any of his friends, Jill isn't so sure.  She saw enough of the interaction to realize someone may have wanted Levi gone.

But finding out isn't going to be easy.  These people are keeping it close to their vest and not saying anything, for whatever reason.  And is Levi's girlfriend Jessica really grieving or is she just a great actress?  Since no one will talk, Jill's going to have to tap into the powers of the Internet and her own attention to detail to discover who killed Levi and why - and if there's another person on the agenda...

I have to tell you that this is one of the most delightful series I've ever read.  Each book is filled not only with an intriguing mystery, but several subplots as well that blend well with the story and keep it from having 'dead spots'.  And, if you're paying attention, they usually lead into the next installment of our narrative.

The characters are well-written, fully dimensional and it's a pure pleasure to spend time with them.  Watching the progression of Jill and Greg's relationship is a plus, too, along with the rest of South Cove's residents.  It doesn't hurt that there's a possibility of romance on the horizon for one of their community in a future book.

While we watch Jill unravel the mystery in her own unique way - not stepping on toes or being too invasive - we realize once again that things are not what they seem, and the answers we're looking for might be closer than we think.  When the ending comes close, and the killer is revealed at last, we realize that obsessions come in many different forms, and even the most obscure of them can be the most visible if we're paying attention.

This is the ninth book in the series, following Hospitality and Homicide, but can be read as a stand alone.  It is, as always, outstanding and an entertaining way to spend your hours reading.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Killer-Party-Lynn-Cahoon/dp/1601836368/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2163898896

More on Lynn Cahoon's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/lynn-cahoon/

Monday, October 23, 2017

Death and the Viking's Daughter (An Auction Block Mystery Book 4)

Author:  Loretta Ross
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN E:  9780738752372
Midnight Ink Publishing
$15.99; $11.99 Amazon
288 Pages
February 8, 2018

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Auctioneer Wren Morgan and her private eye fiancé Death Bogart are ready to meet the parents and settle down together.  But their sleuthing days are far from over.  While Death and Wren are helping prepare auction items at an old supper club, a Viking reenactor nearly dies at the historical settlement next door.  The cause?  Seeing the ghost of his daughter, who went missing twenty years ago.

As Wren looks into what happened to the Viking's daughter, Death is hired to investigate the theft of historical items that have high sentimental value.  When their respective investigations turn out to be connected, the couple gets caught in a deadly conflict.

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Ex-Marine private eye Death (prounounced "Deeth") Bogart and auctioneer Wren Morgan are ready to move in together, settle down and get married.  So in between working, they're house-hunting when they can, and Wren thinks she's found the perfect home for the two of them.  Perfect - except for the body buried in the rosebushes...

But it is nearing Thanksgiving, and Wren has a job to do; and it means cataloging the contents of an abandoned old supper club which will be auctioned off by her employers, the Keystone Brothers.  While in the process of doing so, she hears what sounds like a call for help, and finds two of the Keystones' grandchildren with a man who has apparently suffered a heart attack.

It turns out the man was struck suddenly when he saw the apparition of his missing daughter in the boat house on the supper club property.  The young girl disappeared many years ago in the 70's and Niels Larsen has never given up hope that he will find his daughter Ingrid alive.

While the present owner of the home explains away the presence of "Bob," the unknown man buried there, Wren's natural curiosity takes over and she wants to know more about him.  Of course, she goes right to her friend and employers, the Keystones, who seem to know something about everything going on in East Bledsoe.  She also wants to know more about the missing girl when ragged clothing stained with what appears to be blood is found in the boat house.

Meanwhile, Death has been hired to find out how an oil painting, protected 24/7 at a gallery, was able to be replaced with a forgery.  What makes it so odd is that the painting wasn't even very valuable in a monetary form, but had sentimental value for the owner.

To make things more complicated, Wren, having informed her parents of her engagement, expects them to be happy and supportive; but her mother has serious misgivings - especially while overhearing a potentially sensitive conversation by Death's ex-wife Madeline.  It makes her suspicious of the man her daughter's chosen to wed, and she's not happy about the situation at all.

But it isn't until several random facts seem to tie everything together that makes an already confusing situation even more complicated; but the real mystery is how to find the proof to permanently connect it all...

This is the fourth book in the Auction Block Mysteries, following Death and the Gravedigger's Angel.  Once again, Ms. Ross has enacted for us another intriguing mystery; this time centering around stolen artwork, invaluable artifacts, and the disappearance of an historical reenactor.  She has intertwined the stories seamlessly, so that each one, while at first seeming to have no connection to the next, is linked softly and almost imperceptibly.  By the time the fragments are pieced together, the story has come to a logical conclusion that shows the author has a talent for taking multiple story lines and uniting them as one.

I enjoyed this book no end, and loved the interaction between the characters, showing us the love and protection that Wren and Death feel for each other, both willing to do whatever it takes to keep the other safe.  There is no saccharine behavior between the two; but the love is still felt, still palpable and real.  It does take a while to warm up to Wren's mother Emily; but I liked her father much more quickly; he seemed that while a quiet man, he watched for signs and listened, while her mother was completely opposite.  However, many marriages are built on this and quite happy indeed.

The story behind the disappearance of Ingrid was a tad more interesting to me, although I, too, wondered why anyone would want what seemed to be others' mere junk.  When all is said and done, we may never know how far people will go to achieve their ends; and that one's idea of right and wrong can be convoluted in someone's mind.  

When the book was finished I found myself sorry it had ended so soon, as I enjoy spending time in the company of this group of friends and family.  Everything came together nicely, and I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.



More on Loretta Ross's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/r/loretta-ross/

Say No Moor (A Passport to Peril Mystery)

Author:  Maddy Hunter
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780738749617
Midnight Ink Publishing
336 Pages
$15.99; $11.99 Amazon
January 8, 2018

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Hoping to reach an expanded clientele of senior travellers, Emily Miceli, travel agency owner and tour escort, offers discounted fares to a handful of bloggers in exchange for highlighting her group's tour of Cornwall, England.  But when the quarrelsome host of their historic inn dies under suspicious circumstances, Emily worries that the bloggers' coverage of the situation will torpedo her travel agency.

To make matters worse, Emily is roped into running the inn, and not even a team effort from her friends can prevent impending disaster.  As one guest goes missing and another turns up dead, Emily discovers that well-kept secrets and family treasure can provide more than enough motive for murder.

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Emily Andrews Miceli's senior tour group is at it again, this time in 'Merry Olde England', on the Cornwall coast.  Trying to get more business for her tours, Emily has invited along five (very strange) travel bloggers - at a deeply discounted rate that only incenses her regulars - to give daily updates on the pleasures of touring with their agency.

But no sooner do they arrive at their destination than disaster befalls (did we expect anything else?).  The abrasive chef dies shortly after serving tea, and when it's discovered it wasn't an accident, the group is informed they must stay where they are.  But it gets worse when the co-owner of the inn (and life partner of the chef) is arrested and there's no one to cook or clean.  But then they discover there's a thief among them:  not only is money being stolen, but things like...wigs...and shoes.  Who would want to do such a thing?  It only escalates when one of Emily's seniors disappears, and no one seems to know where.

With a missing tourist and personal items, the body count mounting, suspicious bloggers, and Emily unwillingly running an inn that's apparently crumbling around them, nothing more can happen to them now...or can it?

As always, Ms. Hunter has given us another chapter in the topsy-turvy life of Emily Andrews Miceli and her (practically) insane seniors, who are more concerned with getting the best seat at the breakfast table than finding another dead body among them.

She brings you into their world so beautifully that you begin to wonder if you could survive a trip with them without needing medication yourself.  The story is fast-moving and event filled, helped along by plenty of humor and more than one mystery to be solved.  Emily's frustration is almost palpable, along with her fondness for each and every one of these irascible golden-agers who are having the time of their lives while finding reasons to argue with and attempt to one-up each other. 

When the many mysteries are solved, they are woven together tautly and delightfully, giving us a conclusion not only believable but rewarding in itself; the pieces come together nicely and everything is just as it should be.  I eagerly await the next tour and spending time with Emily's seniors (as I have come to know them).  While this is part of a series, each book is written in a way that it can be read as a stand-alone; however, I will tell you that after reading the first in the series, Alpine for You, I was so enamored that I wanted to read each and every one, and I have no doubt that you will too.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Say-Moor-Passport-Peril-Mystery/dp/0738749613/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2161881311

More on Maddy Hunter's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/maddy-hunter/

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Glenn Miller Declassified

Author:  Dennis M. Spragg
Genre:  Biography

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781612348957
Potomac Books
408 Pages
September 1, 2017

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On December 15, 1944, Maj. Alton Glenn Miller, commanding officer of the Army Air Force Band (Special) boarded a plane in England bound for France with Lt. Col. Norman Francis Baessell.  Somewhere over the English Channel the plane vanished.  No trace of the aircraft or its occupants has ever been found.  To this day Miller, Baessell, and the pilot, John Robert Stuart Morgan, are classified as missing in action.

Weaving together cultural and military history, Glenn Miller Declassified tells the story of the musical legend Miller and his military career as commanding officer of the Army Air Force Band during World War II/  After a brief assignment to the Army Specialist Corps, Miller was assigned to the Army Air Forces Training Command and soon thereafter to Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, in the UK.  Later that year Miller and his band were to be transferred to Paris to expand the Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme, but Miller never made it.

Miller's disappearance resulted in numerous conspiracy theories, especially since much of the information surround his military service had been classified, restricted, or, in some cases, lost.  Dennis M. Spragg has gained unprecedented access to the Miller family archives as well as military and government documents to lay such theories to rest and to demonstrate the lasting legacy and importance of Miller's life, career, and service to his country.

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When I first saw this book, I was somewhat excited to read the story of Glenn Miller.  As a great fan of Big Bands, and Glenn's own 'swing' music, it was a chance to read more about the mystery surrounding his death.

When he was lost over the English Channel, no trace was ever found of the plane carrying him or the three occupants.  I believed by the title - Glenn Miller Declassified - I would learn something new.  Alas, such was not the case.

The book, while quite a nice size, is full of technical information only interesting to those who actually care about technical information.  I, for one, couldn't care less about 'white form number 5' or anything similar.  There was far too much of this and far too little of any information that is already known.

There is no mystery to be explained.  It is, indeed, hard to explain everything included, but we are given quite a bit of information on his associates and their routines and very little on Mr. Miller himself and his life at home, and not a lot about the band, aside from their military duties.

While quite a lot of research has been done, I feel that this is a book more aimed toward those interested in the military of World War II.  As for those who might be interested in Glenn Miller, unfortunately there isn't anything new to discover.

https://www.amazon.com/Glenn-Miller-Declassified-Dennis-Spragg/dp/1612348955/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2158156762

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Art of Hiding

Author:  Amanda Prowse
Genre:  Domestic Fiction

Paperback; MP3 CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781611099553; 9781536690415
Lake Union Publishing
288 Pages
$8.56; $14.97 Amazon
August 22, 2017

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Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married.  Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate - and her sister - she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can't let herself be overwhelmed - her boys need her.  To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long:  pursue a career of her own.  Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

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I really hate giving books bad reviews, but I wouldn't be a decent reviewer if I didn't give an honest review.  So, here it is:  The title of the book, The Art of Hiding, is appropriate - I'm sure there was a cohesive plot hidden somewhere, but I couldn't find it.  Don't get me wrong - I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't.

In the first chapter Nina's husband Finn is killed in a car accident.  Without preamble of any sort, we're supposed to feel sorry for her and her over-the-top wonderful life.  We're told the boys go to a prestigious school, they have a fantastic home and everything money can buy; but we're not shown anything of their life together.  Without that, it's really hard to feel compassion for Nina and her family.

Especially since she's apparently a complete idiot.  There - I've said it.  She reminds me of those long ago films where the man marries a featherhead and tells her: "don't you worry your pretty little head about it, I'll take care of everything."  Apparently, this is how Finn treated Nina, and she believed it.  And where did it get her?  £8 million in debt.  How?  How can anyone be that far in debt and be so stupid as to not know it?  Finn must have been a master of controlling his emotions, because Nina.  Had.  No.  Clue.  None whatsoever.  No idea they owed anything.

So now she's out on her ear, no home, no prestigious school, and begging his family for a place to stay.  Of course, they have no room for her.  What kind of people are they?  They basically tell her to go live on the street with their nephews; their brother's children - one has to wonder about the kind of relationship they had with him in the first place.  They didn't care that their sister-in-law and her sons were thrown into the street.  Didn't try and find a place for them anywhere.  It was just, 'sorry, you're on your own!'  I'm surprised they even showed up for the funeral.

I also thought that it didn’t ring true that balliffs would enter a house with only a minor present.  I’m pretty sure there are laws against that.  But even this scene was, again, over the top.  A blender?  Really?  How much could they get for that?  £10?  What's next, shampoo?  I get that the author was trying to show us how truly destitute Nina was, but I have a hard time believing that a man who supposedly loved his family wouldn't have hidden money somewhere, or that Nina, having grown up in poverty, wouldn't have done so herself.  Also, I don't know how it works in the UK, but in the USA creditors cannot take life insurance policies (they can try, but the funds cannot be diverted unless they're specifically written for the purpose of debt payments - so Nina should have at least had something from the life insurance.  (Now, if she were on the lien, maybe - but since everything was in Finn's name, probably not).

This had to be one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read.  I slogged (literally) through it and just couldn’t like Finn or Nina.  Finn because he seemed like a royal ass - keeping things from her and not even trying to provide for her in the event something happened (as it did) - and Nina because she seemed a total idiot.  The boys seemed to bounce back unreasonably quick from the loss of their father and the only life they’ve ever known.  They went from being rich to poor and it was like, ‘Whatever.  What’s for supper?’  Most kids having gone through this would be rebellious or in therapy.  These kids went from being rich to poor with barely a problem between them.  It just didn't seem realistic.

I never felt a connection with Nina, Finn or the boys, and unfortunately, the book never seemed to touch me in any way, and that's the sad thing.  All it really did was ensure that I will never read another book by this author.  Two stars for the writing.



More on Amanda Prowse's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/p/amanda-prowse/

Friday, October 13, 2017

Cold as Ice (The Country Club Murders Book 6)

Author:  Julie Mulhern
Genre:  Mystery/Suspense

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635112672; 97816355112115
Henery Press Publishing
268 Pages
$29.86; $15.95; $6.99 Amazon
October 17, 2016

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Ellison Russell's life resembles a rollercoaster ride.  And rollercoasters make her ill.  Her daughter Grace has a crush on a boy Ellison doesn't trust and she's taken to hosting wild parties when Ellison goes out for the evening.  Worse, the bank which represents Grace's inheritance from her father may be in trouble.  When a meeting with the chef at the country club leads to the discovery of a body, Ellison can't afford cold feet.  She must save the bank, find the killer, and convince Grace (and herself) that powerful women don't need men to rescue them.

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It's nearing Thanksgiving in Kansas City, and life is -sort of - getting back to normal for Ellison Russell.  But while everything seems to be going along smoothly, it just...isn't.  Her daughter Grace has been caught throwing a wild party in her absence, and while that may seem to be enough of a headache, it only gets worse when her bank president tells her the bank - her late husband's legacy to Grace - may be going under due to an unpaid loan.

The loan, owed by Tom Michaels, is the father of a boy Ellison does not want Grace seeing.  But each time she tries to call Tom, he's unavailable.  And when she does get a chance to speak with his wife Laurie, she leaves before anything is resolved.

But it's while she's at the country club planning a party for a friend when the sous chef opens the walk-in freezer to find Laurie's frozen body that it turns into a nightmare.  Another body.  The wife of the husband with a million dollar loan.  And the mother of a boy with lax morals who seems to be interested in her daughter.  Life is definitely not normal for Ellison Russell.

While warned to stay out of this investigation by the ever-present homicide Detective Anarchy Jones, Ellison's maybe-boyfriend she doesn't want to say anything about the bank.  Ellison needs to know if Laurie left life insurance, and for how much; hopefully enough to cover the loan; and she she needs the help of Hunter Tafft, her attorney who's also highly interested in her personally, to find out what can be done to place a lien, if possible; and, horror of horrors, she also needs to enlist the help of her intimidating mother, Frances.

But it isn't going to be easy.  She needs to stay under the radar of the police to conduct her own investigation - because if Tom is convicted of the crime they'll be no life insurance.  To top it off, her late husband's sister Gwen is spending the holiday with them, and Gwen doesn't (and never has) approved of Ellison.  This holiday may be more memorable than Ellison would like it to be.

But then things get worse:  Ellison discovers another body, one which may very well have ties to the first.  With the suspect list dwindling, the body count growing, and Tom as the police's likely culprit, Ellison needs to work fast before the bank closes its doors forever...

Once again, Ms. Mulhern has taken us back to 1974, a time with no cellphones or computers, and all information must be gathered the old-fashioned way: through the grapevine.  It's a simpler time when people didn't depend on daily updates online, but through telephone calls, people needed to actually talk to one another, and Google was a thing of the future.  She does this, and more, admirably.

I found the book quite entertaining, with just enough components to make it realistic - a mother raising a sixteen-year-old daughter alone and trying to do her best; and adding that to the other storyline, weaving them together seamlessly and effortlessly; both essential to the book's plot. 

The narrative carries us along easily, rolling our eyes much as Grace did, at some of the wordplay between characters (who are all delightful, by the way), giving us an engaging tale of life in another place and time - albeit one littered with dead bodies along the way (but then again, isn't that why we're reading this series in the first place?)

When we learn the identity of the killer and come to the end of the book, we see that actions have consequences, and consequences affect our lives, for good or bad.  Whether right or wrong, the choices we make color our lives forever, and learning from them is the hardest -and maybe the most bittersweet - lesson of all.

Although you might be tempted to peek at the ending, I urge you not to do so.  Unfolding the story as it is written will add to a wonderful journey through words and images in your mind.  Highly recommended and I look forward to the next in the series.



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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Seeds of Revenge (The Greenhouse Mysteries #3)

Author:  Wendy Tyson
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense

Trade Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635112757; 9781520080529
Henery Press Publishing
$15.95; $29.99; $4.99 Amazon
288 Pages
November 14, 2017

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It's the holiday season, and the mood in Winsome is anything but jolly...Megan Sawyer is determined to farm year-round.  She's braving a December snowstorm after pitching her greenhouse greens to Philadelphia chefs when she sees a stranger stranded on the side of the road.  It's Merry Chance's niece Becca, who's headed to Winsome to sell her "love potions" at holiday events - or so she thinks.

Merry has an ulterior motive in inviting her niece to Winsome, but Merry's plan to reunite Becca with her estranged father goes awry when Becca's father turns up dead.  Megan soon realizes that Becca was not the only person in Winsome who despised her father.  When Megan's aunt, the famous mystery author, is implicated through her novels, things become personal.  Megan must follow the literary clues while sifting through the victim's sordid past, but can she uncover the truth before someone else in Winsome is murdered?

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It's the Christmas holidays in Winsome, Pennsylvania, and Megan Sawyer is on her way home after a business trip to Philadelphia.  She picks up a stranded motorist on the side of the road during a snowy evening.  The young woman, Becca Fox,  turns out to be the niece of Merry Chance, and she's been invited to town to sell her products during the season. 

But when Megan drops the young woman off at Merry's home, there's another visitor - Becca's father Paul, and while he apparently wants to speak with her the reaction from Becca is completely malevolent.  It's obvious she hates her father, but never more so than when she accuses him of murdering her mother years before.

Little does Megan know that this family's appearance in town will bring attacks on its townspeople instead of the reunion that Merry envisioned.  When Paul is found dead and it's later determined to be homicide, the natural suspect is Becca.  When the young woman shows signs of being mentally unstable, even the police chief is convinced she's guilty.  But Megan isn't so sure, and when the attacks are somehow connected to her great aunt Sarah, Megan stumbles upon secrets from Sarah's past that could be a clue.

While Police Chief Bobby King - young but gaining experience quickly - is convinced he's got the right person for the murder, Megan isn't so sure.  She continues exploring possible suspects to Bobby's chagrin, and the more she digs, the more she learns that Paul Fox was a master manipulator with a horde of enemies left behind.  As her peaceful life starts to become unraveled by the devastation around her, she realizes she's in a race against time to find the person who really killed Paul, but little does she know she's also in a race against time to save herself...

This book is the third in the series and in my opinion is the best yet.  Like a fine wine, Ms. Tyson's Greenhouse Mysteries only gets better with age.  She is not only a talented writer, she is a talented storyteller as well.  Her plots are well written, suspenseful and with enough twists and turns to keep us absorbed in the narrative.

This was a delightful tale of suspense and revenge, with a little bit of romance thrown in for good measure.  The characters are given the full depth treatment:  these are people who are animated and lively, fully dimensional and believable.  Megan and her family and friends make the town of Winsome come alive, and I consider myself lucky to be able to share in their adventures.

When we come to the end and the murderer is revealed, it was put together in a deft manner that made all the pieces fall in place easily.  While not completely unexpected, it didn't matter as the journey itself was an enjoyable read.  Highly recommended and I look forward to the next in the series. 

https://www.amazon.com/Seeds-Revenge-Wendy-Tyson/dp/1635112753/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2150454285

More on Wendy Tyson's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/t/wendy-tyson/

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Body on Baker Street (A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery)

Author:  Vicki Delaney
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781683312994; 9781683314615; 9781520080246
Crooked Lane Books
320 Pages
$17.70; $15.99; #26.42; $9.99 Amazon
September 12, 2017; January 9, 2018 (Paperback)

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Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson are busy managing the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street and adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room in anticipation of the store's upcoming book signing with the illustrious Renalta Van Markoff, author of the controversial Hudson and Holmes mystery series.  But during the author Q&A session, dedicated Sherlockian Donald Morris verbally attacks Renalta and her series for disgracing Sherlock's legacy, only to be publicly humiliated when the author triumphantly lashes back and gains the upper hand.  That is until Renalta collapses on the table - dead.

Donald insists he didn't do it and pleads to his friends to clear his name.  Fortunately, Gemma and Jayne have no shortage of suspects between the author's bullied personal assistant, her frustrated publicist, the hapless publisher, a handsome rare book dealer, an obsessively rabid fan, and world of other Sherlock enthusiasts with strong objections to Renalta's depiction of the Great Detective.  It's up to the shrewd sleuthing duo to eliminate the impossible and deduce the truth before the West London police arrest an innocent man.

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Gemma Doyle, along with her Uncle Arthur (I know, right?  Arthur Doyle?) are co-owners of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, and Gemma is co-owner along with Jayne Wilson of the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room.  When Gemma receives a telephone call telling her that a famous author wants to do a short speech and signing of her books - in two days - Gemma is floored, but since the books are quite popular, she agrees, and scrambles to get everything prepared.

What she doesn't count on is the sheer number of fans who show up.  While not fond of the series herself, it appears many others are, and the over-the-top flamboyant author arrives as planned.  But during the Q&A session, after drinking from bottled water, she collapses and dies soon after.  When Gemma's friend Donald - who was heckling the woman - is practically accused of the crime, he begs her to find the person responsible before he's jailed.  Gemma reluctantly agrees, because even though she doesn't know who killed Renalta, she knows Donald didn't.   Gemma will need all of her sleuthing skills if she is to find a killer who is both clever and cold before Donald is unfairly convicted...

I loved the premise of the book, and I love Sherlock Holmes.  I own Doyle's complete book collection, and all of the DVDs by the many actors who have portrayed him.  To wit, I am a huge Sherlock fan, although not as rabid about it as Donald.

That being said, I knew it could only add to my enjoyment of this book, and enjoy it I did.  The book was written well and the plot moved along nicely.  There were plenty of suspects, plenty of red herrings, and plenty of action. 

The main problem is that Gemma, while good at  observation (she picks up on nuances, body language and things not said to come to a logical conclusion) also does things a normal person wouldn't do: breaking into a police station?  Really?  She also comes off as somewhat obnoxious and a know-it-all; she seems to actually enjoy one-upping the local police force.  She's a little hard to like as a person, and one should know if you want to be friends, you don't mock the police officers.

I'm also not convinced Ryan is the man for her.  Yes, she ruined his proposal; but he should know how her mind works and accept that, which he didn't.  A man who truly loved her would have just shaken his head and laughed, expecting it.  He wouldn't run away and leave her heartbroken.  If he can't accept her for who she is, he doesn't love her and perhaps she should move on with her life.

But the big thing was Moriarty the cat.  He apparently likes everyone except Gemma.  As a cat owner, I've found that cats don't like bad people, or people who have hurt them in the past.  The only other explanation is her scent.  (Gemma might want to change her shampoo or body wash).  A cat that likes everyone except you is telling you something important - and everyone around you.  (Perhaps he just doesn't like her superior attitude).

At any rate, luckily the mystery was done beautifully; it took me awhile to figure out who the murderer was (and I'm usually very good at that).  The motive was believable, and Gemma's putting everything together was done nicely.  This is what makes the book a good way to spend a quiet evening.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Body-Baker-Street-Sherlock-Mysteries/dp/1683312996/

Goodreads:

More on Vicki Delaney's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/vicki-delany/

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...