Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Trouble on the Books (A Castle Bookshop Mystery)

Author:  Essie Lang
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683319818
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
March 13, 2019

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Rookie bookstore owner Shelby Cox must hit the books to learn the ropes before she loses a killer in the stacks.

Shelby Cox never intended to become a bookseller, so when the former editor returns to her hometown of Alexandria Bay, nestled in upstate New York's breathtaking Thousand Islands region, to take over her aunt's bookstore, she has no idea what to expect.  To her amazement, she discovers that she now owns a fifty-percent share in Bayside Books, and will also run the store's second location in the majestic castle on nearby Blye Island.

But just as Shelby is gearing up for the start of the tourist season, the Castle volunteer coordinator is found murdered in the nearby Grotto.  Castle caretaker Matthew Kessler is suspect number one, but Shelby thinks the killing may be connected to an earlier era, when violence among Prohibition-era smugglers was rampant in the region.  As Shelby launches her own investigation, handsome and unnerving Special Agent Zack Griffin of the Coast Guard Investigative Services tries to quell her smuggling theory and keep her safe.  But Shelby is determined to summon all her savvy as a book editor to plot the murder - and find the killer before he strikes again.

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Shelby Cox moved to Alexandria Bay, New York, to help her Aunt Edie run two bookstores, discovering that she owns a fifty percent share.  Edie is recovering from knee surgery and therefore leaves Shelby in charge, and she's enjoying her respite from the small publishing house she's where she's been working as an editor.  She doesn't, however, enjoy working with Loreena Swan, curator of exhibits and volunteer coordinator at Blye Castle on Blye Island, the location of their second bookstore.  In fact, Loreena and Shelby have a run-in when Loreena attempts to tell Shelby how to run the bookstore. 

But when Shelby decides to take a stroll around the castle she finds herself in the grotto...along with a very dead Loreena.  When the authorities set their sights on Matthew Kessler, caretaker of the island, Edie asks her to intervene and see if she can figure out who wanted Loreena dead, since she's convinced Matthew had nothing to do with it.  It turns out Matthew's an ex-true crime writer, and when his wife was murdered years ago, he came to the island.  No one was caught in that case, and Edie's afraid that the police will falsely arrest him for killing Loreena.

Shelby also has some questions of her own about her late mother.  Since she and her father left Alexandria Bay when she was three, after her mother's death, she knows nothing about her.  But no one - including Edie - seems to want to tell her anything, or claims they don't know.  So Shelby has two reasons to ask people questions.  But will she find out the truth, or will a killer find her first?...

This is the beginning of a new series, and I liked the premise, since it appeared to be interesting, and thankfully, different from the formula.  Shelby isn't running away from a relationship, and she hasn't lost her job.  There's no 'evil nemesis' out to get her, and (relieved sigh) there's no love triangle.  All things I really dislike in mysteries.  So, with that to get me started, I was happy to pick up this book.  Although I will state I did have a bit of trepidation at the beginning when Shelby stated she had a healthy fear of water, but then I found out she lived on a houseboat.  Hmmm...thankfully, it was never mentioned again, and I found no other contradictions in the story.

Anyway, Shelby is used to living on her own and caring for herself, so while her aunt wants her to move into the home where her father grew up, she'd rather be on her own, hence renting the houseboat.  I don't think I'd ever get used to sleeping on the water, but I can see where she found it to be restful.  She's finding her way in their town and trying to make new friends, but when her aunt tasks her with finding out the truth, it's not easy to ask questions and hope to keep from ruffling feathers.

There's also a certain Coast Guard investigator named Zack who shows up every now and then; Shelby of course is attracted to him, but I'm glad to say she doesn't act like a tongue-tied schoolgirl when he's around, and he manages to convey interest in her without giving any appearance of doing so.  It will be intriguing to watch this progress in future books.

I found the mystery quite well written; while it seemed Loreena had her share of enemies, none of them hated her enough to kill her, which made it all the harder to discover who wanted her dead.  There were no evil deeds by the woman, and while she managed to rule the roost, as it were, the clues were hidden nicely within.

I also liked the back story of finding out the truth about her mother; I would like to see more pursuit of this in the next book also.  Secrets and lies are never a good thing, and someone is always bound to be hurt in the long run.

When the killer was discovered, and the reasons why, it made sense (in the mind of the killer, at least) and I found the climax put together quite well and I was happy to see that Shelby held her own in the matter, and could think on her feet, as it were.  The murderer came as a surprise, which bodes well for the next in the series.  I read a lot of mysteries, and one doesn't want to figure out the solution too soon.  I feel that this author has a decent career ahead of her if this book is any indication.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Books-Castle-Bookshop-Mystery/dp/1683319818/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2695875409

More on Essie Lang's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/essie-lang/

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Monsieur Pamplemousse (A Gastronomic Mystery #1)

Author: Michael Bond
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover: Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780825302671; 9780449209561
Fawcett Publishing
187 Pages
Various Prices
March 1, 1985

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Monsieur Pamplemousse, formerly of the Sureté, now works for Le Guide, France's most prestigious culinary review.  Currently investigating the Hotel-Restaurant La Langoustine, Pamplemousse is considering giving it the supreme accolade, the coveted three Stock Pots.  Standing by (or, rather, sitting under the table) to help him judge is Pommes Frites, the restaurant reviewer's traveling companion, a canine with the tastes of a connòisseur.

But when the chef's chef d'oeuvre arrives at Pamplemousse's table, the platter, when uncovered, reveals not the expected, delicious Poularde de Bresse en Vessie Royale but an appallingly good likeness of a man's head.

And suddenly Pamplemousse finds his own head on the line and his own life very much at stake, in a wonderfully suspenseful mystery whose ingredients include an inflatable dog house, an overly amorous proprietress, a man without hands, a nun with a gun, and some excellent eating indeed.

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Monsieur Pamplemousse is an ex-police officer who has found a new career as a restaurant reviewer.  While on an annual holiday to the Hotel La Langoustine, he is also combining business by deciding whether they deserve the coveted third Stock Pot.  While there, he sees an unusual couple, a striking blonde with a young man with claws for hands, and they aren't very nice to each other.

The woman is extremely upset that Pamplemousse won't give up his usual table to her, but he stands firm.  When he is served the chef's special dish, he doesn't expect that a man's head will be inside - not a real head, it is discovered, but a very good facsimile.  Now he wonders if someone is sending him a message, and why.

But to make things worse, the co-owner of the hotel, Madame Sophie, has set her sights on Pamplemousse as a sexual conquest.  Not wanting to receive her advances, he must find a way to put her off without offending her.  But there are also the series of small accidents - starting with someone who has cut through his balcony railing which could have killed him under the right circumstances.  So if he doesn't discover what's going on and soon, he may have to put an end to a delightfully delicious career...

Well, I really wanted to like this book.  I love mysteries, and while I've never read anything by this author before, I did have hopes.  But then again, one does usually think that when a book is labeled a mystery, there will be a dead body or two somewhere along the line.  In this instance, I was disappointed.  There is none.  There is not only no dead body, there is not much a mystery, either.

This book, it appears to me, was written to be some sort of farce of something - I haven't quite decided which - either of the mystery genre or something sexual.  For one thing, I don't understand why Madame Sophie can't tell the difference between a candlestick, plastic and a real person.  Methinks she needs to see a physician along the line...

Anyway...what was supposed to be humorous along the lines of keeping her happy and keeping Pamplemousse faithful to his wife, there was an awful lot of pages devoted to this, and none of which I found remotely interesting.  It would have been better if he had just explained to her that while he found her attractive, he would remain true to his Doucette.  But no...

Then, I never really understood why he was the target of someone wanting him out of the way.  He never asked questions; he never tried to find out who sent him the head.  So why was someone trying to 'send him a message' or kill him?  It didn't make any sense.  The climactic scene regarding this, late in the book in a hospice, was completely off the wall.  Perhaps if we were given to understand that he was interested in more than his palate or his dog, but we were not.

In the end, when everything is explained, it is neither remotely interesting nor worthy of being called a mystery.  In fact, the only mystery I discovered was the fact that there are several more of these in the series, all of which I will happily skip - you should, too.

https://www.amazon.com/Monsieur-Pamplemousse-Michael-Bond/dp/0449209563/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2690294878

More on Michael Bond's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/michael-bond/

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery #1)

Author:  Juliet Blackwell
Genre:  Mystery, Paranormal

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451227454
Berkley Obsidian
336 Pages
$7.99; $7.99 Amazon
May 22, 2009




Lily Ivory is not your average witch.  Her spell-casting powers tend to draw mischievous spirits while keeping normal humans at a distance.  But now her vintage store could give her a chance to make friends in San Francisco.

Lily hopes for a normal life when she opens Aunt Cora's closet.  With her magical knack for vintage fashion - she can sense vibrations of the past from clothing and jewelry - her store becomes a big hit.

But when a client is murdered and children start disappearing from the Bay Area, Lily may be the only one who can unravel the crime.  She tries to keep her identity a secret while investigating, but it's not easy - especially under the spells of sexy "myth buster" Max Carmichael and powerful witch Aidan Rhodes.  Will Lily's witchy ways be forced out of the closet?

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Lily Ivory is a witch who really doesn't want to embrace her "witchy" side.  She wants to live among the people in San Francisco, far from her Texas upbringing (doesn't sound much like a Texan to me, whom tend to be proud they are from the Lone Star State, and probably wouldn't be caught dead by someone mistaking them for a Californian, but I digress...)

Anyway, she's minding her own business when an attractive man enters the store and announces he has something for her.  He tells her that he's a male witch named Aidan (hating the term warlock), and shows her a small creature that resembles something between a troll and a gargoyle, and he tells her that it's her new familiar.  While she protests and tells him to take it back, that she doesn't want it, especially since Aidan also tells her that he knows her father - which to her is bad news of the first degree.

When it appears she's stuck with the thing who transforms himself into a pot-bellied pig, she named it Oscar.  Then her part-time employee Maya takes her to see a woman who has tons of vintage clothing she's willing to part with.

Once meeting Mrs. Potts, Lily likes her, but discovers that the woman had a daughter who died young, and when Lily handles a dress it is filled with extreme grief.  Later seeing Mrs. Potts' photo while she's wearing the dress, she realizes it must have been worn the day her daughter was taken from her.

But before she leaves the property, she hears an unearthly wail and a child's scream; yet only she and Mrs. Potts heard the wail, yet the three women heard the scream.  When she and Maya go to investigate, they find that the little girl who was visiting with Mrs. Potts when they arrived has been taken by a child snatcher.  It is the murmured words of "La llorona" that makes her understand where the child has gone.  But will Lily be able to retrieve her before she is lost forever?...

This is the first book in a series, written several years ago, but I haven't had the chance to explore it until now...and it wasn't a huge loss.  While I understand that in paranormal books you need to suspend belief, because they don't follow the rule 'if it doesn't happen in real life, it shouldn't happen in a book,' this one, I felt, was over the top.

First, Lily is a witch but tries to hide it from everyone, and would instead rather feel sorry for herself...repeatedly.  She seems to hate the fact that she's not 'normal' but can't help using her powers.  And, of course, she's extremely powerful.  So why doesn't she already have a familiar?  Because, you know, witches aren't 'given' familiars, they choose their own, one they can count on as their allies and will do their bidding, but apparently she didn't know this and just accepted Oscar right away.  This alone seems off the wall to me, and I couldn't take the rest of the story seriously.

The story didn't seem to hold my interest; and it was extremely dark and melancholy.  No humor or fun in the book, nothing to recommend it to anyone else.  In fact, I have to admit that I pretty much skimmed a lot of it and then passed on to the truly unbelievable ending.  I could have hurt myself I was rolling my eyes so much.  Sorry, but I will pass on the rest of this series.

https://www.amazon.com/Secondhand-Spirits-Witchcraft-Juliet-Blackwell/dp/045122745X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2685219929

More on Juliet Blackwell's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/juliet-blackwell/

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Batter Off Dead (A Southern Cake Baker Mystery #2)

Author:  Maymee Bell
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683318781
Crooked Lane Books
304 Pages
$17.70; $9.99 Amazon
December 11, 2018

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Sophia Cummings may be unlucky in love, but she knows that the way to a man's heart is through his sweet tooth.  This evening, she plans to use that knowledge - and her skills as a New York City-trained pastry chef - to open the hearts and wallets of Rumford, Kentucky's richest men.  Sophia, proprietress of For Goodness Cakes, has been commissioned to cater the Heart of the Town Library charity fundraiser at Grape Valley Winery.  She's spent all her dough to make this a successful event, raise her profile, and win more plum catering jobs.

At first, the going is as smooth as an elegant chocolate ganache.  After nibbling Sophia's tasty treats, Ray Peel, the winery's landlord, announces he will pay off Rumford's library loan.  But the evening soon turns decidedly frosty when Ray is murdered - before he can make good on his promise, and before he can pay Sophia for her catering services.

For Goodness Cakes will collapse if Sophia can't collect what she's owed.  So Sophia once again puts on her sleuthing apron to figure out who iced Ray.

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Sophia Cummings has returned home to the small town of Rumford, Kentucky, where her mother rules the local society and her father is a successful attorney.  She's recently opened a bakery, For Goodness Cakes, and has been kept busy with catering jobs, special orders, and people wanting to buy her amazing pastries.  She's surrounded by her best friends Madison, who's a real estate agent, and Charlotte, who's a newlywed come to work for Sophia.

She's working on a charity fundraiser for the library, to be held at a local winery.  Although Sophia hasn't been paid yet for the treats she's created, she hopes to collect a check that evening from the winery's owner, Giles Dugan.  The librarian, Catherine Fraxman, is also excited because a local bigwig, Ray Peel, has offered a huge donation that will pay for the library's new addition.

When she arrives at the winery she runs into Madison, who seems excited about an upcoming meeting with Ray; and she also heads to Giles' office to collect her check, but finds him having a heated argument with his daughter, which she finds out due to an employee, is because Ray is planning on selling the winery immediately, which explains his meeting with Madison.

While shes' setting up Madison returns, obviously upset.  Unfortunately, she's not in a good mood anymore, due to the result of her meeting with Ray.  It seems Ray doesn't think Madison is right to sell his property, and she's understandably angry.  But when she goes looking for Giles in order to get her check, she literally trips over the body of Ray.

Someone murdered the man, in the middle of the party, in the vineyard, and Sheriff Carter Kincaid, now Sophia's boyfriend, isn't pleased that this is the second time she's found a dead body.  But then again, neither is Sophia.  According to her, all she wants to do is create the tasty pastries for the town and live a quiet life.

But that's not to be, especially since she learns that Madison is the main - and probably only - suspect in the murder, since what she said to Sophia about Ray was overheard.  When Carter refuses to eliminate Madison, Sophia feels that her only choice - with Madison and Charlotte begging her to help - is to try and figure out who hated Ray enough to kill him.  Once she starts looking, she finds out that there are several people who might have wanted him out of the picture.  But who had the best motive?  And which one of them were angry enough to kill?...

This is the second book in the series, and, I am glad to say, is just as good as the first.  I was delighted in the first book, Cakes & Punishment, and this one picks up shortly after the last.  The plot is again well thought out, with a host of suspects who all had a reason for Ray to be out of the picture.  However, it seems that Carter is only focused on Madison, which irritates Sophia no end.

When he asks her to stay out of the investigation, deep down he knows it isn't going to happen; and when her mother Bitsy seems to 'want in', it only makes it worse.  Carter accepts the fact his girlfriend isn't going to stop what she's doing, but only hopes that she doesn't try to expose herself to danger, and insist she share all her information with him.

The characters are a lively bunch, and Sophia and her friends and family have a believable relationship with each other.  You can practically feel the rapport between the three women, their closeness with each other coming through the pages.  Her relationship with Carter is also very well done.  He's an intelligent man who follows the clues and does a thorough job, even if it's not fast enough for Sophia.  He knows he can't change her and doesn't try, and she never imagines herself smarter than him or a better sleuth.

There were a couple of things that bothered me, even as I didn't allow them to spoil my enjoyment of the book.  I was a tad uncomfortable with some of Sophia's blatant questioning of people and then going so far as to search offices while there were people right down the hall (not a smart move); and I did get tired of everything being 'mouth-watering.'  Really, I don't think I've ever in my lifetime had any food make my mouth water thinking about it or seeing it, yet this happens a lot to her.  (Maybe I just don't have tons of saliva in my mouth, but hey...)

When the ending came and the killer was revealed, it made sense in a twisted sort of way, although I didn't feel that we were given any clues to the murderer (although I may or may not have hidden a few in my review).  Although the ending was put together well, it would have been nice to have a couple of clues at least that led us in the right direction.

Ms. Bell has given us a tale with crisp writing and a great deal of southern charm, people you'd like to know and a town you'd like to visit.  All in all, a worthy second entry to a series that I hope will be around for a good long while.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Batter-Off-Dead-Southern-Mystery/dp/1683318781/ref=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2676719396

More on Maymee Bell's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/maymee-bell/

Monday, January 14, 2019

Cakes & Punishment (A Southern Cake Baker Mystery #1)

Author:  Maymee Bell
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683315711; 9781683317968
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$18.35; $10.99; $9.99 Amazon
May 8, 2018 (TP November 13, 2018)

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Bucolic Rumford, Kentucky has glowing fields of bluegrass, a fine selection of bourbons, and now a professional pastry chef.  Broken-hearted Sophia Cummings has come home from New York city.  She's not there a minute before she's charmed into making her high school friend Charlotte's wedding cake.  The kitchen at the Rumford Country Club seems perfect until Chef Emile's body is discovered, sprawled near the stove, a cast iron skillet on the floor close by.

With one look at the shiny, new frying pan, Sophia knows it's not Emile's.  She offers her knowledge to Sheriff Carter and her talents to Evelyn, the manager, who needs an interim chef.  The mood in the country club is grim:  Emile's peppery personality had burned members and staff alike.  Sophia wonders which one of them burned him?

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Sophia Cummings is a pastry chef at an upscale restaurant in New York.  After catching her live-in boyfriend making whoopee with the Maitre'd at their restaurant, she took some time off and went home to visit her mother and father in small-town Rumford, Kentucky.

But rest isn't about to come her way.  While at a Junior League meeting at the local country club with her mother, she runs into some old friends, one of whom is about to be married.  Charlotte Harrington is beside herself because her baker has bailed on her.  But then she practically begs Sophia to make her wedding cakes, and Sophia reluctantly agrees.  When she goes the next day to the club to meet Charlotte, Sophia heads to the kitchen to check it out, but instead discovers that the club's chef Emile has already been checked out instead, hit over the head with an iron skillet.

When Sheriff Carter Kincaid arrives, she's summarily questioned and released; and even though she's not happy about having to work in the kitchen, she's even less happy when she finds out that Evelyn Moss, the director of the club, is the main suspect.  She refuses to believe that Evelyn, for all her gruff exterior, could kill anyone.  So when Evelyn asks her to temporarily help with meals until another chef can be found, she once again agrees, finding her vacation to be a working one, whether she wants it or not.

Just when she thinks her plate can't get any fuller, even more complications arise; and when she's determined to find Emile's killer before Evelyn can be charged with the crime, she discovers that someone out there knows what she's doing, and wants her to stop...even if it means that they'll have to stop her permanently...

This is the first in a new series and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.  It takes place in a small town in Kentucky, but that's where the similarity to many cozy mysteries end.  There were no 'tried and true' clichés throughout the book: our protagonist didn't run home broke and out of a job, she merely took a leave of absence and has money in the bank; she didn't decide to start a business she couldn't afford and then struggle and hope she can eat the next month.  She actually wears makeup; she doesn't just 'throw on a little lip gloss' and have everyone tell her that she's hot (not that there's anything wrong with that); and I loved the fact there was no 'evil nemesis' out to destroy Sophia and her life, nor the dreadful love triangle that permeates so many of them (rant over!).

What I didn't like: she was a little invasive on people during her 'investigating', sometimes saying and doing things that weren't exactly danger-free, not even trying to hid the fact of what she was doing (however, it did show that she knew she wasn't very good at being a sleuth, which she also admits to herself) so it was to be expected that the killer would figure out sooner rather than later what she was doing.  (Example: when she went investigating Patrick).  She also writes out a 'suspect list' and isn't above practically bald-faced accusing people, which isn't smart and could very well alienate some from her forever.

However, she was smart enough to share anything she discovered with Carter instead of keeping information to herself, and I did like that.  It showed that her only goal was truly helping Evelyn, and not some misguided idea that she was better than the sheriff was at his job.  An intelligent move on the part of the author.

I found the mystery to be well thought out; the dialogue was witty and fun; the characters felt real as well as the friendship between Sophia, Charlotte and Madison; Sophia's mother Bitsy definitely ruled her little town, and even though Bitsy seems a bit manipulative, I never got the feeling that she was pushy or that Sophia minded one bit.  I actually like Bitsy as much as the rest of the characters.

When the ending comes and the killer is revealed, the reason made perfect sense, and the fact that the murderer had thought out how to frame someone else actually added to the plot because they weren't sloppy, which made it more difficult to detect who they were, and that was an added bonus.  I will say that while I had my suspicions, I liked the fact that the clues never directly pointed toward that person.

All in all, this was a delightful beginning to a new series, and it held my interest throughout.  I think I could easily become attached to the characters in this book and look forward to the next in the series, hoping to spend time with them again.  There are also some yummy-sounding recipes at the end that I will definitely be making.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Cake-Punishment-Southern-Baker-Mystery/dp/1683317963/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2673812368

More on Maymee Bell's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/maymee-bell/

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fashions Fade, Haunted is Eternal (A Haunted Vintage Mystery #7)

Author:  Rose Pressey
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496714664
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.00; $6.99 Amazon
December 18, 2018

✮✮✮


Cookie Chanel - owner of the chic clothing store It's Vintage Y'all in Sugar Creek, Georgia - has been hired to dress models for a fashion shoot.  The spread will be featured in Fashion and Style magazine's October issue - so the models are posing in a cemetery.  As someone who can see and talk to ghosts, Cookie's not spooked by the location.  But she is surprised when a new ghost appears, decked out in 1920s couture.  And she's shocked when she hears a gunshot.  Then a model runs toward her saying the grumpy photographer has been edited out of the picture - for good.  With help from her ghostly pals, Cookie must zoom in on the truth before she's the next to strike a final pose...

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Cookie Chanel lives in Sugar Creek, Georgia and owns a vintage clothing shop, It's Vintage Y'all.  She also communicates with ghosts and has her own resident spirit named Charlotte that she 'picked up' while at the deceased woman's estate sale.  Currently she's at a photo shoot in a graveyard (!) with a group of models and an obnoxious photographer when a shot rings out and she finds the photographer's dead body.

Unfortunately, this also brings another ghost to her, a 1920's flapper named Minnie who can't remember why she's there but thinks it might have something to do with the pearls Cookie recently bought that match exactly the ones Minnie is wearing.

Her boyfriend, Homicide Detective Dylan Valentine, also knows about the ghosts and seems accepting of that fact, which says a lot about how he feels about Cookie.  But when Dylan asks her to stay out of the investigation, Cookie never really agrees, deciding to find out who killed the man.  Still, there are surprises in store, such as where did the black cat in the graveyard come from, and why has he decided to latch onto Cookie; what happened to Heather (who's discovered something interesting), and who's trying to kill Cookie?  If Dylan - or Cookie - don't figure it out soon, she'll be the next ghost to visit someone hoping to solve the crime...

Because I enjoyed all the others in this series, I had high hopes for what appears to be the finale; but unfortunately, it didn't measure up.  The writing seemed disjointed somehow; almost as if the author wanted to get the book out of the way and go on to other books.  The conversations were between Cookie and her ghosts were boring, and half of them didn't make any sense.

I also didn't (still) understand why Charlotte kept pushing Cookie to go to listen to conversations when she, as a ghost, could have done so much easier and not been detected.  Why was she pushing Cookie to get into possibly dangerous situations when she could have gone anywhere undetected?  Charlotte has a knack for encouraging Cookie to go do something that will get her into trouble, and then denying she had anything to do with it.  (No wonder someone killed her.) 

And why was Cookie even investigating?  In the previous books, the ghosts had always asked Cookie to find out who killed them and why - but this time, there was no such scenario.  There was no ghost hanging around her demanding she discover who killed him.  (Yes, there was the 'ghost cat' but he wasn't hounding her constantly and following her around demanding she find his murderer).  Yet for some odd reason, she felt the need to figure it out.  (Because of this, I had a hard time believing that she would just stay out of Dylan's future investigations).  Cookie usually isn't as stupid as she was in this book, just walking into potentially dangerous situations and even leaving behind a police officer that was assigned to protect her (note to officer:  they don't fall asleep on stakeouts if they value their jobs).

I also, unfortunately again, didn't think the reason the man was murdered was plausible, and we were left with some unanswered questions that bothered me.  I also felt that as far as the vintage thing goes, Dylan and everyone else went a little over the top for Cookie.  It all came off as too saccharine for me; it could have been so much better.  It was fine for a quick mystery read.

https://www.amazon.com/Fashions-Haunted-Eternal-Vintage-Mystery/dp/1496714660/ref=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2667840132

More on Rose Pressey's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/p/rose-pressey/

Friday, January 4, 2019

Cat Got Your Crown (A Kitty Couture Mystery #4)

Author:  Julie Chase
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683319566
Crooked Lane Books
320 Pages
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
March 13, 2019

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Lacy Marie Crocker can hardly believe it's been a year since her return home to New Orleans.  There hasn't been a dull moment since opening her pet boutique last summer, and thanks to the popularity of Lacy's organic pet treats, and the arrival of the National Pet Pageant, Lacy desperately needs some help before she is overrun by the demand for pupcakes and crinolines.

The entire Garden District seems to be counting the minutes until opening night of the pet pageant and everything is going spectacularly until Viktor Petrov, the pageant emcee takes a spill from the balcony during dress rehearsal.  All signs point to murder and homicide detective Jack Oliver sets his eyes on Eva Little, one of Lacy's committee sisters and the only other person on the balcony at the time of the fall, as the killer.  But when it comes out that Viktor was notoriously rude, the doors blow wide open with potential suspects who could've wanted him dead.

Lacy's determined to find the killer and exonerate Eva, but when Lacy receives a mysterious warning - a plush kitty from Lacy's shop with its mouth crudely stitched over - it's clear that she's been found first.

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Lacy Marie Crocker owns a pet boutique and bakery in New Orleans.  While she'd be more than happy to just run her business, fate (and her socialite mother) have other plans.  She's been railroaded into working at the National Pet Pageant, and has been busy running around repairing costumes for the contestants.  She's also been spending time with Homicide Detective Jack Oliver, even if it's only been for a lunch every now and then.  But unfortunately, while they're thinking of sneaking out for a private lunch instead of the buffet offered, pageant emcee Viktor Petrov plunges to death in front of her.

Still recovering from a close call with a murderer, Lacy is having a difficult time dealing with this added stress.  While she'd like nothing more than to distance herself from the murder and let Jack do his job, she soon receives a warning - one of the stuffed cats from her shop is returned to her home by courier - with its eyes sewn with little x's and a threatening note.  Now it's become a personal attack, so Lacy decides she needs to get involved before it escalates.  But when it most certainly does, will Jack be able to find a killer before a killer finds her?...

This is the fourth book in the series and I have to say that I'm surprised each book has gone on to be better than the last.  It seems as if while watching Lacy's life evolve, so has the writing.  This is a true plus in any series, and one that will bring readers back for more.

Lacy's personal life is not only in danger, she's still got Chase hot on her heels, right where she needs him every time; and Jack not far behind.  I do enjoy the fact that this isn't the tired, old love triangle.  There's a definite preference, which makes the book readable instead of 'rolling your eyes-able'.

Lacy is also finding her ground with her mother, and that relationship has progressed nicely; I've come to be fond of Violet Conti-Crocker.  We also have a new addition in the form of Willow, a sort of hippie young woman whom Lacy immediately takes to, and someone else is fond of her as well.

I loved the descriptions of New Orleans, and having never been, seeing the city through Lacy's eyes makes me want to hop on a plane and visit.  I only wish I could have her as my tour guide.  Ms. Chase's depictions are delightful and enticing; bringing the pages to life.  Her characters are believable and animated, their personalities also evolving through the series as we learn more about them and their lives.

There's a lot going on in the story, yet it never detracts from the mystery itself, which is well-written and taut.  We watch as Lacy struggles to figure out who might want her dead, but with over a hundred suspects - all attendees at the pageant - how many of them not only had Viktor marked for murder, but now her?  She's promised her mother to see that Eva Little, who was standing near Viktor, isn't railroaded into jail, but in order to do that she needs to deduce who had the right motive.

It seems Viktor had a lot of people angry at him for various reasons, (none of which I will name here in order not to give too much away for people who have yet to read the book) and any one of them could have pushed him from behind.  Sifting through the suspects isn't going to be an easy task, and when the ante on Lacy's life is upped, it also becomes a priority to close the case.

When the murderer is revealed it came somewhat as a surprise; the climactic scene between Lacy and the killer (as we know there will be one) was all that anyone could have asked for.  It was suspenseful and well worth reading.  The reasons for the murder made perfect sense - in the mind of the murderer, of course - and also in the context of the plot; a worthy effort.  In the end, the book was indeed entertaining, an enjoyable mystery; and I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Cat-Got-Your-Crown-Couture/dp/1683319567/ref=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2657563523

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

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