Saturday, July 30, 2016

Oak Tree Causes Murder

I received an advance copy of Maggie Dove by Susan Breen and from the moment I started reading it, I had a sense of foreboding. I read half of it, then put it down for a while because the feeling was so strong. Finally finished it and I am glad I did. It was wonderfully suspenseful and cleverly woven, although you always had the sense that something bad might happen.

Maggie Dove lives in a small Westchester County town along the Hudson River. She has survived the death of her teenage daughter and spends her time teaching Sunday School. Her next door neighbor tries to poison her lovely oak tree because it doesn't fit into the painting he is creating. When Maggie finds Bender dead at the foot of her tree the next day, she calls her daughter's friend and local police office Peter Nelson for help.

Peter is a troubled officer seemingly always at odds with his bosses. Maggie believes his new boss Police Chief Walter Campbell is out to get Peter and wants to blame him for Bender's death. When another death occurs seemingly tied to Peter, Maggie sets out to save her friend from being charged with that murder as

Maggie is very introspective, and the death of her daughter 20 years prior has left a deep mark on her soul. She thinks she is healing, but over the years she has grown cold hearted. As Maggie searches for the connection between the two murder victims, she finds it closer than she thinks.

I hope there are more Maggie Dove books as I finally began to like her character towards the end of the book. Find the next book in the series here.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Fire, Arson and Murder

In Fire at Will's author Cherie O'Boyle introduces a cast of unusual and sometimes unlikable characters. Her lead character Estela Nogales. a clinical psychologist, lives in Arroyo Loco, California, and loco the people are. We meet them at their Homeowners Association Landscaping Committee arguing over what can be planted in and around their houses. Even vegetables need approval. To cap it off there is a rule against eye rolling at the meetings. I would never survival at my own HOA meetings if it were not for the ability to roll my eyes.

The thorn (no pun intended) in everyone's side is Will Rosenblum. He does not want his neighbor to plant a magnolia tree, and when she does anyway, he drowns it to death. So it's no surprise when a fire breaks out at Will's house. But when Will's body is found in the charred remains of his home, there is concern for his wife Janet, who is not around.

This motley crew argues over everything and they eavesdrop shamelessly. When incriminating
pictures are found shoved into one of their mailboxes, some of the pieces begin to fall together. Who set the fire at Will's? Where is Janet? Whose car was parked in Delia's driveway while she was away?

Estela sets out to answer some of these questions. With some of her wacky neighbors, she discovers a set of trails behind their houses that could be significant in discovering the arsonist.

There are times when these characters are so annoying, I cannot imagine living in this community, but when one of the children is in jeopardy, they rise to the occasion and act as a unified group. The mystery is solved, but the end of the book just kind of falls flat. I'm hoping the second book in the series expands on the characters in a more positive way. I'm looking forward to reading Iced Tee.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Magical Bookstore

In Crime and Poetry, author Amanda Flower introduces Violet Waverly and her feisty Grandma Daisy. Grandma Daisy owns Charming Books in Cascade Falls, New York, just a stone's throw from Niagara Falls. There is magic in the Charming Books store and instead of readers choosing books, the books choose readers.

Violet rushes home when her grandmother calls and says she is near death, but when she arrives she discovers her grandmother healthy and happy. Grandma Daisy explains she is the Caretaker of the book store and it soon will be Violet"s turn to take over. Not wanting any part of this role and wanting to leave the town she has not visited in 12 years, Violet makes plans to leave.

When she discovers Benedict, Grandma Daisy's boyfriend, dead in his horse drawn carriage in front of the shop with her grandmother's scarf wrapped around his neck, she fears her grandmother might be arrested. Along with police chief David Rainwater, Violet tries to solve the case. Getting in her way is her former boyfriend and town mayor Nathan Morton and his younger brother Grant.

I enjoyed this book for the location as well as the bookstore aspect, but the back story of why Violet left Cascade Falls takes too much time to reveal itself and it keeps intruding on the plot. Also the solution leaves many, many unanswered questions and I hope the next book (if there is one) answers them. Click here to see other books by Amanda Flower.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Seeing Ghosts

Emma Lee Raines sees dead people; not in the Sixth Sense way, but people who have been murdered and cannot cross over. In A Ghostly Undertaking by Tonya Kappes, Emma is an undertaker for Eternal Slumber Funeral Home in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky, and ever since a plastic Santa fell on her head, she is able to see dead people. Not that she is willing, but they happen to find her.

Her first visitor is Ruthie Sue Payne, the ex-wife of Emma's grandmother's husband. She claims she was pushed down a flight of stairs causing her death, and she tries to blame Granny Raines. Emma needs to clear her grandmother of suspicion, so she decides to investigate with the ghost watching her every move. Of course talking to a ghost leads many in Sleepy Hollow to believe Emma has Funeral Trauma and is crazy.

The premise of this book is so wacky, but I loved it. Emma talking to ghosts while others are around watching is hilarious. Fortunately Sheriff Jack Henry Ross, who is sweet on Emma, believes her and looks at Ruthie Sue's death as a murder. From an ambitious mayor to a goth newcomer to town to the women's Auxiliary, there are
plenty of suspects to go around.

When Jack Henry takes Emma to a medium, she discovers she is a Betweener medium, helping the
dead who are caught in the here and there. Many have unfinished business to attend to, and Emma knows she will be called on again and again to help them cross.

I look forward to the other books in this series. My one complaint about the book is the cover. I don't think the figure of an attractive woman is necessary to encourage people to read the book. I hope the future covers are different.See other Tonya Kappes books by clicking here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pancakes and More

In Maddie Day's new series Flipped For Murder we meet Robbie Jordan, owner of Pans 'N Pancakes. She is newly returned to her hometown in southern Indiana from years spent in California and has purchased a rundown country store and turned it into a popular cafe and kitchen shop.

Running the cafe is not all it's cracked up to be as she encounters her angry competitor from an adjacent town, the flamboyant mayor of South Lick, her late mother's former boyfriend and a dead body. Mayor's assistant and all around thorn in the side of the town, Stella Rogers, is found murdered in her home with one of Robbie's cheesy biscuits crammed in her mouth. Before she knows it, Robbie is a "person of interest" in the murder.

Stella knew everyone's secrets and it is up to Robbie to find out who killed her so she can clear herself. In the meantime, Robbie pieces together some threads from her late mother's life in South Lick, Indiana before she moved to California. What she finds surprises her.

I enjoyed this book and the characters. Robbie is down-to-earth and seems to enjoy waking up at 5:30 am to bake and prepare for her customers. I'm not sure I could be that sunny at that time of the day. Her breakfasts have me craving omelets and biscuits, too. Her desserts, baked by budding opera star Phil, are decadent and craveworthy. The plot advances with ease and without too much heroine in peril, which I dislike as a plot technique.

The next book in the series is Grilled for Murder and I am already reading it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Secret Societies and Missing Bodies

When I read the first installment of the Italian Restaurant mysteries You Cannoli Die Once, by Shelley Costa, I thought I'd enjoy the next book Basil Instinct, which is set in Quaker Hills, Pennsylvania. That was not the case. In the first book the plot was much more believable and made sense at the end.

In Basil Instinct, the disappearing body and all the members of the family who had a hand it was too slapstick for me. I never felt comfortable seeing the victim shunted into the walk-in freezer, into the back seat of a car and then dumped back into the restaurant. It just made no sense - really don't the characters think the police will notice a body has been moved several tines.

The blue evening gown-clad, all-women secret chef society was
interesting and made the book entertaining, but the missing body and the way the book resolved the murder was totally unbelievable and quite frankly, the height of arrogance. Too bad because Eve and 
her family are such fun to be around. I'd love to visit their restaurant. For more books by Shelley Costa, click here

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Soap Opera Nurse

Whenever I see medical consultant listed in the credits of a TV show or movie, I always wonder what their role really is. In Marni Graff's Death Unscripted the role is revealed. Former nurse Trudy Genova is the medical consultant on the long-running soap opera, Thornfield Place being filmed in New York City.

And what's a soap opera without several hospital scenes. In this book, lead character Griff Kennedy, not anyone's favorite actor, is having a fake heart attack in the scene. Trudi's job is to connect the leads from the heart monitor to his chest while the computer manipulates his heart rhythm to fake the heart attack. She inserts atropine eye drops into his eyes to dilate them for the close shots. Within minutes Griff is acting as if he is in distress and everyone marvels at his acting ability, until he clutches his stomach, points towards Trudi and shouts "You, YOU," then falls down dead.

Naturally Trudi is a suspect and she sets out to prove she is not
guilty. When another member of the cast is found dead from anaphylactic shock brought on by a nut allergy, Trudy is more determined than ever to find the killer.

Death Unscripted is an excellent book with a carefully woven plot that intersects in several ways. I enjoyed learning about the behind the scenes activities of a television show and will pay more attend to the authenticity that is achieved in medical scenes in the future. I look forward to the next book in this series.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Cookie Cutters and Murder

While searching for a series located in Maryland, I stumbled across the Cookie Cutter Shop Mysteries by Virginia Lowell. I read the first four before I realized I had read them before. The second reading did not improve them.

Olivia Greyson is the owner of The Gingerbread House, a shop that specializes in cookie cutters, aprons and all things cookie. Her frenetic partner Maddie Briggs bakes cookies at all hours of the day with very little sleep. I'd be worried that someone who bakes after only two  hours of sleep  might mistake sugar for salt. It's a wonder no one has been poisoned by the cookies.

In One Dead Cookie soap star and former hometown boy Trevor Lane returns with his manager Dougie Adair, another hometown boy. They make a big splash with Trevor's fans, but before long Trevor is found dead with his head bashed in, a cookie cutter brand on his cheek and positioned comfortably on Olivia's front porch - all without anyone seeing or hearing a thing. Now I know you have to suspend disbelief when you read mysteries, but this scenario is way beyond disbelief.

There are also two very annoying recurring characters Snoop - Sam Parnell, mail carrier, and Binnie Sloan, blogger who writes more fantasy than fact. Neither of them serves a real purpose except to be mean to Olivia for no apparent reason.

A shop specializing in cookie cutters sounds adorable, but is it viable? I think not.

The first book in the series is Cookie Dough or Die.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Travel Agency Blues

Travel agency branch manager Prudence Peters is having a bad day. In Downsized to Death by Patricia Gulley, Pru learns her company is closing some of its offices in Oregon, laying people off and requiring her to re-apply for her job.

A messy firing of one of Pru's employees by state manager Claudia Gage complicates matters, especially when the fired employee Meg disappears and Claudia is found dead in her home over the weekend. The home office doesn't want any bad publicity and they pester Pru and her staff not to discuss the murder and disappearance. This hampers the investigation as they are not cooperating with the police either.

Pru assures Meg's worried mother that she will help discover where Meg is, but the search leads nowhere. In the office there are petty jealousies and territorial concern over bookings and groups and even a history of past violence.

Although somewhat dated in the travel agency setting, the plot is complicated and the added
undermining of the investigation by the head office is an interesting perspective on corporate America and "above the law" attitude and lack of concern for employees. There appears to be a bit of a romance between Pru and the detective in charge of the case, but it doesn't get too far. Maybe in the next book it will. Find the next book here.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ciphers, Codes and Clues

When Savannah Webb returns home to her father's funeral in St. Petersburg, Florida, she plans to transfer ownership of his glass shop to his trusted associated Hugh. But when Hugh is found dead days later, Savannah cannot believe the coincidence. In Pane and Suffering author Cheryl Hollon explains the fine art of stain glass making in wonderful detail.

Savannah cannot believe her father and Hugh are both dead, allegedly of heart attacks, and she believes they were murdered. But why? Her father was in government intelligence before he became a glass maker, and Savannah knows he was a bit paranoid. When she finds an envelope with her father's writing that says, "Savannah, if you find this. I've been murdered and you are in danger," she begins to worry. Inside the envelope, she finds a code and begins her geocache search to find answers.

I loved the geocache aspect of the book and I wish there had been
more of a treasure hunt for the clues. I also loved the stained glass descriptions. They gave me the itch to get back into stained glass, something I had been interested in years ago.

As for Savannah she is way to trusting of people around her and pretty much tells everyone what is going on in her investigation. I think for future books, she needs to be more mysterious and suspicious of people. Maybe it's because she lived in Seattle (just a joke).

I look forward to reading the next book which is entitled Shards of Murder.