Tag: cozy mystery

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

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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

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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

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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.)

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.)