Tag: cozy mystery

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.)

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.)