Monday, July 30, 2018

Catch Me If Yukon (A Passport to Peril Mystery #12)

Author:  Maddy Hunter
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780738753973
Midnight Ink Publishing
312 Pages
$15.99; $11.99 Amazon
December 8, 2018

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As tour escort Emily Miceli leads her globetrotting band of Iowa seniors into the wilds of Alaska, she discovers that, in the land of the midnight sun, whales aren't the only killers on the prowl.  When a tour member turns up dead on a mountainous hiking trail, Emily blames herself for the mishap - until she learns that something far hairier might be to blame.

One of the seniors snaps a photo of what looks to be Bigfoot, raising many questions about what happened to the victim.  But the illusive sasquatch is just a legend, isn't it?  Between whale-watching in the glacial waters near Seward and ziplining in the primal forests of Denali, Emily finds herself locked in a game of cat and mouse with a killer who's too clever to be mere myth.

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Emily Andrew-Miceli and her husband Etienne own a tour company that caters to a lively group of Iowa seniors, along with others who may sign up - and usually do.  This time out they're traveling through Alaska, along with members of a local book club who are 'first timers' on the tour.

While Emily doesn't want any problems along the way, she always expects them, because that's pretty much been the luck of this luckless group.  This time out the seniors are being a usual rambunctious bunch, as they always are, and along with the group are Emily's parents, Margaret and Bob.  Margaret is there because she thinks she needs to keep an eye on Emily's Nana, her mother, who doesn't need help from anyone.

Yet while on a whale watching boat, Margaret is the one Emily needs to keep an eye on.  When she senses danger ("Run for your lives!") where there is none, Emily fears that from this moment on the tour is going to be a disaster...and she's not far off.

Then there is an argument on a tram between a particularly nasty guest - Thor Iverson (who thinks he's smarter than anyone else) and a retired newspaper owner, Delpha Spillum, that doesn't end peacefully.  Later that evening Delpha doesn't arrive for dinner and Emily is worried.  But after texting her, Delpha texts back that she's decided to walk back to their lodgings instead.

So Emily relaxes for a little while...which is the wrong thing to do (of course) when Delpha's body is discovered on the trail.  Yet no one seemed to have a reason to kill the woman, and while the investigation is ongoing, they continue on with their tour.

Along with this Emily's life is about to get even more complicated by her ex-husband Jack who's now female friend Jackie and an employee of their company.  Emily has given her a fairly easy assignment:  travel with a different group of seniors to a new Iowa amusement park that's centered around farming (yes, around farming).  She thinks that will be easy enough...until the calls start coming in.  It seems one of the seniors has had a slight skin reaction to one of Jackie's makeovers and is in the hospital.  But that's minor compared to the rest of them...

Then there's the fact that a traveler whose wife had an emergency at the last minute and couldn't come isn't able to be reached; one of the travelers is making goo-goo eyes at Emily's hired tour escort Alison and won't let her out of his sight; her father seems to have inadvertently taken a picture of Big Foot and the press are following the group everywhere trying to get him to talk (which won't be easy considering the man doesn't make coherent sentences very often); and as if this wasn't enough, one more member of their group makes a trip with Destinations Travel a final destination...

While it seems like I've given a lot of background on this book, it's not enough.  As you can tell, there's plenty going on, and I'm surprised poor Emily isn't in a wheelchair by now with everything her seniors put her through.

I've read every single one in this series so far, and I have to say that I've never been disappointed in any of them.  The conversations between the seniors have me laughing out loud at times ("Hush, you Muskies!") and while they're quite a handful, I'd have the time of my life traveling with them anywhere they go.

I've actually become quite fond of Nana, the two Dicks, Tilly, and the others (even Bernice) and love being a part of their world.  If this is your first foray into the domain of the Windsor City, Iowa seniors you're in for a real treat.  If not, you probably feel much the same as I do.

While Emily is worried - because the police aren't sharing any information at this time - that Delpha's death wasn't merely an accident, she's not letting on to anyone except her ex-policeman husband Etienne.  And if he knows anything more than her, he's not telling. 

As always, Ms. Hunter does not disappoint in either humor nor action, and there are plenty of both.  She writes with a definite flair and gives enough background on wherever they are at the moment that you almost feel as if you are traveling along with the group.  The writing flows easily off the page and the tale is spun nicely.

In the end, when everything is starting to come together, there are more than a few surprises.  Yes, there are a couple of things you can start to figure out on your own, but I will say that still I was surprised at the ending, and that's a good thing.  The only problem I have is having to wait so long for the next installment of the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Catch-Yukon-Passport-Peril-Mystery/dp/0738753971/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2475962993

More on Maddy Hunter's Books:

Friday, July 27, 2018

In Peppermint Peril (A Book Tea Shop Mystery #1)

Author:  Joy Avon
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683317937
Crooked Lane Books
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
November 13, 2018

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This Christmas, Callie Aspen returns to her childhood hideout Heart's Harbor, Maine where her great aunt runs Book Tea, a vintage tearoom where every sweet treat contains a bookish clue.  Upon arrival in the fairy-tale snowy town, Callie is drawn into the preparations for a special tea party at Haywood Hall, the rambling house of Heart's Harbor's oldest resident, rich but lonely widow Dorothea Finster, who invited her estranged relatives, old friends and the elite of the town to make a mysterious announcement about her will.

Believing they can touch a part of her fortune, everybody is determined to come, despite not liking each other or their hostess.  And Callie's old friend Sheila complicates things by using the tea party to announce her daughter's engagement, even though her daughter isn't sure she's in love with the young lawyer her mother thinks so perfect for her.

Catering to people who each have their own agenda isn't easy for the Book tea crew, especially once the valuable engagement ring goes missing and a dead body turns up in the conservatory.  Can Callie and her great aunt use their love of clues to dig into the crimes and show their unhappy hostess and squabbling guests the true Christmas spirit?

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When I started this book, I didn't know what to expect, since this is a new author and the beginning to a new series.  While I felt it began slightly slow, as the story went on I realized that this could indeed be a nice series to come home to.  Why, you ask?  Well, my review should tell you what I mean.

Callie Aspen has come home to spend the holidays with her Aunt Iphy, who runs the Book Tea tearoom.  Iphy has been asked to provide a tea for an old friend, wealthy widow Dorothea Finster.  Dorothea's family and friends are attending because they've been told that she wants to make an announcement regarding her will.

But unbeknownst to Dorothea, the wife of her only relative, Stephen Du Bouvrais, has a surprise of her own.  Sheila has decided to turn the occasion into an impromptu engagement party for her daughter Amber - without even consulting the girl.  When Callie arrives, she sees Sheila again and is surprised that she's manipulating everything the way she wants it, not Dorothea.  She shows Callie the ring she wants hidden inside the cake - which will be cut by Amber's prospective husband Ben - and when everyone arrives and that indeed occurs, Callie is surprised to find the ring missing from the box.  

With Ben feeling humiliated and running away, Amber upset and leaving the room, and Sheila demanding to know where the ring has gone, Dorothea realizes that everything has gone wrong.  It's not too long after that when Callie hears a scream and Amber comes out of the conservatory exclaiming that the old gardener Leadenby is dead.  Callie is trying to keep the situation under control but it's nearly impossible, and wonders who would have wanted to kill him?

But before she can find out the truth, she's going to have to deal with the people around her wanting to keep their secrets hidden, and a surly Deputy who never expected he'd have to deal with a murder in their quiet town.  But which one of these people wanted Leadenby dead, and did he have secrets of his own that got him killed?

I felt that this book was slightly different because the protagonist isn't the usual type we find in cozy mysteries.  She's a 39-year-old tour guide who's come home to spend Christmas with her great aunt.  She didn't lose her job or break away from a bad relationship.  There's a hint that she left town because she was hurt that Stephen chose Sheila over her, but there's no angst over it.  She actually wears makeup (not lip gloss which I really feel is better suited for teens, not grown women) and isn't Too Stupid To Live.

Callie asks questions of people, but isn't really invasive and is truly interested in helping them.  She seems to me to be a bit of a Fixer; because she's a tour guide she probably has to deal with 'people problems' and I get the feeling that she truly wants to help people, not just grill them about the murder.

Callie eliminates suspects one by one, but she doesn't withhold information from Deputy Falk, going so far as to seek him out to share what she's learned so far.  While he doesn't specifically tell her to stay out of the situation, he does tell her to be careful - giving us the impression that this is his first murder investigation and he's also learning as he goes; it gives him a human quality that's nice.

There were a couple of disappointments, however; I did feel that it was irresponsible of Falk to offer her a beer knowing she had to drive - in winter, no less, and a long way into town from where he lived.  He should have said something along the lines of: "I'm going to have a beer.  I'd offer you one, but you're driving.  Would you like a soda or coffee?"  I can forgive a lot in books, but I do have a hard time with people drinking and driving, and worse when it comes to a police officer doing it like it's no big thing.  I would also like to see it expanded on as to why Falk doesn't like Christmas.  There's a mystery there about him that's worth exploring further.

I didn't much care for the character of Sheila; she seemed pretentious and I hate pretentious people.  Yes, she married well and has money, but that's no reason to act superior around people and order them to do things.  I also didn't feel the connection between her and Stephen, but since it wasn't a major plot point, it didn't really matter. 

But I did wonder why Agatha Christie kept coming up when there was nothing about Dame Christie in the book at all.  Yes, the cake had book clues, but none about this particular author, which left me a little disappointed, especially since I don't read the author they did concern. 

However, it was written fairly well and I liked how it all came together in the end.  I enjoyed the fact that there was no 'evil nemesis' to throw a wrench in the works (let's hope the sheriff doesn't come back to town and decide off the bat he doesn't like Callie and try to make her life miserable).  Callie proved herself to be a capable woman who doesn't fall apart in a crisis and can think on her feet.  In other words, an admirable person.  

While the murder itself wasn't too involved, it was still a delightful endeavor, and there were some nice subplots along the way that kept the story moving along.  All in all, a gratifying story with a decent ending that leaves us looking toward the possibilities of Haywood Hall in the next in the series.  Recommended.



More on Joy Avon's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/a/joy-avon/

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Goodbye Cruller World (A Deputy Donut Shop Mystery #2)

Author:  Ginger Bolton
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496711892
Kensington Publishing
256 Pages
$15.95; $9.95 Amazon
August 28, 2018

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Named after her beloved Tabby, Deputy Donut, Emily Westhill's donut shop in small-town Fallingbrook, Wisconsin, is doing so well, she's expanding into catering weddings.  But a killer is about to crash the reception...

Normally, Emily's eyes tend to glaze over when prospective brides go on about their wedding plans.  But when the owner of the clothing shop, Dressed to Kill, asks Emily to design a donut wall for her reception, she's immediately sweet on the idea.  With the help of her father-in-law and business partner - the former police chief of Fallingbrook - she hangs the treats from dowels on the wall so guests can help themselves.

But that night, when the groom ends up on the floor with signs of poisoning, Emily suspects someone has tampered with her treats.  When the groom dies, there's no way to sugarcoat it: she's got a murder on her hands.  Despite a list of suspects as long as the guest list, Emily vows to find out who created the killer confection to save her shop's reputation and keep the bride out of handcuffs.  She'll have to move fast...before the poisoner takes a powder.


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When Emily Westhill and her partner and father-in-law Tom are asked to do a 'donut wall' for a wedding couple, they agree.  Emily decides to visit Jennifer, her next-door business neighbor and the prospective bride, to pick up some clothing she ordered and unfortunately comes across what appears to be an argument and passes an angry woman leaving the shop.  She learns from a tearful Jenn that the woman is her sister Suzanne and is against the wedding and wants her to cancel.

While Emily and Tom are setting up the wall they view another argument - this time, she figures out, between the groom and Jenn and what she sees makes her realize that maybe Suzanne was right, since Roger seems to be a particularly nasty person.  But it's not until later in the evening when Emily can join the party and leave her duties aside.  When she returns to her wall she notices that someone has dipped a cruller in what appears to be powdered sugar, and she didn't sugar any of them.  Then she sees Roger on the floor and calls her friend Scott, who is fire chief.

After calling Brent Fyne, homicide detective and partner of her late husband, she's told to get everyone out of the building, which she does.  When it's discovered that Roger's been poisoned in a room full of people, the investigation begins - along with investigator Yvonne Passenmath who hates Emily for her own reasons.  But finding a killer might be harder than it seems...

I will say that I liked this book better than the first; some of the characters have a little more depth to them, and that's always a good thing.  But to be honest, there are still some things that I didn't like.  One, is Brent going to be removed from leading investigations in every book because of his ties to Emily?  So far, there have been two books and in both he's been shunted aside for Yvonne.

Which brings us to Yvonne:  A completely unlikable character with no redeeming qualities, including the ability to put together a homicide case, which makes me wonder if she was 'sleeping with the boss' to get her shield.  She couldn't make it under Tom's former administration, so there must be a reason...(let's face it, in two cases so far she got both wrong so shouldn't even be a detective)...

Also, Tom and Emily had no reason to want Roger dead - they didn't even know the man before the day of the wedding - so without a motive they should have been removed immediately, yet Yvonne hates Emily and keeps 'trying' to pin a murder on her.  Another reason why she shouldn't be on the case.  She can't keep her personal feelings out of it - which seem to be limited to anger since that's all the reader ever sees.


Below is a hidden spoiler that partially deals with the ending, so please, please do not read if you have not read the book!  It is nothing derogatory, but mentions a couple of things that bothers me.



I do like the fact that Emily doesn't put herself into bad situations (at least willingly) nor question people by getting 'right up in their face.'  At least she tries to sound subtle, and, if need be, leans on her friends Misty and Samantha for backup.  That's a big plus.  The romance angle has stalled a little - it's been a year, so I would have liked to have seen it progress a little further than it has, but it's no big deal because the mystery was first and foremost.

I also liked the fact we learned a little bit more about the characters - Tom's wife Cindy is a teacher; more about Emily's relationship to her own parents; and that Brent loves Dep (which makes him a great guy in my book).  These are the kind of details I like to read about.

The mystery was done well, and there were plenty of red herrings red herrings strewn about, giving us a lot to sift through and eliminate suspects on our own; and the clues to the killer were right in front of us and even more so as we progressed throughout the book.  Everything was tied up nicely (even if the killer was a psycho) and I liked that the ending gave us a bit of a clue toward the next in the series, which I will read.  Very nice indeed.  Recommended.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Survival of the Fritters (A Deputy Donut Mystery #1)

Author:  Ginger Bolton
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN:  9781496711878; 9781977355201
Kensington Publishing (Tantor Audio)
256 Pages
$12.31; $22.83; $6.99 Amazon
January 30, 2018

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If Emily has learned anything from her past as a 911 operator, it's to stay calm during stressful situations.  But that's a tall order when one of her regulars, Georgia Treetor, goes missing.  Georgia never skips morning cappuccinos with her knitting circle.  Her pals fear the worst - especially Lois, a close friend who recently moved to town.  As evening creeps in, Emily and the ladies search for Georgia at home.  And they find her - murdered among a scattering of stale donuts...

Disturbingly, Georgia's demise coincides with the five-year anniversary of her son's murder, a case Emily's late detective husband failed to solve before his own sudden death.  With Lois hiding secrets and an innocent man's life at stake, Emily's forced to revisit painful memories on her quest for answers.  Though someone's alibi is full of holes, only a sprinkling of clues have been left behind.  And if Emily can't trace them back to a killer in time, her donut shop will end up permanently closed for business...

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Emily Westhill is the widow of a police detective.  She and her father-in-law Tom, retired police chief, own Deputy Donuts, a coffee and donut shop in town.  The shop is named after Emily's cat Deputy Donut, who now goes by the name of Dep.

One morning she notices that a regular group of elderly knitters is missing one of their members.  Georgia Treeter never misses a day, and it's remarked upon by the others, including a new woman she's never seen before.  When she's introduced to Lois Underlaw, the new member, Lois tells her how she's Georgia's best friend and has only recently returned to town.  Later that evening the group returns to the shop and asks Emily if she wants to go with them to see if Georgia is alright.

When they arrive at Georgia's home, they find no sign of a disturbance, but still can't find her.  Unfortunately, while exploring the home it's Emily who comes across Georgia's body...and her mouth has been stuffed with a doll wearing donuts as a skirt.  After calling 911, Emily and the others are questioned and released, yet Emily feels a need to help find the killer.

Later she discovers that her cat Dep has found something in her garden and she follows her, hearing a low 'help.'  What she finds is that there is an opening in the wall between her house and the next, and when she goes to investigate she finds Lois on the ground.  Lois tells her she fell, and while talking Emily learns that Lois thinks Dep is her cat and has named her Tiger.  She later discovers that Lois is lying, and is the aunt of Randy Underlaw, a local bad boy who had also left town five years ago and returned when his aunt did.

But now Emily has a problem.  Lois is obviously lying about falling, and there are other inconsistencies in her story as well.  What it's all leading up to is the fact that she knows more than she's saying about Georgia's murder, and Randy may be involved also.  But what's disconcerting is the fact that she now has to deal with her late husband Alec's partner Brent Fyne, who's never stepped foot in the shop and whom she's had no contact with in the years after Alec's death.  While it all seems too much to bear, Emily hasn't a choice if she's going to find out the truth of what happened to Georgia and how it's connected to the death of Georgia's son Matthias, who also was murdered five years ago...

Well, I have to say that I wasn't real sure about this book after reading the first pages.  First, we never get to meet Georgia, so there's no real connection to the character, and it's hard to feel sympathy for someone you know nothing about.  We don't understand why Emily feels the need to solve the case.  How well did she know her?  Was she just a customer?  Did she have any interaction with the woman?  We never find out.

Then, Emily was married to a cop and was a 911 dispatcher, yet she has no trouble at all disturbing a crime scene - first by removing the doll from the victim's mouth and then telling a bunch of women to walk around the house looking for footprints, instead of staying outside by the van and calling the police immediately.  Is she the stupidest woman on the face of the earth?  No matter how 'shocked' she says she is, a 911 operator should know better.

Then, Lois just sees a 'stray' cat that looks like it's well-fed and taken care of and only shows up for a little while each night (which must be since Dep belongs to Emily and she doesn't leave her alone for long and keeps her in at night) and decides to name and 'adopt' it?  Really?  She doesn't notice her collar (which she must have if Emily leashes her to take her to the shop every day)?  I have to say that the conversation they were at first having was confusing since I thought they were talking about two different cats.  When I realized they were both talking about Dep, though Lois had named her Tiger, I was wondering why Lois would think this was her cat since she couldn't have been spending a lot of time with Dep - or why she continued to call Dep Tiger, knowing her real name.

Emily also knows Lois was attacked - even if Lois wouldn't admit it - but she has no problem allowing her cat to spend time in Lois's home.  Obviously she doesn't care that if the attacker were to come back and was serious about hurting Lois, that they wouldn't have any qualms about hurting Emily's cat, either.  Again, stupid woman.  And I, for one, wouldn't share my cat.  I'd tell the person (nicely, of course) that perhaps we could go to the shelter together and pick out a nice cat for her.

Then there's a supposed nemesis of Emily's named Yvonne Passenmath, who hates her because Alec chose Emily and not her.  He didn't even date her, and she's been holding a grudge against Emily for over seven years because of something that never happened?  Really?  Then the fact that it's stated that Yvonne couldn't pass the detective exam in their city but managed to do so in another and now has been made lead on the case doesn't make any sense.  Was their exam easier to pass?  Because you'd think the exam would be the same all over the state.  Especially since her colleagues state that she did sloppy police work.  So how did this happen?  I, for one, am so, so tired of the "evil nemesis" in books.  Honestly, how many people hate your guts enough to want to ruin your life?  I've stopped reading series because of this, just like I've stopped reading series with love triangles.  At any rate, I certainly hope Yvonne doesn't show up in future books to make Emily miserable.

Now that I've got the bad things out of the way, on to the good:  the plot was a decent one, and I liked the idea that we never really knew who the killer was, since there were several suspects along the way.  I also liked the way the story picked up after the first initial problems that I've mentioned above.  However, I really would have liked to have known how Alec actually died; I think it would have given more 'teeth' to the story and given us a bit of sympathy for Emily.  It doesn't tell us why she's had such an aversion to Brent for the past three years.

There's also a spoiler below that gives away some of the final information, so please don't read it if you haven't read the book and intend to do so.



In the end, this was a decent start to a new series, and when everything was revealed it had a satisfying ending.  I would like to see this series continue and will read the next book in the hope that the glitches have been worked out.  There are also some nice recipes in the back for those who like to cook.

https://smile.amazon.com/Survival-Fritters-Deputy-Donut-Mystery/dp/1496711874/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2227305644

More on Ginger Bolton's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/ginger-bolton/

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Souffle of Suspicion (A French Bistro Mystery #2)

Author:  Daryl Wood Gerber
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683315865
Crooked Lane Books
325 Pages
$25.25; $9.99 Amazon
July 10, 2018

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Crush Week in Nouvelle Vie is a madhouse - in a good way.  Tourists pour into town for the pressing of the Napa Valley's world-renowned grapes, and all the town's businesses gets a nice lift, including Bistro and Maison Rousseau.  Mimi is raising the ante this year with a Sweet Treats Festival, a wonderland of croissants, cakes, tarts, and soufflés crafted with expert care by the area's top talents.

Chef Camille's sister, Renee, is managing the festival with a cast-iron fist, upsetting everyone, including her sister - which is bad for Camille when Renee turns up dead in the chef's kitchen.  Mimi is still building her business, so her first course of action is to whip up answers and catch the unsavory perpetrator before Camille takes a dusting and gets burned.

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Mimi Rousseau owns an inn and bistro in Nouvelle Vie, California.  It is crush week, and tourists are filling the town, also to participate in the first-ever Sweet Treats Festival, being run by Chef Camille's sister Renee, who has left her husband to manage the festival.  Everything seems to be going fine, but then problems begin to arise - arguments between Renee and others; Renee's husband Rusty showing up and wanting her to come home again.

While Mimi isn't really concerned, that all changes when she receives a phone call from Camille and arrives at Camille's home to find Renee dead.  Camille is cleared of the crime shortly, but that still leaves plenty of suspects - and most of them are connected to the festival in one way or another.  Will Mimi be able to keep her bistro up and running with a killer on the loose?  Or will someone else be a target - including Mimi herself?

This is the second book in the French Bistro series, and as such I felt it was an improvement over the first.  The characters are better developed, and Mimi is finally finding her footing in her new venture and in her relationship with Nash, the ex-wine salesman who is now managing her mother's vineyard.

However, Nash's ex-wife Willow is trying to throw a wrench into the works as it were, and Mimi doesn't do a lot to stop her yet wondering how to deal with it.  She rather avoids the situation instead of confronting it head on, which makes her a contradiction of sorts since she has no problem confronting people about their alibis at the time of the murder and then verifying if they are telling the truth.  It's a little confusing how she'll confront possible murderers but not her boyfriend's ex-wife.  She says as how she likes Mimi, but since Willow is trying to break up her relationship with Nash it makes you wonder how Mimi thinks.  I'd be leery of someone like that, and I certainly wouldn't care for them much.

Mimi also laments how gorgeous Willow is compared to her.  Well, Willow wears makeup for one thing, and a little makeup goes a long way.  Perhaps Mimi should consider mascara, blush, lipstick (not lip gloss as these authors think all women wear, which is pretty much for preteens and teenagers) and a little eye shadow and she'd be surprised at the transformation.  (I honestly get so tired of all these protagonists 'throwing on a little lip gloss' and thinking they're hot.  Four out of five American women wear makeup every day - except in cozies - and you'd think it was an anomaly or something.  As one of those makeup-wearing women, I'd like to see at least a few of them wear more than lip gloss).  Anyway, that's just my opinion.

While her attention is focused instead on finding Renee's killer since she can see how miserable Camille is and she wants to ease her pain as much as she can, there is also a nice subplot of how Mimi is finding herself the owner of two cats who have appeared to have adopted her; and it's kind of sweet to see how she just allows the situation to continue and even sort of welcomes it when she feels she's a little nervous that the killer is getting a bit too close.

Close enough that the murderer thinks she's a threat and starts treating it as such; even though Mimi tries to brush it off, deep down she knows that someone is figuring out she's asking too many questions and isn't happy about it, and that's when things start to get interesting.

There are plenty of diversions and a lot going on, making for a very busy book indeed, but most of it is centered on the festival itself and the restaurant, leaving very little time for real clues to add up.  I enjoyed the mystery, there were plenty of red herrings, and the writing flowed at a nice pace.  However, if you pay attention the clues are there and the story was told well.

In the end everything was settled satisfactorily with all loose ties coming together nicely, and even a little bit of a teaser for the next in the series.  All in all it was an enjoyable read that makes us want to look for the next book.  There are quite a few nice recipes in the back also for those who enjoy baking (I do).  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Souffl%C3%A9-Suspicion-French-Bistro-Mystery/dp/1683315863/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2443336200

More on Daryl Wood Gerber's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/daryl-wood-gerber/

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

'Twas the Knife Before Christmas (A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #2)

Author:  Jacqueline Frost
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683318033
Crooked Lane Books
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
November 13, 2018

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When a body turns up in a larger-than-life candy bowl filled with peppermints on the town square, Holly White is horrified to learn her best friend Caroline is the main suspect.  Everyone in town, including Mistletoe, Maine's sheriff, saw Caroline fighting with the victim on the night of his death.  Worse, a custom kitchen knife, engraved with Caroline's initials was found with him.

Now, just ten days before Christmas, Holly's up to her jingle bells in holiday shenanigans and in desperate need of a miracle.  Juggling extra shifts at her family's Christmas tree farm and making enough gingerbread jewelry to satisfy the crowd is already more than she can handle - and now she has to find time to clear her best friend of murder.  Add in her budding relationship with the sheriff, and personal stalker dressed as Santa Claus, and Holly's ready to fly south until springtime.

But her Sherpa-lined mittens come off when Caroline is taken into custody.  Can Holly wrap up the case in time for Christmas...even after she gains the true killer's attention?

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Welcome to Mistletoe, Maine, a town where it's always in holiday season...and fortuitously, it actually is close to Christmas and everyone is gearing up for the holiday.  Holly White's family owns the Reindeer Games Christmas tree farm, where guests are always welcome and there is plenty to keep everyone busy, but right now Holly is taking a break from the whirlwind, and visiting her friend Caroline West at the cupcake shop she owns and listening while she tells Holly of last night's fiasco.  Caroline is the daughter of the local mayor, and is expected to attend events in the company of young men her father knows.  Unfortunately, this one - Derek Waggoner, son of a judge - is not the gentleman he should be, and there is a confrontation between the two.

When Caroline, Holly and their friend Cookie go to the town square a little later to see the unveiling of the giant candy bowl full of mints they're in for a big surprise, and it's not just the red and white mints, but the red of blood....when the bowl is unveiled they see Derek, definitely dead, who's been stuffed inside.

When one of Caroline's kitchen knives is found along with the body, evidence is pointing toward her as the killer.  But Holly knows Caroline wouldn't have killed anyone, and even though Sheriff Evan Gray, Holly's maybe-boyfriend, is determined to follow the evidence, Holly doesn't have to do so, and decides to play a dangerous game of following clues to the killer instead.

Insert the fact that she still has jewelry orders to fill for Christmas, her mother's kitchen contractor is destroying things instead of building them, and her parents' plans for erecting an inn that Holly will be managing is giving her headaches because she's the one having to choose designs for the interior of it, not to mention that her relationship with Evan has pretty much come to a standstill.

Even so, Holly is determined to find out who's framing Caroline for a murder, and it could very well be the worst decision she's ever made; especially when it looks like the killer might actually be looking for another victim...

I read the first in this series and I liked it so well I decided to give the second one a go.  I have to say I'm glad I did, because this does not disappoint.  While some may think that it starts out a bit slow, I believe that it's mainly to give a little background for those who haven't read the first, and the fact that the groundwork needs to be laid for what is to follow.

And what follows is indeed enjoyable.  We are once again in the magical town of Mistletoe, and you will, by reading the book, eventually see just how magical this town is, for both Holly and her family.

Holly is determined to keep looking for a killer - surreptitiously, of course, and under Sheriff Gray's radar, she hopes - by questioning those most likely to have wanted Derek dead.  But she doesn't count on the fact that Derek's girlfriend Samantha has a wicked temper that flares up at any time which leads her to start throwing things - usually at Holly, it seems; nor that there was more than one woman who disliked the man enough to want him permanently gone.

Her investigating leads her to plenty of Derek's business ventures, which were more about his ego rather than anything he might have invested; and even as the evidence piles up against Caroline she's still convinced of her innocence, and still determined to find the real person responsible, even after she realizes there's a deranged Santa following her and leaving mints just like the ones in the bowl nearby - something she's sure Evan isn't taking seriously.

But Evan has problems of his own that he's not talking about, and her friend Ray Griggs is having a bit of a meltdown at the fact that his widowed mother is dating again and Holly finds him in most unusual places as he's following his mom 'to keep her safe'.

All of this adds up to a delicious mystery that keeps one interested and wanting to discover a killer along with our protagonist.  While I will state that I read a lot of mysteries, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I hadn't a clue about the killer right up until the point that Holly did, and that was indeed the best surprise of all.

Ms. Frost is a new addition to the cozy mystery genre, and one to keep an eye on, especially if her books keep one as entertained as this.  She has managed to make the second book in her series even more fun to read than the first, and that one was a pleasure in itself.  For those who have not as yet read The Twelve Slays of Christmas, I urge you to do so; you will not be disappointed.  I love mysteries, and plan on re-reading them both come the holiday season.

When all is said and done, there were plenty of twists and turns throughout the book, and even a couple of harrowing scenes for Holly.  The tale was woven like a tapestry, with each thread coming together nicely at the end, and leaving just enough of a hint of what is to come to make us eager for the next - which I hope is soon.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Twas-Knife-Before-Christmas-Mystery/dp/168331803X/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2461665712

More on Jacqueline Frost's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/jacqueline-frost/ 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Paws for Murder (A Pet Boutique Mystery #1)

Author:  Annie Knox
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451239501
Berkley Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99l; $2.99 Amazon
January 4, 2014

✮✮


Izzy's own beloved pets are dressed to the nines for the grand opening of Trendy Tails.  Feisty feline Jinx is large and in charge, and happy mutt Packer is lapping up the attention.  Izzy and her best friend, Rena, have their hands full meeting Merryville's menagerie and serving tasty pupcakes and kitty canapés from their "barkery."  The last thing they need is Sherry Harper, the town's local activist, scaring off customers and getting tongues wagging by picketing the event.

The two manage to stop Sherry's protest in its tracks, but the trouble for Trendy Tails is just beginning.  Sherry is found murdered in the back of the shop, and Rena is immediately named as the lead suspect.  Now Izzy and her furry friends have a new pet project - collaring a killer.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Izzy McHale's life falls apart because her doctor boyfriend decides to hightail it out of town with another woman, she decides to open a pet clothing store and 'barkery' with her friend Rena Hamilton, and she thinks everything is going to be fine.  But she doesn't count on Sherry Harper, trust fund baby and local activist, who thinks it's cruel to dress up pets, picketing on opening night.

When there is a set-to outside her store during the opening, she finds Sherry and her ex-boyfriend Nick in the middle of a heated argument.  After Rena successfully ends the fiasco, the party continues.  Later in the night when Izzy is taking out the trash she sees something near the dumpster...which turns out to be Sherry, quite dead indeed.

When Rena is suspected of the crime, Izzy realizes her best friend couldn't possibly be guilty and since she thinks the police aren't even looking for anyone else she opts to find the killer herself rather than see her friend jailed for something she didn't do...

Well, this book started out interesting enough with a conversation between Sherry and Izzy.  But the more I read, the more it seemed rather silly.  A store dedicated to dressing up your dogs and cats?  Honestly, I own cats (and have owned dogs) and I can't imagine trying to put clothing of any kind on my cats.  Just trying would have me paying for it for months, if you know what I mean.

And to tell the truth, I've never really liked the idea of people clothing their dogs.  They're pets, for goodness' sake, not people.  While you think they may love being dressed up, they're dogs.  They only know they're getting attention, and are probably wondering what you're doing to them.  It's rather silly to see a dog in a tutu and makes me wonder about the person who did it - but enough about that...

Anyway, it is the first in a series and that always makes me want to give a book a chance, because you never know what you might find.  Sadly, it wasn't much.  Why did she decide to design for pets?  Especially in a small town?  She trained to be a clothing designer, and she could just as well have made clothing for people, even in said small town.  If the designs were nice enough, she could have started small and worked her way into a high-end boutique.  This would have made the series much more interesting.

Anyone who's read any of my reviews knows I'm a stickler for details, so to that end, this is where the book lost me:  early on in the book we are told (as I've mentioned) that Sherry is a trust fund baby.  Then later on - and this isn't much of a spoiler since it also occurs fairly early in the book - Rena tells Izzy how during a protest in Minneapolis Sherry hid a can of spray paint (she had used to deface a building) in Rena's backpack to hide it.  Rena then goes on to say that she got arrested for it and didn't have bail money, so spent three weeks in jail and had to sell plasma to pay for a bus ticket home.  (Not to mention that's a lot of plasma; I don't think they pay that much for it).  Hmm...Sherry was the reason she went to jail in the first place, and knew it.  Again - Trust Fund Baby.  So why didn't she pony up the bail money for Rena?  Why didn't she pay for the ticket home?  Rena just took the rap and didn't even do anything about it?  Really?  We’re supposed to buy this?  Rena is either the stupidest person in the world or the author thinks her audience is if they don't even question this.

Anyone knows that the incident in Minneapolis wouldn't have come to light as it was previous and had no bearing on the case.  She killed her because of three weeks in jail years ago?  Not plausible; so why it was even considered is beyond me.

Unfortunately, once a book loses me it's very hard to take anything else in it seriously, so I won't be reading any more of this series.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dartmoor Burial (A Claire Camden Mystery #1)

Author:  Audrey Peterson
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback
ISBN #:  9780671729707
Pocket Books
256 Pages
Various Prices
October 1, 1992

✮✮✮



On sabbatical from her pressured university life in California, Claire Camden is looking forward to time alone in her second home in London.  Her spirits are up after her divorce two years before, and at last she can get to work on her book about M. L. Talbot, one of Victorian England's most lively and daring female novelists.

But on her first visit to the country home of her ex-mother-in-law, Claire gets caught up in one young woman's tragic story.  Darla Brown's pregnant body has been found on the moor, and all of Morbridge is churning with talk of the ghastly murder - gossip about Darla's flirtations and her rumored engagement to an unknown man.  The old-world opinions of the neighbors - their insights into the legends of the Dartmoor region, small-town manners and scandals - are as intriguing as any fiction Claire has studied.

With Detective Superintendent Neil Padgett at her side and the wealth of all English literature before her, Claire is determined to take her own novel approach to the disturbing case...a close reading that will draw her to shocking conclusions...and into the passionate, angry mind of Darla's murderer.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Claire Camden takes a leave of absence from her job in California, her main goal is to visit with her daughter Sally.  But while first visiting her ex-mother-in-law, Bea, she learns of a young woman who was recently found dead among the moor.  The case soon becomes of interest to her, along with a growing interest in the detective superintendent assigned to it, Neil Padgett.

While Claire learns that a neighbor of Bea's is ailing and longing for her granddaughter, she finds that the young woman, Harriet, may have a tie to Darla - while the neighbor insists they barely knew each other, Claire learns that Harriet and Darla were indeed friends...and something more lies between them.

But while trying to stay away from the murder she is yet drawn into it, and her study of the Victorian author M. L. Talbot may also have a peculiar clue to the case that Claire very nearly misses...

I read this book, as the first in a series of three because it sounded interesting.  I did find it enjoyable, and liked most of the characters in it.  In fact, I would have liked to have seen this series continue, but as it isn't, I will have to content myself on the three that exist.

It was pleasant enough and there were a couple of subplots that actually wove themselves into the story nicely and brought it to a satisfying conclusion.  The scenarios are all believable, and while all of the characters aren't likable, they aren't meant to be.  There was enough given on Claire's background that the reader doesn't feel as if they've walked into the middle of a conversation, and I hope in the next two books to see that Claire's and Neil's relationship flourishes.  A very nice read indeed of a mystery.

https://www.amazon.com/Dartmoor-Burial-Claire-Camden-Mystery/dp/0671729705?

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2453618716

More on Audrey Peterson's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/p/audrey-peterson/

A Batter of Life and Death (A Bakeshop Mystery)

Author:  Ellie Alexander
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781250054241
St. Martin's Paperbacks
304 Pages
$7.19; $8.99 Amazon
June 30, 2015

✮✮


It's autumn in Ashland, Oregon - 'tis the season for a spiced hot apple cider with a serving (or two) of Torte's famous peach cobbler.  It's also the perfect time for Jules Capshaw to promote her family's beloved bakeship by competing in the Pastry Channel's reality show, Take the Cake.  The prize is $25,000.  But as Jules quickly learns, some people would kill for that kind of dough.  Literally.

Then, just as Jules dusts off her Bavarian Chocolate Cake recipe and cinches up her apron, the corpse of a fellow contestant is discovered - death by buttercream.  What began as a fun, tasteful televised adventure has morphed into something of a true-crime detective show for Jules and everybody else on set.  Who could have killed Chef Marco, and why?  Can Jules sift out the killer before someone else gets burned?

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Jules Capshaw left her cruise ship job to go home and work with her mother at the family pastry shop, Torte.  She's also separated from her husband, who kept a secret from her during their marriage that she thought she'd never be able to forgive, which is the main reason she returned home.

When a reality film crew comes to town, they're going to film their cooking show in Ashland, but unfortunately, one of the celebrity chefs is murdered and she's pretty much railroaded to take his place.  While she's not happy about the situation, she has another train of thought and that is the fact that Torte will get some publicity from the show, so she agrees.

But it's not long after that her shop is vandalized, and it's obvious the person who killed Chef Marco might not be done with the job.  Can Jules discover the killer - even as Thomas has warned her away from the crime - before someone else is killed, maybe even her...

Well, I should have known there would be problems with this book when I read that while the chefs were staying in a hotel, the film crew would be staying in the theater.  Really?  Are the crew sleeping on cots on the stage?  Or is there an accompanying inn with the same name attached?  Nothing is mentioned aside from this fact.

Next, all the chefs are cooking at various kitchens around town instead of a central one, which makes no sense at all.  With this arrangement, no one is watching them bake; therefore, there are no witnesses as to whether or not they're using the ingredients they said they were, or if they baked their own products or not.  Television cooking shows have the chefs actually cook while they're filming, so the audience can watch the action, as it were; not bring in a dish and say they made it.  Unbelievable.

Then, when Jules finds Chef Marco's body, she says as how she just witnessed a murder.  Um, no.  She found a dead body, she definitely did not witness a murder.  These are two very different things (and I don't know why the editor wouldn't catch this gaffe).  If she'd witnessed the murder, chances are the book would be over very quickly since she would have seen the killer.

The producer of the show brings Richard Lord in as one of the chefs...except Richard isn't a chef, and he doesn't even make his own food.  So why?  This alone doesn't make any sense.  Let's just say the idiotic viewers of this show (because they'd have to be to believe this nonsense) would Google the man and discover he wasn't a chef.  Wouldn't that hurt the credibility - and viewership - of the production?  Any producer who would allow him onto the show should be fired.  Not to mention that cooking shows are as much about the chefs as they are the food - people watch to see tempers flare, tension rise, etc., and if they're all cooking off stage, none of that would occur.  You're otherwise basically watching people pick up a prize for 'best of,' and who really cares?

Jules also won't tell the other female chefs to clean up after themselves - they're obviously pigs (but Jules and her crew are clean as a whistle) yet keeps complaining and saying she'll tell Phillip about it.  Again, um, no.  She owns Torte, she needs to tell them they can't cook there anymore if they aren't going to clean up after themselves.  If they don't want to do it, kick them out. 

At the last, I should have known better when the book began with, 'They say that time heals a broken heart.'  Through the entire book she's wondering about her feelings for Thomas, and anyone can see he has feelings for her, yet from what I gather about later books in the series, she's also still wondering about her feelings for Carlos.  Carlos just needs to go.  He wasn't that interesting to begin with, and Jules obviously wants to stay at Torte.  What kind of marriage would that be?  For someone who's supposed to be savvy and intelligent, she's screwed up in the romance department.

Sooo...she waffles about Thomas through the entire book, and then at the last few pages they talk and guess what?  All of the readers are thinking maybe she'll start seeing him again.  Once more, um, no.  The author obviously just wanted to keep the 'will she or won't she' factor going throughout the book with a hint of romance.  There never was going to be one!  They just want to 'be friends.'  It was a ruse, people.  An excuse to keep you reading the book.  If she starts all over again with Carlos - and from all appearances it may very well be true - I am so done with this series. 

It's not just that I hate wishy-washy women; I also hate the fact that readers are 'teased' with scenarios that never come to pass; and all of the things I've stated above that don't make sense make me wonder if future books also have details that are nonsense.  For this I couldn't give it above two stars.

https://www.amazon.com/Batter-Life-Death-Bakeshop-Mystery/dp/1250054249/

Friday, July 6, 2018

Murder and Marinara (An Italian Kitchen Mystery)

Author:  Rosie Genova
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451415141
Berkley Obsidian
336 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
October 1, 2013

✮✮


When Victoria takes a break from penning her popular mystery series and moves back to the Jersey shore, she imagines sun, sand, and scents of fresh basil and simmering marinara sauce at the family restaruant, the Casa Lido.  But her nonna's recipes aren't the only things getting stirred up in this Italian kitchen.

Their small town is up in arms over plans to film a new reality TV show, and when Victoria serves the show's pushy producer his last meal, the Casa Lido staff finds itself embroiled in a murder investigation.  Victoria wants to find the real killer, but there are as many suspects as tomatoes in her nonna's garden.  Now she'll have to heat up her sleuthing skills quickly...before someone else gets a plateful of murder.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Victoria Rienzi writes mysteries under the name of Vick Reed.  When it's determined that she needs a temporary break from writing her series, she returns home to her roots to write about her family.  But when she arrives she doesn't expect to see the man who sent her running away in the first place...working in her family's restaurant as a sous chef.

Once she realizes she'll have to work with him she decides to make the best of it and tells him she refuses to discuss their past together.  But that's not all: she learns from her family that a smarmy TV producer is going to film a reality TV show in their little town, and they've organized a protest against it.

But things take a turn when Gio Parisi - the person running the show - turns up at the restaurant and Victoria realizes she needs to serve him and get him out before her family returns and finds him there.  But what she also doesn't expect is that when she heads out to the kitchen garden not too long after, she finds Gio dead nearby...

Now the restaurant is losing customers because everyone thinks he developed food poisoning from their food.  And Vick also discovers that her nonna wants her to put her deductive skills to use to find the killer before they have to close their doors for good...

I know this series didn't last too long, but it sounded cute anyway, so I prevailed...at least until I discovered we're up to our ears again in a love triangle.  When, oh, when will authors realize a love triangle is not all that interesting to read about?  Personally, I detest them.  Think of it this way:  What if the situation were reversed and it were one man stringing along two women?  You'd think him a dog and the women trying to snag him were desperate.  So why is this any different?  It's not much better, waffling between two men, really.  Is there a lack of women in this town (or any of the others we read about)?  Most people don't date two people at the same time (at least with the other person's knowledge) waiting for them to make a decision on which man she'll choose.  Geez, enough with the love triangles already.  If you're going to throw in a romance, make it a romance, not another silly woman who hasn't got the brains to decide which man she wants in her life.

Anyway, although others might find the idea interesting, it's gotten to the point with me that if I even get a whiff of a love triangle I stop reading the book and vow never to pick up any more in the series; and if the author writes a different series, I usually look for it at the bookstore and if that one goes in the same direction, I never read another by the author.  I want to be entertained, not read a soap opera.

Besides that little tidbit of annoyance, the characters are all stereotypical - Italian family has a decades-old restaurant, a crusty nonna, an over-the-top mother who wants grandchildren (Thank God for parents who understand their children aren't baby-making machines who marry and then are expected to pop them out on a regular basis just to keep their mother happy).  Babies come in their own time and at the right time, and mothers like this are the reason people move as far away from them as possible; the son is a police officer, and of course, the ex-boyfriend is dark and brooding.

While the ending tied everything up together nicely, just as it's supposed to, it also did the typical will-she-or-won't-she with the "boyfriends" whom, of course, she managed to alienate in this book in the usual way but will probably have them chomping at the bit for her in the next.  It doesn't really matter, because I won't be there to read it.

Death in Four Courses (A Key West Food Critic Mystery #2)

Author:  Lucy Burdette
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451237835
Berkley Publishing
320 Pages

✮✮



The annual Key West Loves Literature seminar is drawing the biggest names in food writing from all over the country, and Hayley Snow is there to catch a few fresh morsels of insider gossip.  Superstar restaurant critic Jonah Barrows has already ruffled a few foodie feathers with his recent tell-all memoir, and as keynote speaker, he promises more of the same jaw-dropping honesty.

But when Hayley discovers Jonah's body in a nearby dipping pool, the cocktail hour buzz takes a sour turn, and Hayley finds herself at the center of attention -- especially with the police.  Now it's up to her to catch the killer before she comes to her own bitter finish.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Hayley Snow is a food writer for the magazine Key Zest.  Her mother arrives in Key West, Florida and goes with her to the Key West Loves Literature seminar.  Hayley is hoping to meet Jonah Barrows, a well-known food writer, but things don't exactly turn out the way she plans.  She finds Jonah - but unfortunately it's in a fountain and he's dead.

When the police arrive they're surprised to find Hayley once again involved in a murder.  But she's not going to be put into the hot seat again and is determined to find out who murdered the mouthy critic before she's accused of the crime...

Okay, I was hoping the second in this series would be better than the first.  Why?  Because - and I recap here a bit - in the first book Hayley was the main suspect in the murder of a woman she only met twice!  Again, why?  Because her ex-boyfriend told the police she must have done it.  Never mind that said ex asked her to move in with him when he'd never asked anyone before; never mind that she had no reason to kill the woman aside from the fact that Hayley caught them in bed together; never mind that Hayley had no history of violence in her past; well, you get the idea...

Anyway...Hayley, of course, finds Jonah and asks for help getting him out of the pool.  When the police arrive they begin questioning her - no, let me amend that: they begin accusing her of the murder.  They ask very pointed questions about how well she knew the victim, etc. - pretty much treating her like she's a suspect in the murder.  Basically it's the same book as the first one just with different names.

Also, since she's supposed to be dating the homicide detective, I was a little taken aback when he said he heard about the murder and wasn't surprised she was involved.  Say what?  He's dating her and he thinks she's capable of murder?  What is it with the men of Key West?  First her ex-boyfriend and now her current one?  Neither one believes her innocent even though evidence (such as it is) is flimsy at best?  Shouldn't they automatically be on her side?  Not in this series, I guess.

Why on earth should I bother with this series?  There are enough series out there where I'm not going to do so.  Sorry, but this one just isn't a winner with me when the second book is too close to the first book to be almost a rehash.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Four-Courses-Critic-Mystery/dp/0451237838/

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

An Appetite for Murder (A Key West Food Critic Mystery #1)

Author:  Lucy Burdette
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451235510
Berkley Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99; $2.99 Amazon
January 3, 2012

✮✮


Hayley Snow is a woman of many passions.  She's followed her soul mater to funky, foodie Key West, but when their romance loses its sizzle, she's determined to find a new life in this island paradise.  She's always been a foodie, so when she applies to be a food critic for Key Zest, the new Key West style magazine, it seems like a perfect pairing.  Then Hayley discovers her potential new boss is Kristen Faulkner - the woman who stole her boyfriend.

Hayley can't see how things can get worse now that she's loveless, possibly working for her romantic rival, and living on her friend's boat - until Kristen is murdered and the police pull Hayley in as a suspect.  Unfortunately, Hayley's got more motive than Key Lime pie has meringue.  To clear her name she'll have to find the real killer fast or the only restaurant she'll be reviewing is the prison café.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Hayley Snow made the mistake of following a man she barely knew, Chad Lutz - yet thought she was in love with - to Key West, Florida.  Weeks after moving in, she caught him in bed with Kristin Faulker and Chad promptly threw her things out on the street.  Now she's living in a tiny room on a houseboat with her friend Connie, without a job and working part time for Connie in return for free rent.

What she really wants to do is get the job as food critic for a magazine called Key Zest, but the downside is Hayley discovered that she'd be working for Kristin.  She's out one evening with her friend Eric when she sees Chad and Kristin dining at the same restaurant and decides to ask her about the job.  It's not long after that confrontation when police arrive at the boat and take her down to the station for questioning.

It seems Kristin is dead - murdered - and they want to know just how well Hayley knew her and what she knows about the crime.  Hayley tries to convince them she'd only seen Kristin twice in her life, but whether they believe her or not is yet to be seen.  Then she discovers that it was probably Chad who told the police she murdered Kristin, and now it's all she can do to stay out of jail and try and find the killer, since it's obvious to everyone that they're trying to pin it on her...

This seemed like it might be a nice book to read since it's about a wannabe food critic who's accused of murder.  But there were several things wrong with it, and I just couldn't get past them:

First, I don't understand why the police kept insisting she must have killed Kristin.  Yes, I get that she lived with Chad, and I get that Kristin broke up the relationship.  But a few conversations with Chad and he'd have to 'fess up where he met Hayley, how he asked her to move to Key West, and how he broke up with her.  He'd also have to tell them the truth about how long Hayley knew Kristin and that Kristin had made no statements about Hayley stalking her.  Once they discovered that she was telling the truth, then they'd have to look elsewhere.

After all, there are many women who find out their boyfriends have cheated on them and they don't murder the new girlfriend, especially if the old one doesn't have a history of violence - and all they'd have to do is check to see that Hayley had no history of violence.  Look elsewhere, incompetent officers!

Then they were surprised that the knife used in the murder had her prints on it...a knife that she bought, and had when she lived with Chad.  That's not enough reason to convict her of the crime.  They'd need more evidence than an item that had her prints on it if she lived there.  Especially - and I won't name the method of murder here - since the knife wasn't the method of murder since the victim wasn't stabbed.

Also, since the secretary said that Kristin didn't live with Chad, why weren't the police investigating who wanted to kill him?  I assume they spoke with his secretary, right?  And even if Chad didn't give them that information, she would have.  The police were determined that Hayley was guilty, and never even questioned anyone else.  What police department does that unless they have concrete evidence - which they didn't.

I also didn't understand (and this is a spoiler) why Chad never got any comeuppance for being such a jerk.  He treated Hayley like garbage - even though he recently cared enough about her to move her in with him; he believed her capable of murder, but again, moved her in with him.  He also knew she had a cat before she moved to Key West, so he had no reason to act like a jerk over that; he didn't even lose clients over his behavior; it never became known.  I also didn't get why he thought she was guilty when she never exhibited that type of behavior - ever.

Then I also wondered where she was getting the cash to afford the Tarot readings, buy all her meals, buy food for her friends, etc., since she didn't have a job; Hayley was spending money like water.  Were her parents supporting her?  Are they rich?  And since her friend Eric is a psychiatrist, I imagine he knows other professional people, but didn't help Hayley by putting feelers out to see if anyone needed help?  I really didn't like Connie at all; she didn't act like a true friend would instead spending all her time with her boyfriend...sort of like a teenager would do.

Plus I really didn't care for what happened to Evinrude (no, the cat doesn't get killed) but he did disappear, and I was wondering where he had gone and if he had been stolen or injured, so that tempered my enjoyment quite a bit since I kept waiting for him to show up.  Animal lovers don't appreciate when there's an intimation that a cat's been injured or stolen and we don't get to find them right away.  It really tempers enjoyment of the book.

But what got me big time was the fact that the detective treats her like a criminal throughout the book and there's no indication at all that there's even a spark between him and Hayley and then at the end of the book he asks her for a date?  And she just forgives him right away?  Really?  He wasn't even trying to be nice or give her the benefit of the doubt.  I'd tell him to take a hike, since he also believed she was guilty.  Maybe if he'd said something like, "I don't think you're guilty, Hayley, but the evidence shows...and unless we find something to the contrary we have to go where the evidence takes us..." but he didn't.  Not even once.

Unfortunately, with all these problems it was difficult to really like the book.  Hayley herself even made it hard, since she acted more like a teenager throughout instead of a grown woman.  She spent a lot of time wallowing in self-pity instead of trying to get her life together.

When the killer was revealed at the end it really wasn't that hard to figure out since there weren't a lot of choices throughout the book who it could have been; but I honestly didn't blame them one bit and felt rather sorry for them; there's no reason for anyone to be put in that exact same situation, and it showed how some people are just taking up space instead of trying to be fair.  I will read the next in the series in the hopes that it will improve.

Remembering the Dead (A Penny Brannigan Mystery #10)

Author:  Elizabeth J. Duncan Genre:   Mystery Hardcover; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781643851136 Crooked Lane Publishing $26.56; $12.99 Am...