Friday, September 28, 2018

A Murder for the Books (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #1)

Author:  Victoria Gilbert
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book; Audio Book
ISBN #:  9781683314394; 9781683316077
Crooked Lane Books
352 Pages
$18.35; $15.99; $7.99
December 12, 2017 (June 2018 Paperback)


Fleeing a disastrous love affair, Amy Webber leaves her job as a university librarian to live with her aunt in a quiet, historic Virginia mountain town.  Soon enough, she lands a new gig managing the town's charming public library.  Busy trying to hold things together at work, the last thing Amy needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm is bound to lure her into trouble.

Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle and with it, the house's scandalous story.  Town folklore claims the house's original owner was poisoned by his wife, who vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial.  Richard implores Amy to help him clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved.  Amy is skeptical until their research implicates the town's leading families...even hers.

And now it's up to Amy and Richard to turn the page on the town's turbulent past.


Amy Webber moves to a quiet Virginia town to live with her aunt and work as a librarian after an embarrassing episode at nearby Clarion University.  When she meets her new neighbor Richard Muir, she's attracted to him but determined to stay away after her recent fiasco.  But that's easier said than done when Richard asks her help in solving a mystery - the truth as to whether Daniel Cooper was poisoned by his wife Eleanora back in 1925.  Although she was acquitted and left the area soon after, there are those who believe otherwise.  But his late great-uncle Paul believed she was innocent, and now Richard wants to find out if he was right.

When Amy and Richard find a library patron dead in the archive building, they can't imagine who would want to kill the old woman.  But when someone comes forward with a theory and that person is also killed, they know they're going down a path someone doesn't want them to.  But will they stop investigating, or will Amy be the one to take the final journey?...

The premise sounded interesting (I do love mysteries within mysteries) but I was barely in a few pages when I read Amy's description of her 'frail' aunt - who wears pearls, has white hair and needs a can for a leg injury.  She even mentions that at least her hearing is okay.  So how old is this decrepit woman?  64.  That's right.  This author believes 64 is elderly.  Personally, many women in their 60's are physically active, do sports, dye their hair, wear makeup, and don't. wear. pearls.  (That's just too much of a cliché for me).  In fact, I don't know anyone around that age who does.  Necklaces, sure; but not pearls.  I also don't know any who have hearing aids (although I'm sure some do).  She writes of her as if she's in her eighties.  She also says she has a second cousin who is 59 and has 'steel gray hair'.  It makes you wonder if she thinks once you hit 55 you need a rocking chair.  (While I know there are women who just decide to go au naturel when they start to turn gray, at 59 most probably wouldn't).

I also didn't feel that Amy had a strong enough reason to leave Clarion.  If a woman finds her boyfriend cheating - at an event they're attending together - it's to be forgiven if she reacts in the heat of the moment.  Even the recipient of the drink should have understood that, and censured Charles, not her.  It doesn't say much about the dean that he didn't, so maybe it was good that she left Clarion.  Who'd want to work there knowing this?  (I get she embarrassed the man, but they both should have been taken to the dean's office and the dean should have been upset with him, not her).

There were also no descriptions of the Blue Ridge Mountains or the area.  This book could have taken place anywhere and we wouldn't have known the difference.  There were no descriptions of the town, either.  We knew there was a library, a diner, and the description of her aunt's home, but that's about it.  Unfortunately, these things made the book feel flat for me.  The most interesting character in the book was Karl/Kurt, and we didn't find out a whole lot about him.

I knew who the murderer of Eleanora was almost immediately and why; I didn't feel that this was hidden at all, but then again maybe it wasn't supposed to be; the killer of Doris took me a bit longer.  I thought the reasons why were alright, but not real satisfying, and I didn't like the fact that the book left out details of things that should have been explained, and they never were.  (This, however, isn't specific to this author; I'm finding more and more authors are telling you something and then never following through on it).  Also, why even tell us the name of the former librarian if he's not even in the book?  This just seems superfluous to me.

In the end, I realize that this was a first-in-the-series book, and this is a new author, so I'm giving a pass on this one and hope that these things improve in the next.


More on Victoria Gilbert's Books:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Seven Deadly Zins (A Wine Country Mystery #2)

Author:  Nancy J. Parra
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683318712
Crooked Lane Books
288 Pages
$25.80; $12.99 Amazon
January 8, 2019


Taylor O'Brian, founder of "Off the Beaten Path", takes small groups on wine country tours of romantic Sonoma County.  Friends are everything in the tour business, so Taylor is happy to guide investors to the winery owned by her friend Tim Slade.  But vintage turns to vinegar when an FDA inspector is found floating face down in one of Tim's vats of squished grapes.

Tim is arrested on suspicion of murder, and Taylor and her friends rally to prove his innocence.  But it's not an easy task, especially since the winery proprietor's acidic sense of humor tends to reap a harvest of sour grapes.  Taylor's investigation is withering on the vine until she discovers that Tim's girlfriend, Mandy, is having an affair with a self-help guru.  But before she has a chance to confront Mandy, Taylor finds Tim standing over the body of the dead guru.

This tart turn of events sends a bottle shock through Sonoma.  Might Taylor's friend really be a Zin-ful killer?  If so, could Taylor be the next victim?  The tour guide and her friends come to realize that the true murderer's scent is obscured by an unsavory bouquet of red herrings.


Taylor O'Brian owns "Off the Beaten Path" wine country tours.  When she's taking her group on a tour of a winery she's just added, the owner Tim Slade is showing them certain aspects of how wine is made, but unfortunately, he also discovers a body in the vat.  When the police arrive it takes a while to identify the bloated (and discolored from wine) man, but it becomes known that it's Jeffery Hoag, a realtor that Tim's girlfriend Mandy worked for.

But no one seems to know how he got in the vat - Tim claims he wasn't there when he went out the evening before; still, the police insist they have DNA that proves Tim committed the murder and arrest him.  While Taylor knows he's innocent, the police believe they have their man.  Taylor, on the other hand, sets out to find the real killer.

But she has problems of her own.  First she discovers that there's a new tour operator in town who seems to not only take people on wine country tours, but has state-of-the-art buses and manages to get them into wineries Taylor as yet hasn't been able to breach.

Then there's Dr. Brinkman, who seems to be taking the area by storm with people swarming to get into his motivational speech talks, and she is given tickets for herself and her friend Holly.  When she also invites reporter Chelsea to the speech, they are given tea that neither Taylor nor Chelsea will touch, but Holly drinks it and shortly thereafter thinks Brinkman is the best thing ever and is ready to turn everything she owns over to him.  It doesn't help that Tim's girlfriend Mandy is also enamored by Brinkman and is trying to get Taylor enamored as well.

But after Tim is released on bail, it is only a short time later that Taylor agrees to meet with Brinkman and she and Mandy see Tim leave his dressing room covered in blood.  When the doctor is found dead, Tim is arrested for murder this time as well, without bail.  But when she and Chelsea probe deeper to find the truth, it is something that cuts Taylor to the bone in a time-crunching scare that finally ferrets out everything she wants to know...

This is the second book in the series and I have to say that I liked it much better than the first.  However, there were still a couple of things that bothered me, and one of them is how Taylor treats men.  She states how she likes Sheriff Ron Hennessy (she waffles between calling him Ron sometimes and then Sheriff others), and mentions how he was going to ask her out for coffee but never did.  When he finally does mention it, she tells him that they'd better wait until the case is settled before doing so.  Say what?  She laments he never asked her out, he mentions that he'd like to, and she puts him off?  So what does she do?  The attorney, Patrick, asks her out and she thinks that her "crush" on the sheriff will probably come to nothing so she might as well date Patrick.  Huh?  She'll settle for someone she's not interested in as much because the sheriff didn't drag her off that minute for coffee?  And she's the one who put Ron off.  To tell the truth, I don't like the way this is going - that of the Love Triangle.  It's never interesting, and you have to realize that if this were a man who was treating two women this way, you'd not be happy with it.

I also didn't care for the way the police seemed to be less intelligent than Taylor.  No matter what she was told, she was always right and they were always the ones who pretty much didn't have a clue, just wanted to nail someone for the murder.  If these things were different, this could have been an excellent book.  Below is a spoiler that asks a few questions but also gives away a bit of the plot, so please do not view if you have not read the book.  Thank you.

While I felt the story started slow, and I wasn't really interested in the seancé episodes, I did like the way it picked up toward the end; I did like the resolution of the murders and how they were eventually handled.  It was an easy cozy to get through and I will read the next in the series.


More on Nancy J. Parra's Books:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Case of Syrah Syrah

Author:  Nancy J. Parra
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683314332; 9781683319160
Crooked Lane Books
320 Pages
$17.61; $10.99; $9.99 Amazon
December 12, 2017 (Trade Published December 2018)


Prospects are looking rosy for Taylor O'Brian, founder of "Off the Beaten Path" Wine Country Tours, who lives on a small winery with her Aunt Jemma and leads tours around romantic Sonoma County.  At first blush, things are running smoothly, until a tour member is found dead - with Taylor's corkscrew buried in her neck.

Taylor has no nose for detective work, but as she begins to follow a trail of bottled-up secrets, evens take a sour new turn.  Only two weeks after the murder, her assistant Amy marries Dan, the dead woman's husband, whose short-lived bereavement seems like a sham.  And just as her investigation begins to take shape, Dan's sister turns up dead.  Could Taylor be next on the list?

Now it's up to Taylor to uncork this open-bottle mystery before more blood is spilled.


Taylor O'Brian returned to Sonoma County from San Francisco because her aunt, who owns a winery, needs help.  She decided to open her own wine country tour company - Taylor O'Brian's "Off the Beaten Path" Wine Country Tours - in the hopes it will give her a decent income.

Her first tour group consists of her yoga instructor Laura, Laura's husband and several other people.  But when returning to the van after a long hike, Laura is nowhere to be found.  Both Dan and Taylor head in search of her, but it's Taylor who finds her down a ravine.  When she and Dan reach Laura they call 911, but it's too late.  Laura has been killed by a corkscrew to the next - Taylor's corkscrew - and no one even knows who did it.

While Dan thinks she's guilty, Taylor knows something is going on, especially when Dan remarries quickly and it looks as if the police have her pegged for the murder.  Even though the sheriff warns her away from the crime, her aunt urges her to investigate, so she and her best friend Holly set out to find a killer before Taylor is put away for good...

This is the first book in a new series and I really wanted to like it, but I should have known when it was mentioned that Aunt Jemma was a little "hippy."  I think the author meant 'hippie' which we all know what means, but 'hippy' means Aunt Jemma has a little too much flesh above the knees, if you get my drift...I know, nitpicking; but it was only a hint of what was to come, unfortunately.

Anyway, Taylor hires an attorney right away (who turns out to be a hunk, of course) because she's afraid the sheriff (another hunk) might have her pegged for the crime.  Well, here we go, folks: another love triangle in the making.  No surprise there...

So after she's been fingerprinted to eliminate her as a suspect, she takes a casserole to the grieving widower and he immediately accuses her of murdering his wife.  Never mind that she was only alone with the body for a short time - not long enough to force her down a ravine, change into different clothes to stab the woman, change back (because the other clothes would have a lot of blood on them since she was stabbed in an artery) and then climb back up again - but hey - and then, leaving the man's home she's stopped by the police who got a call saying she was harassing Dan.  Even when she shows the casserole, no dice.  The cop outright asks her if she murdered Laura, although I don't know why.  Was he there at the time of murder?  Was it running through the police station that she was a 'person of interest' even though she was told by the sheriff she wasn't?  How did this officer know her connection?  He didn't mention that Dan said she murdered his wife, otherwise he would have put handcuffs on her.  He said she was harassing him.  How did one equate to the other?  Why was he asking her if she killed Laura anyway?  He's a patrolman.  Shouldn't that be up to the homicide detectives, not him?  Did he really think if she were guilty, that she'd randomly admit it?  It sounds to me like the officer was harassing her.  Details count.

Then her aunt actually encourages her to investigate, knowing there's a killer on the loose.  I guess she doesn't think her niece could be the next one killed.  Also, newspapers don't print the names of people of interest.  It keeps them from being sued by injured parties.  They wait until someone has been arrested. 

As you can tell, I wasn't enthralled by this book.  I really dislike love triangles (as it's looking to go that way).  Look at it this way: if the protagonist were a man, and he was stringing along two women, people would think he was a slimeball.  So why is it okay for two men to pursue one woman?  And why would she do that to them?  You'd think authors would know by now not to do this.  Of course, I could be wrong and she might only be interested in one of them, but one of the last few scenes suggests otherwise...

At the end, I really didn't care who the murderer was.  Taylor was dumber than a box of rocks.  First she investigates because her aunt tells her to do it, even though her attorney (and the sheriff) tells her not to.  She doesn't try to hide it.  As you can read, I wasn't a fan of this book and I may or may not read the second in the hope it will improve, because it sure needs a lot of tweaking.


More on Nancy J. Parra's Books:

Monday, September 24, 2018

Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain

Author:  Hal Holbrook
Genre:  Biographies

Hardcover; Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780374281014; 9780374533595
480 Pages
Various Prices; $7.99 Amazon
September 13, 2011


Harold is the actor Hal Holbrook's personal memoir about his struggle to discover his true self, even as he learned to transform himself onstage.  Abandoned at two by his mother and father, Holbrook commenced an unlikely and engrossing journey.  He spent his childhood at boarding schools and Culver Military Academy, and began acting almost by accident.  Through the army, marriage, college, and working to learn his craft, his fearlessness in the face of risk spurred the realization that success as an actor was his birthright.  The climb up that forbidding mountain was a lonely one.  And the toll of his achievement - the cost to his wife and children and to his own conscience - is the dark side of fame he would eventually earn by portraying the man his career would forever be most closely associated with:  Mark Twain.


I will admit that I lost interest in this book almost immediately as it is filled with endless detail upon detail of things most people aren't really interested in (and I'm not one to be interested in 'tell all' books, so even that would be better.  It's more 'I went here, spent that' type of detail).  However, I've read enough to know that this isn't a biography in the true sense of the word.  I'm not saying it's a bad book; not at all.  It's just boring as far as autobiographies go.

The book, to me, appears to be written only to assuage Mr. Holbrook's guilt over his first marriage and the two children from that union.  It starts with his birth and centers on the beginnings of his career and ends with his performing his one-man show Mark Twain and finally makes a name for himself.  There were so many years after this, both on the stage, in television, and even film that followed; yet this book touches on none of that.

The other main focus is his first marriage to Ruby which produced two children, Victoria and David.  There is no mention of his second marriage - which produced a daughter, Eve; nor of his final - and lasting - marriage to actress Dixie Carter.  By reading it, you would think that after he topped his career with Twain, no other role came his way.

On the contrary, he continued to act for many more years with distinctive roles.  He has even been nominated for an Academy Award.  But we are to learn none of that.  Since it has been at least seven years since this book was written, it's not as if he hasn't been able to continue his story.  But it seems he doesn't want us to know anything else about his life.

In the end, I get the feeling that this book was written more as an apology to his first family - Ruby and his children by that marriage - than out of any need to tell the story of his life (which again, has much more to it thus far).  While I have no doubt he has regrets about his first marriage and his children, I believe that it might have been better if he had just sat them down and explained his reasoning to them instead of taking the reader on that journey with him in order to justify his actions in being an absent father.  After all, and I say this without judgment to those who think otherwise, being deprived of his own parents should have at least taught him the benefit of being around his own offspring, but apparently it didn't.


Friday, September 21, 2018

The Dead Ringer (An Agatha Raisin Mystery #29)

Author: M.C. Beaton
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD: Digital Book
ISBN #: 9781250157690; 9781250157706; [9781538451793]
Minotaur Books [Blackstone Audio]
288 Pages
$17.70; $7.99; $55.00; $13.99 Amazon
October 2, 2018 (June 2019 MMP)


The idyllic Cotswolds village of Thirk Magna is best known for the medieval church of St. Ethelred and its bells, which are the pride and glory of the whole community.

As the bell-ringers get ready for the visit of the dashing Bishop Peter Salver-Hinkley, the whole village is thrown into a frenzy.  Meanwhile, Agatha convinces one of the bell-ringers, the charming lawyer Julian Brody, to hire her to investigate the mystery of the Bishop's ex-fiancée: a local heiress, Jennifer Toynby, who went missing years ago and whose body was never found...

Meanwhile, the bodies in the village just keep on piling up: the corpse of Larry Jensen, a local policeman, is discovered in the crypt.  Millicent Dupin, one of a pair of bell-ringing identical twins, is murdered in the church.  And Terry Fletcher, a journalist and (briefly) Agatha's lover, is found dead in her sitting room!  Agatha widens her investigation and very soon her main suspect is the handsome Bishop himself.  But could he really be behind this series of violent killings, or is it someone who wants to bring him - and his reputation - down?


Agatha Raisin goes to the village of Thirk Magna with her friend Mrs. Bloxby and sees a magnificent figure of a man in the form of Bishop Peter Salver-Hinkley and decides she'd like to know him better.  She also makes the acquaintance of Julian Brody, who dislikes the Bishop and asks her to look into the disappearance of his ex-fiancée Jennifer Toynby, who disappeared without a trace.  But as Agatha starts looking into the matter she discovers that the Bishop is unlikable (at least to her) and that not only is Jennifer's disappearance unsolved, but others in this village are soon found murdered:  Larry Jensen, a local policeman; Millicent Dupin, half of a horrible pair of middle-aged twins; and Terry Fletcher, an Australian journalist that Agatha fell immediately in love with - but ended the affair - leaving her with a broken heart.

But the newspapers aren't so kind and label her a home wrecker, and she can't find any trace of Jennifer; and these things, along with several others, lead her into a depression she isn't able to pull herself from.  But it is when she decides that she must no longer feel sorry for herself and get back to the job of detecting that she is able to discover the truth...only in doing so, this time she may have gone too far and the killer might just want to silence her forever...

I have always enjoyed the books of Ms. Beaton and this one is no different.  Our Agatha, who considers herself a good detective relying on her intuition, is once again looking for a case that is more exciting than finding one's missing pet.  But in doing so, she discovers that she doesn't care for the village of Thirk Magna nor any of its inhabitants, considering them all crazy.  She may not be far from the truth, but still she has a job to do and tries her best - at least until she is once again disappointed in love.

It doesn't last forever, but at least she has a staff that is reliable and can get things done while she is in her funk; and there is always Charles, faithful to her in his own way and his desire to snap her out of it and bring her back to reality heartens me each time.  I truly like this man, with all his quirks and even his habit of "forgetting his wallet" at opportune times.  This time out, he's more of a 'partner in crime' as it were, and while he's not happy about it, he's willing to help his Aggie along.

We are given more to Charles in this book than I think we have seen in any of the others and his devotion to Agatha is at once apparent, even if she doesn't see it herself.  It's probably because she spends her time wondering why she can't find her soul mate.  I would expect more from Agatha.

However, she does manage to get herself mired in a couple of harrowing situations (which we would expect no less of her) by not thinking things through completely; still, it is interesting to see how she extricates herself (with help) and quite fun to read about.

In the end, the book came together quite nicely while still leaving me at odds, as I found that while the plot is decent as always and the writing is indeed good; I am torn by the ending, which, I am sure is not an ending at all; and I will have to wait (impatiently) for the next in the series.


More on M.C. Beaton's Books:

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Deadly News (A Britton Bay Mystery #1)

Author:  Jody Holford
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781516108695
Lyrical Underground
184 Pages
$15.00; $3.99 Amazon
October 30, 2018


Former army brat Molly Owens is ready to put down roots, and the picturesque seaside town of Britton Bay on the Oregon Coast seems like the perfect place for it.  Especially when she lands a job as editor of the local paper.  But she's got one colleague who's very bad news...

As an experienced journalist, Molly is eager to bring the struggling Britton Bay Bulletin up to speed.  But when she pushes Vernon, one of her less welcoming reporters, to dig a little deeper into the story of a prominent local family, the man ends up dead.  The fact that he wasn't well-liked makes finding the killer extra complicated.  The lists of suspects range from his ex-wife to his own son to Molly's boss, who has a secret of his own.  But when Molly's attempts to sleuth out the truth result in her receiving frightening threats, the trouble is just beginning...

The one bright spot is Molly's newfound flirtation with Sam Alderich.  The sexy mechanic is used to taking things apart and piecing them back together, and between the two of them they just might be able to solve this deadly puzzle - if Molly can survive peaceful small-town life long enough...


Molly Owens has moved to Britton Bay, Oregon to start a new life after breaking up with her live-in boyfriend.  She's accepted a job as the editor of the small Britton Bay Bulletin, the local newspaper.  When she arrives for her meet-and-greet, the owner, Alan, introduces her to the staff:  Elizabeth, Vernon, and Clay; along with an unpaid intern, Hannah, a teenager who is also Alan's niece.  Vernon lets it be known immediately that he doesn't like her and that he has no intention of listening to her.  While Molly tries to stay optimistic, she realizes that it will take work for Vernon to accept her.

When she leaves for lunch she finds her jeep sounds wrong, and luckily there's a nearby garage.  Looking at her vehicle she sees the air has been let out of all of her tires.  Meeting the mechanic, Sam Alderich, she gets a little bump in her heartbeat but reminds herself that she's there to work, not to start a new relationship.  She knows that it was probably Vernon who did it, but without proof she needs to let it go.

When she decides to mix things up at the paper, hoping to improve their readership she assigns a story to Vernon about the local founding family.  After a rough start, he agrees.  But when he doesn't deliver the story, she calls him and he tells her he's taking the day off and will see her the next.  When he doesn't show up for work, she goes over to his home only to find the man dead. 

Blindsided and overwhelmed she calls the police, briefly questioned, and released.  But Molly can't get the idea out of her head that she had something to do with Vernon's murder.  Maybe if she hadn't pushed him to go out and get the story...but what could talking to an elderly woman have to do with murder? 

Sorting out these thoughts isn't going to be easy, especially since she's being pursued by Sam, and no matter how much he tries to allay her fears, she's sure that his death has something to do with the story she sent him to find.  But what?  And it becomes even more apparent when she discovers flowers trampled at her home and the vandalism escalates.  But how far will a killer go to protect any secrets they might have?

While this author has written other books, it is her first foray into the world of cozy mysteries, and as such a very worthwhile effort indeed.  I found the mystery to be well-written, the story line intriguing, the characters well-drawn and the town descriptions delightful.

Molly isn't your usual sleuth, digging into places she shouldn't be and asking overly-invasive questions that make one uncomfortable reading about.  Instead she's intelligent, empathetic, has a decent sense of humor, is able to banter flirtatiously with Sam without seeming awkward, and has a desire to actually fit in and make friends, which has her randomly apologizing to people for various things.  I do believe the fact that this author has heretofore written romances helps in the fact that the budding romance between Molly and Sam is both convincing and enjoyable to read.

Following the many red herrings strewn into the story is quite fun, never knowing where they'll lead or to whom.  Just when you feel you might be on the right track, something else comes around the bend that sends you in another direction.  When Molly finally puts it all together and figures out the identity of the killer, it's worth noting that she's not stupid about it, and I appreciate that fact.  The reason for the murder is believable, and I found that everything came together nicely at the end.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.


More on Jody Holford's Books:

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Yeast of Eden (A Pancake House Mystery #4)

Author:  Sarah Fox
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book; Audio CD
ISBN #:  9781516107773; 9781977367495
Lyrical Underground
208 Pages
$15.00; $4.99; $24.99 Amazon
October 30, 2018


Winter has come to Wildwood Cove, and riding in on the chill is Wally Fowler.  Although he's been away for years, establishing his reputation as the self-proclaimed Waffle King, the wealthy blowhard has returned to the coastal community to make money, not friends - by pitting his hot and trendy Waffle Kingdom against Marley McKinney's cozy pancake house, The Flip Side.  Wally doesn't see anything wrong in a little healthy competition, until he's murdered in his own state-of-the-art kitchen.

Marley isn't surprised when the authorities sniff around The Flip Side for a motive, but it's her best friend Lisa who gets grilled, given her sticky history with the victim.  When a second murder rocks the town, it makes it harder than ever for Marley to clear Lisa's name.  Marley's afraid that she's next in line to die - and the way things are looking, the odds of surviving her investigation could be stacked against her.


Marley McKinney owns the Flip Side pancake house.  She does a brisk business with plenty of regulars.  When she's arriving to work one day she sees a flyer on the ground behind her business and picks it up, then sees that it's an advertisement for The Waffle Kingdom, a new restaurant that is opening in town by an ex-resident just returned, Wally Fowler.  When she goes inside she sees two more taped to the front of her restaurant windows.  Irritated, she tries to let it go but later that morning when she's got a full house, Wally shows up with a man and a woman and announces to all and sundry about his grand opening and even invites Marley and her cook Ivan to come by that evening and see how he makes ice cream with liquid nitrogen. 

After he leaves, she sees her friends Lisa is extremely upset, and learns that Lisa blames Wally for getting her brother into drugs many years ago while in high school.  After she calms Lisa down she reminds her that it's Ladies' Night at the local hardware store and they plan to meet there.  But when Lisa doesn't show, Marley texts her and Lisa said she wasn't up to it.

Later that evening Marley is going home and notices that Wally's tires are slashed and knocks on the back door of his business to tell him.  Receiving no response, she goes around to the front and finding it unlocked, enters.  What she does find is her Ivan, and he tells her to call 911.  Marley, her innate curiosity getting the better of her, goes into the kitchen and sees Wally's dead body.

It's a given that he had enemies all over town and no friends.  But it's also apparent that Lisa or Ivan, or maybe both, are the main suspects in the murder, and Lisa asks Marley to help her find the killer because she's afraid they'll suspect Ivan of the crime.  But it soon becomes apparent that Lisa's the one the police want, so Marley decides to investigate on the down low, hoping to flush out a murderer.

But to make things worse, her boyfriend Brett's father has had a heart attack and is in the hospital out of town; she needs to stick around to take care of the pets and while she misses him terribly, she has other things on her mind that will keep her busy - like murder.

Then while looking for Christmas decorations in the attic she finds an old trunk full of journals and a scrapbook, and discovers that a distant relative disappeared decades ago without a trace.  Now she has another purpose - to try and find out what happened to the woman and also a young maid in another household who disappeared around the same time.  Were they killed by the son of the mayor at the time?  Or is there a more sinister answer?  It's a diversion she needs right now, but finding a killer is taking first and foremost - that is, if the killer doesn't find her first...

While I felt the book started out a tad slow, it picked up quickly and I found myself engrossed in the story.  I loved the fact that there was an old mystery to solve also.  It was basically a two-for-one in this book, and quite enjoyable to read.  Marley, without Brett by her side, needed something to occupy her time at home, and when she found the journals it added a 'mystery lite' to the tale; I enjoyed it as much as finding Wally's killer.

I felt that the clues were hidden well and while there were plenty of suspects, there wasn't anything that directly pointed to any one person...until nearly the end of the book, which is how it is supposed to be.  When she finally figured it out, there was just the right amount of suspense going on while you watched as she tried to figure out how to get herself out of danger (as we know she will).  It added that last bit of 'oomph' that kept everything moving to the final climax, and made for an entertaining book indeed.

But it didn't end there as we still had the second mystery of the journals to discover, and I am glad to say I was pleased in that outcome too.  All in all, when the ending came and the killer was discovered, it was a complete surprise as it was, of course, meant to be; and although I have only read one other in this series it is apparent that Ms. Fox is indeed a talented writer and I will go back and read the other two.  I look forward to the next book in the series.  Highly recommended.


More on Sarah Fox's Books:

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Whatever's Been Going on at Mumblesby? (A Flaxborough Mystery #12)

Author:  Colin Watson
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback: Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780385183826; 9781571259090
Prelude Books
172 Pages
Various Prices; $.99 Amazon
July 26, 2018 (Reprint)


In Flaxborough's posh neighboring village, Mumblesby, the local solicitor, Richard Daspard Loughbury, has suddenly died.

Natural causes it appears, but DI Purbright and the ever-helpful Miss Lucy Teatime are taken aback by the quality of Loughbury's art collection -- including a Paul Klee, a Corot, and even a fragment of the "True Cross".

All seem to have been acquired locally and the question of blackmail hangs in the air.  Loughbury's decidedly un-posh widow, Zoe, is less than grief-stricken, as are a cast of colourful characters from randy farmers to gin-soaked country types.  Then the recent suicide of a local farmer's wife also begins to look questionable.


When a solicitor named Loughbury passes away in Mumblesby, Detective Inspector Purbright attends the funeral in lieu of his superior Mr. Chubb.  While there he hears a woman screaming for help and  follows her to the late solicitor's home, finding not only the young widow locked in a bathroom but for some odd reason clothes strewn upon a small heater - smoldering - and a propane tank in a bedroom.  He also sees something odd: a small piece of wood trapped permanently inside a steel cage that has been sealed into the wall, labeled the "True Cross".  Curious indeed.

He waits until the widow, Zoe, and her mother return from the funeral before questioning her about the attempted arson.  While she seems to ignore the implication that someone is attempting to murder her, Purbright decides to seek the truth of the matter and sends his detective sergeant Sidney Love to the village to see if he can discover any clues.  What Love finds out is there are many unsavory characters living there, and not a appears to like Zoe, considering her no more than a concubine who was lucky enough to have been given Loughbury's entire estate.  But when that estate includes objects d'art that apparently do not belong to Loughbury at all, things become even more curious than before.

When a strange "prank" befalls the widow, Purbright is determined more than ever to come to the truth of the matter, including letting the widow know that he isn't the fool she at first took him for...

This is the twelfth book in the series and I am sad to say, the last, as Mr. Watson passed away soon after writing it.  I have read all of the series and have been completely satisfied with every one of them.  I have to add in all honesty however, that no matter how much I tried, I could not like the character of Zoe.  She seemed harsh and uncaring to me; someone who believes money can buy her an entreé into society, and otherwise will force her way in if necessary.  Money can't buy class, no matter who you are or how much of it you have.  She's not a person I would care to know personally.

Don't get me wrong; there are many other characters in books who were born low, married into money and were just wonderful.  It was more that I thought Zoe was an opportunist, and not in a nice way.  She seemed cold and calculating to me, and I don't care for that sort of person.

The rest of the book was, as always, highly entertaining and delightful to read.  DI Purbright is as clever as ever, ferreting out the truth as he always does, no matter how well hidden people think they may have left it.  He gets to the heart of everything by going over the evidence piece by piece, and watching him connect the dots, as it were, is the best part of each and every one of these books.

When Purbright realizes that a young woman from Mumblesby had not committed suicide as was agreed upon by both her husband and the court, it is exactly as I stated - Purbright takes the information given and parses it to discover who wanted her dead and why; he finds that the death is connected to Loughbury and several of the villagers; and he also learns that each of them have given Loughbury a very expensive item indeed; but for what reason?  Is is tied to the death of the woman, who passed over a year ago?  It is interesting how Purbright takes a small clue Loughbury had in his possession (along with the fact of those above-mentioned articles) and deduces the truth.

All in all, the ending, as always, leaves us with our own conjectures as to the final outcome; but it is enough to realize that justice has been done.  While I am saddened that there will be no more in this series, I am heartened by the fact that I was able to read them.  Recommended.


More on Colin Watson's Books:                     

Monday, September 17, 2018

Cry Wolf (A Zoe Chambers Mystery #7)

Author:  Annette Dashofy
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN:  9781635113952; 9781635113921
Henery Press Publishing
276 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $6.99 Amazon
September 18, 2018


Rural Pennsylvania's Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams is down an officer and has been dealing with extra shifts as well as a pair of bickering neighbors, one of whom owns a machete and isn't afraid to use it.  Golden Oaks Assisted Living is outside Pete's jurisdiction, but a murder in the facility his Alzheimer's-afflicted father calls home makes the case personal.  Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe Chambers has been itching for an opportunity to take the lead in a death investigation.  She gets her chance when her boss is hospitalized and not only assigns her to the Golden Oaks homicide but puts her in charge of the county coroner's office.  As if she doesn't have enough to handle, a long-lost, over-protective, older half-brother walks into her life threatening to drive a wedge between her and the man she loves.  A second body leads them to realize the case may have dark ties to a distant past...and if Zoe doesn't untangle the web of lies, Pete will be the one to pay the ultimate price...


Zoe Chambers, paramedic and deputy coroner, has been working overtime in Vance Township.  Her boyfriend, Police Chief Pete Adams, has been doing the same since he's down one officer, a young man who had to take a life not long ago and has been having trouble dealing with the aftermath; even though in doing so he saved Zoe from certain death.  But when the coroner becomes ill, Zoe is temporarily promoted into the job, giving her even more responsibility.

When Zoe and Pete are visiting his father at Golden Oaks Assisted Living, Pete sees a retired officer he once knew, John Kinney, and they begin to catch up on old times.  But when the man is discovered dead shortly after their meeting, at first it's considered a terrible accident.  But after Zoe finds out the truth - that he was smothered - it becomes an entirely different ballgame.

To add to this, they get a call about a man using a machete to attack another man.  When they arrive, they find that the machete-wielding man was merely protecting his horses - the self-named professor had been throwing mown grass over the fence and the horses, if they ingest it, could become ill or die.  The professor either doesn't understand or doesn't want to, but they diffuse the situation as best they can.  Pete also discovers that the professor's wife is none other than Kinney's sister.

But then comes the biggest surprise of all - Zoe receives a cryptic message from a man named Jason Cox, and when she returns the call she learns she has an older half-brother she never knew about.  While Pete is suspicious, he does a background check - without Zoe's knowledge - but can find nothing incriminating in the man's past.  And after meeting Jason, Zoe is convinced he's the real deal.  But when Pete meets him, there's quite a bit of friction, almost like Jason is baiting him.  Pete doesn't like him, but won't disillusion Zoe.

But it still rankles when Jason decides to help out Zoe in more ways than one, it begins to cause unspoken problems between Zoe and Pete.  Then there's another murder, and Pete, who isn't conducting the investigation at the nursing home because it's out of his jurisdiction (that's left to county detective Wayne Baronick) begins to wonder what the two murders have in common.  Just as he's getting closer to finding the truth, it becomes apparent that there's more at stake than finding Kinney's killer.  In fact, it could be his own life...

This is the seventh book in the Zoe Chambers mystery, and I am delighted to say that while other series are losing their momentum by this time, Ms. Dashofy has somehow managed to keep this one feeling as fresh as the first.  There is no loss in characterization and no loss in keeping her readers engaged in the story.

Zoe and Pete are barely settling into their new life together - Zoe has agreed to live with Pete but still has issues she needs to move past in order to embrace their future together when a brother she never knew she had steps into the scene.  While it seems wonderful for her; she's never had a real family since her father died when she was eight and her relationship with her mother is strained at best, it's an entire different story for Pete.  While Jason doesn't come out and say he dislikes Pete to his face, it's apparent this is true, yet Zoe is completely oblivious of this fact, her newfound happiness masking everything else.

Zoe also has two murders to deal with, one where she's working with Detective Baronick, much to Pete's displeasure, and one where it's in Pete's jurisdiction, Pete also has to deal with the fact that his deputy Seth is dealing with heavy guilt and he needs help, even if he doesn't want to admit it.  Baronick suggests his sister Abby who's unhappy in her current department and Pete's willing to give her a chance, even if it's only as part-time.

As you can tell, there are a lot of things happening that somehow manage to slowly connect together, much like a puzzle where you've never seen the picture but must still figure out a way to put the pieces together.  Twists and turns abound with everything culminating in a suspenseful encounter that keeps you riveted to the tale right through the last pages.  This book is indeed a worthy addition to the series and I look forward to the next.  Highly recommended.


More on Annette Dashofy's Books:

Just in Time (A Dodie O'Dell Mystery #4)

Author:  Suzanne Trauth
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book

ISBN #: 9781516107223
Lyrical Underground
$15.00; $5.99 Amazon
September 25, 2018


Business is humming at Dodie O'Dell's Windjammer Restaurant, where she offers theme menus connected to the Eltonville Little Theatre's amateur productions.  This June, the theater is collaborating with the neighboring Creston Players to stage Bye Bye Birdie under the stars - their first musical!  There's a contest in the play to pick a fan to receive Conrad Birdie's last kiss before he ships off for the Army, so Dodie plans a contest to pick the food for a pre-show picnic.

But before the show opens, Ruby, the rehearsal accompanist, is found dead in her car.  Why would anyone murder the crusty old gal who loved to sneak a smoke and a nip between wisecracks?  Once again, the resourceful restaurant manager must play the part of amateur sleuth, accompanied by Police Chief Bill Thompson, who also happens to be her beau.  Confronted with a chorus of suspects, she'll need to stay composed to catch the killer - or it'll be bye bye Dodie...


Dodie O'Dell works at the Windjammer Cafe, and is helping with the Etonville Little Theater's latest production, Bye, Bye, Birdie.  They're performing with members of nearby Creston's theater group, and all seems to be coming together at first.  But soon it's apparent that there is trouble with the cast that keeps things from running smoothly.  The director Walter is unhappy that the woman he's enamored of, Lola, is involved with another member of the crew, Dale Undershot.  Pauli, a local teen who's a whiz on computers and technology, is hankering for Janice, who plays the lead, but she seems to only have eyes for Romeo, who's playing Conrad Birdie.  And so it goes...

However, an elderly woman from Creston, Ruby Passonata, is the pianist and she's a genius at it but not very nice to the people around her.  In fact, there isn't anyone who wants to spend time with her and after seeing Dodie and her boyfriend Bill, who's the police chief of Etonville, she makes a cryptic remark about relationships that Dodie just doesn't understand.  When Ruby dies in what at first appears to be an accident but is soon discovered to be an attempt at hiding a murder, Bill is stumped and asks Dodie to keep her ears open and see if she hears anything about the Creston Players that could hint at who wanted to kill Ruby. 

When Dodie and Lola venture out to Creston to Ruby's apartment to see if she has the cue notes needed for the play, they don't expect it to be so clean, Dodie finds a scrapbook that Ruby kept which details her early years, is surprised to find Ruby went to a prestigious music academy, and traveled world wide playing.  But the scrapbook mysteriously ends in 1969 and Dodie wants to know what stopped Ruby.  So she decides to try and find out why Ruby stopped her burgeoning career and wound up playing for a small town theater group.  So Dodie sets forth merely to find out more about the reclusive woman, but doesn't realize that in doing so she might be putting her own life in danger.

First off, I have to say that this is the first book I've read of Ms. Trauth's, yet because it is the fourth in the series I rather expected more from the author.  I knew very little about the numerous characters and they seemed way too quirky for me.  In most books there is only one person who is quirky, but in this book everyone except Bill seems to be a little bit over the top in that area.  The other thing that bothered me is the way like, Pauli like, talks.  He sounds like a Valley girl.  I would have enjoyed his character more if he could actually form complete sentences once in a while.

While I knew who the killer was almost immediately, (to be fair, though, I read a lot of mysteries, so unless it's hidden well, I can usually figure it out just by something that's said or done early on), it was still interesting to me to learn the reasons why they wanted Ruby dead.  Bits and pieces were strewn throughout the story, so you didn't learn it all at once, and that's always a good thing.  

The plot was done well, and I thought that everything came together nicely in the end; there were a couple of harrowing moments for Dodie, but she bore them out decently and I have to say that I enjoyed the ending, giving us a promise of what is to come in future books.  Recommended.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Glitter Bomb (A Scrapbooking Mystery #15)

Author:  Laura Childs
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9780451189548
Berkley Publishing
320 Pages
$26.00; $12.99 Amazon
October 2, 2018


It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans and scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand is excited to be attending the Pluvius parade along with her best friend Ava.  Carmela's ex-husband Shamus rides by the duo on his float at the head of the parade, when suddenly the revelry turns to disaster.  Shamus' float crashes and explodes, and although Shamus escapes unhurt, a member of his krewe is killed.

Carmela and Ava plunge into an investigation of the krewe-member's death, but as they dig deeper it starts to look less like an accident and more like murder...and Shamus seems less like a victim, and more like a suspect.


Carmela Bertrand lives in New Orleans and owns a successful scrapbooking shop.  She's enjoying the Mardi Gras festivities when a float practically explodes right in front of her.  Since her ex-husband was one of the krewe, she rushes over to make sure he's okay, then sees that someone else is hurt badly.  When the man dies, everyone thinks it was a horrible accident.  But when Shamus, her ex,  shows up at her shop the next day begging for help, her first instinct is to refuse.

Shamus insists that he's on the suspect list - and her fiancé Edgar Babcock, homicide detective for the NOPD, is targeting him as the killer.  While she knows Shamus is sleazy, she also knows he's too weak to be a killer and decides to help him.  But when she starts investigating, she doesn't count on the many suspects to be closed-mouthed about their hatred of the dead man.  Still, she keeps on digging - on the down low, since Babcock has warned her away - but it's not low enough as someone discovers what she's doing and decides that Carmela needs to go away...permanently...

I really enjoyed reading this book.  While I thought it started with a bang as it were, it stalled for a couple of chapters but then picked up again almost immediately.  Carmela is an interesting character; she's smart, strong, a savvy businesswoman, devoted to her friends fiercely, in love with Babcock deeply, annoyed by her ex-husband, and detests Shamus' sister Glory.  She's definitely a colorful personality, and I like that.

She's also smack-dab in a murder investigation, and doesn't want to be, but she has an innate curiosity that won't let her back out.  Unfortunately, it's also that curiosity and her bluntness that, merged together, rub some people the wrong way.  Some of the wrong people.  And one of them is out to do her in.  But with a host of suspects - the victim's wife and various krewe members - it seems every one of them had a reason to want the man dead.  He had a hedge fund that somehow went wrong and people lost money...a lot of it.  Now she's trying to figure out who decided that a final revenge was the way to get even.

Ava is a hoot as a best friend, always on the lookout for a new man in her life, and pretty much dresses as risqué as she can get away with.  Carmela realizes she's not going to change her, but does her best to be the voice of reason.  Ava just eggs Carmela on to investigate.  They're quite a pair together.  The situation with Ava house sitting would have made my blood boil and I can tell you that there would have been a few choice words with every single member of Harrison's family when they returned.  It wouldn't have been pretty to watch.

I did have a couple of moments that made me cringe a little when Carmela was blatantly asking people questions about Wilder (the dead man).  For some reason, it seemed terribly invasive and not like she was merely curious.  No wonder they clammed up.  While I realize this is just her personality (and while I also consider myself to be brutally honest, I try to step back when need be) it still made me skim those pages a little bit.

But when the last chapter finally arrived and I got close to the end, everything fell into place just as it was supposed to.  Carmela finally got the pay off (just as expected) the killer was discovered, and it came as a complete surprise.  There was a hairy moment or two (not a situation I'd like to find myself in at any stretch of the imagination) but everything tied together nicely.

There were plenty of twists in the story and it seemed around every corner there was another question that needed to be answered; and lots of red herrings to sift through.  While I thought a few of the characters were nasty pieces to deal with, Carmela managed to hold her own with them.  She's an admirable woman and I'm happy to see that she's successful, not with a struggling business like so many of the cozy characters.  Carmela's got it going on.

I'm sorry to say that this is only the second book in this series that I've read by this author; but in my defense I have to add that I have read her other series, and with so many other authors I try to give everyone an even chance, and it really was on my list to begin again.  I also will add with this book, I plan on going back and reading every single one from the beginning.  This is a series worth following, and worth reading every single book.  Highly recommended.


More on Laura Childs' Books:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Chardonnayed to Rest (The Wine Trail Mysteries #2)

Author:  J.C. Eaton
Genre: Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781516108022
Lyrical Underground 
220 Pages
$15.00; $4.99 Amazon
September 25, 2018


In Seneca Lake, New York, Norrie Ellington's Two Witches Winery has been selected by the local vintner community to host the annual Federweisser, a celebration of the season's first fermentation of white Chardonnay grapes.  But the festivities are spoiled when Norrie learns that landowner Roy Wilkes has raised her neighbor Rosealee Marbleton's rent so high, she may have to close her vineyard.

Before the rent hike could go into effect, Wilkes is found dead on Rosalee's property - stabbed by a flowerpot stake - and she becomes the police's number one suspect.  To clear her friend's name, Norrie conducts her own investigation.  But as she gathers clues, Norrie finds herself targeted by a killer, and if she's not careful, her desire to see justice done may die on the vine...


Norrie Ellington is managing the family winery while her sister Francine and her husband Jason spend a year in Costa Rica searching for a rare bug.  Norrie is a screenwriter who has her own deadline to make, so she's needing all the free time she can get to finish it.

Unfortunately, it won't be this week, and possibly not the next, either.  Her friend and a fellow winery owner, Rosalee Marbleton tells Norrie that a newcomer to Penn Yan has bought land nearby that she has a pipeline for water running though, and he's raised the rent so high she may have to close her winery.  But when Roy Wilkes's body is found by Rosalee she calls Norrie in a panic.  Along with another winery owner, Theo, they investigate and sure enough, Roy is dead.

But when Rosalee's handyman Kelsey is arrested for the crime and it's implied that Rosalee may have put him up to it. she begs Norrie to find out the truth.  Against her better judgment, Norrie agrees.  But will digging into another murder find a killer or will it put her next on the list to die?

This is the second book in the series and I have to say that I liked it better than the first.  The characters are starting to develop personalities and come into their own and I felt that this was lacking in the debut book, and Norrie is becoming more comfortable with the employees at the winery, even though she's not as fond of the place as is her sister.

There were, however, a couple of things that rankled me a bit: in the first book she met a couple of developers that were so "hot" she couldn't think straight; and in this book she meets an attorney and mentions that she's never met anyone so attractive.  How hot is this guy?  Does Norrie find one to surpass another around every corner?  Then I get the feeling that a love triangle might be in the offering.  Please, please no.  Love triangles are never fun to read about at all, and take away pleasure in the book.

The other thing that bothered me is the fact that Norrie doesn't realize just how much like Deputy Gary she is.  She decides one person is guilty and refuses to even consider anyone else might be the culprit.  She just goes around trying to prove she's right.  I get that she's a screenwriter and has a vivid imagination, but she should also think logically and look for clues, sifting through them to find the truth.  Instead, she comes up with hair-brained schemes she decides will bring the killer to justice.  While we, the readers, had a pretty good clue as to who the killer was because of a single act, Norrie was oblivious to that fact.  Also, and I can't help but wonder about this, who is the sheriff in this town, and shouldn't a homicide detective be investigating murders, not a town deputy?  Just curious.

Aside from these things, I found that the story was written well and put together nicely.  The reason for the murder was believable, and even the final confrontation - given the personalities involved - was believable as well.

I thought the bowlers and quilters were probably the funniest part of the story and even made me laugh out loud at one point, and I do love Norrie's "thoughts in her head."  She's pretty sarcastic to herself, and it gives a bit of lightness to the story that keeps it moving along at a good pace.  In the end, I thought this was a pretty decent book and a fairly quick read.  The murder was tied up creditably, and I would like to see what the next in the series brings.  Recommended.


More on J.C. Eaton's Books:

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Riesling to Die (The Wine Trail Mysteries #1)

Author:  J.C. Eaton
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781516108015
Lyrical Underground Publishing
220 Pages
$15.00; $0.99 Amazon
March 27, 2018


Norrie Ellington is a successful screenwriter living in New York City.  She's also been a silent partner for her family's winery upstate - until her sister and brother-in-law take a year-long sabbatical.  With an experienced staff doing the work, Norrie figures Two Witches Winery will run itself while she enjoys the countryside and writes in peace and quiet.

Unfortunately, there's a sour grape in the town of Penn Yan who doesn't care for vineyards.  Bed and breakfast owner Elsbeth Waters complains to everyone who'll listen that the local wineries are bad for her business.  But when Elsbeth's body is found on Norrie's property, the victim of foul play, the screenwriter-turned-vintner dons a sleuthing cap to uncover the identity of a killer who told the B&B proprietress to put a cork in it - permanently...


When Norrie Ellington is begged by her sister Francine to come and take care of their family's winery while she spends a year in Costa Rica with her husband, who has a research grant, Norrie reluctantly agrees.  While she's apprehensive about running the winery she couldn't wait to escape from in the first place, she's soon reassured that the staff is well-versed in the day-to-day operations and all she has to do is oversee things and write the monthly checks.

But unfortunately things don't happen that way.  After her sister and brother-in-law are barely out of the country, she's awakened by two employees who inform her there's a body in the vineyard.  And when she goes to investigate, she discovers that it's the woman she had an unpleasant encounter with the day before at the winery's tasting room.  But who would want to leave Elsbeth's body in their vineyard?  And while she finds out that the woman wasn't well-liked, who hated her enough to kill her?

Norrie has an idea that it might be the developers who are trying to buy up everyone's winery to build a mega-one; but proving it might be another matter altogether.  If she's not careful, she could wind up losing everything, including her life...

This is the first book in the series, and since I enjoy the others by this author, I thought I would give it a chance.  It has potential, but I found that there were some things that didn't make any sense (although I will admit I know very little about wineries, only having visited a few in my lifetime.  First off though, was a pretty big thing:

Why did Elsbeth buy a B&B in wine country - paying cash, no less - if she hated the wineries?  Surely she knew that her business would be centered around them, and without them, she might not have enough customers to keep her afloat.  This, unfortunately, was the biggest question, because it didn't make any sense at all.  She had to know this, so I didn't understand why she was complaining about them.  You'd think it would be more to her advantage to make friends and try to work out deals with the wineries, such as trading coupons with them or something of that sort, instead of trying to put them out of business.  I'm also not sure she wasn't the one leaving "problems" at the wineries instead of the developers.

Then it would have been nice to know something about Penn Yan; there were very little descriptions and not enough to make anyone want to visit, which is a big thing in books.  You want your readers to feel as if they're transported to the place they're reading about, but I just couldn't get a feel for any of this, so the book wasn't that interesting.  There were also too many characters to get involved with.  I understand that wineries have many employees, but it would have been nice to center on just a few instead of so many, then the author could have given us descriptions instead of bare bones, as it were.  I never felt we got to know any of them.

Another thing is that Cammy said they didn't want anything in the tasting room to interfere with the wine - meaning Glenda's smudging - but they have a restaurant there?  Wouldn't the smells from the food interfere?  Also, why are employee records kept in the tasting room instead of up at the house?  Wouldn't the owner of the winery want important papers to be kept close instead of where anyone could access them if they had a key to the tasting room?  Also, when the coyotes were out, everyone was concerned about Charlie the dog being kept inside, but not one person worried whether the coyotes would get Alvin, who was outside?  Coyotes will go after goats, too.  Just curious about these.

So with those out of the way, this was a pretty decent start, with Norrie returning home to the winery, which she hates, hoping to hunker down and get her latest screenplay written when Elsbeth is found.  I understand that she wants to find the killer as it's disrupting the winery, but it's a stretch when she goes off half-cocked because she believes she knows who the killer is, and her new friends are basically helping her instead of telling her to let the police handle it.

She goes around questioning the other winery owners - who apparently have no clue what she's doing - and the Elsbeth's niece - who apparently does and tells the police, even though she didn't say anything to her that seemed even remotely like she was investigating, in my opinion.  Then she comes up with the above-mentioned idea that could ruin everything for her family, which tells me she doesn't think things through, but flies on the seat of her pants, which isn't always a good thing unless you have nothing to lose - which she does.

Anyway, when the ending came and the killer was discovered, it came as a complete surprise but seemed rather rushed.  It was almost as if the author was tired of the book and wanted to end it as soon as possible; and I never felt that Norrie was ever in any kind of danger, no matter what happened so there were no hairy moments in the book.  However, since this is the first in the series, I will read the second and perhaps we'll get more info on the countryside around Penn Yan and see how Norrie is fitting in with her new life merging with her old.  A decent cozy that can be read in one evening.


More on J.C. Eaton's Books:

Tragic Toppings (A Donut Shop Mystery #5)

Author:  Jessica Beck Genre:   Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9780312541095 Minotaur Books 290 Pages [Various Prices];...