Tag: cozy mystery

Book Review:   The Burning Pages, by Paige Shelton

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:    The Burning Pages
Author:    Paige Shelton
Genre:    Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

One winter’s night, bookseller Delaney Nichols and her coworker Hamlet are invited to a Burns Night dinner, a traditional Scottish celebration of the poet Robert Burns. She’s perplexed by the invitation, but intrigued. The dinner takes place at Burns House itself, a tiny cottage not far from the Cracked Spine bookshop but well hidden. There, it becomes clear that Delaney and Hamlet were summoned in an attempt to make amends between Edwin, Delaney’s boss, and one of the other invitees, who suspected Edwin for burning down his own bookshop twenty years ago after a professional disagreement.

 But after the dinner, there’s another fire. The Burns House itself is burned to the ground, and this time there’s a body among the ruins. When Hamlet is accused of the crime, Delaney rushes to prove his innocence, only to discover that he might actually have a plausible motive…

This is the second Scottish Bookshop Mystery I’ve read, and it was a lot of fun. Not too light and fluffy, as some cozy mysteries are, but definitely an engaging read. I loved all the characters, and it makes me want to run away to Scotland right now. I don’t know anything about Robert Burns, so finding out more about him and the traditions associated with him was very interesting. This is a solid read!

 Paige Shelton lives in Arizona. The Burning Pages is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Digging Up Trouble, by Kitt Crowe

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title Digging Up Trouble
Author:   Kitt Crowe
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

Life is sweet when you live in Confection, Oregon. Or, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to be. But on a summer day, when tourists and locals alike gawk at the majestic mountains, quaint Craftsman houses, and lovely flowers–particularly the renowned Confection Rose–the last thing anyone has come to see is a dead body, unearthed from a shallow grave by a curious dog.

 A bathrobe-clad Lexi rushes next door to her neighbor’s backyard to find her pooch, Cookie, stalwartly sitting watch over a body in the vegetable garden. Cookie, encrusted in dirt, grips a copper pipe between her teeth. Was this the murder weapon? And was Lexi the murderer? It sure looks that way, seeing as she was spotted squabbling with the victim just the day before. The case becomes all the more perplexing when the real murder weapon turns out to be a garden stake. Then where does the copper pipe fit in? And might a more likely suspect let Lexi off the hook? 

All the volumes in the Sweet Fiction Bookshop, and all the specials at Eats n’ Treats, prove of little help in jogging Lexi’s brain to find a solution. Fortunately, Cookie is not finished digging up clues. As the fur flies, can this trusty border collie mix save sweet Lexi from a bitter end?

Sometimes cozy mysteries featuring pets are so charming and well-done and sometimes I think they’re cliched and overblown. Cookie felt like a caricature, not a believable animal. That’s too bad, as that made the whole thing feel like a cartoon. And Lexi…felt pretty self-absorbed and oblivious. This could all just be a “me” problem, as the writing was solid, but the story was on the verge of boring because of the character issues.

Kitt Crowe is fueled by caffeine. Digging up Trouble is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Time for Murder Is Meow, by T. C. LoTempio

Image belongs to Beyond the Page Publishing.

When her TV series is canceled, struggling actress Shell McMillan considers it a blessing in disguise. A beloved aunt who recently died left her a pet shop in her will, and she sees it as the perfect chance to walk away from Hollywood and make a fresh start in the sleepy town of Fox Hollow.

But adjusting to small-town life won’t be easy, as Shell realizes when the head of the museum board is found murdered not long after Shell had a very public argument with her. And when the new kid in town is fingered for the crime, she’ll have to rely on her own wit and pluck and the kindness of strangers to get herself off the hook.

Desperate to exonerate herself and catch the real culprit, Shell begins digging into the lives of the local residents, and she quickly discovers that the victim had no shortage of enemies. As the suspect list grows and time runs short, Shell and her cats will have to claw their way out of danger—and it’s meow or never . . .

This was an okay read, the beginning to a series I won’t be reading any more of. I’ve read some enjoyable cozy mysteries featuring pets, but this one…well, for one thing, the cats are too humanized. I’ve had cats my entire life, and I have yet to have one point at something. Repeatedly. Talk back, yes, but actually point at things? No.

The characters were also just so-so to me. Shell has a tendency to completely overreact to things, and that she got so angry at the museum board for not wanting to sue her aunt’s memorabilia was a little too over-the-top to me. This just wasn’t a good fit for me.

T. C. LoTempio lives in New Jersey. The Time for Murder is Meow is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Beyond the Page Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cookies, by Eve Calder

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleA Tale of Two Cookies
AuthorEve Calder
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Pastry chef Kate McGuire is loving life on the laid-back island of Coral Cay, Florida. As junior partner in a bakery renowned for luscious desserts–especially her cookies–life is pretty sweet. So when an old friend arrives and announces a spur-of-the-moment beach wedding, that’s just the icing on the wedding cake.

But the groom vanishes right as a television crew descends on the town to film a hot, new realty show. Is there a connection? Is her friend Desiree somehow involved? Or did groom Judson simply get cold feet? The bride and groom were paired better than warm cookies and cold milk, so Kate doesn’t buy it.

As the show’s cast runs amok on the island and the investigation into Judson’s disappearance heats up, Kate and her pal Maxi, along with town dog Oliver, will brave the rambunctious world of reality TV and a wedding weekend gone awry, in an all-out effort to find the missing groom.

Warning:  do not read this if you’re trying to give up sugar or carbs! Because dang, the cookies and cakes described in this book sound fantastic.

This was a quick, fun read. I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and can’t wait to read more. The quaint tropical setting is great, and the characters are quirky and memorable—even the dog. I honestly had no idea who the culprit was until the big reveal, and that made this even more fun. I also like that, three books into this series, we’re not already emmeshed in a romance, which is pretty common for cozy mysteries. I’m not opposed to that, but it’s nice to read a series that isn’t focused around that.

Eve Calder is from Florida. A Tale of Two Cookies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Sign of Death, by Callie Hutton

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

TitleThe Sign of Death
Author Callie Hutton
Genre:  Historical fiction, cozy mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Bath, England, 1891. Mr. James Harding was a lot of things–businessman, well-to-do, probable scoundrel–but a drinker he most assuredly was not. So when Harding is believed to have drunkenly fallen to his death into the icy River Avon, Lord William Wethington is immediately suspicious. Finding Lord William’s name on a letter in the victim’s pocket, the local constabulary summons William to identify the victim. Police detectives learn that William had been one of Harding’s business clients–and undoubtedly not the only client the dead man had cheated.

William entreats Lady Amy Lovell, a fellow member of the Mystery Book Club of Bath, to help him deduce what really happened to the late Mr. Harding. Lady Amy, a celebrated mystery author herself, once called on William to help her solve a real-life mystery, and now she fully intends to return the favor. But it won’t be easy.

Practically every one of Harding’s many clients had ample reason to want to do him in. And there’s precious little time to narrow down the list: William and Amy soon become prime suspects themselves when the police discover them ruffling through files in Harding’s house. Lady Amy will have to be as clever as her characters if she’s to save William from the gallows…and herself from Harding’s real killer.

I’m really liking this series so far! The Victorian setting is a lot of fun, with Amy struggling to make her own place in the world and do what makes her happy—not what everyone else thinks she should do. William is also quite likable, and I like this unique setting for a cozy mystery series. Definitely a fun read!

Callie Hutton writes historical fiction. The Sign of Death is the newest book in the Victorian Book Club Mystery series.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Checking Out Crime, by Laurie Cass

Image belongs to Berkley.

TitleChecking Out Crime
AuthorLaurie Cass
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Librarian Minnie Hamilton and her clever cat Eddie solve a purr-fect murder, in the newest installment of the delightful Bookmobile Cat Mystery series.

Minnie and her rescue cat Eddie can often be found out and about in their bookmobile near Chilson, Michigan, delivering great reads to grateful patrons all over the county. But they always brake for trouble, and when Minnie sees a car speeding away down the road, and soon comes upon a dead bicyclist, she assumes she just missed seeing a hit-and-run.

Minnie is determined to discover who was behind the wheel, but it soon turns out that things are far more complicated than they seem and there’s more to this case than meets the eye. Luckily, this librarian is ready to read the killer his rights.

This was a quick, easy read. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, but that wasn’t a problem. I’d call this a standard cozy mystery, with the MC never in any danger and a quirky setting. Eddie was my favorite character, as his personality is bigger than any of the other characters. If you need an effortless read, this is it.

Laurie Cass is a bestselling author. Checking Out Crime is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Killer Content, by Olivia Blacke

Image belongs to Berkley.

TitleKiller Content
AuthorOlivia Blacke
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  3 out of 5

Bayou transplant Odessa Dean has a lot to learn about life in Brooklyn. So far she’s scored a rent free apartment in one of the nicest neighborhoods around by cat-sitting, and has a new job working at Untapped Books & Café. Hand-selling books and craft beers is easy for Odessa, but making new friends and learning how to ride the subway? Well, that might take her a little extra time.

But things turn more sour than an IPA when the death of a fellow waitress goes viral, caught on camera in the background of a couple’s flash-mob proposal video. Nothing about Bethany’s death feels right to Odessa–neither her sudden departure mid-shift nor the clues that only Odessa seems to catch. As an up-and-coming YouTube star, Bethany had more than one viewer waiting for her to fall from grace.

Determined to prove there’s a killer on the loose, Odessa takes matters into her own hands. But can she pin down Bethany’s killer before they take Odessa offline for good?

Blacke has some solid writing chops, but this just wasn’t a good fit for me. Odessa was quirky, but it was so over-the-top that it felt like a farce. The other characters felt like cookie cutters, and none of them were distinct enough to feel real. Odessa was also super-judgey, especially of her boss, who she basically treated like an idiot because he was older than her and “clueless.” Actually, Odessa’s personality bothered me more than her quirkiness:  she just wasn’t a nice person. Nosy, condescending, and self-centered, she acted even more immature than her age.

Olivia Blacke has lived all over the U.S. Killer Content is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Crime of the Ancient Marinara, by Stephanie Cole

Image belongs to Berkley.

Title:  Crime of the Ancient Marinara
Author:  Stephanie Cole
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Nell Valenti is settling into her role of transforming the Villa Orlandini into a superb farm-to-table cooking school, and the time has finally come for a full taste test run. But when Chef Orlandini prepares to reveal his top secret marinara recipe for the first time to a group of American gastro-tourists, Nell realizes she might have bitten off more than she can chew.

Nell begins to suspect that one of the tourists is actually a private detective sent to spy on her by her overprotective father, and the fussy foodies are noisy and disrespectful from the very start of the Marinara Mysteriosa workshop. Even worse, when one visitor appears to be poisoned by the famous marinara recipe, Nell will have to work fast to uncover a killer and keep a lid on bad press before her fresh start is spoiled for good.

I hadn’t read the first book in this series, but that wasn’t much of an issue. This was a quick read, but I didn’t find much depth to it. Nell decides to investigate the murder herself—and doesn’t think it’s a big deal to withhold evidence from the police—and I couldn’t really understand her motivation for that. Chef was presented as a bumbling incompetent, which seemed unlikely, and Nell doesn’t speak Italian, while all but one of the staff don’t speak English, which also seemed like an unlikely scenario (if she can’t communicate, how’d she end up with this job, living in Italy?). This was an easy read, but the whole setup wasn’t really believable to me.

Stephanie Cole lives and teaches in the greater Cleveland area. Crime of the Ancient Marinara is her newest novel, the second book in the Tuscan Cooking School Mystery series.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Undercover Kitty, by Sofie Ryan

Image belongs to Berkley.

Title:  Undercover Kitty
Author:  Sofie Ryan
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Sarah and Elvis can always be found at a charming secondhand shop in the village of North Harbor, Maine. Despite the small-town setting, the daring duo often find themselves wrapped up in murder, but luckily they have help–a quirky group of senior citizens runs an amateur detective agency called Charlotte’s Angels out of the store.

The Angels are hired to look into who is sabotaging cat shows in the state, and they decide the best way to do that is to send Elvis the cat undercover as a contestant. But then one of the cat show volunteers is murdered just before the latest competition, and Sarah and the Angels have to catch a killer in two shakes of a cat’s tail!

This is the eighth book in the Second Chance Cat Mystery series. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, but that wasn’t a problem. (That being said, having read the other seven books probably would have given this some more depth.)

This was a quick, fun read with some moments that made me laugh. I didn’t think the culprit was totally unexpected, but it wasn’t glaringly obvious, either. This is well-written and quirky—and I honestly had no idea that cat shows were such a thing. (And I say that as a cat owner!)

Sofie Ryan lives on the east coast. Undercover Kitty is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Pairing to Die For, by Kate Lansing

Image belongs to Berkley.

Title:  A Pairing to Die For
Author:  Kate Lansing
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

It’s fall in Boulder, Colorado, and the leaves aren’t the only things changing. Parker Valentine, owner of Vino Valentine, is finally settling in to her winery and her new relationship with Reid Wallace, a local chef. But their delicate pairing is endangered when Reid’s estranged family comes into town to celebrate the opening of his new restaurant.

Reid and his family are immediately at loggerheads, given their often acidic temperaments, but Parker still wants to make a good first impression. However, her efforts might be in vain when Reid’s sous chef is found dead in the alley behind the restaurant, and Reid is implicated in the murder. In order to save Reid, Parker will have to find the real killer, even if the truth is difficult to swallow.

I haven’t read the first book in the Colorado Wine Mystery series, but that wasn’t a problem. This was a quick, easy read. To be honest, my main issue was with how quickly they arrested Reid—within a couple of hours—and with no physical evidence to link him to the crime. I need the books I read to make sense, and this didn’t. Apart from that, this was an entertaining read.

Kate Lansing lives in Colorado. A Pairing to Die For is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)