Thursday, February 28, 2019

Do or Diner (A Comfort Food Mystery #1)

Author:  Christine Wenger
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451415080
Obsidian Mystery
304 Pages
$7.99; $2.99 Amazon
August 6, 2013

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Trixie is in need of a fresh start away from her cheating ex-husband, but she may be biting off more than she can chew when she moves to upstate New York to run her family's famed Silver Bullet Diner.  Not only is she caught off guard by the small town's resident heartthrob, Deputy Ty Brisco, but her first health inspection turns into a nightmare...when the inspector keels over into his blue plate special.

Someone made a deadly addition to an old family recipe, and Trixie is determined to find out whodunit.  But between serving up orders and sniffing out clues, she'd better watch her back - or her next meal might be her last.

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Trixie Matkowski is recently divorced and has moved to a small town in upstate New York, where she's purchased her widowed aunt's diner, home, and vacation cottages.  She plans on running the diner just as her family has done for generations, and renting out the cabins every summer to tourists.

But when she checks the mail, she sees a notice that states the health inspector is due that very day, and heads over to diner to see if she can fix the small infractions that were listed.  But it seems as if the inspector has already arrived...and left permanently.  He's dead, and it seems her daily special has killed him.

But Trixie notices that there are mushrooms in the mix, and her special doesn't contain mushrooms.  Now it's up to Deputy Ty Brisco and the rest of the police department to figure out who poisoned the man and why.  But Trixie knows if it isn't found out soon, her diner may close forever...

I really wanted to like this book, but Trixie - and Ty - grated on my nerves.  Trixie is newly divorced and it seems had no problem walking away from her cheating husband while selling him every single thing that she owns.  Really?  The girlfriend got her husband, but she also gets the house and all the antiques she's acquired in ten years of marriage and, even though Trixie got paid nicely for it, she has no problem handing over her entire life - and husband - to another woman?  This just doesn't ring true.  There was nothing she wanted to keep?  Nothing that mattered more than money?  She didn't have any feelings about him cheating and just handed over everything?  She seems odd right off the bat. 

Then, her aunt sells her the diner and leaves.  She doesn't spend any time with her showing her how everything works, who the employees are, how she pays the bills/employees, etc.  Obviously her aunt doesn't care if the diner fails, because she doesn't care if Trixie knows how to run it.  The cook is a hysterical nut job, the handymen royal jerks.  The two waitresses make goo-goo eyes at Ty and ignore everyone else when he's around.  (There must be a dearth of handsome men in this town).   Her aunt and Juanita have things in common - when a new cook is hired, Juanita bails on her without showing her the ropes. 

Then, because she's afraid of losing customers, she starts giving away coffee and food.  I guess she has no idea what profits are, either.  She must have gotten a lot of money from turning over her home and possessions to her ex-husband.

But I really lost interest when it was painfully obvious that Trixie had just been running the diner for about an hour and Ty accuses her of murder.  Oh, sure.  She had no idea who the health inspector was, had no feelings of hatred for him, but decided to kill him because he was going to give her a bad rating.  Yeah, that's believable.  I'm stunned that this man barely meets her and decides she's capable of murdering someone she's never met.  I guess he figures because she's new in town she must be guilty.

At any rate, the book lost me at that point, and I really, really like mysteries and try to give them a chance.  But these things caused me to lose enjoyment in the book, and therefore, in the entire series.  Sorry, but I couldn't like it and see no reason to read any others in the series.

https://www.amazon.com/Do-Diner-Comfort-Food-Mystery/dp/0451415086/ref=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2733350107

More on Christine Wenger's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/christine-wenger/

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Crafter Hooks a Killer (A Handcrafted Mystery Book 2)

Author:  Holly Quinn
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643850122
Crooked Lane Books
$26.49; $12.99 Amazon
June 11, 2019

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Community Craft proprietor Sammy Kane suspects that a tantalizing thread links the deaths of her best friend and a bestselling author.  But can she weave together the clues?

Samantha "Sammy" Kane is settling into her new life in idyllic Heartsford, Wisconsin, running her late friend Kate Allen's craft shop, Community Craft when one early June day, bestselling crochet author Jane Johnson devotes a chapter in her new book, Behind the Seams, to the store.  Sammy is honored, though satisfaction quickly turns to shock when she finds Jane strangled to death - her cold hands clutching a copy of her most recently published book, with the words "THE END" raggedly scratched into the cover.

Heavens to Etsy!  Not only must Sammy contend with the author's inauspicious demise, she has to untie some knotty details from her own past.  It turns out Kate's death was not what it seemed, and instead somehow hooked to Jane Johnson's demise.  Handsome Detective Liam Nash is on the "skein", more than happy to see the shop owner again, if less than enamored by her sleuthing interventions.  But this was Sammy's best friend - she has to know.

Fortunately, Sammy has a "lace" in the hole.  As a child, she formed the S.H.E. detective team with her cousin, Heidi, and her sister, Ellie.  Having already reconstituted their partnership, the S.H.E. team  searches for a pattern behind the latest death.  As the case starts to unravel, will Sammy and team be able to sidestep Liam quick enough to stitch together the clues?

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Samantha Kane owns the craft shop, Community Craft.  She bought it after the previous owner, her friend Kate, died in an accident.  She's doing well and helping the community by displaying their items for sale.  She's also excited to be having a famous author of craft books come to her shop to sign copies of her newest book.  Jane Johnson is devoting a chapter in her book to Sammy's store, and she's pleased that the author is going to interview her.  But she's surprised, not unpleasantly so, when Jane shows up early and unannounced.  Jane looks around the store until she's noticed by others in the town and is soon feeling cornered.

Sammy shows her the back way out, but before she leaves she tells Sammy that she has information on Kate, and wants to talk to her.  Sammy, stunned, tells her she will meet Jane down by the river.  When Sammy arrives, she finds a book on Jane's lap, with a chilling message "THE END" scratched in pencil; and a very dead Jane.  After calling the police, she begins to wonder who killed the woman and why.

When Detective Liam Nash arrives, he naturally tells her to stay out of the investigation.  But Sammy has a personal reason for wanting to be involved - Kate.  She wants to know what Jane wanted to tell her, and if the two deaths might be related.  So she decides to get together with her sister Ellie and cousin Heidi and between the three of them - the S.H.E. team - she's hoping she'll be able to find the truth before a killer finds her...

This is the second book in the series and I'm glad I had the opportunity to visit with Sammy and her family and friends.  This time out, she's found her place in Heartsford, and is looking forward to hosting a famous author.  But unfortunately things don't go as planned and she's left with more questions than the ones Jane was going to ask her.

She's also got other things which are hindering her - her parents are in town for a week and want to spend time with her, and an old crush named Bradley has come back to visit his mother and he, too, wants to spend time with her.  So now she's trying to keep her mother from finding out what she's doing (the woman would not be pleased) and trying to pump Bradley for information on Kate's death, since he was living in Heartsford while she was elsewhere.

But along with this she has to deal with Detective Nash.  He's not pleased that she's involving herself, telling her she's too impatient and too impulsive.  Stung with the truth, Sammy still goes on with her investigation and hopes to find out the truth about Kate.  If she unmasks a killer in the process, so be it.

I truly enjoyed reading this book.  Ms. Quinn has written characters that have a life of their own.  Sammy has a fierce loyalty to her family and friends, and when she does something she knows she shouldn't, she has an immediate sense of remorse (although it doesn't stop her from doing something else next time).  Detective Nash is closed off and stoic, but in this book we are given a bit more insight as to why, and it might be a break in whether these two can ever find the grounds to venture toward a future relationship.

The plot is taut and woven through with a few red herrings and plenty of clues; it was intriguing and written well.  Watching Sammy sift through the information she received and try to puzzle the pieces together was a pleasure indeed, as I also was doing the same.

When the ending came and the murderer was revealed, while it wasn't a surprise to me, it was done well and the reasons why were plausible; everything meshed together nicely and it was an enjoyable venture into Heartsford and its people.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Crafter-Hooks-Killer-Handcrafted-Mystery/dp/1643850121?

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2732191462

More on Holly Quinn's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/q/holly-quinn/

Monday, February 25, 2019

Something Read, Something Dead (A Lighthouse Library Mystery #5)

Author:  Eva Gates
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683319504
Crooked Lane Books
320 Pages
$21.51; $12.99 Amazon
March 13, 2019

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Winter falls on North Carolina's Outer Banks as Lucy Richardson and her friends joyfully help her favorite cousin, Josie O'Malley, plan her wedding.  The owner and head baker of Josie's Cozy Bakery and her fiancé, chef Jake Greenblatt, want a small, simple wedding.

But to their horror, Josie's imperious grandmother, Gloria, descends with the "Louisiana Mafia": a gaggle of aunts and cousins who intend to take control of the wedding plans.  Gloria doesn't do small and simple, and cousin Mirabelle has her own ideas for Josie's wedding, something grand and lavish - and paid for by Josie's parents, of course - that will kickstart her fledgling event planning business and get her work shown on the covers of wedding magazines.  To make matters worse, Mirabelle focuses her full Southern charm on the prospective groom...and Jake doesn't seem entirely adverse to her affections.

To smooth the waters, Lucy hosts a bridal shower at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library.  But it turns deadly when Mirabelle collapses - soon after eating the gluten-free treats Josie prepared specifically for her.  Now, to save her favorite cousin from prison, Lucy will have to bring a crook to book.

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Lucy Richardson's cousin Josie is finally getting married.  She and her friends are planning the wedding, which will be a simple one.  But they aren't counting on Josie's grandmother Gloria to come swooping in and change everything to the way she wants it.  Along with Gloria is her daughter Mary Anna, and nieces Mirabelle (who is in the wedding) and Florence.  It seems Florence and Mirabelle have an events business, and Gloria has decided they will plan the wedding.

Mirabelle is nothing if not obnoxious, and begins changing things to her liking, including changing the "colors" to one Josie can't stand.  It doesn't help when Mirabelle meets Josie's fiancé Jake she immediately begins flirting with him.  After a disastrous meeting between everyone, Josie gets angry and storms out.  Later on, she mentions how she'd like Mirabelle to be 'bumped off' in front of Lucy and her boyfriend Connor, who is also the mayor.

But during the wedding shower Mirabelle is taken ill and dies at the hospital.  Suddenly Josie's words come back to haunt her and it looks as if she might be the only person of interest.  It doesn't help that the library has a problem with its foundation and needs to be repaired but the money just isn't there, so it's in danger of being permanently closed.  Now Lucy has two things to worry about, but first and foremost is finding out who killed Mirabelle so the wedding can get back on track.

With Lucy and her friends hot on the trail of a killer, she'll need to stay on her toes if she wants to find out the truth and keep herself alive...

The first thing I have to say is when a story begins by irritating you, it doesn't bode well.  Josie's grandmother is past overbearing, and during this, her mother is worthless.  After years of being married, she still won't stand up to her.  First of all, if I was getting married and someone decided to “plan” my wedding, I’d ask them who was getting married.  If they said, “you are” then I’d tell them, “Glad you remembered that.  Since you acknowledged the fact I’m the bride, you can also acknowledge the fact that I will do the wedding my way, and if that doesn’t sit well with you, you know where the airport is.”

I'm not saying the book doesn't get better and eventually someone doesn't stand up and take control, but it goes on far too long for my liking.  Not to mention Lucy doesn't have a backbone either.  I've never understood why books need to have an "evil nemesis" in them to be a good book.  Yet Louise Jane comes in, pushes Lucy's buttons, and Lucy winds up apologizing - for doing nothing.  It's time Lucy grew a spine where Louise Jane is concerned.  It doesn’t make the book an enjoyable read; it's just annoying.

As for much of the rest of the plot, let's put it this way:  Would you want to be in a room listening to a bunch of catty women sniping at each other, while one of them constantly spent her time pointing out your many flaws and doing whatever she could to get rid of you?  Add to that weepy women who proclaim how much they love each other?  Well, I don't.  And that’s much of what this book is, unfortunately.  (Trust me, I'm all for strong female friendships, but everyone sitting around while one is getting pushed around and not saying anything?  Nope.)  I also didn't understand why Aunt Ellen didn't tell Florence to leave her home immediately after she found out that Florence was telling tales to the police about her daughter.  A woman like that wouldn't sleep one more night under my roof.  See what I mean?  No backbone.

As far as discovering the murderer, I found that pretty easy.  I knew who it was by the second chapter of the book; but watching Lucy put it all together took quite a bit longer.  While the ending of the book was satisfactory, and it all came together nicely, I just didn't care for the fact that some of the women were allowing themselves to be pushed around by others.  A decent book, but I felt that it could have been better.

Slay Bells (A Christmas Village Mystery Book 1)

Author:  T.C. Westcott
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781732135819
Better Mousetrap Books
330 Pages
$12.99; $4.99 Amazon
November 23, 2018



Tonight, in Christmas Village, a killer is stirring.

Nestled betwixt an opulent garden with meandering footpaths and an ancient grove of plum trees, Plum Cottage Inn is plum-full with lodgers for the Christmas Festival.  There are no vacancies...until one by one the lodgers start dying in inexplicable ways.

Short as a stump, round as a wheel, sweet as a candy cane, and sharp as a whip, Maribel Claus loves a good puzzle.  Can Mrs. Claus solve the mystery and save Christmas?

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When a traveling troupe of what seems to be circus performers arrives in town for a winter festival that is over Christmas, one of them is causing a lot of trouble.  In fact, when he turns up dead - on a snowy hill with no footsteps around him it's a puzzle how he died.  But Mrs. Claus is determined to find out the truth, and sets about looking for a killer, before they kill again...

This book doesn't come right out and say it, but we're given the idea that Maribel Claus is "the" Mrs. Claus.  First off, why is the festival right during Christmas week, when "the" Mr. Claus wouldn't be around to enjoy it?  Just wondering about that one...

Anyway, from the name of the troupe I thought at first they might be whalers.  Who ever heard of a circus troupe named "Harpoons"?  That in itself was odd.  But the name of the man who died - Barnaby Snipes - had me rolling my eyes.  Could you find a more dastardly name?  I almost expected to read about him twirling his moustache as he gave an evil laugh.  The characters were cardboard cutouts and had nothing to recommend them.  The conversations were simple and written almost as if they were for children.  Sorry, but that's my opinion. 

At any rate, I found the book boring in the extreme, with nothing to draw me into the story.  The explanations of the deaths didn't seem plausible at all.  Honestly, I got so bored I kept quitting and starting back up again.  All I can say about this book is it's good reading material if you can't sleep.  It will do the job in no time.  Sorry, but I won't read any more by this author.

https://www.amazon.com/Slay-Bells-Christmas-Village-Mystery/dp/1732135819/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2729582380

More on T.C. Westcott:  https://www.amazon.com/T.C.-Wescott/e/B07DS7X74S/ref

Friday, February 22, 2019

Killed on Blueberry Hill (A Berry Basket Mystery #3)

Author:  Sharon Farrow
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496704900
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
October 30, 2018

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The Blueberry Blow Out festival has begun and it's time for Marlee Jacob, owner of The Berry Basket, to shine.  Unfortunately it's also bringing out the worst in her fiancé Ryan Zeller.  Ryan's rivalry with Porter Gale, owner of Blueberry Hill Farm, spills over into a very public and very ugly fight.  And after they compete in the pie-eating contest and a raucous tug of war, their orchard blood feud takes a deadly turn...

The death of the king of Blueberry Hill is a shock but not too surprising - he was a diabetic whose last pig out meal was deliciously fatal.  But when authorities discover that someone tampered with Porter's insulin, a tragic accident is looking like murder - and Ryan is the key ingredient.  Now Marlee's investigation to clear his name is taking her deep into the Gale family secrets, and she's being shadowed every step of the way by a killer whose sweet revenge is just beginning...

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Marlee Jacobs is the owner of The Berry Basket in Oriole Point, Michigan, a store that sells all things related to berries.  She's participating in The Blueberry Blow Out festival, not only having a booth for her wares, but also sponsoring one of the carnival rides, a bounce house (although technically, this isn't a ride, is it?)

She's also having second thoughts about her upcoming marriage to Ryan Zellar, never more so than when she watches his behavior with rival grower Porter Gale, who manages to push Ryan's buttons.  When Ryan attacks Porter, Marlee leaves to cool off and rethink everything that's occurred.  When she returns to the fair, she finds Ryan.  Not too long after while they're walking they hear screams, and realize that something is wrong with Porter's young wife Sloane.  But it's not Sloane that's in trouble - Porter is taken off the ride they've been on and it turns out that he's dead.  What shocks Marlee is Ryan's reaction to the death, and it's not good.

But she soon learns that Porter was murdered, and Ryan is the main suspect.  While Marlee may be having regrets about her engagement, she knows Ryan's not a killer.  She also finds out that more people than Ryan had problems with Porter, including his own sister, who hated him since she discovered that their father left everything to Porter and nothing to her and her children.

Now she needs to clear Ryan's name, and in order to do so must try and discover who has the most to gain, and who hated Porter the most.  Will she find a killer before a killer finds her?...

This is the third book in the series, and I have to say that I enjoyed it much more than the other two, which fell mostly flat for me.  Marlee has finally developed a backbone where Ryan is concerned; in the previous books she allowed him to push her around and control her and I hate that.  Unfortunately, Marlee is still very much just walking up to people and questioning them.  I'm honestly surprised no one has turned on her yet.  If she hounded me with questions the way she does everyone else, when I saw her coming I'd cross to the other side of the street.  She's not subtle, and she's invasive.  Marlee needs to learn that she's not a police officer, or change the way she questions people.  Seriously.

I also still don't care for the fact that the author compares people to actors and book characters rather than describing them.  The reason for this is, as a reader, I prefer to picture characters in my imagination.  If I'm told they look like an actor or an animated character, I can't picture them any other way.  It's not pleasant to imagine the cartoon character of Alice in Wonderland walking down the street next to Sandra Bullock.  Rather disturbing, actually.  So my personal preference is for the author to describe the character, not tell us someone they look like.

Anyway, I did like this story a bit more than the previous ones, and there weren't as many issues with it, which is always a good thing.  The plot was interesting, and there were enough twists to keep one interested throughout.  A decent book to read for an evening.

https://www.amazon.com/Killed-Blueberry-Berry-Basket-Mystery/dp/1496704908/ref=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2725682870

More on Sharon Farrow's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/sharon-farrow/

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Death on Bull Path (A Hamptons Murder Mystery #4)

Author:  Carrie Doyle
Genre:    Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781947936027
Dunemere Books
300 Pages
$15.99; $7.99 Amazon
August 1, 2018

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East Hampton Innkeeper Antonia Bingham relishes the prospect of a cool, calm autumn after the hot, crazy summer.  But when a Labor Day visit by two slick Wall Streeters ends with their gruesome deaths in a summer rental house, Antonia is pulled back to the dark side.

With mysterious guests (and possible suspects) popping in and out of the inn, Antonia has no choice but to put back on her sleuthing cap and try to decipher who butchered these men.  Wading through social media, the local nightclub scene, share houses, and other unfamiliar haunts of the young and glamorous is an eye-opener for Antonia - and a major time commitment.  And the timing couldn't be worse: Nick Darrow, Antonia's movie star crush, is back in town, finally available and ready for a commitment...while Antonia's sinister ex-husband is making his presence known in her life again, too.

The high season may be over by Antonia has never been busier, juggling work and crime - and fighting for her own life, too.

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Antonia Bingham owns the Windmill Inn in the East Hamptons.  It's just after Labor Day, when the tourist season is slowing down and she can take it easy...or so she thinks.  Two men are at the inn one evening, obviously drunk, and the bartender sends them on their way after assuring they have a ride and aren't driving.  But when Antonia's friend Sergeant Flanagan shows up, she knows there's going to be trouble.

Unfortunately, that trouble comes in the form of the two men being dead, killed in a most gruesome way.  Since they spent some of their last hours there, he wants to know who the woman was that was with them, and if anyone knows her.  But Antonia never saw them, and even if she feels because it was her inn, Flanagan tells her nothing.

But it's reporter Larry Lipper who shows up and convinces her that they should investigate the case.  As they say, the plot only thickens when a woman comes stumbling out of the woods and another is found in one of Antonia's guest rooms, and neither seem to know what's going on...but do they?

Then movie star Nick Darrow returns and wants to rekindle their romance, but with him not quite divorced from his wife, she wonders just how serious he might be; and things might turn deadly when her ex-husband Philip makes his presence known and sends fear down her spine.  Now Antonia needs to keep her wits about her if she's to survive her ex-husband and maybe even a killer...

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  There is plenty of suspense and intrigue going on, and Antonia is kept busy trying to sift through everything that's thrown at her and discover the truth.  While she's not officially investigating the murder, and the police share nothing with her regarding the same (which is nicely believable) she has the help of Larry, who doggedly pursues right along with her, following any and every lead available.

But Antonia isn't sure which of the many suspects have the best motive to kill the men.  For one, she's not even sure why they were murdered.  No one seems to have answers, and they also don't want to answer her questions.

While for the most part this book was a wonderful read, I didn't care for the fact that she would just decide to question someone without really knowing what to say.  You don't just knock on someone's door and demand answers; that's the best way to put them on the defensive.  It also seems sloppy, in my opinion. 

But I do like Antonia.  She's still the scared ex-wife of Philip, probably because his chief joy is in terrorizing her at every opportunity.  But she's grown and this time she's using her wits and willing to fight back, which is admirable.  She's trying to decide if it's worth pursuing a relationship with Nick, while not telling him that Philip is in town.  And her ex has some nasty tricks up his sleeve that even Antonia couldn't believe he would do.  I also didn't care for something regarding one of the suspects had done to Antonia.  I couldn't believe that there was no recourse by her for this, and wish something would have been said.  I certainly wouldn't have walked away from it.  It irritated me no end throughout the book.

Never fear, the romance angle isn't overshadowing the mystery, and what a mystery it was.  There were plenty of red herrings and every time any of the suspects opened their mouths, it sent her in a different direction looking at someone else - and wondering if any of them were telling the truth at all.

The story was taut and well-written, the characters believable; and while there weren't a lot of descriptions of the area, it didn't really matter since not much of the action took place outdoors.  The twists and turns were numerous, and in the end, I was completely surprised by the identity of the murderer; while I realize that there are things which can drive people to desperation, this was a new one for me.  All the pieces came together nicely, which boded for a very good tale indeed.

This is the fourth book in the series but can be read as a stand alone.  There is very little referencing any of the other books (save a small conversation in the beginning) so one will not feel lost in reading this book nor that they've stepped into the middle of a conversation.  All in all, a delightful read.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Bull-Hamptons-Murder-Mysteries/dp/1947936026/ref

Goodreads:

More on Carrie Doyle's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/carrie-doyle/

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Blackberry Burial (A Berry Basket Mystery #2)

Author:  Sharon Farrow
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496704887
Kensington Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99; $3.99 Amazon
October 31, 2017

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As owner of The Berry Basket, Marlee Jacob has learned a thing or two about surviving the summer tourist season in Oriole Point.  So she gladly agrees to help run the annual road rally in honor of the local Blackberry Art School's centenary celebration.  While alumni arrive from around the country, Marlee hopes the expansive Sanderling farm will make an appropriate starting point for the race - despite rumors that the land is cursed...

But when Marlee surveys the property, she stumbles upon a long-dead body hidden in the bramble.  It's a horrifying mystery to everyone except her baker, who's convinced the skeletal remains belong to a former student who had gone missing twenty years earlier.  As the Fourth of July activities heat up, Marlee must rush to catch an elusive murderer - before the next 'blackberry victim' is ripe for the picking!

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Marlee Jacobs owns The Berry Basket, a store centered around berries (obviously) in Oriole Point, Michigan.  She's helping Piper Lyall-Pierce with the Blackberry Road Rally; the person who owns the land where they were going to start has backed out and they need a new place, so with Marlee's suggestion of using the Sanderling place, the two of them - along with Piper's Great Dane - head out to see if it will be suitable.  But when they arrive, the Great Dane escapes and heads to the woods, with Marlee in chase.  But when she finds him, he's digging at something and she sees that he's unearthed a skeleton.  With a call to the police, they're stuck where they are for the moment.

After returning to town, it's not long before the remains are identified - by an unlikely source - and the hunt is on for who buried the woman in the woods and why.  As Marlee starts to dig for answers, she doesn't realize that the closer she gets the more some people are noticing, and one of them wants her out of the way...permanently...

While I really wanted to like this book, I found myself rolling my eyes several times.  Some scenes were just unbelievable.  When her friend Natasha leaves a Yorkie puppy at Marlee's shop (in Natasha's handbag), somehow the little dog escapes and manages to terrorize the people in the shop.  A Yorkie puppy?  A Yorkie?  Really?  Also, this tiny thing also manages to jump into the display window.  Are Marlee's windows only a foot off the ground?  Because the ones I've seen are higher than that, and a puppy couldn't jump into them.  I also have to note that the dogs portrayed in this book are not trained.  They do whatever they want with the owners merely accepting it.

Marlee's also not the brightest bulb in the box.  At one point she asks one of the detectives if they think more bodies were buried in the woods.  Is this place a hot spot for murders to get rid of bodies?  Find one, there must be more?  Just bring your unwanted bodies to Oriole Point and dump them in the woods!  Honestly?  She's also unlikable as a person, and invasive in asking questions of people.  She walks right up to them and wants answers, like she thinks she's a police officer.  Her boyfriend Ryan is just as unlikable, and he never spends any time with her; he seems awfully controlling.

Then there's the fact that somehow Marlee's driving can rival Jeff Gordon's.  It's a wonder she's not out on the track along with Danica Patrick.  Another eye roll.  It's amazing no one was thrown, no one was hurt.  Not realistic.

In the end, the mystery was just so-so; probably because I got tired of Marlee's behavior.  Maybe I expected a better reason for her to involve herself in the investigation, I don't know.  But the book just never drew me in the way others do.  However, I try to give authors the benefit of the doubt, and will read the third in the series before I decide whether to continue on with it or not.

Also, as a bit of trivia in response to something Dean mentioned in the book as to Goya's Naked Maja (which was actually titled The Nude Maja and is coupled with another Goya painting, the Clothed Maja; the Naked Maja was a film based on it) her identity is unknown.  The film took liberties to showcase Ava Gardner.

https://www.amazon.com/Blackberry-Burial-Berry-Basket-Mystery/dp/1496704886/ref=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2721996645

More on Sharon Farrow's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/sharon-farrow/

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Snapshot of Murder (Kate Shackleton Mystery #10)

Author:  Frances Brody
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643850962
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
March 13, 2019

✮✮✮



Yorkshire, 1928.  Indomitable sleuth Kate Shackleton is taking a well-deserved break from her detective work and indulging in her other passion: photography.  When her local Photographic Society proposes an outing to the opening of the Bronte museum, Kate jumps at the chance to visit the setting of Wuthering Heights.  But the setting proves to be even more sinister than the dreary classic when a member of their party is found murdered.

The event is one of the most popular of the decade, and each of the seven photographers were there to capture the perfect shot of a lifetime.  But Tobias, the deceased, was known for being loud-mouthed and didn't care to curb his demeanor.  Kate deduces that he must have had several enemies.  But soon, she begins to suspect that perhaps the murderer is amongst them.  And before they shrink to just a group of five, Kate must pick back up her magnifying glass and sleuthing cap to crack the case.

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Kate Shackleton is a fairly young widow who lives in Yorkshire.  She's also a talented photographer and belongs to the local Photographic Society.  One evening a new member, young Derek Blondell, suggests an outing, a weekend to take pictures, and they decide on the opening of the Bronte museum.

She also has a friend, Carine Murchison, who owns a photographic studio and takes care of her ailing father and a wastrel husband named Tobias, who is also a member but whose time is spent in getting drunk.  Carine is startled at the reappearance of her one true love, Edward, that she thought died in the war.  It is later, at a pub near the museum, that she discovers Tobias lied to her and between he and her father conspired to have her marry him; now she realizes he is much like her father, and that's not a good thing.

But while on the outing Tobias is killed, and when it's discovered he was murdered, Kate is wondering who might have done the deed.  He was much hated, but she doesn't believe for a moment that young Derek could have killed him, even if the police believe so.  She is urged by her friend Rita to find the true killer, and what she discovers stuns her to her very core...

This is the tenth book in the Kate Shackleton series, and unfortunately I found it to be the weakest.  The writing seems disjointed somehow.  We are given the tale from both Kate's view in first person, then everyone else's in third.  It didn't flow as well as the other books.

While it started out very interesting, soon the book became depressing.  I began to feel heartily sorry for Carine, and watched her unraveling slowly without even realizing it.  First betrayed by her mother, then her father and even her own husband, one cannot but feel sorry for her.  The other characters - including Kate - took a back seat to Carine in this story; and while it could have been a good thing, I didn't find it to be so.

The tale itself was interesting enough, and the murder not unexpected, considering the type of person Tobias was, but in the end I found myself wishing for something more, and not finding it.  I found it slightly gloomy, and probably not the best book to read while listening to the steady beat of rain outside my window.

I was not satisfied with the ending, but then again, that is only my own opinion and others, I am sure, will love this book.  Hopefully the next in the series will improve to the quality of many of the others, and I still look forward to reading them.

https://www.amazon.com/Snapshot-Murder-Kate-Shackleton-Mystery/dp/1643850962?

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2718004010

More on Frances Brody's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/frances-brody/

Friday, February 15, 2019

Dying for Strawberries (A Berry Basket Mystery #1)

Author:  Sharon Farrow
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback: Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496704863
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
$7.99; $4.99 Amazon
October 25, 2016

✮✮✮



Much has changed for Marlee Jacob since she returned to Oriole Point, Michigan, three years ago.  Between running the Berry Basket, dodging local gossip, and whipping up strawberry muffins, smoothies, and margaritas to celebrate the town's first annual Strawberry Moon Bash, the twenty-nie-year-old hardly has time for her fiancé, let alone grim memories of her old life in New York...

But unfortunately for Marlee, Oriole Point is muddled with secrets of its own.  First her friend Natasha disappears after an ominous dream.  Next the seediest man in town threatens to crush her business.  Then an unknown person nearly kills her on the night of the Bash.  When she discovers a dead body while searching for Natasha, Marlee realizes she'll have to foil a killer's plot herself - before the past permanently stains her future.

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Marlee Jacob owns The Berry Basket, a business in the touristy town of Oriole Point, Michigan, selling berry-related items.  After a run-in with the town's bully, Cole Bowman, who has promised he won't renew Marlee's lease, effectively closing her business, she's stunned; as are the rest of the townspeople, but for a different reason:  it seems Cole has come into ownership of Strawberry Fields, a parcel adjoining the town, and plans to turn it commercial, allowing chains into their little village that will probably put the local businesses out of business.  What Marlee doesn't understand is how the four members of the council could approve such a move, since they are also local business owners; and blurts out at the meeting that they were either bribed or blackmailed into agreeing to it.

When Marlee is attacked on the night of the Strawberry Moon Bash, and no one will believe her, she's determined to find out who wants her dead.  And when Cole's wife Natasha goes missing, she's convinced he's killed her, and decides to investigate on her own.  She doesn't find Natasha, but she does find Cole...dead in his home.

Now she's convinced that he was killed by one of the members of the council, and learns that Piper and Lionel have hired detectives to dig up secrets.  So Marlee decides to question each of them on her own, hoping to find out first if one of those secrets were terrible enough to cause one of them to kill Cole, and attempt murdering her.  But it just might get her killed instead...

I don't like giving mediocre reviews, but I will tell you right off that I'm not compromising myself by giving a great one just to make everyone happy.  Sometimes a book isn't a stinker, but it still makes it hard to slog through.  This, unfortunately, was one of those books.

It almost lost me at the beginning when Marlee apparently carries around an EpiPen because her boyfriend Ryan is allergic to bees.  He works at his family's orchards, but allergic to bees - right.  I carry one, but my husband doesn't because I'm not always with him.  After all, he's not the one having an attack, so why would he need it?  It's one thing to carry one for your minor child, but for another adult?  It's also illegal.  How stupid is Ryan that he would "forget" to carry it?  I've never forgotten - not once.  It just didn't make sense.  And therein, folks, lies the problem.  Beginning a book with something that just doesn't make any sense can skew the rest of the book for the reader.

Just because she was attacked she thinks it's perfectly fine to go around investigating peoples' pasts?  Pasts that have nothing to do with her and she has no business knowing at all?  At least it will be interesting in future books with the enemies she's made by doing that (surely these people can't be so forgiving that they ignore the fact she's forced them to tell her things they never wanted anyone to know.)  If I had even one of these secrets, I'd keep her out of my life forever.  A person like this has no boundaries.

Not to mention that Ryan is a royal jerk.  I was hoping he was the murderer (sorry, he's not.)  Why on earth she's interested in him is beyond me.  Just because a guy's 'hot' doesn't make him a keeper.  I have news for Marlee: if a man is hiding his past from you when you're going to be his wife, run as fast as you can in the other direction...because he'll do things in the future that he wants to hide from you, too.  (One can only hope he "forgets" his EpiPen in a future book and actually does bite the dust.)  He treats her like a child, acts like her business isn't as important as his, and isn't around when she needs him.  It also kind of seemed like she just capitulated when he wanted her; there was no sizzle between them, no connection, no real reason they're together at all.

And at the last, why would a reputable news source keep revisiting a TV chef's murder every single year?  It wouldn't happen.  It's not that riveting.  There were also little things like comparing every character to anther person/book character (Ryan Gosling, Jasmine from Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, etc.), and calling Drake a witch (a male witch is a Warlock) - Drake should have corrected her - better yet, the author should have known this fact before adding it to the story (yes, I know some male witches find it derogatory, but it still is a fact).

When the murderer was revealed, the killer wasn't really a revelation, and I had figured it out long before, but I will say that the reason for the murder was unexpected.  Since this is the first in a new series, I have given leeway that the author is still honing her craft, and I will probably read the second one.

https://www.amazon.com/Dying-Strawberries-Berry-Basket-Mystery/dp/149670486X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28814310-dying-for-strawberries

More on Sharon Farrow's Books:            https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/sharon-farrow/   

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

As Directed (A Maggie O'Malley Mystery Book 3)

Author:  Kathleen Valenti
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635114706; 9781635114676
Henery Press Publishing
286 Pages
$31.95; [Price TBA] $6.99 Amazon
March 12, 2019

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In the shadow of a past fraught with danger and tainted by loss, former pharmaceutical researcher Maggie O'Malley is rebuilding her life, trading test tubes for pill bottles as she embarks on a new career at the corner drugstore.

But as she spreads her wings, things begin to go terribly wrong.  A customer falls ill in the store.  Followed by another.  And then more.

The specter of poisoning arises, conjuring old grudges, past sins, buried secrets and new suspicions from which no one is immune.

As Maggie and her best friend Constantine begin to investigate, they discover that some of the deadliest doses come from the most unexpected places.

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Maggie O'Malley is an ex-pharmaceutical researcher who lost her job when the company she worked for imploded with murder and scandal.  Now she's been given a new opportunity: she's working as a pharmacy technician while studying to obtain her pharmacist license.  She's also knee-deep in wedding preparations to her best friend Constantine - mostly because her aunt Fiona and his aunt Polly are pushing them.  While she thinks she can handle the pressure - eventually - she's determined to weather it through.

Unfortunately, all that is coming to an end when she finds the body of a customer in one of the aisles at the store where she works.  This is bad in itself, but not so soon after she comes across two more people - a mother and daughter who are still alive, thank Heaven - and at first both she and her boss, Lev Petrosian, wonder if it wasn't a mistake in the medications.  Then another pharmacy customer is discovered dead in her home, and suddenly the stakes have been raised higher still.

This is eventually ruled out by the police who discover another reason - poison - and Maggie is determined to discover how the customers were poisoned and why.  She's hampered by the fact that a local reporter, Russ Brock, has been contacting her trying to get a story, and Maggie begins to wonder if Russ knows more than he's saying.  She's also being stalked  by Miles Montgomery, a man she sent to prison and is now out to get revenge.

 But when Maggie starts digging for the truth and the reason for the poisonings, she finds out that there's something more sinister going on, and she's more than disturbed to discover it.  When she resolves to do something about it, she doesn't realize how close she's gotten, or if she'll live long enough to get married anyway...

This is the third book in the series, begun with Protocol, and I have to say that Ms. Valenti has lost none of the fervor that made the first two books so good.  Maggie is changing; going from just surviving life to being stronger.  She's no wilted rose, stumbling into situations and then trying to figure out how to get back out without discovery.  She's logical, strong, and can think on her feet.  In other words, the type of protagonist I love to read about.  Like Maggie, I'm more driven by logic than emotion, but unlike her, I have the great pleasure of not finding myself in life-threatening situations (Well, we can't have everything, can we?)

She begins thinking a man has died from a heart attack in one of the pharmacy aisles, but when two more people fall ill, she's sure something is wrong, even if no one pays much attention to her...and she's determined to figure out the truth.  But Maggie's personal life is getting in the way: she's still having headaches, Constantine is pushing her to see a physician, she's being stalked and harassed, she has wedding plans that need attention, etc.

But it's the details that make up the gist of the story.  While I won't go into the majority of them here, be aware that when you begin with a young girl who's a shoplifter, Maggie comes to her rescue.  That is the beginning of a chain of events which keep you riveted to the story as you try to discover the truth along with Maggie.

It is a sad tale, indeed, and one, unfortunately, that not only is dark but all too realistic; once the circle begins it's easy to allow it to continue.  The author has not only a way with words, but is able to weave this sadness along with hope and creates a narrative that is taut with suspense, intrigue, and excitement; building to a climax that is indeed worthy and almost chilling.

When the ending comes and the murderer is revealed, it is at once both believable and tragic; more than satisfactory, and I wish I could say more but in doing so I am afraid I would be giving away too much, and I don't wish to do that.  All in all, I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/As-Directed-Maggie-OMalley-Mystery/dp/1635114675/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2713219626

More on Kathleen Valenti's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/v/kathleen-valenti/

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Spook in the Stacks (A Lighthouse Library Mystery #4)

Author:  Eva Gates
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover: Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683315803
Crooked Lane Books
320 Pages
$$18.34; $7.80 Amazon
June 12, 2018

✮✮


Wealthy businessman Jay Ruddle is considering donating his extensive collection of North Carolina historical documents to the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, but the competition for the collection is fierce.  Unfortunately, while the library is hosting a lecture on ghostly legends, Jay becomes one of the dearly departed in the rare books sections.  Now, it's up to Lucy Richardson and her fellow librarians to bone up on their detective skills and discover who is responsible for this wicked Halloween homicide.

Meanwhile, very strange things are happening at the library - haunted horses are materializing on the marsh, the lights seem to have an eerie life of their own, and the tiny crew of a model ship appears to move around when no one is watching.  Is Lucy at her wit's end?  Or can it be that the Bodie Island Lighthouse really is haunted?

With The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on everyone's minds and ghoulish gossip on everyone's lips, Lucy will need to separate the clues from the boos is she wants to crack this case without losing her head...

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Lucy Richardson is assistant librarian at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, where she also lives on the top floor.  It's close to Halloween, and even though she doesn't care for the holiday, the employees are decorating the library with themed decorations, due to library volunteer Louise Jane McKaughnan.  Louise Jane is also a thorn in Lucy's side, because she wanted Lucy's job - not caring that she didn't qualify for it.

Jay Ruddle, a wealthy man who has an extensive and valuable North Carolina historical collection is considering the library to house the documents.  On one of his visits he wants to look in their documents room, which is kept locked.  But when he doesn't return Lucy goes looking for him and finds him strangled.  No one seems to know how or when anyone entered the room, and no one seems to know who killed him.

There is also the matter of Ruddle's granddaughter Julia, whom regular resident Theodore "Teddy" Kowalski, seems to have taken a liking to; but Ruddle's employee Greg has taken a definite dislike to him.

Now Lucy and her friends need to find out who killed the man and why if they want to even be considered for the collection; but was the death about the collection or was it something else entirely personal?...

This is the fourth book in the series, and unfortunately, I found it rather boring.  I really tire of the 'evil nemesis' in cozy mysteries (and other books) and Louise Jane is one of the worst.  Does this woman suck lemons every morning?  Because it seems her goal in life is to harass and pick at Lucy at every opportunity and no one - not even Lucy - tells her to knock it off and act her age.  It's very tiresome and I wish she'd just disappear forever.  After all, she's a volunteer and doesn't need to be at the library on a daily basis, causing trouble.

Lucy also states how she doesn't have a sense of humor, and I believe it.  She's one of the most boring women imaginable.  She's just plain dull, and without the interaction of the usual cast of characters to help her along, one sees just how lifeless she truly is.

The book itself was just so-so, with local legends seemingly coming to life on Halloween, but it wasn't enough to keep me interested.  What really irritated me the most was that Teddy actually did something heroic, and in return a nasty trick was played on him.  Lucy, who knows his past, didn't bother to say anything to him about it, which is unforgivable, in my opinion.  It makes her a bad friend indeed.

I also felt it was wrong to try and force Julia into a relationship that wasn't good for her and seemed rather manipulative.  In the end, when the murderer is discovered, it only reinforced the fact that some things and people are better left alone.  Not the best entry in the series, and I really wish I could recommend this book, but it's not to be.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Murder on Memory Lake (A Ferrara Family Mystery #1)

Author:  J.D. Griffo
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496713940; 9781977359322
Kensington Publishing
334 Pages
$5.86; $26.20; $5.99 Amazon
July 31, 2018

✮✮


Alberta Scaglione's spinster aunt had some secrets - like the fortune she squirreled away and a secret lake house in Tranquility, New Jersey.  More surprising: she's left it all to Alberta.  Alberta, a widow, is no spring chicken and she's gotten used to disappointment.  So having a beautiful view, surrounded by hydrangeas, honeysuckle, and her cat, Lola, sounds blissful after years of yelling and bickering and cooking countless lasagnas.

But Tranquility isn't as peaceful as it sounds.  There's a body in the water - and it belongs to Alberta's childhood nemesis.  Alberta suspects foul play and when Alberta's estranged granddaughter, an aspiring crime reporter, shows up, it only makes sense for them to team up and investigate...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Alberta Scaglione hasn't had an easy life.  She was married to a man who didn't love her, and her only daughter fights with her constantly - which culminates in her daughter moving out of state to get away with her.  She's a 64-year-old widow who doesn't have much in life - until a spinster aunt leaves her over three million dollars and a lakefront home in Tranquility, New Jersey.  Now she's enjoying her chance to relax and live her life the way she wants.

At least she was, until a body floats on the lake in front of her.  It turns out to be an old enemy from school, and when Alberta notifies the police, she's convinced the woman was murdered.  They don't believe her until after the autopsy report, and she decides to leave it at that.  But when her granddaughter arrives in Tranquility, things change.  Jinx's personality is like her grandmother's, but she's trying to make it as a reporter.  She's tired of fluff pieces and wants to investigate the murder.  When her editor tells her no, she convinces Alberta to help her, and along with Alberta's sister Helen and sister-in-law Joyce, they try and figure out who killed the woman.  But will it bring Jinx the new job or just danger?...

This is the first in a new series and I really wanted to like this book.  Sadly, it pretty much lost me at the beginning by showing me that Alberta isn't the 'nice' woman she's supposed to be.  A relative - the one who eventually leaves her money - is in a nursing home and she repeatedly whispers to her, "Just go already.  There is nothing left for you here, so just die for Crise sake."  Does that sound like a warm, loving woman?  Especially since the hearing is the last to go and the woman heard every word?  I remember when I lost my father, and I spent my time telling him how much I loved him.  It still breaks my heart to this very day.

Anyway, she's a nasty human being; what she said notwithstanding, she was constantly arguing and yelling at her daughter and the author tells us that because it's what they've always done we're just supposed to shrug our shoulders and think this is fine.  Sorry, but this is not acceptable behavior and it's abusive.  No wonder her daughter moved away.

Then her granddaughter convinces her that breaking and entering is an acceptable way to get information and clues to the murder, so she decides to go ahead with it, knowing it's illegal.  I've never liked it when characters do that, mainly because the person who isn't supposed to be home always shows up (in this I wasn't disappointed).

I was disappointed, however, that the characters were so stereotypical - right down to spouting Italian at every opportunity.  Not only is Alberta nasty and mean, her sister Helen, an ex-nun, throws insults around like a Frisbee; and the sister-in-law sure likes her liquor - having no problem drinking first thing in the morning.  What a fun group of people.

In the end, I didn't find the "collection" interesting, and the characters just grated on me, which made me skim through the end of the book.  Sorry, but I won't be reading any more in this series.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Memory-Ferrara-Family-Mystery/dp/149671394X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2707942657

More on J.D. Griffo's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/j-d-griffo/

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Dream of Death

Author:  Connie Berry
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683319870
Crooked Lane Books
320 Pages
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
April 9, 2019

✮✮✮✮


On a remote Scottish Island, American antique dealer Kate Hamilton sleuths a killing that eerily replicates a murder still unsolved after 200 years.

Autumn has come and gone on Scotland's Isle of Rothsay, and the locals gather for the Tartan Ball, the annual end-of-tourist season gala.  Among the invited guests is American antique dealer Kate Hamilton.  Returning to the island where her husband died is brutal, but Kate is determined to repair her relationship with her sister-in-law, Elenor Spurgeon, the proprietor of Rothsay's deluxe country house hotel.

Kate has hardly unpacked when a body turns up, murdered in an eerie recreation of an infamous unsolved murder two hundred years before.  And the only clue to the killer's identity lies in a curiously embellished antique casket.  When Bo Duff, the gentle handyman who had tried to save Kate's husband's life, is taken into custody, she teams up with vacationing Detective Inspector Tom Mallory to clear Bo's name.  To accomplish that, they'll have to unmask a killer who seems bizarrely fixated on the past...because two hundred years is an awfully long time to hold a grudge.

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Kate Hamilton is a young widow who hasn't been back to the Scottish island where her husband grew up and later died; she wouldn't be there now if it weren't for a telephone call from her sister-in-law begging her to come.

When she arrives she finds her late husband Bill's family home much changed; his sister Elenor has turned it into a hotel (which she did know) and renovated the property to the point of being unrecognizable to her.  While she's curious to find what it is Elenor found so dire she needed Kate's help, Elenor refuses to tell her until after the annual Tartan Ball that evening.

But there's more surprise yet - at the ball, Elenor announces her engagement to a local, Hugh Guthrie, who's written a book about an eighteenth-century inhabitant, a copy of which Elenor has left for Kate to read.  But when Elenor is found dead that evening by an arrow to the neck - the same way as the woman in the book - Kate wonders if the coincidence is more than that.

When Bill's childhood friend and protector Bo Duff is accused of the murder, Kate knows that it's not possible, but it seems the police aren't interested.  Then when she starts to receive threatening notes she also wonders if she's not right about Elenor's murder - and if the killer is closer than she wants them to be...

Since this is a new author, I usually try to give them a pass as to setting and characters; and while I thought the setting wasn't given much aside from descriptions of the hotel, I didn't really get a feel for Kate; she seemed withdrawn into herself, showing very little emotion at all and somewhat with a dull personality, but perhaps this is what the author was going for; after all, she was widowed at a young age and didn't seem to handle the loss.  For myself, I couldn't see how Tom was interested in her, though why she seemed intelligent enough, it was this dullness of personality that bothered me.  I couldn't imagine her enjoying much in life.

Aside from that the mystery was written well and I enjoyed the story line.  The clues were there throughout but the culprit wasn't that easy to figure out.  There was plenty of intrigue and suspense as Kate went about trying to find Elenor's killer.  With enough twists and turns to keep anyone interested, this is an admirable first novel.  Since I love mysteries, I decided to read it, and was not disappointed; but I won't say any more about it, because I don't want to give away the ending to anyone, but I will say I would have liked to see it end differently, not that it was bad, for it was not; but I just would have preferred otherwise.

https://www.amazon.com/Dream-Death-Connie-Berry/dp/1683319877/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2705467892

More on Connie Berry's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/connie-berry/

Friday, February 1, 2019

Engaged in Death (A Wedding Planner Mystery #1)

Author:  Stephanie Blackmoore
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496704788
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.19; $5.99 Amazon
June 28, 2016

✮✮✮✮


After dumping her cheating fiancé and cancelling wedding, Mallory Shepard can't bear another disaster.  So when the former bride-to-be unexpectedly inherits Thistle Park, a ramshackle mansion in her ex's hometown of Port Quincy, it's a problem she can't afford - literally.  Abound with stray cats, peeling wallpaper, and nosy neighbors, Mallory is dying to sell it off - once she finally fixes up both the place and her messy life...

Turns out, Thistle Park has its charms.  But the honeymoon phase is abruptly cut short when an unwanted visitor is found dead on the front lawn.  Enlisting the help of her sister Rachel, Mallory vows to unveil the killer before she herself becomes married to the suspect list...

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Mallory Shepard and her fiancé Keith are both attorneys planning their wedding.  Unfortunately, what was supposed to be fairly simple is now over-the-top thanks his interfering social-climbing mother Helene, who has hijacked it.  After leaving the country club where the reception is to be, she thinks they're going to visit his grandmother Sylvia, the only member of the family she truly likes and who adores her, but Keith has other plans: he takes her to a vacant plot of land that Helene has purchased in Port Quincy, an hour away from Pittsburgh, where both she and Keith work, to build them a home.  Naturally, she's becoming more and more upset by the way things are turning out.

But when they get home there's a call from the nursing home that Sylvia lives in stating she's passed away, and Mallory is more than saddened that they didn't visit her that day.  To make things even more depressing, she opens a manila envelope that has come in the mail and inside are pictures of Keith and a young woman from his office - doing things he only should be doing with Mallory.

She immediately leaves and holes up in a motel room, not returning calls and not leaving until her younger sister Rachel shows up at the place, forcing her to reenter life again.  In doing so, she realizes she needs to return phone calls, especially many left by Sylvia's attorney.  When she finally goes to see the man, Garrett Davies, she discovers that Sylvia has deeded her home to her - free and clear.  Stunned, Rachel and Mallory go to the home in an old stately area of Port Quincy.

While the house is dilapidated, Rachel sees possibilities, and Mallory sees a headache that she'll need to get rid of.  But what she doesn't expect is the man who shows up on her doorstep wanting to buy the house - now.  He wants the land to frack, and Mallory knows that Sylvia was totally against that, and tells him no, getting into a confrontation before sending him on his way.  But just when she thinks things can't get any worse, the next morning Rachel wakes her telling her that the man is dead on their front lawn.

Though Mallory insists she's going to stay out of the investigation and allow the police to handle things, it becomes difficult when it's obvious someone wants her out of the way.  Now she's involved in trying to keep her head above water financially, and altogether trying to keep the rest of her from being killed...

This is the first in a new series and I found it delightful.  While there were a couple of things that bothered me, I didn't allow it to spoil my enjoyment of the book.  I may as well list them and get it out of the way.  I felt that for an attorney - even a corporate one - Mallory had very little backbone.  She couldn't make decisions and allowed her younger sister to run roughshod over her.  She even allowed Helene to take over her wedding, though she was paying for it.  I would have told her if she wanted the wedding her way, then she could pay for it.

I also didn't care for how selfish and self-centered Rachel was.  She seemed more of a spoiled child than an adult who could come in and take charge of the situation.  Below are spoilers (one to a crucial point of the book), but they grated on me a bit:



Anyway, aside from those two things, I think the mystery was written well.  I felt there was enough intrigue to keep the story interesting, and there was a surprise to the ending, which made it all the more pleasurable to read.  Just when you think you've put it all together (and pretty much have), there was something else coming.  All in all, a very satisfying ending to a decent mystery.

I do like the idea of them opening a B&B; there are a lot of possibilities for future books, which I look forward to reading.  Also included are a few recipes in the back which sound delicious.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Engaged-Death-Wedding-Planner-Mystery/dp/1496704789/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2698661275

More on Stephanie Blackmoore's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/stephanie-blackmoore/

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

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