Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Yellow Room

Author:  Mary Roberts Rinehart
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Mass Market Paperback
ISBN #:  9783942637589; 9780821722626
Zebra Publishing
351 Pages
Various Prices
1945

✮✮✮


The corpse - somewhat charred around the edges- had been discovered in the linen closet.  She was wearing a silver fox coat and not much else.  No one had any idea who she was or what she was doing in the Spencer's Main retreat.  Certainly not 24-year-old Carol Spencer, who had only just arrived to open up the house for the summer.

Unfortunately Carol seemed to be the prime suspect, judging from the questions the police were asking.  But Carol had one advantage over the police: she knew that she hadn't done it.  Which left her that much closer to tracking down the true killer...and that much closer to danger.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Carol Spencer's brother is temporarily home from World War II, being decorated in Washington, and will shortly be home for a brief respite before his wedding.  Carol's mother is insisting they open the family summer home in Maine, and after dutifully depositing her mother with her sister Elinor, she travels there.

Carol's fiancé was reported missing a year ago, and all - except his father - presumed him dead in the war.  Unfortunately, his father lives nearby, and she knows once she's home she'll have to listen to him go on about how Don will come back with them soon.

But when Carol arrives, accompanied by a trio of servants, all is not going to be well.  For one of the girls has gone up to the linen closet and come back hysterical.  It seems that there's the body of a young woman in the closet - or at least what is left of her.  There's been an attempt at burning her body, all her belongings are missing, and no one seems to know who she is.

But more than the police are interested in finding out about the dead woman: an injured solider named Major Dane is recuperating at another summer home, and he's more than intrigued by the situation.  But there's more than meets the eye:  an injured servant is in the hospital and being kept away by the police; Elinor arrives at Carol's request but is not only nervous, it's apparent she doesn't want to be there; and even Carol's brother Gregory arrives, to the surprise of everyone, including Major Dane.

But are any of the Spencers guilty, and if not who is?  Who was the young woman?  What connection does she have to the family?  And who is Major Dane and why is he so interested in this case?  These questions are answered, and more..

Mary Roberts Rinehart is a highly-respected mystery writer long gone but her books are still good.  However, they are yet a product of their time.  Every character - save the servants - smoke, and are constantly offering cigarettes to each other.  There is a war going on, and not only is food rationed, but gasoline and even camera film.  For those that enjoy historical fiction, Ms. Rinehart was quite prolific and her books are decent.

I did feel, unfortunately, that the beginning of the book started rather slow, and it was at first difficult to keep reading the book.  The action, as it were, didn't really become interesting until after the appearance of Gregory, which occurs at some point a little farther than midway into it.  Once his character appears, then questions are being answered quite quickly.

There are more than enough twists and turns throughout and quite a few surprises that I didn't see coming.  When the story ends it all comes together quite nicely, and one needs to remember that it is writers like Miss Rinehart who brought us some of the first mysteries. While these books aren't always as highly detailed as those today, one must remember that back then there were no such things as DNA testing, computers, etc., to help with the investigation.  It all had to be done slowly, and a lot of it by telephone or traveling to different areas, which made things slow going.  All in all, I will probably read another of this author's books.

https://www.amazon.com/Yellow-Room-Mary-Roberts-Rinehart/dp/082172262X/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2343814360

More on Mary Robert Rinehart's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/r/mary-roberts-rinehart/

Monday, March 26, 2018

Dead as a Doornail (A Kenni Lowry Mystery Book 5)

Author:  Tonya Kappes
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635113341; 9781974907120
Henery Press Publishing
266 Pages
$15.95; $29.99; $4.99 Amazon
May 15, 2018

✮✮✮✮✮


Beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone.  And doesn't our Sheriff Kenni Lowry know that?  Well, she knows a lot of things.

Lucy Lowell takes great pride in writing negative reviews in the local newspaper for anything that does not go her way.  When Lucy is found dead, it appears to be from natural causes.

But Sheriff Kenni Lowry knows there is more to it because the ghost of her grandfather, the ex-sheriff, is standing over the body.

His presence can mean only one thing: Murder !

Since Kenni's relationship with Deputy Finn Vincent has heated up, Kenni is having trouble conducting the investigation without Finn questioning her every move.

Can Kenni unravel the mystery on her own or will she have to tell Finn the real reason she knows it was murder - the ghost of her poppa?

It's blowin' up a storm and only Kenni knows how it'll end.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Kenni Lowry is sheriff in the small Kentucky town of Cottonwood.  She's taken over where her grandfather, Poppa, left off after he died.  Except he's not really dead, not to her: whenever there's a murder, he shows up to help her out.

Right now, Kenni has problems.  When she's given a gift certificate to a day spa from her boyfriend, Deputy Finn Vincent, she expects to have a relaxing afternoon getting a manicure and pedicure.  While it starts out that way, it sure doesn't end the same.  While there, local Lucy Ellen Lowell shows up demanding that Tina, owner of the spa, give her a color, manicure, and anything else her little heart desires.  Tina refuses, and her employee Cheree adds that Lucy keeps cancelling appointments, so they can't make time for her, especially since Polly Parker and her entire wedding party have shown up to get their nails done for a 'pre-wedding preview' of color.

Lucy isn't happy, and when she leaves she tells Tina she's going to write a review of her shop.  It seems Lucy is well known for writing her bad reviews, and has cost businesses customers by them.  In fact, it seems the only person who even likes Lucy is her husband Darnell.  So when Lucy is found murdered by Darnell, Kenni has a whole stack of suspects to sift through.

But it's not going to be easy, nor is it going to be comfortable.  It seems Kenni has been volunteered by her mother Vivian and best friend Tibbie to be the maid of honor in Polly's wedding after the original one backed out.  And Kenny - reluctant as she is - has pretty much figured out why.  It appears that Polly wants a Gone with the Wind-themed wedding, and the dress Kenni has to wear looks like the famous dark green curtain dress, and it is Ug-ly with a capital U. 

So now Kenni is juggling a murder investigation along with trying to avoid her mama at all costs.  Then things get even more heated when Finn asks her to come home to Chicago for Christmas, and she sure doesn't want to face her mama over that; and just when she thinks she has the murder all sewn up she knows it can't be right because Poppa hasn't left.  Yes, Kenni's in a whole heap of trouble, and she'll need all the help she can get to figure this one out...

Once again Tonya Kappes has written another delightful Kenni Lowry mystery.  This one is packed with plenty of action and Kenni wrestling with problems - like those mentioned above and also the fact that she knows she's going to have to come clean with Finn about her Poppa's ghost eventually.  It leaves her very little down time, and a multitude of suspects who may or may not be telling her the entire truth. 

It's a magnificent romp of a mystery that shows us Kenni has what it takes to be sheriff in this town full of looney characters, and one of the best books I've read this year.  I can't say enough about this series except that while this can be read as a stand alone, I hope that you'll start at the beginning to get the full effect of Kenni and the eccentric people of Cottonwood.  I loved every minute of it and look forward to the next installment.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Dead-As-Doornail-Tonya-Kappes/dp/1635113342/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2340488865

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

Aunt Dimity's Death (Aunt Dimity Mysteries Book 1)

Author:  Nancy Atherton
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781568655253; 9780140178401; 9781522606727
Penguin Books
256 Pages
Various Prices
November 1, 1993



Lori Shepherd thought Aunt Dimity was just a character in a bedtime story...

...Until the Dickensian law firm of Willis & Willis summons her to a reading of the woman's will.  Down-on-her-luck Lori learns she's about to inherit a sizable estate -- if she can discover the secret hidden in a treasure trove of letters in Dimity's English country cottage.  What begins as a fairy tale becomes a mystery - and a ghost story - in an improbably cozy setting, as Aunt Dimity's indomitable spirit leads Lori on an otherworldly quest to discover how, in this life, true love can conquer all.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Lori Shepherd has nothing.  She temps for a job, lives with two roommates, and has had her childhood stuffed toy, her only companion, destroyed.  So her life is in shambles when she receives a letter from Willis & Willis, Attorneys.  When she arrives at their home, she discovers that her childhood stories of Aunt Dimity weren’t fairy tales made up by her mother; Dimity was an actual person, her mother’s best friend.  And now both her mother and Dimity have gone, and Dimity wants her to come to England and write the introduction to a children’s book made up of those stories.

But Lori has another surprise - both her mother and Dimity have written her posthumous letters detailing why they never told her about their connection, and her mother has left a photograph - the only clue to Dimity’s past life when her mother met her.  She wants Lori to find out about the photo, because it will explain what Dimity would never talk about - her past.  So, with the accompaniment of Bill, (Willis, Jr.) Lori sets out for London to find the truth and learn more about this fairy tale which wasn’t one at all...

Well, first the title is misleading.  This is not a mystery.  There’s no murder, as one is wont to expect in a book labeled a mystery.  This is women’s fiction with a little paranormal thrown in (not much).  The “mystery” entails why Aunt Dimity would never talk about her past, and what Lori is sent by her mother to find out.  I have to tell you that when someone reads 'mystery' in the title, you really do expect a murder or two.  this should have been titled Aunt Dimity's Death, a Secret Book 1.  Because that's really all it is - a book about secrets, not a mystery.

What I did find out by reading this is that I don’t like Lori at all.  She’s snarky, demanding and rude, and I can’t see how Bill would even fall for her (as we know he will).  She treats him like garbage throughout most of the book.  She shows up at their door dressed like a bum, and Dimity’s will offers money for clothes, so he buys her decent clothing and accessories.  Does she appreciate it?  He shouldn’t have offered these to this ungrateful witch.  She could have nicely explained to him why she didn’t want them, but she’d rather treat him like dirt instead.  Then makes some comments after shopping (in her head) along the lines of how she can pick out clothes herself and she'd show him.  Does she want the nice, expensive luggage he buys?  No thanks!  She wants a beat up canvas carryall that she can just roll up afterward.  Sure, you’re traveling overseas for an extended period and want all of your clothes to be wrinkled when you get there.  So classy when you check into a five star hotel, right?  She's a jerk.

Unfortunately, Bill was the best part of the book; no matter what she threw at him, he never faltered.  He had a great attitude to life and seemed like the kind of person you'd like to spend time with.  Lori I could do without.  She’s going to become a nasty old woman who sneers at everyone.  You can tell by the way she treats everyone she doesn’t consider her ‘friend’.  Strangers who do nice things are best trodden underfoot.  I wouldn't doubt it if she treats Bill like garbage through the rest of this series.  Sorry, I won’t be reading any more of these.  You want to like the people you're reading about, and she just isn't likable.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sowed to Death (A Farmer's Daughter Mystery #2)

Author:  Peg Cochran
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN : 9780425282038
Berkley Publishing
298 Pages
$5.93; $7.99 Amazon
July 4, 2017

✮✮


The county fair is the highlight of the year for the small town of Lovett, Michigan - especially for food-and-lifestyle blogger Shelby McDonald, who writes as the Farmer's Daughter.  She is submitting jams and jellies she's created from the produce she grows at Love Blossom Farm in hopes of harvesting a blue ribbon.

But the townspeople get more than just the excitement of hayrides, tractor pulls, and cotton candy when Shelby's neighbor and volunteer fireman, Jake Taylor, extricates the body of Zeke Barnstable instead of a dummy during a demonstration of the Jaws of Life.  The fact that Jake and Zeke were known to be at odds plants suspicion in the minds of the police.  As evidence against Jake grows, Shelby knows she has to plow through the clues to weed out the true killer and save her friend.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽


When Shelby attends the county fair with her kids, she's watching the firemen give a demonstration of how the Jaws of Life work.  But when Jake Taylor is pulling the dummy from the car, it turns out to be a real body - and someone that Jake wasn't fond of.  So of course he's suspected of killing the man, and Shelby does what any good friend would do - she resolves to find the real killer before Jake can be set up for the crime...

This is the second book in the Farmer's Daughter mysteries, and I was really hoping it would get better; but unfortunately, Shelby still isn't a good example of a parent.  She allows her daughter to run roughshod over her, even though she's still a kid herself.  Why are we being treated to the trials and tribulations of being a pre-teen in love?  At what point is Shelby going to act the adult and tell her daughter to straighten up?  So this little girl sees her 'boyfriend' holding hands with another girl and tells her mom that no one loves her.  And this is supposed to endear her to us?  To show us just how immature she really is?  Um, no.  So then her daughter is accused of cheating by a teacher, and Shelby finds out it was the "popular girl" instead.  Amelia (the daughter) won't tell because she'll have to 'sit with the nerds'.  Hmmm...there's a whole lot wrong here.  1) Shelby allows her daughter to think being popular is more important than having integrity or telling the truth; and 2) letting her believe that 'nerds' are the worst thing ever.   (In the first book, she let someone steal from her son, and now she's okay with someone lying to save their own skin.  What kind of person is Shelby?  Spineless, that's what).

Plus, Shelby has three men who want to date her and she's agonizing over it because she doesn't know if she's ready to date.  Yes, folks, a love quadrangle.  And one of those men is her brother-in-law.  While this may not be creepy to some, I can't even imagine sleeping with either of my brothers-in-law (shudder).  Too close to home, if you get my drift.  Uncle goes to Daddy real fast in that case.  Maybe she should think about things and allow the kids to spend time with the other two men (since they already know Uncle Frank).  She might come up with a few surprises, anyway.

All in all, not much improvement over the first in the series.  Shelby has no idea how to deal with a daughter, and when her son Billy gets older who knows what will happen then.  She'd better get married fast so at least there'll be one parent in the family.

https://www.amazon.com/Sowed-Death-Farmers-Daughter-Mystery/dp/0425282031/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2336254838

More on Peg Cochran's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/peg-cochran/

No Farm, No Foul (A Farmer's Daughter Mystery #1)

Author:  Peg Cochran
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #: 9780425282021
Berkley Publishing
303 Pages
$7.19; $7.19 Amazon
September 6, 2016

✮✭


On her blog, The Farmer's Daughter, Shelby McDonald is growing her audience as she posts recipes, garden tips, and her experiences raising two kids and running Love Blossom Farm in the small western Michigan town of Lovett.

Working the farm is demanding but peaceful - until that peace is shattered when the minister's wife is murdered on Shelby's property during a fund-raiser for a local church.  But the manure really hits the fan when Shelby's good friend veterinarian Kelly Thacker emerges as the prime suspect.  Shelby decides to dig in and find the murderer by herself.  As more suspects crop up, she'll have to move fast - before someone else buys the farm...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Shelby McDonald is a widow who lives on the family farm with her twelve-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.  She's offered her farm for a church fundraiser, and everything seems to be going along swimmingly when she steps into her mudroom only to find the body of the minister's wife.  Stunned, she can't think who would want to kill the woman.

But she plans on staying out of the investigation until her best friend Kelly, the local veterinarian, asks her to investigate, because Kelly believes her fiancé Seth could have possibly committed the murder.  What's a woman to do?  Of course she agrees and hopes to find the true killer before the killer finds her...

Well, since this is the first in a new series, I usually give the author a pass and at least offer two stars if the book isn't up to par...and I did try, indeed I did.  But there was so much I just couldn't get past to give it any more than that.

She has her daughter - did I mention she's twelve? - sneaking out behind her back with a fourteen-year-old boy and everyone around her thinks it's just fine except for her.  Are her friends hillbillies who think girls need to be married at thirteen or they become old maids?  What the heck is the matter with them?  She's twelve, for heaven's sake!  I hope Shelby's not surprised when she's a grandmother in a year or two.  Mom doesn't want to confront her daughter figuring it's a phase.  Can you say spineless?  Because that's what Shelby is.  Tell your daughter no, and tell the boy's mother no.  Bad parenting is what it is.  Also, she might want to think about having her kids do a few chores around the farm.  They live there, too.  Would it be so difficult if they collected eggs or fed the chickens?

And speaking of bad parenting, someone steals her son's zucchini that he was going to enter in the county fair.  Her son is eight.  He's a child.  So when she finds out who steals it, she confronts the woman, and the woman's response is that her own son just needs to win the contest.  So that makes it alright?  Theft is fine as long as it benefits someone else?  Her son's feelings don't matter?  So what does she do?  She asks her about the murder!  That's right, asks her about the murder.  It's perfectly fine to steal her son's zucchini and break his heart as long as she gets information.  Are you freakin' kidding me?  I would have left, and as I was going out the door, I would have told her that she can forget about it because I was going to the fair judges to tell them what she'd done.  How many times has this woman done this in the past, and if she gets away with it once, she'll do it again.  But it's okay because she could ask questions about the murder, right?  Yeah, go home and tell your boy that you told her you knew what she'd done but you didn't do anything about it because you wanted to ask her a question.  That will make him feel better.

Then we come to the subject of Kelly who thinks her boyfriend is capable of murder.  Why is she marrying him then?  Are there no other men in this town?  Sorry, but if you believe the man you're going to wed has committed murder, then maybe you should back out of the marriage.  Don't make him mad or you could be next...

Sorry, but Shelby is a weak woman; she seems to be apologizing to everyone and walks on eggshells around her daughter.  Grow a backbone, woman!  So, in the end, I will read the next in this series and see if it improves.  Perhaps Shelby will have grown up by then.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Farewell, My Cuckoo (A Birds of a Feather Mystery #4)

Author:  Marty Wingate
Genre:  Mystery

Digital Book
Alibi Publishing
$4.99 Amazon
April 10, 2018

✮✮✮✮✮


Wedding bells are ringing in the small British village of Smeaton-under-Lyme.  Julia Lanchester's second-in-command at the local tourist center is finally getting married, and the lovebirds are giving Julia and her live-in boyfriend, Michael Sedgwick, ideas about their own future.  But before anyone can say "Will you," Michael's flighty older sister, Pammy, crashes the party, fresh off a breakup and lugging all her worldly possessions around with her in a tangle of plastic bags.

Before long, Julia's cozy cottage starts feeling more like Pammy's bachelorette pad.  To keep herself from going cuckoo, Julia throws herself into her pet projects at work - until death disrupts her plans.  First a body is found on the estate.  Then the police discover that Pammy was the last one to see the man alive.  And soon Julia gets the feeling that if she ever wants her home - or her boyfriend - back, she'll have to get to the bottom of this mystery, even if it means breaking a few eggs.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Julia Lanchester and Michael Sedgwick, her live-in boyfriend, return from a wedding of two locals, love is definitely in the air.  Julia can sense that Michael is about to propose, and it seems that he very nearly does, when his sister Pammy arrives on their doorstep...with everything she owns.  It appears that Pammy's latest relationship - with a married man - has broken up and she's nowhere to go.  So Julia and Michael reluctantly allow her to stay for one night in their tiny cottage until she can reach her friend Amy.

But one night turns into two, then three, then...well, you get the idea.  It doesn't look like Pammy is going anywhere soon, and neither is Michael's proposal.  So they try to get on with their lives, with Julia running the TIC (tourist information center) at the Fotheringill estate, and Michael, who works with Julia's father Rupert, is reluctantly filming a sequence with Julia's old beau, Gavin Lecky.  Michael doesn't like Gavin at all, and he likes him even less when Gavin spies Pammy and is instantly taken with her.

But Julia has another problem, too.  A man's body was found by her friend Willow who works at the school and is engaged to Lord Fotheringill's son Cecil.  Willow has become distraught at finding him, and no one seems to know who he is.  At least Willow has the comfort of her aunt Lottie to help her when Cecil is not around.

Then Julia has an unfortunate encounter with a man at a tea shop, and is not happy when he shows up in the village at the shop of her friend Nuala.  It appears he's interested in Nuala, and Julia knows Linus, Lord Fotheringill, is also interested in her so she decides to step in and take a hand.

A nice family of four has also arrived at the TIC to explore the estate and like it so well they return the next weekend.  When Julia figures out that they may have encountered the dead man (before he was deceased, obviously) she decides to contact them in the hope they may have information regarding who he is.  She actually becomes chummy with the mother who is a graphic designer and starts helping them design pamphlets for the TIC.

Then there's the problem of a local farmer who was certified organic but Julia discovers he has ruined his fields.  He knew Bob and even employed him once in a while, and Julia begins to wonder if he didn't do the man in because he knew what was done.

But the only thing anyone truly knows is that the poor dead man was named Bob, and nothing else.  Yet somehow, someone must have, because poor Bob is now dead and at the morgue.  And somehow, again, these stories become interlaced and have more of a connection to Bob than anyone realizes.  It is nearly too late when Julia starts putting it all together and what a tale it becomes...

This book, as all the others in the series, was a true delight to read.  Julia Lanchester quietly puts up with Pammy, who's flighty and seems to have no direction in life.  It is only when Gavin enters the picture does it seem that Pammy might actually want to do something worthwhile; and Julia sees it as a way to eventually get back the home that Pammy has made her own.

There's enough intrigue and mystery here to keep anyone interested, and while at first it seems there is a lot going on, it all comes together nicely at the end.  Julia has more patience than I ever would given the situation at hand; but unfortunately I didn't care for Pammy very much.  While she may have seemed like a nice enough person, she rather insinuated herself in Julia's home and roving about the village while insisting she'd leave soon.  Nothing pointed to her leaving, and family or not, she seemed to me to be an opportunist, one of the worst type of people there are.  She was also too whiny for my taste.  (I'm hoping Gavin will redeem her).

Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy her part in the book; she was just as important as any of the other secondary characters, we just can't like everyone, can we?  (I think a lot of it was the fact that she just moved in lock, stock and barrel without notice or even trying to go anywhere else and didn't care that she was trashing someone else's home).

But the tale was masterfully written; the writing crisp and lively, the settings descriptive and broad, and the characters animated and believable.  This is a village I would definitely want to visit, and these are people I love spending time with.  Julia belongs to Smeaton-under-Lyme; she truly loves the estate, Linus, her friends, family, and of course, Michael.  It shows in her dedication to her job and the people around her.  It shows in the fact that she doesn't want a dead man not to be mourned, and wants to find out as much about him as she can.

Julia has heart, and that's an important characteristic in any human being.  She cares.  And that, my friends, is what makes the Birds of a Feather mysteries so very good.  This is the fourth book in the series, and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite as they are all so well done.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Farewell-My-Cuckoo-Feather-Mystery-ebook/dp/B073YTFZ53/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2332835299

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

Friday, March 16, 2018

Death of a Bacon Heiress (Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery #7)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; MP3 CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496702524; 9781531835675
Kensington Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99; $9.99; $5.99 Amazon
March 29, 2016



When Hayley is invited to do a cooking demo on one of daytime's most popular talk shows, it's a welcome distraction from her empty nest blues.  And the newfound fame certainly has its perks - especially when Olivia Redmond, the posh bacon heiress of Redmond Meats, offers Hayley a writing gig with a juicy paycheck.

But Hayley's good fortune fizzles fast.  The heiress is found dead with her pot-bellied pig, Pork Chop, squealing bloody murder beside her body, and clogged arteries aren't to blame.  It turns out Olivia's inherited a wealth of enemies over the years, and as Hayley trims the fat off a mounting list of suspects, it's clear that being rich and hot-tempered can be a recipe for disaster...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Well, I hate to say it, but even I have to give up what little hope I was holding out for this series to improve.  I read and I read, hoping against hope that something, anything would change to make this series better.  Instead I came to a revelation that pretty much ended it for me.

I've realized that not a single woman in the book has a decent relationship.  Mona hates her [lazy] husband, Liddy keeps finding new boyfriends; and Hayley keeps a boyfriend for a few months and they break up.  You know, if this were a group of men instead of a group of women, there'd be a few choice words to say about them.  Losers.  Players.  Drunks. Jerks.  Good-for-Nothing.  But because they're women it's just bad choices?

The finality for me was the fact that in the last book Hayley and Aaron seemed to be progressing nicely in their relationship and falling in love.  But then out of the blue they decide to break up because they're not right for each other?  (No spoiler here since you see it coming from the first pages).  What?  Who wants to read a series where every female (or male) is lousy at relationships?  I have a great one, so do my sisters, friends, etc., but I guess they’re not right for each other but in the previous book they were right for each other?  WTH?  I guess three loser women can hang out together but I sure don’t want to read about them.  Maybe if they'd give up the booze for awhile (or at least go easy) they'd be able to figure out what was wrong with their lives and do something about it.  Not to mention a situation with Mona just seems so over the top.  Right...a woman with seven children.  Uh-huh.  Soooo believable...

I also couldn't get past the fact that a woman who owns a bacon empire would keep a pig as a pet.  A pig.  As a pet.  And makes her money in bacon.  Yeah, and I know a beef salesman that keeps a cow as a pet, too.  Another unbelievable scenario.  You don't keep your food as pets (unless you're the most insensitive mooch on the planet).

In the end, it's not that I'm promoting you need a man (or woman) to make you happy.  Many, many women do well without one (including one of my sisters).  But if you're going to write a series about three friends, why are all of them bad at relationships?  It's not plausible.  And Hayley has a crappy job that never gets any better, and no money.  Jeez, I guess I just got tired of being depressed every time I read one of these books.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Heiress-Hayley-Powell-Mystery/dp/1496702522/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2329565297

More on Lee Hollis's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/lee-hollis/

Death of a Cupcake Queen (A Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery #6)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9780758294531
Kensington Publishing
311 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
May 26, 2015

✮✮


On the eve of her high school reunion, Hayley dreads seeing the trio of mean girls who used to torment her; Sabrina Merryweather, Nykki Temple, and former prom queen Ivy Foster.  These days Ivy wears a different crown as the cupcake queen - and flaunting her success is just the icing on the cake.

But maybe the prom queen should have been voted Most Likely to Die.  At the reunion, Ivy is found murdered, cupcakes scattered around her.  Is a killer out to teach the mean girls a lesson?  As Hayley tries to get the scoop, she'll have to be careful...or someone may be writing this columnist's obituary next.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Hayley Powell is railroaded into providing food for her high school reunion, she doesn't expect that the only other person with food will be murdered before the cupcakes are even set out.  One of the mean girls in school, Ivy Foster, is found murdered in the kitchen of the club where they're holding the reunion.  While several people aren't surprised - Ivy was not a nice person and even had no problem fighting with her husband in public - someone hated her enough to bash her head in.  And Hayley, knowing somehow Sabrina might be involved, decides to find the killer....

Well, let me first say that the best part of this book is Hayley's phone.  I want one.  Because in one scene, someone takes it and smashes it against the wall, and in the very next, she pulls it out of her pocket to answer it.  Wow.  Who wouldn't want a phone that magically reassembles itself after something like that?  You get my drift...

Now, the rest of the review is a huge spoiler, because it's the end of the book and tells why it was bad.  Please don't read if you haven't already read this book or are planning on never doing so.  It gives the ending away!


So, if you've read the spoiler, then you'll understand why this book was a huge disappointment.  It rather ruins the rest of the book when the ending doesn't make any sense.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Cupcake-Hayley-Powell-Mystery/dp/0758294530/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2329531161

More on Lee Hollis's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/lee-hollis/

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Grave Issue (A Funeral Parlor Mystery)

Author:  Lillian Bell
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683314905; 9781683317258
Crooked Lane Books
288 Pages
$26.99; $15.99; $7.80 Amazon
February 13, 2018

✮✮✮


After an on-air gaffe goes viral and jeopardizes her career, journalist Desiree Turner retreats home to Verbena, California, for some peace and quiet.  She begins working in one of the quietest jobs around: presiding over funerals for her great-grandfather's funeral parlor.  But the actions seems to follow her when a fistfight breaks out between neighbors Rosemarie Brewer and Lola Hansen at one of Desiree's first funerals.  When it exposes a nasty dispute, Rosemarie's husband, Alan, is found murdered shortly after.

Lola's husband, Kyle, is immediately arrested.  Desiree, whose own father's death was devastating, has always viewed Kyle as a second father.  Determined to clear his name, Desiree jumps headfirst into the investigation and quickly discovers that Alan had several unsavory habits at his job and in his personal life, including putting assets into his mistress's account to hide them from Rosemarie.  People murder for money and love all the time, and there's no telling who he offended just enough to push them over the edge.

Desiree is looking in all the right places, but she better catch the killer fast - before they come for her next.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Desiree Turner moved home to Verbena, California after a serious on-air gaffe left her without a job.  Now she's helping run the family's funeral parlor - a place she thought she'd permanently escaped from ten years ago.  But when a murder victim is sent to the home, it becomes personal when a close family friend is accused of the crime.  Now Desiree feels she needs to solve the murder, since the police have Kyle Hanson in jail, and she knows it's just not possible.

But standing in her way is the widow, Rosemarie Brewer, who accused Kyle because of a personal vendetta against the Hansens; and the fact that the murder weapon used also belonged to them.  Desiree still isn't convinced, and no matter what it takes, she's going to find out the truth...

What can I say about this book?  It had good bones, that is true.  But I got the feeling while reading this that the author, in some small way, was using a surreptitious way to give us a politically correct agenda and promote her own views on things.  I also didn't really care for Nate's character.  He just didn't seem to click with Desiree, and she had more spark with either Luke or Rafe.  Nate just seemed boring to me and I didn't understand why she was interested in him.

Then there was the issue of the charm - we understood immediately who it was from, but I was disappointed that this story line didn't go anywhere.  If you're going to hint at something important, at least give us some kind of resolution.  I absolutely abhor cliff hangers, and I can't emphasize this too many times.  You never know if the author is going to do this in every single book after you see it once.

Then there's the funeral home...how many 'situations' occur at funerals?  At every single funeral (sans one) there was some sort of issue with the way people behaved.  Fistfights?  Jumping into coffins?  Perhaps a fight or two once in a while, but twice in one week at the same funeral home?  What type of people live here?  Who does that?  I can't even imagine.  But the real killer is that it's one thing to read a series about a funeral home (I've read one, and the series is quite good), but it's something entirely different to read about what goes on there.  Who wants to read about funerals?  We all pretty much know what happens, we don't need to read about "packages" and everything happening at the home and the funeral.  It's depressing and brings back unhappy memories for some of us who have lost loved ones.  It would be no different than reading a book about euthanizing pets.  We know it happens, but who wants to hear about the details?  As you probably understand, if we are reading a book about a waitress, we don't need to hear about every order she places, every customer, how they're eating, what they're wearing, how she cleans up the table, etc.  This author seemed to write about every little thing that funerals entail - what packages people were buying, caskets, how they were dressed, the graveyard, etc.    

Other than that, the plot was pretty decent and the writing was good.  As a start to a new series, it was decent, and I realize that the first book in a series needs to be honed, so the author is off to a good start; but unfortunately, it just isn't my cup of tea. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bad Neighbors (An Agnes and Effie Mystery #2)

Author:  Maia Chance
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683315414
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$26.99; $10.99 Amazon
April 10, 2018

✮✮✮✮


It's leaf-peeping season in Naneda, New York, and Agnes Blythe has settled into helping her eccentric Great Aunt Effie restore the Stagecoach Inn.  It seems nothing can shatter the golden idyll - or the ka-ching of cash registers - until a mechanic at Hatch Automotive is found bludgeoned to death with a wrench.

Sweeping into action, Agnes and Aunt Effie are on the scene, when a tourist-laden motor coach breaks down outside of town.  The Stagecoach Inn isn't exactly ready for guests, but Agnes and Effie agree to take in a group of seniors while they wait for repairs.  But then, Agnes finds herself pulled into the investigation when she learns her new boyfriend, gorgeous Otis Hatch, is the Naneda Police Department's prime suspect.

With bodies falling faster than the foliage, Agnes must leaf through the more viable suspects and clear Otis's name of murder.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Agnes Blythe has moved into her Aunt Effie's still-working-on Stagecoach Inn, getting ready to turn it into a B & B.  Right now it's pretty much a disaster area.  But when they receive news that a motor coach on a leaf-peeping tour has broken down, they're asked to take in several of the tourists.  Since they're not licensed, Effie agrees - as non-paying guests - and does her best to ready some rooms.  Meanwhile, she sends Agnes into town to pick up those guests at Hatch Automotive, where Agnes' boyfriend Otis works.

But when Agnes arrives, she finds the police there, and Otis being escorted into a police car.  It seems a local, Mikey, has been murdered at the shop, and since Otis's wrench was the murder weapon, he's the logical party.  So what's a woman to do?  Help Otis, of course!  So Agnes and Effie set about - along with help from Agnes's cousin Chester, who also works at the Inn, and even help from a couple of the guests - to prove Otis innocent and find the guilty party.  But will they be able to do so, especially when the police are sure he's the murderer and the townspeople aren't helping, since it seems they have their own secrets to hide...

This is a cute cozy mystery, the second in the new series by Maia Chance.  While I enjoyed the interaction between the guests and their hosts, there were a couple of things that bothered me.  Agnes didn't even try to hide the fact she was investigating - she is really, really bad at it.  She accuses everyone of being the murderer, and puts herself in situations no sane person would do.  And who pulls up floors in the middle of the night while you have guests?  It's not exactly a silent thing to do.  The noise would be heard.  It just seemed odd to me.  I get that they want - need to renovate - but surely she could have picked better times or set aside a time until the guests leave.  (And a guest who isn't paying complaining to the host as Hank did seemed rather petty).

Yes, I had complaints.  So why did I give it four stars?  Because it was funny at times, and poor Agnes was trying so hard to do the right thing, even though her heart was breaking.  I liked Chester best of all; he was who he was without trying to be something else.   He seemed to have a more natural personality without any angst.  Having not read the first in the series, I still haven't made up my mind about her father, since he pretty much ignored her unless she did something that made him happy (even a small town mayor doesn't have so much to do that he can't visit or call his only child on a regular basis - I'm one of five and my dad and I talked on the phone every single day).

While the plot was very good, there were a lot of characters to keep track of, and at times I had to keep going back to figure out who was who; but the story was interesting enough to keep me reading, and there was plenty of action.  I enjoyed the interaction between Agnes, Effie and Chester.  She's an aunt anyone would love to have.  It's a good start to a new series and I will read the next when it comes out.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Bad-Neighbors-Agnes-Effie-Mystery/dp/1683315413/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2186242607

More on Maia Chance's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/maia-chance/

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Death of a Christmas Caterer (Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery #5)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9780758294517
Kensington Publishing
336 Pages
$6.39; $5.99 Amazon
October 7, 2014

✮✮


Office Christmas parties can sometimes mean career suicide - but they rarely lead to murder.  Hayley thought Garth Rawlings would be the perfect caterer for this year's bash, but when the gourmet sees her budget, he goes galloping.

Unfortunately his run is short-lived.  Garth is found dead on the floor of his kitchen, with his delectable creations burning in the oven.  Faced with a spread of suspects, Hayley is determined to discover who would want to take out the Christmas caterer, because - no matter what the season - justice must be served...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Hayley Powell, food and drink writer for the Island Times in Bar Harbor, Maine, has just barely begun a new relationship with the handsome vet when she hears that her old boyfriend, Lex Banfield has had an accident and is in the hospital.  So Hayley, feeling sorry for him, brings him food so he won't have to eat hospital fare.  She's still complaining about her lack of money but never even thinks of bailing to go to the other newspaper which might actually give her a living wage (didn't they have an opening after book #1?).  It's hard to feel sorry for someone who's already wallowing in their penury but won't do anything about it.

She also has been given the dubious duty of planning the office Christmas party with one days' notice.  When she gets a caterer - Garth Rawlings - he hangs up on her once he finds out what the budget is going to be, and Hayley winds up making all the food herself.  But when Garth learns people are raving about her menu, he hires her to help him for a couple of days and promises her $1500 to do so.  How can she turn it down?  But when she arrives at Garth's kitchen, there's a problem - a fire, and Garth is found dead on the floor.  County coroner Sabrina Merriwether rules it death by beating - but how did it happen when Garth was found in a locked room with no windows?

No, Hayley knows there's more to the story, and she's determined to find the truth.  What she does discover is that Garth had plenty of enemies, his marriage wasn't everything it was cracked up to be, and there are people who don't want her to know the truth, regardless if it means she'll have to be put away in a deep freeze forever...

Well, I guess I shouldn't go so far as to say I had high hopes for this book.  Hayley is Too Stupid To Live.  Her new boyfriend Aaron asks her to a romantic dinner, and Lex calls her begging her to bring him food.  So what does she do?  She agrees - in front of Aaron, KNOWING.  Just knowing.  What. A. Stupid. Woman.  Seriously, what is wrong with her?  Someone needs to show her a picture of a doormat and tape her name to it.  Then Hayley needs to photocopy it and put it in her home, at work, in her car, etc.  She should have just told Lex no, and that she'd see him tomorrow.  What a bleeding heart she is.

She also learns that her ex-husband is going to Bermuda instead of buying his kids Christmas gifts, or paying for half of their tickets to visit him.  Why not tell the kids what their dad is doing?  I would.  She owes him nothing, and should probably rethink her custody agreement.  What good is a father who puts his new girlfriend ahead of his children?  No, thank you.  She learns this at the beginning of the book, but then the subject is...dropped.  Throughout the rest of the book...

Anyway, now she's sort of on the outs with Aaron, and things just keep going from bad to worse.  At the office Christmas party, her coworker Bruce corners her and then after she barely escapes he tries to deny it the next day until Sal (her boss) lets Bruce know he saw everything.  So Hayley just wants to forget it, because you know, sexual assault by a drunk coworker is no big deal, right?  Even when it's brought up time and again, we should just go with it and say, 'Hey, the guy was just drunk' and shrug our shoulders about the whole situation.

So her relationship problems notwithstanding, she starts to investigate another murder.  Let's just say Hayley isn't known for being subtle.  And of course, it gets her in trouble and in real danger a couple of times.  But then she does something so totally stupid that I realizes this must be the dumbest woman on the face of the earth.  Here it is - and it's an ending spoiler, so if you don't want to know, don't read it:



What I have decided is that the characters in this book aren't the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree.  Sabrina is a coroner but repeatedly makes mistakes - big ones.  Mistakes no coroner would miss.  Hayley is getting close to being a moron.  Her intelligence seems to go down in each succeeding book, which is pretty hard to do.  And of course, she still has no problem drinking and driving.  What people need to realize is that when you have even one drink and get behind the wheel of a car, you're not only taking your own life in your hands, you're also taking everyone else's who happens to be out on the road that night.  And it's winter, icy and cold.  Not a good idea.

I really do hope that any more books in this series will have Hayley wising up to life and getting a new job and stop allowing people to walk all over her.  A light, fluffy read.

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Caterer-Hayley-Powell-Mystery/dp/0758294514/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2326351938

More on Lee Hollis's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/lee-hollis/

Monday, March 12, 2018

Coffin, Scarcely Used (A Flaxborough Mystery Book 1)

Author:  Colin Watson
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:   9780754086024; 9781601870162
Farrago Publishing
210 Pages
$36.96; $14.95; $.99 Amazon
February 22, 2018

✮✮✮✮✮


In the respectable seaside town of Flaxborough, the equally respectable councillor Harold Carobleat is laid to rest.  Cause of death:  pneumonia.

But he is scarcely cold in his coffin before Detective Inspector Purbright, affable and annoyingly polite, must turn out again to examine the death of Carobleat's neighour, Marcus Gwill, former proprietor of the local rag, the Citizen.  This time it looks like foul play, unless a surfeit of marshmallows had lead the late and rather unlamented Mr. Gwill to commit suicide by electrocution.  ('Power without responsibility', murmurs Purbright.)

How were the dead men connected, both to each other and to a small but select band of other town worthies?  Purbright becomes intrigued by a stream of advertisements Gwill was putting in the Citizen, for some very oddly named antique items...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽


When one man is killed in a village it isn't really news unless a few months later another turns up dead - this time a suicide; and connected to the other.  Now, it seems at first all cut and dried, but to Inspector Purbright, a highly intelligent policeman, he knows that it's foul play.  But proving it is going to be another matter.

Not to mention that the reason for both deaths escape him at the time; he doesn't seem to have any headway by questioning the dead man's companions; nor does he get anywhere questioning his housekeeper.  But then, something occurs to him: it is only a matter of a book at the home of the deceased Mr. Gwill, and a list of repetitive advertisements that bring his attention.  And our intrepid inspector is on his way to solving a very intricate and detailed operation of the highly delicate sort that could just change everything...

What a delightful surprise this book was.  I have never read anything by Mr. Watson before, but I can tell you that I am going to read the rest in this series.  As far as British police procedurals go, this is one of the best.  I can almost see it come to life, with the late Alistair Sim playing Inspector Purbright; a man who knows in his gut what is going on around him, and uses his wits to discover the truth of the matter.

What seems at first as cut and dried isn't; and by use of several policemen Purbright manages to get all the pieces of the jigsaw and put them together.  And what a puzzle he has fashioned!  This is an older book, but masterfully written, and is right up there with the best of them. Murder, blackmail, and scandalous immorality are woven within indeed make for a remarkable mystery that is very well written.

When all is said and done and the ending comes, we realize how simply enjoyable it was to read.  I look forward to the next book by this late author.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Coffin-Scarcely-Used-Flaxborough-Mystery-ebook/dp/B079JHF82B/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2325323676

More on Colin Watson's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/colin-watson/

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Death of a Chocoholic (A Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery #4)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #: 9780758294494
Kensington Publishing
346 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
January 7, 2014

✮✮


Fed up with dating after a disastrous setup, the only thing Hayley wants to snuggle up to is a box of made-to-order chocolates from plus-sized, plus-mouthed chocolatier Bessie Winthrop.  But when Bessie is found dead in her kitchen, only Hayley suspects that Bessie's "heart attack" might actually be a candy-coated murder.

Turns out Bessie had more enemies than a boxful of chocolates, each one a suspicious flavor.  It's sticky business juggling a job, two teenagers and finding a killer, but it's better than letting a killer find Hayley first...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Hayley Powell, food and drink columnist for a small newspaper in Bar Harbor, Maine, has just found her duties doubled when her co-worker Bruce takes a vacation and she needs to also write his crime beat column as well.  Which is fortunate, because she runs into an old schoolmate at the grocery store, and the woman is arguing with the owner.  After diffusing the situation, Hayley finds out the argument was because the woman wants to make chocolates, but the owner insists her house is too filthy for him to sell them.

When Hayley offers the woman a ride home, she finds out this is true, but still stays friends with Bessie Winthrop, figuring the obese woman doesn't have any others.  And when Bessie insists Hayley act in her promotional YouTube video, Hayley can't say no.  Neither does she when Bessie shows up at her office telling Hayley she's naming a line of candy after her and insists on giving her a promotional box.

But when Hayley gets the box of candy, which isn't until after Bessie suddenly dies and the coroner rules it natural causes due to her weight and health problems, that Hayley finds a note stuck inside one of the chocolates reading that someone was trying to kill her.  Now Hayley is insistent that Bessie was murdered, and is determined to find out who killed her, even if it ruins any chance she might have of a relationship with the new vet in town...

This is the fourth book in the series, and I was really hoping it would improve by now, but it really needs to have a professional proofreader.  In one scene, Bessie's car is kaput, in another, she has it at the bank.  In one scene, Hayley is looking at photos that Bessie took on her digital camera, but drops it when Sergio shows up...but then later on has photos she printed out from the camera that she left back in Bessie's house.

And Hayley isn't intrepid at all, as the author(s) would have us believe.  She has no problem breaking and entering, and doing other illegal miscellanea if it gets her what she wants.  Unfortunately, the worst of the characters is Liddy, who's supposed to be a modern woman very much in charge of herself, but she comes off like an oversexed drunk who has no problem hitting on men her best friend is interested in, and then apologizing later.

At least in this book Hayley didn't hit the bottle every time something went wrong in her life.  That's a plus in itself.  But this book could have been oh, so much better if Hayley had acted more like an adult female and used her wits instead of randomly accusing people and illegally searching their homes and businesses.  It's almost as if she's a teenager sneaking around trying to find out if her boyfriend is cheating on her.

In the end, it didn't seem so climactic as it could have been, and even though the reasons for the murder could have been believable, there were still questions left unanswered (Where is Kerry now?) and I would have liked to have seen some interaction that would have given us a clue to the killer before the last few pages.  Just another so-so book in the series; but since I have, unfortunately, purchased a few more of these, I will read them and try to get through to the end.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Chocoholic-Hayley-Powell-Mystery/dp/0758294492/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2323289232

More on Lee Hollis's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/lee-hollis/

Uneasy Prey (A Zoe Chambers Mystery Volume 6)

Author:  Annette Dashofy
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635113235; 9781635113204
Henery Press Publishing
286 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $6.99 Amazon
March 27, 2018

✮✮✮✮✮


On the way to the emergency room, an elderly woman regains consciousness long enough to inform paramedic Zoe Chambers that her fall down the basement steps was no accident.  Before she can say more, she succumbs to her injuries, launching Zoe and Police Chief Pete Adams into the investigation of a burglary ring targeting the area's vulnerable senior citizens.  Zoe - in spite of Pete's objections - takes it upon herself to act as protection detail after the con men, disguised as water company employees, set their sights on Zoe's beloved former landlady.  It's a decision that eventually puts Zoe in harm's way.  With Zoe already recovering from one close call, Pete must race against time to stop the crime ring - and a dangerous killer - before they strike again. 

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽         

Zoe Chambers is a paramedic in Pennsylvania.  Just as she's back to work after recovering from an injury, she receives a call that an ambulance is needed at elderly widow Oriole Andrews' home.  When she and her co-worker Earl arrive, they find Oriole at the bottom of the basement stairs, where she's apparently taken a nasty fall.  Oriole's granddaughter Janie is distraught and tells them she found her that way.  But on the way to the hospital, Oriole regains consciousness and tells Zoe she was pushed; but dies before she can tell them who did it.

Concerned, Zoe shares this information with Police Chief Pete Adams, who is also Zoe's live-in boyfriend.  What Zoe learns later is that con men posing as water department employees are targeting elderly people and burglarizing them.  When Zoe's friends the Krolls have a run-in with the thieves, Zoe decides to temporarily stay with them to keep them safe.

But Pete has problems of his own.  His sister Nadine is falling apart caring for their elderly father Harry, who has Alzheimer's, so makes the decision to put him in an assisted-living facility.  The one she's chosen is Golden Oaks, and it's as nice as they come, even though Pete knows Harry would still be happier at home.  But just when he thinks it's not going to work out, Harry sees his across-the-hall neighbor Barbara and becomes instantly smitten.  So, for the time being at least, Pete's mind is at rest.

But then the retired town police dispatcher Sylvia makes a call to the station that the con men have come to her home, too, and Zoe and Pete rush to her side.  While there, she has what appears to be a heart attack, and while they're at the hospital, she's also burglarized.

Not to help the situation is a reporter who's come to town, Lauren Sanders, and she won't give up on the case.  She's there at every turn Pete or Zoe makes, and they begin to wonder how she knows what's going on and why she's around every corner.  They wonder if she's involved somehow; and Janie's son Marcus is getting into fights at school, which only complicates things.  Now Zoe and Pete both have their hands full, trying to find these guys and handle everything before someone else is killed...

I have always enjoyed the Zoe Chambers books; and each time I read one I remember why.  The plot is well-thought out and the characters are full of life.  Zoe and Pete have their new live-in relationship pretty well navigated, and now they have new problems with needing Pete's dad to go to a new place to live and Zoe worried about the Krolls, her ex-landlords.  It doesn't help that Oriole's granddaughter's son is acting up at school, nor that attractive reporter Lauren Sanders appears to be flirting with Pete in order to get information.  Along again is Monongahela County Detective Wayne Baronick, who's also investigating the burglaries, and while sometimes a thorn in Pete's side, he's grateful that Wayne's there to help.

Pennsylvania's winter countryside covered with snow cannot be easy to navigate, and can be treacherous; and Ms. Dashofy's descriptions are vibrant and enough to make you feel the cold along with the characters.  The people in the book seem real and convincing; each has a definite personality and draw you into the book along with them.

The mystery itself is woven tightly and with many threads; when it at last all comes together and you see how everything - even what seems trivial - connects, it is definitely a pleasing outcome to an admirable story.  Ms. Dashofy is an excellent writer with a broad imagination that makes you want to read her books more than once.

At the end, it is rather sad on the paths life can take us, and how even the smallest decision can color everything we do.  While sadness does reign, there is also happiness to be found, and this was indeed a very good book and I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Uneasy-Prey-Zoe-Chambers-Mystery/dp/1635113202/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2323037100

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

Friday, March 9, 2018

Death of a Coupon Clipper (A Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery #3)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperbook; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780758267399
Kensington Publishing
416 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
July 2, 2013



Hayley Powell, food and cocktails columnist for Bar Harbor's Island Times, is...well, kind of broke.  So when she's selected for that extreme coupon-clipping reality game show coming to town...

...she's thrilled, especially when her competition is nasty nurse Candace Culpepper.  But when Hayley stumbles across a face-down-in-the-snow Candace - scissors gleaming between her shoulders - she knows the next thing she'll be selected for will probably be a police line-up.

Meanwhile, though Hayley's BFF Mona was only joking about "taking Candace out," Bruce Linney, the Island Times crime reporter, definitely isn't laughing.  And what about the smarmy, cold-hearted host of the show, Drew Nickerson, who may have been having a steamy affair with the intentionally-iced nurse?  Hayley needs to cut to the chase and find the killer.  Everything may hinge on a stray coupon, but Hayley better keep her eyes on the real grand prixe: staying out of permanent cold storage!

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

PLEASE NOTE:  This review contains spoilers - a lot:

Hayley Powell writes a food and drink column for a local newspaper in Bar Harbor, Maine.  It's winter, and her two children are visiting their father in Iowa for winter break.  When she returns home from work one day, her garage roof collapses, crushing her car, and she also discovers that she has no heat due to her furnace breaking.

Up in arms over what to do, she packs up her dog Leroy and goes to stay with her brother Randy, who owns a bar.  Randy's significant other, police chief Sergio, is visiting his family in South America, so he has plenty of room.  But finding out she can't get a loan from him - cash poor - she turns to her mother, who also says no.

Just when she thinks there's no where else to go, she discovers that an extreme coupon show is coming to town and she sends them her sob story, hoping she'll be chosen - which will solve her money problems (for now, anyway).  But then she discovers that the other person who might be chosen is Candace Culpepper, an old schoolmate who's as nasty as they come, and doesn't like Hayley.

She also finds out that her boyfriend Lex is having problems: his employer Edgar Hollingsworth has slipped into a coma, and no one knows if he'll survive.  It doesn't help that Edgar's son Clark has returned and is barking orders like his father has already died, and everyone dislikes him.

Also, an elderly friend, Mrs. Tubbs, who is also neighbor to Candace has an accident and winds up in the hospital.  She agrees to help her out, even caring for the woman's cat.  But even finding out she's going to be on the show isn't going to help when she goes to Mrs. Tubbs' home and sees something in the snow - that something being the body of Candace.  After her friend Mona was heard in Randy's bar making a remark about killing the woman, she's the main suspect.

With Sergio gone, Officer Donnie has taken over, and he has no idea what he's doing.  He's basically standing still while Hayley runs the investigation (somewhat) and she needs to find a killer before Mona is convicted of the crime.  Let the games begin...

This is the third book in the series, and by far the worst. Most people read to get away from daily problems, not have them follow you into a book. In the first few pages, Hayley's garage collapses and crushes her car; her furnace breaks; and she's forgotten to mail her car insurance so her policy was cancelled. The only saving grace is her kids are with their father for winter break so aren't around to suffer. So what does she do? She goes out drinking, because alcohol solves all problems, as everyone knows, right?

But let's not stop there: it seems her brother - who owns a bar and is living with the police chief, is also broke. I guess he gives a lot of free drinks, because most bars (nice ones, anyway) make money. Otherwise, why own it? It's a lot of work to not make a decent living. His partner Sergio must also make a piddling sum if he had to clean out their bank account to go on vacation - which brings up the question as to why did he go if it meant cleaning out the account? Priorities, people.

Bar Harbor must be the worst-paying city in America since no one seems to have any money. Honestly, I'm really tired of reading about Hayley struggling to make a living. She has 'victim' written all over her and is probably the most depressing protagonist I've ever read about. I guess I shouldn't wonder why I feel depressed after reading one of these books, but just be grateful I don't know her in real life. Why doesn't she send her resume to better-paying newspapers? Surely she'd be willing to move for tons more money? You can make a life anywhere if the pay is right.

Unfortunately, I also had a hard time believing Blueberry's behavior. He's a house cat, not a dog. They don't just randomly attack people and pee outside a litter box unless they feel threatened, are scared or have health problems. Did Mrs. Tubbs mistreat this cat so much that he reacted this way? Even Jackson Galaxy (look it up) would have a hard time believing this. House cats are not feral, and they don't act feral, but this cat acted like the bowels of Hell was after it. Why? There was no indication he should have acted this way and I don't buy the behavior. I've had cats my entire life and never had one act like this - not even feral cats I've fostered and adopted. This cat must have been beaten regularly by its owner - yet later in the book it calmly gets into Mrs. Tubbs's lap. Really? It hates every human but her? Not likely. The author must be an ailurophobe. Cats are just as loving as dogs, and don't attack for no reason. This part of the book bothered me the most.

Then there's the situation of Donnie: How did he get to be a police officer? Why would anyone hire someone this stupid? What cop would pick up a bagged murder weapon and take it out for personal use? (Perhaps he'll be the murder victim in the next book since he's Too Stupid To Live). Not to mention (but I will) that the time of death could’t have been two hours earlier if Candace was arguing with her sister at 8:30. MEs don't get that kind of thing wrong.

Then there's Lex, who is an ass. Who comes over to your house late at night, drunk, and tries to break your door down, and then you still want to date him? Doesn't Hayley realize he could act like this around her kids? But I guess to someone who drinks as much as she does, that this is an everyday occurrence. I also imagine everyone in the Hollingsworth household was brand new, because NONE of them had ever seen the real adult Clark, even though he was Edgar's SON! How much sense does that make? Was there no one who had worked there over ten years who would have seen him? Heard his voice? Yet Hayley was the only person who became suspicious (aside from the dead woman). Most people keep their employees forever - except this guy, apparently.

Sadly, the only thing these people remember to do is get drunk - and sometimes drive drunk. I guess living in Maine in the winter, to quote a famous film line, "A man's got to do something to keep warm." There's drinking and then there's drinking. These people are drinking. A lot.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Til Death Do Us Party (A Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery)

Author:  Vickie Fee
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496715982
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
March 27, 2018

✮✮✮✮✮


Las Vegas knows how to party, and for once, event planner Liv McKay won’t be entirely behind the scenes. The Dixie gang is in Sin City to celebrate Mama and Earl’s rockin’ Elvis-themed wedding. And between juggling the botched bachelorette party and a problem-plagued soirĂ©e back home, Liv’s ready to double down on some fun.

Mama & Earl’s happily-ever-after seems like a sure thing, but all bets (and nuptials) are off when they get to the Burning Love Wedding Chapel. Their Elvis-impersonating minister has left the building . . . permanently. And even worse, Liv’s cousin, Little Junior, is suspected of his murder.

With Mama’s happy ending on the table and Little Junior about to lose it all, the stakes are higher than ever. Liv and her best friend, Di, must hit the Strip to find the real killer before he finally plays his ace...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Liv McKay is on her way to Las Vegas with her mama, her mama's fiancé Earl, husband Larry Joe, his parents, and best friend Di and her boyfriend Dave.  They're traveling because her mama wants to get married there by an Elvis impersonator, and since Earl is paying for almost everything, they couldn't say no.

But no sooner do they arrive when Di sees her ex-husband at the hotel where they're staying, and it puts her and Dave on the outs when she starts spending time with Jimmy Souther.  Then Liv sees someone she also knows who moved to Las Vegas several years ago - Jana - who wasn't such a nice person but has volunteered to get a nice venue for Liv to have a bachelorette dinner for her mama.

They've also managed to meet up with Liv's cousin Little Junior, who lives in Vegas and is a cab driver and Elvis impersonator.  He offers to drive them anywhere they want to go, and when they wind up at the chapel where mama and Earl are getting married, he has a sort-of run-in with the chapel's resident Elvis.

While the dinner isn't exactly what Liv had planned, her mama and mother-in-law both seemed to enjoy it, and so with that behind them they arrive at the chapel for the wedding.  But during the middle of the ceremony, 'Elvis' drops dead, and the wedding is off.  But when it's found out that he was murdered, the only suspect is Little Junior and he's arrested.

While Dave, a sheriff back in Tennessee, is using what connections he has to keep abreast of the case, mama begs Liv and Di to find the real killer, since they know it just couldn't be Little Junior.  But while they're subtly investigating, his daddy Junior hightails it from Phoenix to be near his son, and it causes health problems for him.

Not to mention that now Di and Dave are on the outs because of Jimmy, and Di won't talk about it or have anything to do with Dave.  This is not the wedding/vacation that Liv planned for, but it's the one she's got, and if she doesn't figure things out, not only will her mama not be married, she may be visiting her cousin in a Nevada prison doing his own jailhouse rock...

First off, let me state that I live in Las Vegas and as such was really looking forward to reading this book.  I will also say that while I was preparing myself for a little fantasy - since a lot of authors take way too much liberty with our lovely town - I was pleasantly surprised (aside from the fact that there are no 'early bird specials' at buffets - it's a set price; those specials are at the cafés and restaurants, but no big deal).  This was nice to see and made me enjoy the book more.

Liv and Di are again involved in a murder, and this one hits close to home again when Liv's cousin, who wouldn't hurt a fly and is nice as can be, is accused of the crime.  (Even I will say the evidence was flimsy, and he probably would have been let out on bail because of it, but it makes for a nice story anyway).

It doesn't help that back home Liv's assistant Holly is having trouble with a fiftieth class reunion group that also includes a group of Elvis and Priscilla lookalikes for a contest, and things don't look good, then they do, then they don't...well, you get the picture.

What ensues is poor Liv completely out of her element in Las Vegas trying to stay under the radar of the LVMPD (which she doesn't completely succeed in doing but is lucky that Dave is there to help her out) questioning people who don't take kindly to her intrusion, and hope she can figure things out before she has to catch a plane back home.

It's a delightful ride into the vision most people have of our town, and is more fun than the roller coaster at New York-New York hotel.  Liv manages to do what she does best, which is putting everything together before it all falls apart - which is also why she's so good at her job.

This is the fourth book in the series but can be read as a stand alone.  We are given enough information to garner the background of everyone involved, and an engaging group of people they are; from her laid-back husband Larry Joe (who manages to have a small adventure of his own) to her stubborn friend Di, to her determined Mama.  These are people who are genuinely fond of each other and accept each others' quirks without judgment.

In the end, the plot was written well and when the murderer was found out it was a bit of a surprise but believable.  A truly fun read that is well worth the time to do so.  Highly recommended and I look forward to the next in the series.

https://www.amazon.com/Til-Death-Party-Dixie-Mystery/dp/1496715985/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2319918453

More on Vickie Fee's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/vickie-fee/

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Death of a Country Fried Redneck (A Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery #2)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital book
ISBN #. 9780758267382
Kensington Publishing
314 Pages
Various; $5.99 Amazon
November 6, 2012

✮✮✮


As a single mom, Hayley Powell already has a full plate - she's got deadlines to make and a teenage daughter with eyes for an aspiring singer-songwriter.  But when country music superstar Wade Springer rolls into town, Hayley spies an irresistible side gig: personal chef to her all-American idol.  After he tries her home cooking, Wade's so impressed that he hires her on the spot - and invites her to dine with him alone.

Hayley and Wade are hitting all the right notes...until a body turns up.  Wade's tour bus was torched overnight and a roadie named Mickey Pritchett came out well-done.  But the real cause of death isn't barbecue: Mickey was shot, his mouth stuffed with one of Hayley's trademark chicken legs.  An ornery drunk, Mickey had already made plenty of enemies in town, but Wade's reputation is on the rocks.  Hayley reckons it's up to her to settle this mess - a charbroiled mystery with all the fixin's.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Hayley Powell learns that her favorite singer is doing a couple of concerts in town, she manages to find a way to meet him - cook him breakfast at a local diner.  When Wade Springer, country superstar, tastes her cooking, he offers her the job of personal chef while he's there.  In fact, he's so taken with her, he wants to take her out to dinner, also.

Hayley, whose boyfriend Lex is away on business, doesn't think anything of it, because it's only a dinner, and she's already told Wade she's involved with someone.  But when she brings him her spectacular fried chicken she's accosted by one of his employees and practically dragged off.  Only the intervention of Wade and his bodyguard Curtis save her.

Later, the fired employee's body is found in a burned-out tour bus, and it also turns out that he was shot before the bus was burned.  So Hayley needs to find out who killed Mickey before Wade is blamed.  It doesn't help that Wade's ex-wife shows up and is hot on the trail of her ex, and a local punk is threatening her.  Now Hayley's on the trail of a killer who might be closer to home than she thinks after all...

This is the second book in the series, and I really hoped it would be better than the first.  And it was, a tad.  But Hayley screaming like a teenager when she learns her favorite singer is in town?  What grown woman would do that?  She obviously spends waaayy too much time with her teenaged daughter instead of adults...speaking of which, when she does spend time with adults, it's to go out and drink.  Don't they have anything else to do?  There's nothing wrong with it, but seriously, meeting at a bar night after night?

Then there's her boyfriend, Lex.  There's no spark at all; he's rather dull.  He just seems to come in and out of her life, and honestly, I was hoping she'd go off with the singer so she'd have something going on.  I just don't see how Hayley and Lex fit together.  Maybe if he'd spend time with the kids once in a while to get to know them, but there's just no connection for me.  As for her friend Mona - don't get me started.  Rather than go to the doctor and either her or her husband get snipped, she gets pregnant and then complains about her kids and her lazy husband.  This is not a family I would like to come near in a restaurant or anywhere else.  There doesn't seem to be any discipline at all; and what is supposed to be humorous makes you want to run for the hills.

While the story line was interesting - singer comes to town and one of his group is killed - there were too many distractions throughout.  Why is a fifteen-year-old kid taking pictures of people and no one is telling his parents that he needs to cut it out?  He's a minor, not a professional. 

I really would have liked to enjoy this book better, and as I said, I did a little more than the first, but only because the ending was a surprise.  I am hoping that in the next book Lex actually becomes a 'real boy' instead of the wooden model he seems to be, and that Hayley acts like the newspaper employee she is.  The recipes were okay, but only if you're centered on drinking with every meal.

Curses, Boiled Again! (A Lobster Shack Mystery #1)

Author:  Shari Randall Genre:   Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781250116703 St. Martin's Publishing 290 Pag...