Thursday, December 27, 2018

Cat Got Your Secrets (A Kitty Couture Mystery #3)

Author:  Julie Chase
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683312833; 9781683316763
Crooked Lane Books
320 Pages
$17.70; $11.34; $7.80 Amazon
September 12, 2017

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Lacy Marie Crocker has settled into a comfortable groove back home in New Orleans, and with Valentine's Day right around the corner, she's busier than ever running a thriving pet boutique, helping her mother organize the upcoming National Pet Pageant, and untangling her complicated love life.  But when delivering a king-sized order of dreidel-shaped doggy biscuits for a Saint Berdoodle's bark-mitzvah, Lacy stumbles into yet another murder scene - and the last person to see the victim alive was her own father.

It's up to Lacy to clear her dad's name from the suspect list before Detective Jack Oliver has to cage him for good.  But just when she starts pawing at the truth, she receives a threatening letter from a mysterious blackmailer bent on silencing her with her own secrets.  And Lacy's not the only one with bones in her closet.

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Lacy Marie Crocker owns a pet boutique in the heart of New Orleans, where she also bakes tasty treats for the animals.  She's trying to make a go of her business and prepare for Valentine's Day - when people even dress up their pets, all the while trying to keep her mother from interfering in her life.  Things seem to be going just fine when problems start to arrive.  She's making a big delivery for a bark-mitzvah, but when she arrives at the event hall to deliver boxes of treats, she's surprised to see city vehicles surrounding the building next door, home of the Wallace Becker's business.  It turns out that the man has been found dead in a walk-in freezer.  She soon learns that her father was the last person to see Walter alive, and is a suspect in the man's murder, due to a video camera feed that shows him arguing with Wallace shortly before his death. 

When Detective Jack Oliver takes him in for questioning, it puts a strain on their relationship, such as it is (which isn't much at this point).  With no one else in view, Lacy - against both her father's and Jack's wishes - decides to find the killer herself.  But what she discovers isn't going to make anyone happy.

Not only does the man's widow throw her off her property and try to get a restraining order against her, someone sends her old photos of herself and her ex-fiancé in an attempt at blackmail.  Lacy refuses to be cowed, and it's not until a second set of photos arrive, putting others in the crosshairs, that Lacy begins to wonder in earnest who wants to frame her dad for murder.

Now Lacy has a personal vendetta against an unknown person who's threatening her and trying to send her dad to prison, and the one person who can help her is also the one person she doesn't trust right now...

First off, I want to say that I am a firm believer in not dressing up pets, just to be clear.  Having said that, I will also tell you how much I enjoyed this book, which says a lot for the writing.  If one can take a subject one is against and still enjoy the book, it means something.

This is the third book in the series and I also have to say that it's improved with time, and that's a good thing, too.  The plot was a very good one (while following the formula of MC or MC's family/friends being in danger); it was put together well and I think much of that was because of the characters.

Lacy has grown into quite an interesting person and her relationship with her mother is going through some very good changes.  She's got her head on right and knows - to an extent - of what she wants out of life; she's not afraid to defend people or pets that she feels needs her help.  Now, we also have the 'battle' between Chase and Jack.  While Chase is pretty much happy-go-lucky, one gets the idea that he might actually be serious about Lacy in his own way, preferring to allow her freedom until he's ready to settle down; and Jack has his own demons to deal with before he's ready to move ahead and admit that he actually has feelings for Lacy.

I do like the fact that this isn't a traditional love triangle (and, as I am sure I sound like a broken record on this subject); I absolutely abhor love triangles; no one should be waffling between 'who wants me more, go ahead, fight it out'.  But indeed this will be worth watching as the men decide what's important to them.  I think we already know what - or who - is important to Lacy.

In the midst of this, her mother has volunteered her for a committee, and she goes willingly (surprisingly) and soon is railroaded into making costumes (not so surprisingly).  Now Lacy has more than enough to keep things interesting in her life.

On the negative side, I really disliked Kinley.  She's not just angry, she's downright nasty.  She barely meets Lacy and treats her like she just stepped in dog poo.  She doesn't even have the manners to try and make a new friend, knowing that Lacy is important to Scarlet and Chase (otherwise, why would they introduce her to Lacy?).  Then, she literally throws herself at Chase - which begs another question: why would he bring her to an event he was supposed to bring Lacy as his date?  I honestly hope she won't be in any other books.  She's distasteful.  Minor spoiler, but I don't think it affects the book at all, since it was one scene. 

All in all, when the killer was revealed it came as a surprise, and I felt that the reasons - connecting one case to another - seemed believable and therefore was gratifying.  I found the climax one of the best points in the book.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Cat-Got-Your-Secrets-Couture/dp/168331283X/ref=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2073900807

More on Julie Chase's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/julie-chase/

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Cat Got Your Cash (A Kitty Couture Mystery #2)

Author:  Julie Chase
Genre: Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683311089; 9781683312673
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$14.68; $14.70; $8.69 Amazon
August 8, 2017

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Lacy Marie Crocker's whimsical pet couture has gained a following in New Orlean's cozy Garden District, and word of mouth has traveled all the way to her favorite fashion designer, Annie Lane.  Lacy's thrilled when Annie schedules a private session at her home to discuss a companion line for her evening wear, but when Lacy arrives for the appointment, she enters the kitchen to two mewling Siamese cats - and one very dead Annie.

Lacy takes the kittens home to care for them until they can be properly claimed by Annie's family or friends, but after a busy day of work, she returns home to find them missing.  And when Lacy learns the cats are set to inherit Annie's fortune, she begins to wonder if the killer was after the kittens all along.  Now Lacy will stop at nothing to save the Siamese and find justice for Annie - if the killer doesn't sink his claws into her first.

Luckily, Lacy has the help of handsome NOLA PD homicide detective Jack Oliver to help her cat the cat-napper before it's too late.

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Lacy Marie Crocker has an appointment with a fashion designer, Annie Lane, to discuss adding her pet couture line to Annie's fashion line.  But when she arrives at Annie's home, she finds the woman's two pet Siamese cats, Cotton and Cashmere, and a very dead Annie.

Now, less than a year later, she's involved in another murder investigation that Detective Jack Oliver wish she wasn't.  Rather than see the cats taken by animal control, she volunteers to temporarily care for them - until they're stolen from her home.  After retrieving the kitties, she sends them somewhere safe until their rightful owner can claim them.  But that might not be easy since the murder suspect list is growing, and Lacy wonders who wanted the cats enough to kill for them...

This is the second book in the series and unfortunately started out so slow that I almost stopped reading it as nothing terribly interesting had gone on by page 70, aside from the death.  I also thought that there were a couple of confusing passages: such as after Lacy finds the dead woman, another woman shows up who turns out to be Annie's assistant.  All the assistant seems to know is that Annie had an appointment at 11:00 am but didn't know with whom.  It was confusing because Lacy asked Josie if she knew who the appointment was with (no), yet I thought it was with Lacy, which, we find out later, it was; yet this is never clarified until much later.  Then there was the 'kidnapping' of the cats, which seemed rather ridiculous and much like just filler for the book.  It was pointless.  The third thing was the fact that the kidnapper was able to get the cats because Lacy didn't set her alarm.  She tells Jack that she only uses her alarm when she's home - but not when she's out.  How dumb is that?  Wouldn't you need it most when you're not home?  No wonder she designs clothing for pets.  She's too stupid to do anything else.  Well, enough said about that.

As far as the plot goes, it got a little more interesting as the book progressed.  Once things 'started happening' as it were, the rest of it was an easy read.  Lacy's doing her best to live in two worlds - that of her new one as a business owner and the one she grew up in, New Orleans society.  Fortunately there were a few scenes that allowed these two worlds to mesh nicely.

Her relationship with Detective Jack Oliver is on the verge of a change, but nothing significant.  They're still tip-toeing around each other, both of them trying to figure it out.  She wants to trust again, which is difficult after dealing with a cheating boyfriend, and he doesn't want to let his guard down.  Her mother, on the other hand, wants to see her with Chase Hawthorne, scion of an old New Orleans family who has recently returned home and taken up law again, joining the family firm.  It's one day at a time in this area for Lacy.

All in all, an average cozy that was a fairly easy read, and the plot was decent enough.  When the killer was discovered and the reason given, it was perfectly believable and done decently.  I actually kind of liked how it played out.  I will read the next in the series, but I sure hope that things progress a little bit faster in future books.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Cat-Got-Your-Cash-Couture/dp/1683312678/ref=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1882000998

More on Julie Chase's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/julie-chase/

Friday, December 14, 2018

Steamed Open (A Maine Clambake Mystery #7)

Author:  Barbara Ross
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496717948
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $6.99 Amazon
December 18, 2018

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It's summertime in Busman's Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy - or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake's supply.  Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick's decision.  But which one of them was angry enough to kill?  

Beachcombers, lighthouse buffs, and clammers are outraged after Frick puts up a gate in front of his newly inherited mansion.  When Julia urges him to reconsider, she's the last to see him alive - except the person who stabs him in the neck with a clam rake.  As she pores through a long list of suspects, Julia meets disgruntled employees, rival heirs, and a pair of tourists determined to visit every lighthouse in America.  They all have secrets, and Julia will have to work fast to expose the guilty party - or see this season's clam harvest dry up for good.

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Julia Snowden runs her family's clambake business, and the end of summer is near.  But one morning everything is delayed for the funeral of a local, Heloise 'Lou' Herrickson, a woman who was generous and loved by all who knew her.  But the funeral takes a turn when Lou's heir, Bartholomew Frick, shows up late and doesn't speak to anyone, then leaves just as quickly when the service is over.

But what really causes problems is when Frick closes off the beach and road access in front of Herrickson House, angering the townspeople.  The beach has been used daily by clammers who make their living, beachcombers, including one who lives in a nearby cottage, and the occasional tourist who stay in a small home next to the lighthouse. 

When Julia goes to talk to Frick she comes across the housekeeper who has quit rather than work for him, and her attempts at getting him to open the beach again are fruitless.  But she learns later that day that Frick has been found dead, murdered, and she might have been one of the last people to see him alive.

When she's asked by the Snugg sisters, who run a bed and breakfast across the street from her home, to help the housekeeper, Ida, prove her innocence if needed, she can't say no.  But things get complicated sooner than later when her boyfriend Chris has secrets of his own, and it starts to affect their life.  He also asks for Julia's help in something, but she needs more information before she's willing to commit herself.  But Chris isn't so willing to share, and it causes problems.

Now Julia has to help find a killer before someone is wrongfully accused and she doesn't realize just how complicated her life will become.  Will she find a link that will lead her to the truth, or will it be too late and the wrong person will be convicted?

Once again Ms. Ross has given us an intriguing mystery to be unraveled, because that is exactly what we must do.  Take the tapestry she has woven and unravel it, thread by thread, to find the truth hidden inside.  It is an engaging tale that manages to take each piece and connect them seamlessly, with the reader discovering the connections one by one, the same as Julia.  While there are plenty of 'aha!' moments, it is indeed a pleasure to watch her as she takes each one and puts the puzzle together, coming to a satisfying conclusion.

This was a highly enjoyable read, and I applaud Ms. Ross on a story that is both delightful and believable.  We learn more about Chris's past and why he is the person he is, which, as a subplot, brings compassion and understanding to the narrative.  The characters are convincing, and the descriptions of the clambake make you want to experience it firsthand.

At the last, I was sorry to see the story end.  It kept me reading throughout the night, captured in the mystery.  This is the seventh book in the series, and quite as good as the others; I hope to see it continue on for a good long while.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Steamed-Open-Maine-Clambake-Mystery/dp/1496717945/ref=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2626564413

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

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Crewel and Unusual (A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery #6)

Author:  Molly MacRae
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643130088; 9781515938675
Pegasus Books
272 Pages
$25.95; $24.99; $22.73 Amazon
January 1, 2019

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Yarn shop owner Kath Rutledge is looking forward to the grand opening of the Blue Plum Vault, a co-op of small shops on Main Street.  But in the week before the grand opening, Kath and her needlework group, TGIF (Thank Goodness It's Fiber), hear rumors of an unpleasant rivalry developing between two of the new shopkeepers.  Nervie Bales and Belinda Moyer declare each other's embroidery patterns and antique embroidered linens fakes, copies - and stolen goods.  Kath is caught in the middle when she's asked to use her textile expertise to decide if there's any truth to the accusations.

Then, the day before the grand opening, an exquisite tablecloth that Kath has fallen in love with - the pride of Belinda's shop - is found cut to shreds.  Belinda accuses Nervie of the outrage, but Nervie has an airtight alibi: she was at Kath's shop, the Weaver's Cat, teaching a crewel embroidery class.

Despite worries over the rivalry and vandalism, the opening is a success - until Belinda is found dead, stabbed in the back with a pair of scissors from the Weaver's Cat.  Geneva, the ghost who haunts Kath's store, claims she saw the murderer leaving the scene of the crime.  But the ghost is the ultimate unreliable witness -- only Kath and her shop manager can see or hear her.  That means it's up to Kath, TGIF, and especially Geneva the ghost to solve the crime before the killer cuts another life short.

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Kath Rutledge is looking forward to visiting the Blue Plum Vault, a former bank that is now home to small shops on Main Street.  When she receives a visit from the Spivey twins, Mercy and Shirley, they tell her she needs to visit one of the shops because the owner has a magnificent embroidered table runner.  Kath, owner of the Weaver's Cat, can't resist.  When she finally sees it, she is enamored, but when the owner, Belinda Moyer, allows her to view and even more precious treasure - a tablecloth - Kath is in awe.  While Belinda hurriedly tucks it away, she lets Kath know it will be for sale.  However, Nervie Bales declares it's a fake, even though Kath knows better.  But when the shops all open, she hears a scream from Belinda and arrives to find the tablecloth cut to shreds.  Soon after, even the shreds disappear and no one knows where.

Then Belinda's body is found - by Geneva the ghost, no less - and Kath is wondering if Nervie hated her enough to kill her.  When she isn't getting any information from Deputy Cole Dunbar, she figures it's up to her and her TGIF group of knitters to flush out a killer.  But they soon learn that the recent murder of Gar Brown and Belinda might be connected.  Who would want to kill two people - one of them new to town and one of them a respected resident - and why?  What did they know that someone else didn't want them to tell?  How does the destroyed tablecloth fit in?  With a slew of suspects and ghostly Geneva offering up her own ideas, Kath tries to corner a killer who's killed twice before - and might try for a third...

I'm very fond of this series with its gloomy ghost Geneva, who resides at Kath's shop and even though she only remembers bits and pieces about her past, she has a very real presence.  Kath has even come along in the fact that she sort of likes having Geneva around.  The only other person who can see her is Ardis, retired schoolteacher and part-time worker at the Cat, who's a descendant of Geneva's family.

While Kath at first gets interested because of the destroyed tablecloth, she soon figures out that there's more to what's going on, but it seems that not only are the people who have shops at the co-op suspects, but maybe even a few people around town.  We watch as they conference and sift through clues, trying to decide motives and eliminating people along the way.  It's a fun process to be part of, and I enjoyed reading about their deductions.

While there isn't a lot about any of the characters in this book, insofar as to their lives aside from investigating, it doesn't seem important somehow.  The only thing that bothered me, just a little, was the fact of Kath and Joe's non-relationship.  I get that she's concerned with her shop and that he loves fishing; and they sleuth a little (long with the others, but they don't really do anything together.  There was one nice moment when you knew Joe had feelings for her, (and that involved Geneva) but that was it.  I think as the series proceeds (and I am so glad that it's been revived) I would at least like to see them progress.  (Not that I want this to turn into a romance series).

Aside from that, and as I stated, it was minor, I felt that while the book started slow, it picked up considerably and the mystery was done well.  There were a couple of interesting subplots going on, and the Spivey sisters are as annoying as always, but all in all, it was a delightful read.

When the killer was discovered and the reason why, I thought it all came together nicely in the end.  I had a good time trying to figure it out along with Kath, and it was worth the wait.  In the end, a nice cozy to read on a chilly evening.  There's even a nice recipe for Pear and Ginger Scones in the back, if you like to cook (I do).  I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Crewel-Unusual-Haunted-Yarn-Mystery/dp/1643130080/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2617863444

More on Molly MacRae's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/molly-macrae/

Going Organic Can Kill You (A Blossom Valley Mystery #1)

Author:  Staci McLaughlin Genre:   Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9780758275004 Kensington Publishing 294 Pages ...