Quinn Bellandini just wants to enjoy her quiet life with her new boyfriend, Tucker, running her family’s B&B—and staying away from murder investigations. But when Quinn finds bones in Tucker’s Aunt Lela’s yard and Lela is accused of the 33-year-old murder of a homecoming queen, she and her sister Delilah end up on the case again.
Tucker is devastated by his aunt’s arrest, so Quinn wants to help. Soon she and Delilah are asking questions, talking to everyone from busybody neighbors to old high school teachers to society matrons. The case is cold, and people don’t want to talk, but Quinn keeps asking questions, and turns up answers that seem to lead to the least likely of suspects—including her own parents!
I enjoyed the second novel in the Southern B&B Mystery series. Fardig’s novels are always so enjoyable: light, funny, and charming, with quirky, likable characters. There’s a lot of family drama in this one—we are talking about the South, after all—and even the secondary characters are excellent. Lela is especially memorable, but so are the rest of this delightful cast.
Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Southern Harm is her newest novel, the second book in the Southern B&B Mystery series.
(Galley courtesy of Alibi via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Mattie Cobb is a K-9 officer in Timber Creek, Cole Walker is the town veterinarian. Their romance may be blossoming, but secrets still threaten to keep them apart. When an explosion outside a community dance send them racing outside, they find a burning van and the dead body of Nate Fletcher, a local outfitter. But it wasn’t the explosion that killed Nate, it was two gunshots to the head.
When their only suspect winds up dead and Mattie searches for his body, she hears the growl of a predator—but not one of the cougars native to the area. Soon she realizes that they know nothing of what Nate Fletcher was truly up to—and what they’re up against.
Tracking Game wasn’t a bad read. I was interested enough to keep reading, but some of the details of Robo (Mattie’s K-9), instead of being worked seamlessly into the story, were highlighted to the reader, as if the author were pointing out her knowledge. I’m not really a fan of author intrusion, so that was a detractor for me. This is the first book I’ve read in this series, and Mattie’s reactions to things felt a little…unrealistic to me as well.
Margaret Mizushima is an award-winning author. Tracking Game is her newest novel, Number five in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series.
(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Love’s Curiosities Inc. is a small shop full of odds and ends and curiosities that most people overlook. Temerity Love and her sister Tilda grew up there and now own it. Things have changed a bit since their parents owned the shop but magic still happens there. Tilda is a witch and Temerity is renowned for her ability to touch objects and see where they came from.
When a local schoolteacher is murdered by a poisoned cup of tea, an antique hand mirror is found nearby, and the local investigator asks for Temerity’s help finding the murder. Too bad his new protegee, grumpy out-of-towner Angus isn’t so open-minded. As Temerity starts asking questions, she’s determined to find out who killed the schoolteacher—with or without the help of the townspeople.
I really enjoyed this cozy mystery mixed with magic! The characters are unique and quirky, and the town was vibrantly alive, filled with a sense of history and stories lurking around every corner. The writing is solid, and I just sort of settled into this novel and enjoyed it.
Kennedy Kerr is an author with a love of all things Scottish. A Spell of Murder, the first book in the Lost Maidens Loch Mysteries, is her new novel.
(Galley courtesy of Bookouture via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
When Maureen Haddaway arrives in Opal Beach, she’s a Summer Girl: working at the carnival that sets up at the beach town during the tourist season. She makes her first real friends and decides that her destiny—and her future—is in the seaside town. But some of the people Maureen has met are hiding things, and before the summer is over, Maureen disappears.
Years later, Allison Simpson arrives in Opal Beach to housesit in the off-season as she recovers from a very messy—and very public—divorce. Soon she finds herself drawn into the details of Maureen’s disappearance thirty years before. But Opal Beach still hides secrets, and Maureen’s fate isn’t even the most surprising one.
The setting in One Night Gone is such an integral part of this novel! The beach in the winter is something I have no desire to experience and reading this novel did not change that perception at all. I enjoyed reading the dual perspectives as Maureen’s and Allison’s stories unfolded, and the intricate connections in them kept me reading a little too late at night. I definitely recommend this read!
Tara Laskowski is an award-winning author. One Night Gone is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
At the exclusive spa where the Banks wedding is about to take place, the luxurious surroundings promise a peaceful, posh vacation where old friends can catch up and relaxation is key. Until a man ends up dead—and four different women claim they murdered him.
Kate is used to excess and luxury—but not to being dumped at the front desk by her wealthy boyfriend. She’s used to being envied, but she is the one feeling jealous on this trip as she meets up with her college roommates and sees the lives they have.
Ginger has just about had it with the chaos of family life. Her kids won’t listen, her husband is oblivious, and everyone depends on mom to hold things together. Ginger just wishes she were a bit more carefree—like her college days before her best friend betrayed her.
Emily just wants the pain to stop. She’ll eventually drown it in a bottle, like always, but seeing her old friends dredges up secrets she’d prefer to keep hidden.
Lulu’s used to love being easy-come, easy-go, but she really loves her fifth husband. Now he’s hiding something, and she’s determined to find out the truth—or else.
This book was well-written and engrossing from the first page. All these women are fascinating, and I was drawn into their stories immediately. I love how the story is told in bits and pieces from each of their viewpoints, while drawing out the mystery of what really happened. Entirely binge-worthy, this is a book that will keep you hooked as you race to find out what really happened.
Gina LaManna lives near the beach. Pretty Guilty Women is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Georgie Brennan is a physicist, a mother, a wife, and the daughter of the next possible secretary of defense. Then her husband Sean is killed by a hit-and-run driver, and she can barely make it through each day. Her son is struggling to cope with his father’s death. Her parents are consumed with their ambitions for her father’s career. And getting out of bed sometimes just seems like too much effort.
Then Georgie discovers that Sean was lying to her about where he was going the day he died. She realizes his computer—and his knife—is missing. She hears strange noises under the house and starts seeing strange faces in the neighborhood. Soon Georgie realizes she can’t trust a soul: not her parents, not her friends, and, as the mysteries pile up, maybe not even herself.
I liked Georgie from the first page of State of Lies. She’s smart—very smart, which is always a plus in a protagonist—and even when dealt a crippling blow, she keeps moving forward. The writing is tight, and the plotting kept me guessing what was really going on up until the end—and there were several surprises I never saw coming. This will keep you reading even if you’re supposed to be doing something else.
Siri Mitchell has a business degree and experience working in the government. State of Lies is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Ryan Gracey is a true crime podcaster who nearly lost her life after a fatal error in judgment years before. She knows she can’t compete with her perfect older sister, Wendy, so she stopped trying years ago and went after a life that made her happy. And she is happy, despite some regrets, when her sister calls her out of the blue and begs for her help.
She won’t tell Ryan much, just that there’s been a murder and she’s afraid she’ll be wrongfully accused, so Ryan moves back home to care for Wendy’s two daughters—and to try to prove Wendy’s innocence. But the more Ryan digs, the more secrets she uncovers, and soon Ryan realizes everything she’s ever thought about her big sister is a lie.
This was not what I was expecting at all. It’s marketed as women’s fiction, but I’d say it falls more into the murder mystery/crime investigation genre. I was just as surprised as Ryan at some of her discoveries, and this read takes family drama to a whole new level! I found it hard to put the book down.
Emilie Richards lives and writes—across a multitude of genres—in Florida. A Family of Strangers is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Mira via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Ryan DeMarco didn’t want to come home. But when his estranged wife tries to commit suicide, he’s the one they call. So he finds himself back where he grew up, a place he’s been trying to forget ever since he left. And an old classmate is now sheriff and needs help solving a murder case that might have ties to their high school days.
Ryan and Jayme, his new girlfriend, agree to help with the case, but neither of them has any idea where the case will lead. With the past haunting Ryan’s every step, and the future haunting Jayme’s, neither of them will survive the case unscathed.
It’s not necessary to have read the first two books in the Ryan DeMarco Mystery series to enjoy this book. I had read the first one, but not the second, and I had no problems keeping up. This is a solid read, and I didn’t figure out who the killer was ahead of time, but the characters and their problems are the real focus here, not the mystery.
Randall Silvis is an award-winning author. A Long Way Down is his newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks/Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
When Annie was a little girl, she was found wandering in the woods, not far from her mother’s murdered body. Now grown up, she’s the town’s darling, and her imminent wedding is all anyone talks about. Annie’s ready for her life to change, but can she leave behind this small town—and her support system—to start her new life?
Just days before her wedding, Annie disappears. There’s no sign of her. No sign she might have run. No sign she spoke to anyone before she disappeared. With her mother’s accused murderer freshly released from prison, the town fears the worst, and those who love Annie will have to deal with their own issues as they search for her.
I did not connect with this book at all. The small-town vibe was accurate, but I found Annie herself unlikable, as was her secret friend. I didn’t find this very suspenseful, and everyone had secrets, of course, but the only character I liked was Clary. Just not a good fit for me.
Marybeth Mayhew Whalen lives and writes in North Carolina. Only Ever Her is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
When Lucy married Ollie ten years ago, she couldn’t wait to become part of his family. But his mother, Diana, had other plans. She kept Lucy at arm’s length, always said exactly the wrong thing and made Lucy feel never-good-enough, and prioritized her job aiding refugees. Who could compete with that? Not stay-at-home mom Lucy.
Now Diana has been found dead of an apparent suicide, a note beside her blaming advanced cancer. But the police aren’t so sure. There are traces of poison in her system—and no trace of cancer. Things aren’t adding up, and every member of the family is under scrutiny—especially Lucy, whose tumultuous relationship with Diana is no secret from anyone.
I was kind of on the fence about this one. I know every mother-in-law isn’t evil—they’re just typecast that way—and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read something predictable. This was not a predictable read. It’s told in alternating viewpoints—Lucy and Diana—then and now, gradually revealing the truth of the relationship between the two—and what drove someone to kill Diana.
Sally Hepworth is a bestselling author who lives in Australia. The Mother-in-law is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)