Tag: cozy mystery

Book Review: Little Bookshop of Murder, by Maggie Blackburn

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title: Little Bookshop of Murder
Author: Maggie Blackburn    
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summer Merriweather’s career as a Shakespeare professor hangs by a bookbinder’s thread. Academic life at her Virginia university is a viper’s pit, so Summer spends her summer in England, researching a scholarly paper that, with any luck, will finally get her published, impress the Dean, and save her job. But her English idyll ends when her mother, Hildy, shuffles off her mortal coil from an apparent heart attack.

Returning to Brigid’s Island, NC, for the funeral, Summer is impatient to settle the estate, sell her mom’s embarrassingly romance-themed bookstore, Beach Reads, and go home. But as she drops by Beach Reads, Summer finds threatening notes addressed to Hildy: “Sell the bookstore or die.”

Clearly, something is rotten on Brigid’s Island. What method is behind the madness? Was Hildy murdered? The police insist there’s not enough evidence to launch a murder investigation. Instead, Summer and her Aunt Agatha screw their courage to the sticking place and start sleuthing, with the help of Hildy’s beloved book club. But there are more suspects on Brigid’s Island than are dreamt of in the Bard’s darkest philosophizing. And if Summer can’t find the villain, the town will be littered with a Shakespearean tragedy’s worth of corpses–including her own.

This sounded like the perfect book for me:  I love the beach, books, and bookstores, and I enjoy reading Shakespeare. But it didn’t quite hit the mark. I figured out who the killer was early on, so none of the red herrings really worked.

There were entirely too many similar female characters—some even had similar names—so I didn’t have much luck keeping them sorted out. Summer was a bit of a wash for me, too:  the whole premise of why her career was on the line was ridiculous and she kept doing things that just didn’t make sense:  I’m pretty sure if my mother had just been murdered and someone had lit my house on fire while I was asleep inside it, I would not have been running all over town by myself—and I certainly wouldn’t have been walking anywhere alone.

Maggie Blackburn also writes under the name Mollie Cox Bryan. Little Bookshop of Murder is the first book in her new series.

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

Book Review: The Case of the Killer Divorce, by Barbara Venkataraman

the case of the killer divorce
Image belongs to the author.

Title: The Case of the Killer Divorce
Author: Barbara Venkataraman
Genre: Fiction, humor
Rating: 4 out of 5

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It’s business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie’s client becomes the prime suspect. When she can’t untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client’s name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

This is another solid, quick read in this series, with bits of humor and some mystery to keep it interesting. Duke is again over-the-top but lovable, and Jamie is dealing with a mystery of her own:  finding her father, as well as a new love interest. If you’re looking for just a fun read without a big time commitment, this is a good pick.

Barbara Venkataraman is a lawyer and mediator.  The Case of the Killer Divorce is the second book in the Jamie Quinn Mystery series.

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

Book Review: Death by Didgeridoo, by Barbara Venkataraman

death by didgeroo
Image belongs to the author.

Title: Death by Didgeridoo
Author: Barbara Venkataraman
Genre: Fiction, humor
Rating: 4 out of 5

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery. Jamie Quinn has a wry sense of humor—and she’s not afraid to poke fun at herself, always letting the reader be in on the joke. This wasn’t full of legal terms or tiny details to get bogged down on, settling instead on the broader picture and getting to know the characters.

Grace, Jamie’s best friend, was a lot of fun, but Duke was probably my favorite character. He’s a PI with a penchant for drinking and over-the-top flirting, and he really made me laugh.

Barbara Venkataraman is a lawyer and mediator.  Death by Didgeridoo is the first book in the Jamie Quinn Mystery series.

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

Book Review: Death of a Wandering Wolf, by Julia Buckley

death of a wandering wolf
Image belongs to Berkley.

Title:   Death of a Wandering Wolf
Author Julia Buckley
Genre:   Mystery
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Hana Keller is enjoying a day off from serving up tea and delicious pastries at her family’s Hungarian Tea House when her downtime turns deadly….

The only thing Hana loves more than a good cuppa is finding a delicate porcelain treasure to add to her collection. She’s usually on the hunt for teacups but when she spots a rare wolf figurine at a local yard sale, she knows it’s her lucky day. Hana also knows the wolf is valuable and tells the seller that he’s charging too little for it. His reaction is peculiar–he says he received the wolf from someone he doesn’t trust and he just wants it out of his life.

Hana is inspecting her new prize when she finds a tiny microchip attached to the bottom of the porcelain wolf. When she shows the figure to her police detective boyfriend, Erik, Hana is shocked to learn that the chip is actually a tracking device. They decide to confront the seller about the sneaky sale but when they arrive at his house, they find him dead. Erik and Hana now must hunt a calculating killer who has no intentions of crying wolf when it comes to murder…

I haven’t read the first book in this series—but I will! I thoroughly enjoyed this from the very first page. I relished the look at Hungarian culture here, as I haven’t read much within that context. Hana’s family is fantastic, and Eric’s is a bit scary, but I loved the whole three-ring circus.

I loved the feel of this novel so much. The voice is casual and friendly and draws you right into the action, and Hana’s personality was so much fun to read. This is a perfect read to take your mind of a bad day—or a bad year.

Julia Buckley is a writer and a teacher. Death of a Wandering Wolf is her newest novel, the second in the A Hungarian Tea House Mystery series.

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

Book Review: The Last Curtain Call, by Juliet Blackwell

the last curtain call
Image belongs to Berkley.

Title:   The Last Curtain Call
Author Juliet Blackwell
Genre:   Cozy Mystery
Rating:   4 out of 5

Mel Turner can’t resist the chance to bring the Crockett Theatre, a decrepit San Francisco art nouveau movie palace, back to life. But there’s a catch for Turner Construction: Several artists are currently squatting in the building, and they aren’t the only ones haunting the once-grand halls of the historic theater….

When one of the squatters is found dead, the police department has a long list of suspects to investigate. Meanwhile, Mel and her fiancé, Landon, are remodeling an old house for themselves, and Mel finds it more challenging than she expected to be on the other side of a home renovation project.

When Mel discovers that the original owner of the Crockett Theatre died under mysterious circumstances, and that there just might be a connection to the ghost haunting her own attic, the case takes a new turn–one that could bring down the curtain for the last time.

This was my first foray into the Haunted Home Renovations Mystery series, but I had no problems feeling caught up on things. The novel’s voice is breezy and fun, and this was a quick, light read with some funny moments and a bit of a chill at times. Nothing deep or complex here, just a fun read.

Juliet Blackwell is a bestselling author. The Last Curtain Call is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Grim Reader, by Kate Carlisle

the grim reader
Image belongs to Berkley.

Title:   The Grim Reader
Author:   Kate Carlisle
Genre:   Cozy Mystery
Rating:   4 out of 5

Brooklyn and her new hunky husband, Derek, are excited to be guests at Dharma’s first annual Book Festival. The entire town is involved and Brooklyn’s mom Rebecca is taking charge. In addition to all of her other event related duties, she’s got Brooklyn doing rare book appraisals and is also staging Little Women, the musical to delight the festival goers. If that wasn’t enough, she and Meg—Derek’s mom—will have a booth where they read palms and tarot cards.

Brooklyn couldn’t be prouder of her mom’s do-it-all attitude so when a greedy local businessman who seems intent on destroying Dharma starts harassing Rebecca, Brooklyn is ready to take him down. Rebecca is able to hold her own with the nasty jerk until one of her fellow festival committee members is brutally murdered and the money for the festival seems to have vanished into thin air.

Things get even more personal when one of Brooklyn’s nearest and dearest is nearly run down in cold blood. Brooklyn and Derek go into attack mode and the pressure is on to catch a spineless killer before they find themselves skipping the festival for a funeral.

This was a fun cozy mystery read. I haven’t read a single one of the Bibliophile Mystery series, which might have given this a little more depth for me, but this was a light, quick read. I never figured out who the murderer was, and I enjoyed the discovery process. And the books.

I did find everything a little too fluffy bunny/sweetness and light for my taste, though. I mean, no one thinks to report the town bully—or his cohorts—to the cops, even though he makes all sorts of explicit threats, including murder. This wasn’t believable to me, so it proved to be a bit of a stumbling block, but this was an enjoyable read.

Kate Carlisle is a bestselling author. The Grim Reader is her newest novel, #14 in the Bibliophile Mystery series.

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

Book Review: A Study in Murder, by Callie Hutton

a study in murder
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:   A Study in Murder
Author:   Callie Hutton
Genre:   Mystery
Rating:   4.2 out of 5

Bath, England, 1890. Mystery author Lady Amy Lovell receives an anonymous letter containing shocking news: her fiancé, Mr. Ronald St. Vincent, has been dabbling in something illegal, which causes her to promptly break their engagement.

Two evenings later, as Lady Amy awaits a visit from Lord William Wethington, fellow member of the Bath Mystery Book Club, her former fiancé makes an unexpected and most unwelcome appearance at her house. She promptly sends him to the library to cool his heels but later discovers the room seemingly empty–until she stumbles upon a dead Mr. St. Vincent with a knife in his chest.

Lord Wethington arrives to find Lady Amy screaming and sends for the police, but the Bobbies immediately assume that she is the killer. Desperate to clear her name, Lady Amy and Lord Wethington launch their own investigation–and stir up a hornet’s nest of suspects, from the gardener who served time in prison for murder to a vengeful woman who was spurned by St. Vincent before he proposed to Lady Amy.

Can they close the book on the case before the real killer gets away with murder?

I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Callie Hutton’s novels, but I found this one charming and engrossing. Amy—and her aunt, too—is a fascinating, quirky character, independent and strong-willed, but smart enough to know sometimes she has to fulfill conventions.

I was just as invested in their unofficial murder investigation as Amy and William were, and I disliked the police just as much, too. I’ve always enjoyed characters who flout convention and society’s rules, so Amy was a great, fun character, and I recommend this delightful read.

Callie Hutton is a bestselling author. A Study in Murder is her newest novel, the first in the A Victorian Book Club Mystery series.

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

Book Review: Sugar and Vice, by Eve Calder

sugar and vice
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Sugar and Vice
AuthorEve Calder
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

OUT OF THE OVEN
Lately, Kate has a lot on her dessert plate. She’s launching a cookie-of-the-day challenge in the heart of Coral Cay, providing sweet treats for the reception of the town’s handsome new veterinarian—not to mention dealing with tourists in town for a pirate festival and the surprise arrival of her former fiancé, Evan, who seems determined to win her back.

AND INTO THE FIRE
And if that’s not enough, a skeleton has been found—in the backyard behind her best friend Maxi’s floral shop. Kate knows Maxi could never hurt a fly. Maybe the remains belong to Sir George Bly, a long-dead pirate whose name has become urban legend—until now? It’s time for Kate to use every trick in the recipe book to prove Maxi’s innocence, and find the truth about the skeleton, before the last of the cookies crumble…

This was such a fun read! I love the small-town setting with beach vibes. It may not be a good reading choice if you’re trying to give up sugar—because the descriptions of the cookies were making me hungry! I haven’t read the first book in the series, but that didn’t matter.

Maxi and Kate’s friendship was wonderful, and I loved how vibrant Maxi and her family were. Add in two mysteries, a persistent ex, and a cute new veterinarian, and this amounted to a lot of fun!

Eve Calder is from Florida. Sugar and Vice is her newest novel, the second book in The Cookie House Mysteries series.

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

Book Review: The Stolen Letter, by Paige Shelton

the stolen letter
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Stolen Letter
AuthorPaige Shelton
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Delaney Nichols is confident she’s doing what she loves—case in point, just one day after returning from her fabulous European honeymoon, she’s eager to get back to the Cracked Spine, the bookstore where she works. But as she disembarks her bus and hurries toward the shop she and another woman collide, sending a stack of books the woman is carrying to the ground.

Delaney’s hapless victim’s name is Mary, and the two women can’t help but notice that they bear an uncanny resemblance to one another. According to Mary, they both also look like the long-beheaded Mary Queen of Scots. Even stranger, Mary believes she is the reincarnation of the Scottish queen. But peculiar as Delaney’s doppelganger is, she doesn’t have time to dwell on it: on her arrival to the bookshop, she learns the Edinburgh city council wants to close the Cracked Spine, citing code violations, and she’s determined to stop them.

But when Mary’s husband dies in a car explosion—and Delaney learns he was the very member of city council who proposed that the city take a closer look at the bookshop’s construction—she starts to wonder if her meeting with Mary wasn’t an accident. Edinburgh has become as filled with intrigue and deception as any European court, and Delaney is determined to get to the bottom of this royal mystery.

I haven’t read any of the first four books in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series, but that wasn’t a problem at all. I was all ready to pack up and head off to Scotland after finishing this. I love the tribe at the bookstore, and the eccentric Mary gives a quirky edge to things. This was a fun, feel-good read.

Paige Shelton lives in Arizona. The Stolen Letter is her newest novel, the fifth installment in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series.

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

Book Review: Southern Double Cross, by Caroline Fardig

southern double cross
Image belongs to Random House/Alibi.

Title:  Southern Double Cross
AuthorCaroline Fardig
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Quinn Bellandini is minding her own business, living life and wishing she were back at the B & B she runs with her sister, Delilah, and her grandfather, instead of trying to pull off a fundraising gala—and keep the high society guests from sniping at each other and causing a ruckus. Then Quinn gets a call from her friend Pepper, working for the event’s caterer. Pepper tells her the hostess—and owner of the mansion hosting the gala—has been found dead.

Soon enough, Pepper’s brother has been charged with murder and Pepper insists the Bellandini sisters clear his name. Quinn’s questions only lead to more questions. The victim had more frenemies than you can shake a stick at. The catering company’s employees are shady at best. And then there are the rumors about the victim and her ex-husband’s rekindled relationship. Quinn isn’t sure where to start, but with her boyfriend Tucker’s help and the irrepressible Delilah on the case, she gives it her best shot.

I enjoyed this entry into the Southern B & B Mystery series (it looks to be the last, too). The writing is solid. Savannah, Georgia comes to life—as does the high society crowd that populates the pages. I’ve enjoyed watching Quinn and Tucker’s relationship grow, and the sisters are fun to read as well.

Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Southern Double Cross is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Alibi in exchange for an honest review.)