Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Blueberry and More

In Town in a Blueberry Jam, author B.B. Haywood blends the charm of Maine blueberries with the chaos of a murder investigation. Candy Holliday leaves the frenetic world of life in Boston and a bad divorce and heads to Cape Willington, Maine. She lands at her father's farm and throws herself into growing blueberries and raising hens.

It's time for the annual Blueberry Festival and Candy is up to her elbows in pies, muffins, jams, tie-dyed t-shirts, syrup and more when the news reaches her that swimming legend and native son Jock Larson has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff. Is his death and accident or murder? But there is another death to follow and this one sets Candy on a path to find the real killer. Just about everyone in town had a reason to kill Sapphire Vine, but who did?

Local handyman Ray Hutchins is accused of the crime, but Candy Tremont review the host of suspects and wonder if the two deaths could somehow be related. This leads them from suspect to suspect and eventually to the actual killer.
knows this gentle soul could not have been the killer. Ray insists he did not kill Sapphire and "it's up at the fort." Unsure what this cryptic message means, Candy and her best friend Maggie

Candy and Maggie are bold and intrepid, if not a little reckless, as they move the finger of guilt from one person to another. I still enjoyed the books and I am desperate for a piece of blueberry pie!

Town in a Blueberry Jam is the first in the series, but there are many more involving lobsters, strawberries cinnamon swirls and other tasty treats.
Click here to see the others. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bittersweet in Texas

Agatha Christie has always been my favorite author; I've read every book she has written more than once. When I gravitated to more contemporary cozy settings, I found Susan Wittig Albert. Her books are right in my sweet spot - herbs, a fun small business and strong women.

As the series begins China Bayles leaves her criminal law practice in Houston and settles into Pecan Springs, Texas. She opens an herb store called Thyme and Seasons Herb Shop where she sells fresh herbs, herbal products and herbal remedies. In Bittersweet (you'll notice all titles are herbs. She joins forces with her eccentric friend Ruby Wilcox proprietor of the only New Age shop in Pecan Springs, the Crystal Cave. They have parlayed their success into Thyme for Tea, a tearoom located in the rear of their shops.

In Bittersweet China's long-time estranged, but now reconnected mother Leatha calls to say her husband Sam is in the hospital because of his heart. China and family
were planning to spend Thanksgiving at their Bittersweet Nature Sanctuary. Now she is unsure whether they should attend, but she is worried that her mother cannot handle the ranch herself.
Fortunately Leatha has a helper Sue Ellen Krause. Unfortunately Sue Ellen reveals she is in serious trouble and wants help from China when she arrives at the ranch. By the time China reaches the
ranch, Sue Ellen is dead in a car crash - accident or more?

When a local veterinarian is shot during an apparent robbery, China thinks there might be more to Sue Ellen's death than a car accident. Her quest leads her through the world of big-time wild game hunting and the complex world of stolen exotic animals.

As I said in the beginning of this review, I enjoy this series for several reasons: the characters are drawn well, the herb section is always interesting, I learn something from every book, and the plots are tight.

The first book in the series is Thyme of Death

Monday, March 28, 2016

Yarn Shop in Colorado

After reading Yarn Over Murder, I realized why I stopped reading this series by Maggie Sefton. Although the premise is interesting - a circle of knitters in Colorado - the dialog is trite, the writing is simplistic and the characters spend way too much time on the minutiae of their daily lives. Too many times they are describing their meals in all too glorious detail, even to the point of letting the readers know they need to make a "pit stop." No thanks. I am not that interested.

With wildfires blazing Kelly and her friends from the Lampspun Knitting group are recruited to help evacuate alpacas from their friend Jayleen's ranch in the mountains. They move the alpacas to another ranch owned by Andrea, but that area becomes threatened as well. After witnessing a fierce argument among Andrea, Connie and Connie's ex-husband Jim (Andrea's new boyfriend), Kelly is concerned when she cannot reach Andrea.

Kelly and friends arrive at Andreas ranch to fine her ex-husband Dennis sobbing over Andrea's body.
From there the plot dips and rolls and winds up back at square one.

If you really want to read a story about knitters, I'd suggest Sally Goldenbaum's Seaside Knitters. See the earlier blog post on the Seaside Knitters.Other books by Maggie Sefton can be found here.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

All this and Heaven too!

Author Laura DiSilverio takes readers to Heaven for her new series featuring the Readaholics Book Club in The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco.

Amy-Faye Johnson runs Eventful!, an event planning business in Heaven - Colorado that is. She and her friends Brooke, Ivy, Lola, Maud and Kerry are the Club. They get together to read and discuss various types of mysteries.

This month the Club is reading The Maltese Falcon, thus the title. Not really sure what the connection is, but I'm a mystery fan, so it works for me.

When Ivy dies under mysterious circumstances and her death is ruled a suicide, her friends refuse to believe it. A-Faye, as Amy-Faye is nicknamed, cannot rest until she proves Ivy's death was murder, especially as she is on the scene just before Ivy dies. Ivy whispers, "Clay didn't mean it."

In the meantime A-Faye has been asked to plan a wedding for an out-of-town bride who
unbeknownst to Amy-Faye is marrying her ex-boyfriend Doug. Though she is still pining for him, she finds a new interest in Detective Lindell Hart, he with the Southern drawl, curly brown hair and six-four frame.

I enjoyed the book, but felt the ending left too many loose ends even though the killer was apprehended. Maybe there will be more explanation in upcoming books. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Second coffeehouse series

The second coffeehouse mystery series is written by Cleo Coyle and takes place in New York City. Clare Cosi manages the historic Village Blend coffeehouse. Her formidable former mother-in-law Madame Dreyfus Dubois Allegro is the owner and her ex-husband Matt Allegro is the coffee bean hunter. It has a decidedly different vibe than the Uncommon Grounds series.

The earlier books in this series were set in the Greenwich Village coffeehouse, but the action moves to Georgetown and Washington, DC in Dead to the Last Drop. The previous books have been well written and the plots move along logically, yet still with mystery. Dead to the Last Drop has three of my least favorite elements: flashbacks (hate them), an extremely convoluted plot (not wholly believable) and very long. Don't get me wrong, I have read many long books, but cozy mysteries, by their nature are not this long. I felt as if I were in the middle of a pop culture thriller with endless police chases.

The story opens with Clare's boyfriend NYPD Detective Mike Quinn (on loan to the Department of Justice) bursting into the Village Blend DC and demanding that Clare come with him. He pulls her outside and practically forces her into a car. He wants her to explain what she knows about the President's daughter Abby. Bewildered Clare climbs into a strange car without her cell phone or handbag and without telling anyone where she is going.

The plot flashes back two weeks earlier when the President's daughter comes disguised as a musician to play at the upstairs Open Mike session. It bumps along to a visit to the White House by Clare to meet the First Lady, a controlling, scary woman, then trips into Mike's history with his current boss Katerina, an ambitious, back stabbing, man-eater who has Mike in her sights and Clare on her to be destroyed list.

I did not care for this book and I struggled to finish it. If you liked the earlier books, you probably will not like this one. The first book in this series is On What Grounds.

Do yourself a favor and read the earlier ones first. 

Key West Caper

Chef Edel Waugh leaves a successful restaurant in New York City to open Bistro on the Bight in Key West. There's much gossip about why she left. Is it because of her husband's unfaithfulness or was there more? In Death with All the Trimmings author Lucy Burdette sends her effervescent sleuth and style magazine writer Hayley Snow on a mission to interview the chef.

Once Chef Edel begins work on the restaurant in Key West, a series of small accidents plagues the restaurant before the opening. When the restaurant is set on fire and a body is found in the charred shell, Hayley jumps in to investigate. The biggest shock comes when the body is identified as Edel's ex-husband Juan Carlos Alfonso, co-owner of their restaurant in New York.

While Hayley is in the midst of her investigation she discovers the owners of Key West Zest, her magazine, are negotiating with potential investors, leaving the staff and Hayley unsure of their jobs. Complicating issues, as most mothers do, Hayley's mother announces she has rented a place in Key West for the winter and is bringing her new husband along.

I love the Key West vibe to these books. The ancillary characters are entertaining and colorfully drawn. I can just picture Hayley riding around the streets of Key West on her scooter.

The first book in the series is An Appetite for Murder.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It's a Crewel World

In Darned If You Do, a Needlecraft Mystery, author Monica Ferris combines a hoarder, valuable jewels, auction fraud and murder. When local hoarder Tom Riordan's home is damaged during a storm and he is injured, Betsy Devonshire and her Monday Bunch volunteer to help with the cleanup while Tom recuperates. Betsy is the owner of Crewel World, in Excelsior, Minnesota.

Everyone in town knows Tom, or Tom Take, as he is jokingly called because he takes small shiny objects that interest him, but then most times returns them. But no one realizes how much he has accumulated in his home. His social worker reaches out to Tom's only living relative Valentina Shipp to come to Excelsior and be granted emergency conservatorship. When Val goes to see Tom at the hospital, he begs her not to throw anything away because he know where everything is and he has some valuable items in the house. She agrees and begins to work with Betsy and friends to sort through the house.

During the clean up some valuable coins, a cache of expensive jewelry and a unique red box carved
with fish and flowers containing tiny white carved mice are found. While the helpers break for lunch, the red box goes missing. Meanwhile in the hospital, Tom is found murdered.

Signs point to Val as the murder, but is she or is there  to the thefts and the murder than meets the eye?  Betsy keeps poking and soon unravels the solution to the murder.

I always enjoy these books although I have never embroidered nor creweled in my life. The motley mix of characters adds to the fun of this book.

The first book in the series is Crewel World.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Valley of the Sun

It's the first annual Zombie Fest Week in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Melanie Cooper and her partner Angie DeLaura are dressed in their best zombie costumes to man the Fairy Tale Cupcake truck. A genuine coffin, complete with a "corpse," rounds out the setting. When the coffin is opened at the event, Mel discovers a real corpse that looks frighteningly like her partner Angie. Does this have something to do with the dangerous mob case Joe DeLaura is working on?

In Dark Chocolate Demise (A Cupcake Bakery Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay, Angie and Mel decide to investigate. Fearing the victim was murdered in a case of mistaken identify, they worry that one of them was meant to be the real victim. Unfortunately Angie's multiple brothers take a dim view on the investigation and they smother the girls with security.

Adding to the mix Angie's current boyfriend Tate and her former
rock 'n' roller boyfriend Roach battle it out to be the macho protector. Too many male bodyguards cramps the girls' style.

These books are fun, the cupcakes sound delicious and there are recipes in each book. My only criticism is the feud between Mel and Angie and another cupcake owner Olivia Puckett from Confections. She is a psycho and the feud does not advance the story. Scottsdale should be big enough for more than cupcake bakery.

The first book in the series is Sprinkle with Murder.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Stay Just a Little Bit Longer

Two mystery series revolve around coffeehouses. In this post, I will review Sandra Balzo's books, which take place in Brookhills, Wisconsin and feature Maggy Thorsen as the co-owner of Uncommon Grounds. Newly housed in a quaint railroad station adjacent to a revitalized commuter rail connection, Maggie's coffeehouse is thriving, so she and her sheriff boyfriend Jake Pavlik head to Florida for a crime-writers conference. Mischief and mayhem ensure in Murder on the Orient Espresso.

The conference's opening night event is a re-enactment of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, complete with a train ride and, of course, a body. Surrounded by authors, critics and aspiring writers, there's enough sniping and jealousy to fill several trains.

As with the Christie book, the train is stranded by flooding on the tracks along the Everglades. When Maggy and Jake to try to reach the engineer by walking outside, they find the surprise of their lives - a partially swallowed body in the mouth of an enormous python. The corpse turns out to be much unloved critic Laurence
Potter and there are plenty of suspects from which to choose. Dame Agatha would be proud.

The first book in this series is Uncommon Grounds.

Watch for the second coffeehouse mystery series by Cleo Coyle in another post.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Murder in the Big Easy

Laura Childs writes another mystery series, this one set in New Orleans. French Quarter Scrapbook Shop owner Carmela Bertrand owns Memory Mine and she specializes in elegant scrapbook papers, embellishments and ribbons and more. Parchment and Old Lace is newest book in this series.

After enjoying a romantic dinner at Commander's Palace in the Garden District, Carmela and Detective Edgar Babcock are walking to their car when they hear a terrifying scream from nearby. They rush into the adjacent cemetery and discover Isabelle Black, the sister of a friend, draped across a tombstone - strangled with a piece of old lace.

Despite Babcock's warnings to Carmela to stay out of the investigation, she and her sidekick JuJu Voodoo owner Ava Gruiex
embark on their mission to find the killer. Is it the fiance Edward Baudette, best man Julian Drake, mother-in-law and grumpy soul Vesper Baudette or former girlfriend Naomi Rattler or is there something more sinister behind Isabelle's death? What of the piece of old lace? Is it from Isabelle's veil or from Vesper's antique mourning costume collection?

I always find these mysteries so entertaining, not only for the scrapbooking ideas, but the places these characters go. I thought folks from Charleston had heavily booked social calendars, but nobody beats the people in New Orleans for their ability to party - for what ever the reason.

The first book in this series is Keepsake Crimes.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Novel Idea

When Lila Wilkins loses her job as a reporter for a local newspaper, she signs on as an intern with A Novel Idea literary agency in Inspiration Valley, North Carolina.  On her first day on the job, she finds a vagrant dead on the reception area sofa. It turns out the dead man was an aspiring author who brought his query letter to the agency every day for many years, but none of the literary agents ever read the query.

No one at the agency seems interested and the police are working on an arson fire with two fatalities, so Lila feels obligated to investigate. The cast of quirky agents and a long hidden truth leads Lila through a maze of clues and suspects. While she investigates, she still needs to read 100 query letters a day to keep her job.
When one of the agents is killed, Lila fears someone from the agency may be involved. The story
twists and turns and I enjoyed the journey.

Buried in a Book is the first in A Novel Idea series written by Lucy Arlington

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Southern Strategy - Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia

One of my favorite authors is Ellery Adams. She is a prolific writer, managing to write three different cozy mystery series. They include The Book Retreat Mysteries, The Books by the Bay series and The Charmed Pie Shoppe. The quirkiest of these is The Book Retreat Mysteries. I stumbled on the first one entitled Murder in the Mystery Suite. It features Jane Steward, a widowed mother with twin six-year-old sons living in a reassembled English estate that is a genteel catering to book lovers located in western Virginia.

Jane decides to host a Murder and Mayhem Week, asking her guests to dress like their favorite mystery detective, but a real murder takes place and a valuable book is missing. I loved the entire concept of the Agatha Christie Tearoom, the Kipling Cafe or the Madame Bovary Dining Room, but the story takes a strange twist into family traditions and long-guarded secrets.

Another series by Ellery Adams is the Books By the Bay Mysteries. These feature Olivia Limoges, a restaurant owner living in Oyster Bay, North Carolina. In Lethal Letters Olivia is on hand when a time capsule is discovered during a church renovation. She catches a glimpse of the contents, but when the list of contents is made public, one of the items she saw is not on the list.

While taking a walk on the beach near her home Olivia and her niece discover the body of Ruthie Holcomb, someone no one wants to discuss. The missing item from the time capsule and the body on the beach lead Olivia on a hunt for the connection.

Book #1 in this series is A Killer Plot.

The third series is the whimsical Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries, set in Havenwood, Georgia. In Pecan Pies and Homicides,  Ella Mae Le Faye has the uncanny ability to bake her feelings into her cakes and pies, influencing the feelings and emotions of those who eat her desserts. Along with her three eccentric aunts who have special powers of their own, Ella Mae must save her magic community and the enchanted grove from an arsonist.
Book #1 Pies and Prejudice

Monday, March 7, 2016

Tea Time in Charleston

The Queen of the Tea Shop Mysteries is Laura Childs. Proprietor Theodosia Browning is creative with her shop and with the special Tea Parties she offers. Her Indigo Tea Shop in lovely Charleston is the social center of the city.

In The Ming Tea Murder, an 18th century Chinese teahouse has been transported to the Gibbes Museum in Charleston. Before the evening is over, museum donor Edgar Webster has been found dead in the teahouse. When Theo's boyfriend Max becomes a suspect, it's time for her to solve the case and still plan and execute several wonderful events at her shop.

A detour from the plot. Theodosia has a vivid imagination and I always love the various teas she organizes. In this book it is Halloween, but tea events at Indigo Tea Shop do not follow the norm. Her first tea of the weekend is a Titanic Tea. The tearoom is decorated like the first-class dining room on A deck on the RMS Titanic, even down to the white paper napkins emblazened with the White Star Line logo. The menu includes some of the same foods served on that fateful night. As lovely as the setting at the Indigo Tea Shop is, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable having tea surrounded by all the trimmings of the sinking of the ship. But I am not a fan of the movie, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Another tea planned for the weekend is the Tower of London Tea on Halloween evening.There will
be fruity scones, Ann Boleyn chocolate dipped strawberries and crustless tea sandwiches, all accompanied by Drayton's special tea blend Lady Jane Grey tea and Was of the Roses Tea.

I enjoy these books although sometimes I wonder if Theo and the people in Charleston ever sleep. So many social events, so little time.

The first book is this series is Death by Darjeeling.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

So Much to Discover - Cheese Shop Mysteries

If you thought a cheese shop mystery should be set in Wisconsin, you are few states off. The Cheese Shop Mysteries are set in Providence, Ohio and feature Charlotte Bessette. Charlotte owns Fromagerie Bessette and is surrounded by her eccentric grandmere, the town's mayor; her charming Pepere, and her cousin Matthew. In Days of Wine and Roquefort by Avery Aames, Noelle Adams, a friend of Matthew's, takes a job as sommelier for a local winery, but before she can even begin her job, she is found murdered in Charlotte's garage.

There are a host of suspects including Matthew, and Charlotte tries to decipher what Noelle's last words mean. Charlotte and her assistant Rebecca use their TV crime show knowledge to try to unearth the murderer.

When I read these books, I feel as if I need a cheese plate next to me. The cheese descriptions are mouth-watering and paired with Matthew's wine selections, they come to life. I empathize with grandpere as he pops into the shop occasionally to have a taste of cheese, even though he is not supposed to eat so much cheese. I'm going to the refrigerator right now for a piece of cheese.

The first book in this series by Avery Aames is The Long Quiche Goodbye.