Thursday, May 30, 2019

Buried in the Stacks (A Haunted Library Mystery #3)

Author:  Allison Brook
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover: Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643851389
Crooked Lane
[Page # TBA)
[$ TBA] $12.99 Amazon
September 10, 2019


In winter, the Haunted Library is a refuge for homeless townspeople.  When a group purchases a vacant house to establish a daytime haven for the homeless, Carrie offers the library as a meeting place for the Haven House committee, but quickly learns that it may be used for illegal activities.

As the new Sunshine Delegate, Carrie heads to the hospital to visit her cantankerous colleague, Dorothy, who had fallen outside the local supermarket.  She tells Carrie that her husband tried to kill her -- and that he murdered her aunt Evelyn, the library's resident ghost, six years earlier.

And then Dorothy is murdered - run off the road as soon as she returns to work.  Evelyn implores Carrie to find her niece's killer, but that's no easy task.  Dorothy had made a hobby of blackmailing her neighbors and colleagues.  Carrie, Evelyn, and Smoky Joe the cat are on the case, but are the library cards stacked against them?


Carrie Singleton works as a librarian in the town of Clover Ridge, Connecticut.  She's been asked to be the new Sunshine Delegate - who sends cards and gifts to employees - and unfortunately her first assignment is Dorothy Hawkins, who dislikes Carrie because she believes Carrie's job should have gone to her.

When Carrie visits Dorothy in the hospital, she tells her that her husband tried to kill her.  Carrie doesn't know what to think, but allows it to pass.  Then, when Dorothy is murdered, she wonders if she could have prevented it and if Dorothy was really afraid of her seemingly gentle husband, Fred.

There's also a homeless problem in the library - they come there to keep warm this February, but several of them are disruptive and the patrons want them removed.  When a solution is offered, Carrie jumps at the chance to help.  But she soon finds that all is not what it seems, and the solution might be hiding something illegal.

Her ghost-in-residence Evelyn, Dorothy's aunt, asks her to find out who killed Dorothy.  But when she starts investigating - against the wishes of the police - she discovers that it might be her who's next on the killer's list...

This is the third book in the series and I will say that it is better than the first two, but I have to wonder if anyone in this library ever comes to read books.  People come in looking for solutions to household problems that they can figure out themselves on their own computers (unless they're dumber than a box of rocks you don't need books to figure out any of these problems), hold meetings, watch programs, etc.; but no one is ever reading (except the homeless people).

I'm also amazed at how much money this library has for extra things - a charge card for gifts for employees?  At most businesses, they take up a collection among employees for flowers when someone takes ill or dies, but I've never heard of a specific job for this.  If this library has all this extra money - for programs, cafes, gardens, etc.; why doesn't the town have any money to help the homeless?  As a note, you can't kick homeless people out of a library because patrons don't like them there.  It's a public institution paid for with taxpayer dollars and is open to the public.  The ACLU would make quick work of them.

I was irritated at Doris and Henry's son for not finding a way to keep his parents with him.  They lose their business, and in order to live with him at all, he makes them get rid of their beloved pet, then gets a one-bedroom apartment and throws them out on the streets.  What kind of jerk is he?  I'd sleep on the floor and give my parents my bed before I'd allow this. 

Also, Angela states how Carrie is her maid-of-honor, then later mentions how her cousin is, then even later it's back to Carrie; and more than once Carrie tells us that she wanted to live with her mother but she wouldn't let her.  These are details that should have been picked up on but weren't.  Honestly, we really don't care about Angela's wedding.  We all know what brides are doing to prepare, and it's not interesting at all.  (Although I did figure out that Carrie's favorite style of dress is sweetheart neckline).

As to the murder, I found it odd why Carrie would stand up at the funeral and basically tell people she was going to find the murderer.  Nice way to make yourself a target, and then she's surprised when someone notices her investigating.  Why would she do that?  Announce it to all and sundry?  It didn't make any sense.

I guess the truth of the matter is the book was disappointing.  There was so much back-and-forth in the book so you really couldn't get into the murder at all: the murder, the homeless, the wedding, Dylan's business, Carrie's baggage, the library programs (which are mostly not plausible), Carrie's meals, Evelyn's withholding of information, looking for Smokey Joe, etc., and not enough on the straightforward murder investigation, which should have been the crux of the book.  You couldn't really get drawn in when everything else was taking you back out.

I never felt that we really got to know the suspects, because there just wasn't any time given to any of them, so while the murderer was a surprise, it would have been no matter who the murderer was because we never got to investigate anything.  We weren't given any clues at all because of the aforementioned back-and-forth. 

I would have liked to have enjoyed the book more, but I basically finished it in order to find out the killer, and if I had realized the plot device addition, I would have known who the killer was (I'm not saying it here, but it pretty much explained it all).  Anyway, I think I'm done with this series as it just doesn't seem believable to me.  Sorry.


More on Allison Brook's Books:

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Whiskers in the Dark (A Mrs. Murphy Mystery #28)

Author:  Rita Mae Brown
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover: Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425287187
288 Pages
$18.30; $7.99 Amazon
June 4, 2019


A massive nor'easter has hit northern Virginia, where Mary Minor "Harry" Harristeen joins groundskeeping efforts at the National Beagle Club at Aldie as the date for its springtime Hounds for Heroes veterans' benefit approaches.  Harry's fellow volunteers, including her oldest friend, Susan Tucker, comprise a spirited group of hunting enthusiasts, some former service members themselves.  But things take a sinister turn when, after a routine tree cleanup along the Club's hunting trails, retired foreign services officer Jason Holzknect is found dead, throat slit from ear to ear.  Soon enough, another murder in their midst jolts the preparations, convincing Harry that the killer is familiar with the Club - and must be close by, masked in plain sight.

The intrigue extends to the grounds of Harry's beloved local church, where the identity of an eighteenth-century skeleton wearing precious pearls remains a mystery.  The anonymous woman's neck had been snapped, and marks on the grave where her body was secreted indicate that someone recently tried to remove it, leading Harry to question how well she really knows those around her.

As always, Harry's crime-solving cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker the Corgi share her determination to sniff out the foes among friends, even those long buried.  Harry will need her four-legged companions' help more than ever, a ghostly beagle only they can see may hold the key to the culprit.


Harry and her friend Susan are helping out clearing the grounds for the Hounds for Heroes run for Bassets and Beagles.  Along with other volunteers, they find a problem on the road that needs the help of a tractor, and one of their friends, Jason Holzknect, sets off to find one.  But when he doesn't return, they set off to find him...and they do, with his throat slit.  While Harry is convinced someone at the club killed Jason, everyone wants her to let the police handle the case.  And when another body is found Harry begins to connect the dots, never realizing that the truth is indeed stranger than fiction...

Meanwhile, the discovery of a centuries-old skeleton in a grave marked for another leads to other questions: who killed the woman and why put her on top of the casket of someone else?  Why a couple of parishioners are more interested in the expensive jewelry she wore, Harry, of course, is interested in her origins and who hated her enough to leave her there...

This is the 28th book in the series, and I am happy to say that it's just as intriguing as all the previous ones.  As a matter of fact, I find each book better than the last one I read.  Perhaps it's just that I truly enjoy Ms. Brown's writing, but I also love a good mystery, and these books not only give you that, they give you tales that span the centuries.

Harry's joined, of course, by her faithful friends: cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, dogs Tucker and new friend Pirate, who's recently adopted and still growing.  The animals make their own friend in this book, that of a ghost Beagle named Ruffy who has a tale of his own, and hopes his new found friends can help him.  It's a mesmerizing story of love, betrayal, death, revenge, and money, and the author tells it well.

As Harry refuses to let go of Jason's murder, she's warned off gently but it doesn't stop her, and she's determined to solve the case.  She begins to put the pieces together and convinces herself of the reason why the man was murdered; and through her determination and self-will, she keeps going, knowing there's more to the story.

Once again we revisit the eighteenth century where the Ewings and Holloways are neighbors, and we see how difficult life was in that century, where the author puts a different spin on the thoughts of certain beliefs of that era.  I do believe that people forget that all souls are products of their time, and to expect anything different is sheer foolishness.  I, for one, understand this and never expect the past to be the same as the present, nor would I wish it to be.  It was a different world, when America was new and people were learning to survive in this country - any way they could. 

Together both stories make for quite an absorbing narrative, which kept me reading all the way through to the end in nearly one sitting (sleep does reluctantly come).  Just when I would find myself engaged in the past, I was pulled into the present, back again to Harry and her tenacity.  But be aware that I never felt it was an intrusion or disruption of the story, and both seemed to meld together seamlessly.

When the truth of the murder is found, I had already figured out the killer as I read a lot of mysteries and for the most part it's rarely difficult, but I have always stated that it's the journey that's the most fun in mysteries - watching how the protagonist puts the pieces together, and Harry's almost an expert in this.  It brings home a few questions of our own to answer, and our answers will tell us how we feel about this book. 

I, for one, absolutely loved it, and felt that justice was done.  I was satisfied with the ending, and although I do feel that Megs and Janice are just too avaricious for their own good, (although this is a personal feeling and nothing was alluded to it in the book) I look forward to the next in the series, where I can continue visiting with Harry and her friends, and of course the Ewings and Holloways.  Highly recommended.


More on Rita Mae Brown's Books:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Calamity Café (A Down South Café Mystery #1)

Author:  Gayle Leeson
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #: 9781101990780; 9781520017044
Berkley Obsidian
304 Pages
$6.80; $23.54; $7.99 Amazon
June 7, 2016


Tired of waiting tables at Lou's Joint, Amy Flowers doesn't just quit - she offers to buy the place from her bully of a boss so she can finally open the café of her dreams.  Amy can't wait to serve the kind of down-home Southern treats and dishes that her grandmother always loved to the kooky cast of regulars at the restaurant.  She knows her comfort food will be the talk of the sweet small town of Winter Garden, Virginia.

At first Lou Lou refuses to sell, but when she seems ready to make a deal, Amy goes to see her.  Showing up at the eatery ready to negotiate, Amy is shocked to find her former employer murdered.  As the prime suspect, Amy will have to clear her name by serving up the real killer - and with Lou Lou's stack of enemies, that's a tall order.


Amy Flowers lives in Winter Garden, Virginia and works at a diner, Lou Lou's Joint - and hates her job.  She trained as a chef out of state but moved home when her grandmother became ill.  When her Nana passed away, she left her some money.  Now Amy wants to buy the Joint and open her dream café, but Lou Lou won't sell.

That evening Amy receives a call from Lou Lou's son Pete, and he tells her he's convinced his mother to sell, and would she meet him at the diner, which she agrees to do.  But when Amy arrives, the only person there is Lou Lou...and she's not going anywhere.  She's dead, and when Amy can gather herself, she calls the police.

Amy discovers she's a person of interest because she found the body, and even though Deputy Ryan Hall tells her he doesn't believe she's guilty, she still doesn't want it hanging over her head, so decides to do a little investigating of her own.  But when she inadvertently gets a little too close to the truth, the killer gets a little too close to her...

I did like this book.  I didn't understand, though, why Amy would be so intent on finding the killer when Deputy Hall told her that she wasn't suspected of murder.  She somehow had it in her head that she was going to be arrested, and hyperventilated at the thought of it, and this spurred her on to find a murderer.  There was nothing pointing to her being guilty, and no one thought she was capable or even had a real reason, yet she was convinced in her mind that it was so.

While Amy isn't stupid enough to walk into situations that will get her killed, she shares all of her findings with Deputy Hall - but he, in turn, doesn't share his information with her, which is exactly how it should be.  He keeps his cards close to his chest, and isn't giving her anything she can run with, which is his way of keeping her safe.

However, I did feel that she went to tears and panic a little too quickly; and that didn't ring true for someone who wanted to investigate the way she did.  If she's going to be doing this, she needs to get her emotions under control.

Her friends are also an interesting bunch: she works with Jackie, a lifelong friend, and Roger (also a lifelong friend) is doing the construction on her new restaurant, and both seem like they have their heads on straight.  Homer is quite deep in his own way, with a new hero every day that he quotes every so often, and more to the point, his quotes fit right in with what's going on.  A pretty decent bunch.  The one I don't care for is the head of the Chamber of Commerce, who's angry he couldn't get the diner and raze it, but he wasn't in the story much and I sure hope he doesn't become the 'evil nemesis' who wants to make Amy miserable.  Even Amy's mom and Aunt Bess are great; and I've taken a liking to Pete, who unfortunately goes from one bad situation to another.

The only thing that seemed odd to me were the many characters who were left by their fathers at an early age; that much didn't seem realistic, and it bothered me a tad.  I can't see that Amy and her friends would have been raised in single-parent households and still trusted men.  It didn't ring true.

I did find that the book was written well, and I thought the plot was interesting; and I felt that the story is put together nicely, with Amy following a trail to find out who hated Lou Lou enough to kill her, and there are a plethora of suspects she needs to sift through.  The woman wasn't well-liked by anyone, treated her employees horribly, and doted on her son.  So Amy does a lot of thinking that we are privy to, and eventually comes to a conclusion at the same time as the killer.

When the ending comes and the killer is revealed, there's a bit of a climactic scene, but Amy doesn't lose her head, preferring to keep it right where it is, thank-you-very-much.  And while it isn't at all a nail-biter, it's still done well, and I liked the way everything tied up together.  This book is a quick and easy read with a pretty good ending.  Recommended.é-Down-South-Mystery/dp/1101990783/ref


More on Gayle Leeson's Books:

Monday, May 20, 2019

Fatal Cajun Festival (Cajun Country Mysteries Book 5)

Author:  Ellen Byron
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #  9781643851297
Crooked Lane Publishing
304 Pages
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
September 10, 2019


Grab your tickets for Cajun Country Live!, the pickers' and crooners' answer to the legendary New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  Maggie Crozat, proprietor of the Crozat Plantation B&B, plans to be in the cheering section when her friend Gaynell Bourgeois takes the stage with her band, Gaynell and the Gator Girls.

The festival's headliner, native daughter Tammy Barker, rocketed to stardom on a TV singing competition.  She has the voice of an angel...and the personality of a devilish diva.  But Maggie learns that this tiny terror carries a grudge against Gaynell.  She's already sabotaged the Gator Girls' JazzFest audition.  When a member of Tammy's entourage is murdered at the festival, Maggie makes sure Gaynell is number one on the suspect list.

Gaynell has plenty of company on that list - including every one of Tammy's musicians.  Posing as a groupie, Maggie infiltrates Tammy's band and will have to hit all the right notes to clear her friend's name.


Maggie Crozat is happy she no longer has to wear an antebellum gown since she's gotten a new job at Doucet Plantation restoring art, and working at her family's B&B, Crozat.  She's delighted Cajun Country Live! will be featuring her friend Gaynell Bourgeois and her group.  And she's positively ecstatic that she's going to be marrying Detective Bo Durand - if they can ever find time to set a date.  In reality, her life is going along swimmingly...

That is, until the arrival of home-town girl Tammy Barker, who hit it big on a TV show and headed to the big city to make a name for herself.  Tammy is now famous, and the festival is happy to have her back headlining, since it will bring in plenty of tourists.  But it seems Gaynell isn't happy at all.  She shares with Maggie the fact that during high school Tammy made her life miserable, bullying her.

When Tammy and her entourage arrives, she's surprised to learn that she and her manager and assistant, Pony Pickner and Sara Salinas, in that order, have book the entire Crozat B&B in an attempt to make sure star struck fans don't invade their privacy.  And after spending time with her, she has a suspicion that Tammy isn't done with her bullying toward Gaynell; especially when Tammy unexpectedly sings a song that's obviously stolen from Gaynell, who hasn't had a chance to debut it herself.

But when one of Tammy's entourage is murdered in what seems like it should have been her instead, and Gaynell is fingered - by Tammy - for the crime, Maggie steps in to find out the truth before her friend - the only suspect - goes to jail.  Unfortunately, it also means that Maggie herself will have to resort to subterfuge that she doesn't want but feels is necessary.  Now Maggie is not only trying to find out who wants Tammy dead, but also might be trying to kill her to keep her quiet...

I am very glad that I've gotten the chance to visit with Maggie and her family and friends again.  I enjoy this series and the fact that Maggie absolutely loves where she lives, and it shows every time I pick up one of these books.  Everyone in the book is a colorful character, from Maggie herself right down to every one of her friends.  There's several subplots going on at the same time that only make the story more real - her grandmother is 'purging her life' as it were; Vanessa is having a tug-of-war rivalry with Sandy, whose boyfriends were recent rivals for mayor, her parents are having to deal with guests who want special diets, and her cousin Lia is about to give birth to triplets.  It's a busy life and makes for a book with plenty of action.

When Maggie starts by trying to become friends with the members of the band, she wants to learn more about them, and if any of them had a reason to kill.  She also needs to figure out if Tammy was the target, are they going to try again.  But with Tammy such a nasty piece of work, it's not going to be easy to do.  Especially since it seems that Tammy's not done with harassing Gaynell; and Gaynell has withdrawn from any kind of life, hiding herself away.

The story is well written, and the characters are fully three-dimensional, pulling you into their world of Pelican, Louisiana.  While I've never had the desire to live anywhere near this town (too much humidity for my blood) I have had thoughts of wanting to visit Cajun Louisiana and see the world through her eyes.  Such is the ability of Ms. Byron to describe this place.  The music, the homes, the food - all of it is appetizing (but only for a visit) and I would love to experience it at least once.  (I might actually have to plan a vacation soon).

Maggie's loyalty to Gaynell is fierce indeed, and it shows in her actions how far she's willing to go to prove her friend innocent.  We should all be lucky enough to have a friend as loyal as Maggie.  I'm also beginning to warm up considerably to Vanessa, who started out as Maggie's own bully but since becoming engaged to Quentin has mellowed her and made her happy, so she's actually becoming Maggie's friend.  It's a nice look when there's not an 'evil nemesis' out to destroy the main character and make her life miserable.

As the story progresses and we become more involved, things change.  I love how the way everything eventually played out, even in the subplots hiding in the background of the main story.  All the twists and turns will keep you on your toes, trying to figure out the murderer and the real reason behind it, which, of course, we learn toward the end, as it should be.

When the final moments come everything is tied up nicely, and we are given a satisfactory ending to a terrific tale, knowing that once more everything in Maggie's world is right and least for this one moment of peace.  Highly recommended.


More on Ellen Byron's Books:

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Shelved Under Murder (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #2)

Author:  Victoria Gilbert
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683315957; 9781683319207
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$18.35; $10.99; $7.80 Amazon
July 10, 2018


October in Taylorsford, Virginia means it's leaf peeping season, with bright colorful foliage and a delightful fresh crew of tourists attending the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates local history and arts and crafts.  Library director Amy Webber, though, is slightly dreading having to spend two days running a yard sale fundraiser for her library.  But during these preparations, when she and her assistant Sunny stumble across a dead body, Amy finds a real reason to be worried.

The body belonged to a renowned artist who was murdered with her own palette knife.  A search of the artist's studio uncovers a cache of forged paintings, and when the sheriff's chief deputy Brad Tucker realizes Amy is skilled in art history research, she's recruited to aid the investigation.  It doesn't seem to be an easy task, but when the state's art expert uncovers a possible connection between Amy's deceased uncle and the murder case, Amy must champion her Aunt Lydia to clear her late husband's name.

That's when another killing shakes the quiet town, and danger sweeps in like an autumn wind.  Now, with her swoon-inducing neighbor Richard Muir, Amy must scour their resources to once again close the books on murder.


Amy Webber is director of the library in Taylorsfod, Virgina.  She's preparing for their annual Heritage Festival, along with her employee Sunny and help from Amy's boyfriend Richard Muir.  On this day, Sunny has asked them to help with transporting art pieces from a local artist, since her own VW Bug isn't large enough.  But when they arrive at the artist's farm, Richard finds her dead.

But while it seems the reason for the murder is unclear, some paintings are discovered, and it appears they might be forgeries.  But things go from bad to worse when it also appears that Amy's late uncle might have been involved in those forgeries, and now Amy has to help her aunt clear her uncle's name...

This is the second book in the Blue Ridge Library mysteries, and I was looking forward to reading it because I've read the first and the third but somehow missed this one.  After reading it, I wish I would have just skipped it altogether.

The story starts out that an artist was murdered with a palette knife.  Now anyone who's ever been near an artist or knows anything about art knows that palette knives are flexible and bend easily.  They need to be, because they're for handling paint and scraping canvases (which you don't want to damage).  So the only way a person would die from one is if someone repeatedly poked you with it and you had a heart attack from the annoyance of telling them to stop.  It would have been better if the killer had forced the linseed oil down the artist's throat.

Now this might seem like a minor thing to be brushed away, but if you're not writing in a genre such as sci-fi or fantasy, the rule of thumb is: if it doesn't happen in real life, it shouldn't happen in a book.  Unfortunately, with just a tad bit of research, the author could have discovered this, but it seems that she figured no one would know or notice.  Someone did.

The second thing is, the killer was discovered immediately.  As in right away.  As in the minute they stepped onto the page.  It wasn't even remotely hidden.  Which, of course, isn't always a big deal, because honestly, it's the journey to figure out the motive and who else might be suspected of the murder.  But to tell the truth, this journey was arduous.  And painful.

Amy is not a nice person.  It's from little things to big things, and she's just not likable.  There's how she mentions that Zelda has dyed blonde hair.  Who cares?  Does she go around checking people out for what she considers flaws?  I suppose her aunt's white hair (at 64) is more attractive?  No, it will make her look older.  So why shouldn't Zelda dye her hair?  Honestly, Amy is pretentious, snobbish, selfish, and judgmental - and we'll get more into that later.

As to Sunny, "free spirit" usually translates to 'I don't want to grow up and be an adult and become a responsible human being.'  She's stringing Brad along, knowing he loves her (but won't cut him loose) and even tells Amy she can't fall in love with Brad.  He's just a convenience for her.  Not an admirable trait in any woman, and everything she says sounds like an excuse.

Oh, and FYI Amy - no one wears pantyhose anymore; I'm not even sure if they still sell it.  Also, text messages can easily be traced to the phone that sent them, so being anonymous isn't going to work in that aspect.

Richard is just too sappy for me.  He's constantly gushing over Amy like she's the world's most beautiful, talented, smartest, etc., woman, and that she could deign to lower herself to love him completely amazes him.  Really?  He doesn't act like a man so much about Amy as a love-struck teen under his first crush.  He also talks like one, calling her 'girl'.  He'll also offer her the moon, but she won't offer him anything in return.  Why do I say that?  Here's the selfish part: Amy knows Richard's a dancer, and he wants to dance with her, but she refuses (unless she's drunk enough).  Did she ever hear of taking a dance class?  Learning a few steps?  He'll help her at the library, but she won't learn to dance to make him happy.  Hence, selfish; and it certainly doesn't show that she loves him.

But the worst thing is she hates Kurt, and I can't figure out what he's ever done to hurt her.  She spills a secret to Richard about Kurt that was never meant to be told to him.  All because she hates Kurt.  She's a nasty piece of work.  Who made Amy judge, jury, and executioner?  She hates Kurt because of his possible 'shady deals' in the past that she doesn't know what they are but knows somehow he must have done something.

So what does she do?  She tries to find him guilty of conspiracy of murder, wants him in jail because of his past that she really knows nothing about ("they should charge him with something").  In fact, she spends all of her time trying to find Kurt guilty of something, anything that will get him arrested.  She's like one of those spinsters of yore who walked around town wearing black up to their necks, rimless glasses, and looking down their noses at everyone.  First, it's none of her business what Kurt's prior life (or present life, for that matter) is.  Secondly, it actually takes the fact of something Kurt says that makes her bend a little.  What a priggish woman.  And, to tell the truth, I was disappointed in the conversation.  Kurt was interesting before; in fact, he was the most interesting character in the book.  Now, not so much.

Aunt Lydia isn't blameless, either.  She'll forgive Mel almost instantaneously for Andrew, but still holds a grudge against Kurt - never even realizing that her husband was as much to blame?  The women in this family have a lot to learn about life - like if you hold on to the past you can't go forward with the future.

At any rate, since I already knew the murderer (instantaneously) it only took getting to the end of the book (by plodding through) to find the reasons why.  I felt the writing was very good, but Amy is just not the kind of woman you want to spend time with.  She's pleasant to her friends, but very nasty to people she doesn't like - as I stated before, even trying to put them in jail when she has no basis to do so.  Her sense of justice does not trump other peoples' lives.  So, as I stated, I've read three of these books, but after reading this one, I'm not sure I'll progress to the next.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Murder by the Sea (A By the Sea Mystery Book 3)

Author:  Kathleen Bridge
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback;Digital Book
ISBN #:  978-1516105250
Lyrical Underground
$15.95; $5.99 Amazon
May 21, 2019


It's been quite a year for novelist Liz Holt.  She's overcome a lot and is finally feeling at peace with her new life at her family's hotel, the Indialantic by the Sea, on the beautiful barrier island of Melbourne Beach, Florida.  She's exactly where she needs to be to ring in the New Year at the Florida Writes Literary Masquerade Ball.

But when her ex-boyfriend surprises her at the ball, she can't disguise her anger, and the two engage in a very public argument.  Naturally, after her ex is found dead on the hotel grounds, shot through the heart, Liz tops the suspect list.  With the help of family and friends, she needs to clear her name before the real killer waltzes away Scot-free...


Liz Holt is a novelist who lives in Florida at an old hotel-turned-boarding-house with her father, a semi-retired attorney, and her aunt Amelia, an ex-actress who owns the place.  She's excited to be attending their annual literary ball, or at least she would be if she hadn't discovered that her ex-boyfriend, novelist Travis Ostermann, is there, and he's up to no good.

Liz and Travis broke up when they got into a fight one night that left her with a scar on her face.  He wrote a fictionalized account of the evening, and now he's back trying to blackmail Liz into going on a book tour to promote the book.  She, of course, wants nothing to do with it, and they have words, which are witnessed by one of the guests.  When Travis is discovered murdered, Liz becomes the prime suspect.  But she - and her family and friends - know she's innocent.  So who killed Travis?  While there are plenty of suspects, it won't be easy going, considering no one wants to give information and the press are surrounding them like hawks.  It will take Liz and her friends everything they have to ferret out the truth or she'll be writing her next novel in jail...

This is the third book in the series, and I always like to give authors at least three books before I make a final judgment.  Here it is:  I'm done with this series.  After three books we finally get to know what happened to Liz on that fateful evening that permanently scarred her, and it's not dramatic, just an accident after all.  Silly me; I was thinking that perhaps Travis pushed her through a sliding glass door or something, but alas, no.  Very simple and very ho-hum.

I also didn't understand why, when it was a literary ball, and everyone was coming as a literary character, i.e., Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, etc.; why her father's girlfriend would come as...Carol Burnett.  While it may have been funny (and the episode regarding this was), it certainly wasn't literary.  I guess I myself was taking literature well, literally.  I also didn't understand why Kate would come as Katniss Everdeen.  A teenager who murders because of a futuristic society?  Not my cup of tea, I guess, and certainly not one to emulate.  As for Amelia, I still find her boring and her - and Liz's - constant referencing of Amelia's television roles is nauseating.

Also, there are just too many characters and the author keeps adding more and more.  Why everyone has to 'pair off' is beyond me, and all these characters just bog down the story.  Liz also doesn't act like a woman who's not yet thirty.  She spends her time with octogenarians and acts just like them.  I also didn't understand why she'd go searching for Travis on her own, at night, knowing the type of person he is.  She should have at least grabbed her friend Kate to go with her.  It's not very smart of her at all.

In the end, the book lost me with all of the characters and too many back stories.  One or two is fine, but first you have to invest yourself in the characters, and I can't see anyone liking Susannah, and Liz herself isn't that likable as a protagonist.  Unfortunately, while there may be more books in this series, I just don't care for it enough to continue reading.  Not a bad series, and many might find it delightful, it's just not for me.


More on Kathleen Bridge's Books:

By Cook or By Crook (A Five-Ingredient Mystery #1)

Author: Maya Corrigan
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover (LP); Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  978161731389
Kensington Publishing
320 Pages
$26/99;  $7.99; $4.99 Amazon
November 4, 2014


Take one burned-out city girl.  Add a crusty codger, a pinch of gossip, and a dash of romance.  Stir in a generous helping of murder and you've got the ingredients for one truly delicious mystery...

Haunted by the car accident that ended her career as a cookbook publicist, Val Deniston has traded in the chaos of New York City for a quieter life near the Chesapeake Bay.  Living with her curmudgeonly grandfather in the tourist town of Bayport is hardly glamorous, but she enjoys working at the Cool Down Café at the local fitness club, and she finally has time to work on her long-planned cookbook.  But when one of the club's patrons is found dead, she'll have to cook up a scheme to find the killer.  As the number of suspects rises, like crabs in a bucket, it's out of the pan and into the fire for Val.  If she can't find the culprit soon, she might as well be chum in the water...


Val Deniston has returned to Bayport, Maine, to live with her uncle and run the café at the local fitness club.  She's settling into her new life after a tragic accident left her with no memory of the night it occurred.  She's gaining new friends and working on creating a cookbook in her spare time.

Her grandfather is a crusty curmudgeon who, though gruff on the outside, loves his granddaughter.  He's also suddenly mysteriously interested in learning to cook, although his specialty might be trying to burn down their old Victorian home.  Still, Val is willing to teach him (as long as there are no more than five ingredients as he tells her); although she wonders why the sudden interest.

She's also given an opportunity that might never come again: one of the club's members, Nadia Westrin, has offered her the chance to cater the club's big party, and she's not one to turn down something this plum.  The only problem is her cousin Monique.  Monique's husband Maverick has had a recent affair with Nadia, and Val doesn't want to get involved.  But now it seems she'll have to stay on Nadia's good side, and part of that is when Nadia asks her for a ride home she agrees.  However, when they arrive, there's an old wooden tennis racket burning from a tree in Nadia's yard.

Even though Val tells Nadia she should call the police, Nadia refuses, telling her she knows who did it.  And when Val arrives at Nadia's a few days later to go over the proposed menu for the party, she finds the woman dead - in a most gruesome way.  Now the police chief has asked her not to reveal it, and not to answer any questions regarding the murder.  But when Monique becomes the prime suspect, she wants Val to look into the murder and find the real killer.  But will doing so put her life in jeopardy, and will she be able to find the truth or will she wind up the next victim?...

While this is an older book, I'm very glad I took a chance on it.  Val Deniston is a rare bird in the cozy genre: she doesn't walk up and accuse people outright of murder, she doesn't overtly question them about the murder, and she doesn't walk into dangerous situations without  thinking of the consequences.  

While she does question people, she does it under the guise of writing a memorial about Nadia for the club's newsletter.  There's nothing in her questioning to make people suspicious, (or they shouldn't be), and she's not so stupid as to walk out into her yard in the dark when she hears noises at night.

I also love the fact that she doesn't withhold information from the police.  The police chief is a friend of her family's, so he doesn't treat her like the enemy, and when she garners a piece of information she thinks is valuable, she shares it, and even if he thinks it's not, he still listens to her, althought it did bother me that the rest of the police force acted like she was hallucinating and treating her like she'd done things wrong.

Val is a wonderful character, and I'm glad I got the chance to know her.  While there were a couple of things that I didn't like - I felt that both her grandfather and her cousin were a tad selfish in their own wants instead of thinking about Val - and I didn't like the fact that she never confronted Chatty, who was actually committing fraud. 

I'm still on the fence about Gunnar; while I'm glad he was there for Val all the way, I can't see an accountant becoming an actor.  (Not that there's anything wrong with it, but it seems the life he's lived was a bit more exciting than waiting around for an agent's call that he got a bit part); and also about her grandfather.  While he obviously cares for her, he's secretive and it turns out he actually steals her recipes and passes them off as his own.  His reason for doing this doesn't hold water.  He can't boil water without her help, yet when people start congratulating him, he doesn't even mention how helpful she's been and what a wonderful cook she is - he doesn't even say that they developed the recipes together!  This doesn't endear him to me.  I get why he does it, but I don't think it's right.  He's just a little too curmudgeonly toward her.  She shows her love by giving him a very nice gift, and this is what he does to repay her.

Other than this, I found the book to be delightful.  The plot was intriguing, and even though the clues were there, we discovered them right about the same time as Val, and that was a good thing.  The murderer came as a surprise, which was also nice, and I felt that the writing was very well done, making for an enjoyable read all around.  I've discovered a new author, and I hope this series goes on for a very long time.  Recommended.

More on Maya Corrigan's Books:

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Jean Harlow Bombshell (A Classic Star Biography Mystery #1)

Author:  Mollie Cox Bryan
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780738758695
Midnight Ink Publishing
336 Pages
$10.99; $10.44 Amazon
May 8, 2019


Justine Taylor is a world-famous biographer of Hollywood stars.  She's also Charlotte Donovan's overbearing boss.  So it comes as no surprise to Charlotte when Justine requests an emergency meeting related to her latest in-progress biography.  It is a surprise, though, when Justine up and dies before their urgent discussion can begin.

In the wake of such a tragedy, all Charlotte wants to do is finish the Jean Harlow biography that Justine had started.  Instead, she finds herself in grave danger - stalked both online and in person by a drop-dead Jean Harlow look-alike.  Together with police sergeant Den Brophy, Charlotte uncovers shocking revelations.  But will these revelations be enough to catch the killer?


Charlotte Donovan is a researcher and executive assistant to a writer who specializes in celebrity biographies, mostly from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  She's currently working on one about Jean Harlow, a 1930's platinum blonde who died tragically at the age of 26.  When Charlotte goes to a local tearoom to meet her employer, Justine Taylor, it's only a short time before Justine dies in front of her.

Now Charlotte has been given the job of finishing the biography, but also cleaning Justine's apartment, and when she finds out Justine was murdered, she decides to find out who killed her and why.  But when potential murderers start coming out of the woodwork, and it's apparent that whoever killed Justine is now after her, the stakes have been raised, and with the help of a handsome police officer and her best friend Kate, Charlotte will have to dig deep to find out the truth...

I wanted to read this book because I am a huge classic movie fan.  So much so, I have hundreds of biographies from stars of the Golden Age, and thousands of classic films from the silent era to the 1960's.  I figured this would be tailor-made for me.  After all, a book about Jean Harlow and a lookalike?  What's not to like?  Well, this book, apparently.


First off, the author is a writer of cozy mysteries, so you pretty much are thinking you know what to expect.  This book is nothing like any of the others - as an example, there's quite a bit of foul language throughout (not that it bothers me, but I more expect it if I'm reading a thriller, but this is not labeled as such, so I didn't much care for it in this book) and almost all of it is spoken by our protagonist, Charlotte.

Now Charlotte is an unlikable character, and not because of her choice of words, but her entire personality.  First, I should mention she has Lyme Disease, and while it is a terrible thing, it is entirely curable.  While it may take months, or even years, I am told that Lyme Disease is curable, and the symptoms will not return.  So my question is, how did Charlotte contract it; where; and how long has she had it?  We are never told, yet we are to believe that she's suffered from it for years.  If she's still suffering, she would not have Lyme Disease, but rather Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome; and eventually even this is curable.  So that was my first problem (and before you think I'm being cold, I have a sister who has Celiac Disease, so I know how difficult it is to live with a permanent condition; but Lyme is not permanent.)

Then, not to put too fine a line on it, Charlotte is a bit of a slut with Daddy issues.  Her father, a police officer, left when she was a child, so now she sleeps with cops regularly - but she has standards, so the cops have to be 'hot' before she'll screw them.  I guess that makes it alright in her mind.  She does this on such a regular basis that when she meets Sergeant Den Brophy, who's handling the Justine case (we'll get into that later), she thinks he's one of the hot ones, but has made a bet with her friend Kate that she won't have sex for four weeks.  This, however, doesn't stop her from lusting after him every time she looks at him.  It comes to pass that when she goes to meet him she's worried one of her 'past experiences' might be in the bar and make things uncomfortable.  But she still keeps talking with a cop on Tinder.  Riiiggghhtt...

Doesn't she think that if she continues to see this guy that if they ever attend a function together (or even go to a bar) that one of her former conquests might recognize her and inform Den of her little 'peccadilloes'?  I can't see any way this relationship is going to work, any more than if it were Den who had been sleeping around with people she knew.  Also, her mother is a drunk, so she has that to contend with.  Charlotte leads a pretty depressing life, in my opinion.  (As a side note, if Justine was of sound mind, Judith has nothing to contest.  She never visited Justine, and relatives are not under any obligation to leave their estate to other relatives based on the mere fact they are family.  A judge would make quick work of this).

As for Den, the murder occurred in Manhattan.  So why are the homicide detectives allowing a street cop to take the lead on this?  It's not Mayberry where there are only two cops.  In a large city where there's been a murder, he would have passed it on to the homicide department and been out of it.  I know this is true in Manhattan, so this didn't make any sense at all.

Now to the plot of the story:  While the writing was very good, I wasn't happy with the story line.  I get that she wanted to find out who the Harlow lookalike was.  I get that she wanted to find out who killed Justine, and who's after a missing item that belonged to Harlow.  (FYI, Norma Shearer's name is misspelled a few times, for those who want to know more about her but don't know who she is).

What I didn't like is the way the author completely trashed William Powell, a wonderful actor,
nominated three times for academy awards, and by all accounts, very well-liked.  She calls him a 'prick'.  He had an impish grin, dimples, a wonderful laugh, could do comedy and drama equally well, was liked by his costars, a marvelous actor...and his world crashed when Harlow died.  He was so devastated he had to be helped at the funeral.  He didn't work for nearly two years afterward, and was welcomed back with open arms.  (Not to mention he had cancer during this time and was undergoing radical treatment and recovery).  There were reasons he didn't marry Harlow, but there is no dispute that the man loved her deeply.  (Just look at the photo and you'll see).  While Charlotte is enamored of Harlow, it's painfully obvious she hates Powell.

Needless to say, I thought this would be a new cozy series, but alas, it is not.  I also thought the characters would be funny and/or quirky, interesting, intelligent, or even have substance, but they don't.  You can't call Charlotte intelligent when her actions prove otherwise.  The book also has some moral dictates thrown in, though I won't mention them here.  I do, however, dislike the fact when authors tend to throw in their own personal and/or political views - we're here to be entertained, not preached to.  I also didn't understand why the owner of the talent agency hated cops.  Is he hiring criminals?  Because it didn't make any sense otherwise why he wouldn't talk to Brophy, and neither would any of the employees.  The last I heard, being a female impersonator wasn't against the law.

All in all, when the ending comes and the murderer was revealed, it wasn't really a surprise as all the clues were leading up to it.  I felt that the book was pretty depressing, and it had no memorable characters.  While I would have loved a book that introduced people to the stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, this one didn't meet my expectations.  Two stars for the writing, but I won't be reading any more in the series.  Maybe I was expecting more, but personally, I feel it is a disservice to classic Hollywood stars. Sorry.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Diggin' Up the Dirt (A Kenni Lowry Mystery Book 7)

Author:  Tonya Kappes
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635114867; 9781635114836
Henery Press Publishing
256 Publishing
$31.95; $14.90; $6.99 Amazon
May 7, 2019


Sweet as honey, soured by murder!  Everyone in Cottonwood loves the new bakery, Sweet Shop.  Until a Cottonwood resident is found dead with a half-eaten donut in her hand.

Sheriff Kenni Lowry has her hands full.  With a new murder in town and a new deputy to train, she's not sure if she's ever gonna get this booger solved.

Sheriff Elmer Sims comes to the rescue, stepping up as Kenni's ghost deputy.  As the ex-dead-now-ghost-deputy and Kenni's Poppa, there's clues beyond the sprinkles in the donut that only he can see.

Add to Kenni's stress, Finn Vincent, Kenni's hunky boyfriend and new sheriff of Clay's Ferry, parents have come to town to meet Kenni and her parents.  And Kenni's mama ain't too happy.  As they say in the South, nobody's happy if mama ain't happy.

With Poppa's keen insight and Kenni's determination, Kenni focuses all her attention on bringin' the killer to justice before the yeast rises and another dead body turns up.


Kenni Lowry is doing her duty as sheriff in Cottonwood, Kentucky - a small southern town - by attending the funeral of one of the locals, Woody Moss.  It's there that she overhears and sees Woody's grandson Rich, a bad apple if there ever was one, arguing with Avon Meyers, who was Woody's physical therapist.  Once she assures herself everything is fine, she leaves, because right now she has another problem:

Her boyfriend, Deputy Finn Vincent, has just informed her that his parents have arrived in town to meet Kenni and her parents.  What should be a meet-and-greet supper at her parents' home turns into much more when both sets discover that they're different religions, and in a small community like Cottonwood, that's not a good thing; and leads to a verbal confrontation that doesn't end well.

But Kenni soon has to put the problems with the parents aside when she finds out a young woman has been murdered - even before anyone knows it's a murder.  How?  Because her deceased grandfather, 'Poppa', who was sheriff before her, shows up in her truck as she's heading to the scene.  Her Poppa's ghost only appears when there's a murder to solve, so they're together again to solve the murder of Avon, who was found dead by a single gunshot at close range.

Then after having a conversation with Finn he tells her he doesn't want to be a deputy his entire life, and after an incident or two she's convinced he wants her job, which both angers and saddens her.  This, of course, only adds to her problems, along with the fact that she has a new part-time deputy she'd like to make full-time.

So Kenni has her hands full, trying to juggle her relationship with Finn, her parents, his parents, and the murder of a young woman.  It's not an easy task for a sheriff, especially since she's the only one (besides her dog Duke) who can see and hear her Poppa.  But without him, her job in finding a killer might just get a lot harder with few clues and a disappearing suspect...

I have to say that I love this series.  Kenni is a complicated woman.  She's constantly fighting against her mama's ideas of what she should be, is running a two (maybe three) person department that's in the back of a restaurant, and trying to juggle a relationship that's still in the stages of 'where do we go from here?'  It's not an easy job, but she does her best, not to mention constantly worrying about whether she's going to be reelected or not when the time comes.

But when Avon is found dead in a park, she has to figure out who put her there, and who hated her enough to want her dead.  What seems like an open and shut case turns out not to be so, but the clues, such as they are, eventually lead down a different path entirely, and even that path might be more confusing than not.

It's a tale that's full of both Kenni trying to do her job and trying to handle her personal life without having them both come together at the same time, which is nearly impossible when you have a mother like hers; Vivian doesn't have boundaries where Kenni's concerned, and is trying her darnedest to get her daughter married so she can have grandbabies (I can't even imagine a mother who would hound you about this).  It helps that although Viv has a one-track mind, she's also a very likable character.  I've actually warmed up to her quite a bit, because for all her faults, she fiercely loves her daughter and will go to any lengths to make sure she's happy.  There's a mama bear protection there that's enviable to a lot of people.

The mystery is done very well; the subplots are woven in together so nicely that what seems like random acts come together in a deliberate way, and it all leads to a story that is entertaining to read.  As always, the characters are delightful and the community a tight knit one; they're a quirky bunch that have each other's back in all situations.

When the ending comes and the murderer is revealed it's a surprise, but that's how it should be. I have to say that it's always a pleasure to visit with the townsfolk of Cottonwood, I enjoyed it immensely, and look forward to the next book.  Highly recommended.


More on Tonya Kappe's Books:

Ripe for Vengeance (A Greenhouse Mystery Book 5)

Author:  Wendy Tyson
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #  9781635114911
Henery Press Publishing
286 Pages
$15.95 Amazon
July 16, 2019


It's late spring in Winsome, and Washington Acres is alive with the sights and sounds of farm life.  the flowers are blossoming, the vegetable gardens are thriving, the pollinators are buzzing, and the Pennsylvania countryside has fully awakened from its deep winter slumber.  Only this season, rebirth comes with a price.

College friends of Megan's beau, the handsome veterinarian Dr. Denver Finn, are in Winsome for a corporate volunteer event.  They will be mentoring troubled kids from a nearby school during a hiking and camping trip.  When one of Dr. Finn's friends is murdered at the state park, a student -- a boy with a brutal history -- becomes the prime suspect.

With a teen's life at stake, Megan digs into the victim's past to clear the boy's name.  She learns that the victim sowed conflict wherever he went.  As Megan worms her way closer to the truth, she realizes her own life is at stake, as well as the lives of those she loves.


Megan Sawyer owns an organic farm in Winsome, Pennsylvania, along with a café and small store in town.  Her boyfriend, Dr. Daniel "Denver" Finn is the local veterinarian, and Megan is nervous about meeting his friends from college, who are there for a retreat weekend with troubled teens.

But before this occurs, she's called out on an emergency to meet Denver and police chief Bobby King.  It seems someone has abandoned a poor pot-bellied pig in a storage unit, and she's been living there and is in need of care.  Megan offers to care for her; it attests to the fact that she has a kind heart, which comes into play later in the story.

When she meets Denver's friends, she discovers that all five - Jatin, Xavier, Barbara, Chase, and Martine - work for the same pharmaceutical company, BOLD, and wanted Denver to join but his life took a different path (one she's grateful for).  It's also obvious that they aren't really interested in being there, but were more or less recruited by Barbara because their boss Harriet wanted them to do it.

Also, Denver's Aunt Eloise has taken in one of the troubled teens, Dillon.  It seems Dillon's mother is dead and his father is in prison for the crime, and it affected him greatly (as it would) because he saw what happened when he was only twelve.  But Eloise believes this will be a good exercise for him, and sends him off with Megan and Denver, who will drop him at the camp.

But both Megan and Denver have misgivings about it, and it turns out that they should have listened to their inner selves: things go horribly wrong when they discover Chase has been stabbed while in the woods, and Dillon was found nearby screaming, holding the murder weapon.  While the police don't have enough to arrest him, most everyone thinks he's guilty.  While even Denver has doubts, Eloise doesn't believe it, and Megan only wants to find the truth.

But what is the truth?  When one of the five - Martine Pringle - meets with Megan she tells her bits and pieces about Chase and the company, and it's apparent to Megan that Denver doesn't like Martine at all, but he won't tell her why.  And when her grandmother Bibi takes a liking to the boy, she also becomes convinced that Dillon is innocent.

Now Megan needs to sift through everything and try to discover who had the most to gain by Chase's death.  But with so many suspects Megan's running against time to find out why Chase was killed, and who hated him enough to do it...

I absolutely loved this book.  While it is the fifth in the series, it can be read as a stand alone, as the author doesn't confuse us by referencing other books (aside from one sentence), and enough information is given on the characters so anyone who has not read the others will not be lost.

I do like the fact that Megan thinks before she acts.  She's smart, fiercely loyal, and always believes in doing the right thing.  She's no shrinking violet, and she doesn't rush headlong into situations that can put her in danger.

Her relationship with Denver is as solid as they come, and although she's working through personal issues, she nevertheless lets him know that he is the only one she wants.  She loves her grandmother Bibi as well and it shows; and she depends on both her farm and café staff to help her keep things running smoothly; this is a good group of people who truly care about each other.  She even has a fondness for Bobby King, and I love the fact that there isn't an 'evil nemesis' in these books.  (It can get tiresome when someone is out to destroy your life on a constant basis).  It makes for an easy read where you can concentrate on the mystery instead of being irritated at various points throughout the book.

The murder began fairly early, which was a good thing, and I found it mesmerizing, to say the least.  The story line was done very well and and I found myself drawn into the mystery effortlessly.  Little do we know that finding a pig will lead to both an ending and a beginning, and even somewhere in between.

Ms. Tyson is a talented storyteller that knows how to take many threads and weave them together skillfully into an intriguing tapestry of murder, greed, jealousy, cunning, and even hope.  She does this with aplomb, giving us a suspenseful tale that will have you riveted to the tale until you reach the end.

There is no dearth of suspects nor of red herrings, and what seems to be may not be at all.  While there is a sense of loss for what once was, we understand that rarely does anything stay the same, while seeing that things are not always as they seem.

When the ending comes and the killer is revealed, it comes as a bit of a surprise but misdirection is applied quite nicely, and it only adds to the satisfaction of knowing that what we've just read is indeed a wonderful book.  This is a worthy addition to the series and I look forward to reading the next.  Highly recommended.


More on Wendy Tyson's Books:

Revenge Is Sweet (Vintage Sweets Mysteries Book 1)

Author:  Kaye George Genre:   Mystery Trade Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781516105434 Lyrical Underground 193 Pages $14.36; $3.9...