Friday, June 30, 2017

Pudding Up With Murder

No one wants to think her food has caused someone to die, but that's the predicament Lilah Drake finds herself in. Through her company Undercover Dish, she prepares food for other people to call their own. In Pudding Up With Murder by Julia Buckley, Lilah has prepared a rice pudding casserole for her friend Ellie Parker to deliver to Marcus Cantwell's birthday party.

Marcus is a gruff and unfriendly person, but his five children seem to want to outdo each other with their gifts to him, possibly in the hopes of a large inheritance. Lilah's rice pudding casserole is his favorite and almost everyone enjoys a taste of it. Marcus asks to eat the last few spoonfuls in the bowl, but pitches forward into the bowl and collapses unconscious.

Terrified that her food had poisoned Marcus and possibly everyone else, Lilah remembers he had been drinking something when she first met him. Detective Maria Grimaldi is on the scene and she collects the rice pudding casserole remains and the drink.When Marcus dies in the hospital, Lilah is drawn into the murder. It turns out someone ground a nut in the drink even though Marcus had a severe nut allergy.

Among the suspects is Marcus' son Cassius or Cash who wants to quit school and join the Peace Corps, but his father opposes it. Also in the line of suspects is the motorcycle gang look alike boyfriend of daughter Prue.The other siblings all have cause to dislike their father.

With the help of Detectives Jay Parker and Maria Grimaldi, Lilah discovers who hated Marcus Cantwell enough to kill him at his birthday party.

For other books by Julia Buckley, click here.

A Garden of Evil

The Kincaid and James series by Deborah Crombie have long been a favorite of mine. Through the years we have seen Duncan and Gemma skirt through the narrow twists and turns in the lives of married police detectives. In Garden of Lamentations they are each off in separate directions without a clue what the other is doing.

Duncan has nagging feelings about a another case involving a man he called a friend. Unsatisfied with the verdict of suicide, he wants to review the scene of the crime photos to see what he might have missed.

Gemma inadvertently becomes involved in the death of a young nanny. Reagan Keating was found dead, arranged under a tree in the common garden of a gated community. With no evident signs of trauma, Gemma must wait for a cause of death. She soon discovers Reagan's death is the second tragedy to befall this exclusive neighborhood in London. A young boy died in a tragic accident six months prior.

While Duncan tries to piece together his crime, he discovers his former boss Detective Chief Superintendent Denis Cross is back at the Metropolitan Police. Duncan receives a cryptic text from Cross asking him to meet him in an out-of-the-way pub. During the meeting Cross reveals he is feeling threatened by something that happened in the past and warns Duncan to be careful who he talks to. When the Cross is brutally attacked and left for dead in a cemetery, Duncan fears his concerns about the suicide of his friend might be tied into something altogether different that he thinks. 

Two complex stories lead Gemma and Duncan into two different investigations. One has roots in the past and smells of corruption in the Met. The other seems like a random death. Neither is that simple.

Deborah Crombie weaves another stellar tale in Garden of Lamentations. For other books by Deborah Crombie, click here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Not So Lucky Woman

Josephine Desrosiers had been a lucky woman. She married a man who had invented something in electronics which made him millions. But Madame Desrosiers was a mean, spiteful woman who keels over and dies at her 72nd birthday party. In Nell Goddin's The Luckiest Woman Ever, American transplant Molly Sutton literally stumbles on the body.

Molly's move to Castillac, a small village in France, hasn't always been as peaceful as she had hoped. Operating a B&B in the small town has been an up and down experience. In the spring and summer, she has plenty of guests, but now in the dead of winter, business is not so good. This leaves Molly with lots of time to investigate the death of Madame Desrosiers.

Chief gendarme Benjamin Dufort is called to the scene, and although he is happy to see Molly, he does not want her investigating. 

But because she had success in another case, she can't help herself. She befriends the niece and nephew, Adele and Michel Faure, and soon realizes, although they were dutiful to their aunt, they were not fond of her, nor were others. When it is discovered Madame Desrosiers was murdered, Molly kicks into high gear.

When another elderly woman nearly dies, the case becomes more complicated and Molly ponders what this means. As she probes deeper, she learns some family secrets that explain why someone murdered Josephine.

I enjoyed this book and I like Molly, although I cannot imagine moving to another country without having more than a rudimentary command of the language. I detect a romance blossoming between Ben Dufort and Molly, but we'll have to wait for the next book to see if that progresses.

For other books by Nell Goddin, click here

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Chintz, China and Tarot

Running a tearoom and reading tarot cards is all single-mother Emerald O'Brien could hope for. In Yasmine Galenorn's Ghost of a Chance, business in the tearoom is growing. Once word gets out that Emerald can communicate with the dead, Chintz 'n' China tearoom has more than just tea drinkers as patrons.

One morning Emerald awakens to find a ghost at the foot of her bed. The ghost cannot speak, but she writes her name on a piece of paper with the message, "My name is Susan Mitchell and I was murdered by my husband but nobody knows."

Sorrow and rejection seem to echo in the words and Em decides to investigate.  She calls on her friend, ex-supermodel Harlow Rainmark, for details on the ghost. Susan was a famous romance writer survived by her husband Walter Mitchell and her daughter Diana.

Susan had been a diabetic and there were high levels of Valium and alcohol in her blood stream when
she slipped into a coma and died. It seems Susan's marriage was not too happy and she had filed for divorce. Harlow claims Susan's husband was rich, powerful and a sleaze.

When Susan's next appearance coincides with the appearance of a dark and menacing presence trying to intrude, Em is worried about her family. Her young son has shown an interest in the magic and spells she uses, but she has cautioned him not to try anything. As the force begins to grow, Em realizes her son Kip has been dabbling in something he shouldn't.

As the evil spirit tries to possess Kip, Em fights with all her power to prevent it and manages to save her son. Still Susan's ghost cannot rest and Em focuses on her death

For three quarters of this book I was enthralled by the tension and mystery surrounding the events. Em is smart, thoughtful and strong. Then in the last quarter of the book, Em becomes a "too stupid to live" character. I was so disappointed.

For other books by Yasmine Gaalenorn, click here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Interview with Christa Nardi

Interview with Christa Nardi

How many books have you published?
Four in the Cold Creek Series (#5 is in final editing)
Two in the Hannah & Tamar Mystery series with Cassidy Salem (#3 is in final editing)

Under what names do you publish?
In fiction, only under Christa Nardi currently.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening, etc? 
Christine, that is a hard one to answer. First, because I am employed full-time so a rather big chunk of my time is that job - I'm looking forward to spending more time on writing once I retire in 2019 or 2020. That said, for about 3 hours I work on whatever work is in progress over the weekend days. During the week, it's more sporadic - usually I can manage about an hour, sometimes more or less.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go? 
A little of both. I start off with an idea and write a scene or two or three. Then as the story starts to come along, I outline what I have and where it looks like the story may be going. I fill in the story from the outline and update the outline if the story somehow takes a turn I hadn't thought of when I did the outline.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
The characters are combinations of real people, with exaggerations of personality traits. There is no single person that is captured by a character. For example, the detective in the Cold Creek Series, physically resembles a police officer I dated many years ago, but the personality? If he'd had the personality of Brett, I likely wouldn't be married to my husband. As for places, I work in an academic setting - so using a college as a base for the Cold Creek Series is familiar and offers a lot of possibilities. I'm from the northeast and lived in various places on the east coast. I like Virginia (setting for Cold Creek series) as well as the Maryland/DC area (setting for Hannah & Tamar series).

Who is your favorite author?
That has to be the hardest question to answer. I like and read different genres, so it's hard to have a single favorite. In popular – well known mysteries with a female amateur sleuth and a touch of humor, Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum series, especially the earlier ones. Not so well known, and milder in many ways, I’d recommend Larissa Reinhart and her Cherry Tucker series. Prefer a male sleuth? The Mac Faraday series by Lauren Carr. Romantic suspense, Lisa Scottoline. I could go on and on with romance or fantasy, but the list (and my kindle library and book shelves) are rather full…

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
Mostly on computer, but I also use pen and paper if something comes to mind and the computer isn't handy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nancy Drew Comes to Natchez

The Ducote sisters are solving mysteries again this time with ghosts involved. In Fixing to Die by Miranda James, the sisters Ducote travel to Natchez with their ward Benjy and their pets to help a friend of the family. Natchez is well known for its spirits and unusual occurrences so the sisters are prepared for odd happenings.

Mary Turner Catlin and her husband Henry Howard operate a B&B in her historic home, but odd occurrences have been happening in the house, especially in The French Room. The Room is decorated with furniture imported from France just before the Civil War. There are priceless antiques and Mary Turner doesn't want to change anything in the room.

An'gel is assigned the room and after the long journey she lies down for an afternoon nap. When she awakens she notices the dress she draped over the back of a chair is in a different place. An'gel draws on her readings of  the Nancy Drew mysteries, especially The Hidden Staircase and believes there must be a secret staircase or panel in the house which explains some of the strange goings on.

There are other strange unexplained things happening in other parts
of the house as well. There's a cold zone on the staircase, a shadow in the stairwell ceiling and objects in other rooms moving from their places. Is there a spirit roaming the halls or is there more?

While An'gel, Dickce and Benjy search for the secret panel, a woman named Primrose Pace who claims to be a pyschic medium and an expeller of unwanted spirits arrives. Shortly thereafter she is followed by Mary Turner's cousin Nathan Gamble, his obnoxious sister Serenity Foster and her lawyer Truscott Anderson Wilbanks IV. Nathan believes he has a claim to the house, which Mary Turner rejects completely. 

When someone dies, Dickce and An'gel step in like present day Nancy Drews to solve the case. These charming sisters may be in the 80s, but they know how to text and use computers. They are quite the pair. 

Another charming book from Miranda James. For my review of Bless Her Dead Little Heart click the link. For others books click here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Letters from Paris

Claire grew up in Louisiana living with her grandmother after her mother's death in a car accident. In Letters from Paris, Juliet Blackwell weaves a beautiful story into a mystery. The story is told through two points of view: Sabine, a young French model, and Claire. As a child Claire discovered a mask of a beautiful woman in her great-grandfather's belongings and it became her friend during her childhood. 

She finds a note in the book which says "He will never let me leave alive." Throughout her life the words in the note and the exquisite face on the mask captivate Claire. Her grandmother always said Claire was destined for greater things. While she is home in Louisiana she tries to research the mask maker and finds the Moulage Lombardi is still in business. Startled to discover the mask she has is a famous one, she heads to Paris to track down the L'Inconnue de la Sein - The Unknown Woman of the Seine. 

After wandering as a tourist through Paris, she finally decides to locate the atelier. It is still operated
by the same family - a grumpy mask maker named Armand and his lovely cousin Giselle. In their shop Giselle tries to manage the customers, but she speaks no English and Armand speaks English, but is rude and uncaring. Out of the blue, Claire decides to offer her services as a translator/salesperson, while she tries to discover who the L'Inconnue is.

What she finds is poignant and beautiful. A lovely story woven skillfully together with past and present. 

Fore other books by Juliet Blackwell, click here. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pirates, Legends and Rubies

Finding a body in a diaphanous gown with flowing blonde hair and a bouquet of flowers in her hands is not what one expects on her day off. Maisie Swenson is the manager of the Oceanside Hotel in Florida in Cee Cee James' Deadly Reservation.

On her day off Maisie decides to visit a old church mentioned by local tour guides. Her assistant Clarissa tells her the church is haunted. Legend has it a pirate named Tom Bones and his beautiful lady Lucinda Longwood were cursed by her family and we never allowed to be together. That only piques her interest; you see Maisie is a mystery writer in her free time.

As paramedics retrieve the body from the rock near the banks of the lake, one of them shouts, "She is alive." Relieved, Maisie returns to the hotel hoping to hear the rest of the tragic love story. Before she can hear any more of the legend, she receives another emergency call from her staff about an unconscious guest in a hotel room.

Just like the young woman on the rock, he shows no outward signs of what happened or what
caused him to fall into unconsciousness. When a connection is made between the two patients, it is discovered they are star-crossed lovers from two feuding families. William Clarke, Natalie Fairchild and the legendary ruby necklace.

Maisie visits both patients at the hospital, but their conditions have not changed. As she is leaving the hospital, she swears she sees William in the elevator. When she peeks into his room, he is peacefully lying in bed, still unconscious.

Is the legend of Captain Bones causing Maisie's imagination to run wild or is it something else?

The Oceanside Hotel Mystery Series books are fun reads, filled with Maisie's eccentric Pinterest-obsessed mother, the handsome brother of the hotel owner and a hostile front desk clerk, plus the mystery.

For more books by CeeCee James, click here. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Macbeth Gone Astray

The Hamish Macbeth books have always been favorites of mine. His likable, unambitious personality and his keen wit make him a interesting character. But alas, my love for Hamish is over. In Death of a Policeman, M.C. Beaton threw everything but the kitchen sink into this book.

There were so many sub plots and murders, I could barely finish the book. And poor Hamish, he has lost his appeal - he spends more time pining over Elspeth Grant, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe and any other woman he has known then solving crimes.

In this book his old nemesis Blair has sent an undercover policeman to spy on Hamish. When the policeman is found dead, Blair tries to blame Hamish. Naturally. How Blair and Daviot stay on the police force is a wonder to me.

There are so many murders including a couple bound, gagged and left to die of exposure; a woman set on fire; two people shot in a restaurants and much more. Ugh I may have to give this series a rest for a while.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Writer or Burglar - It's Hard to Choose

The first person I thought of when I read The Good Thief's Guide to Venice by Chris Ewan was Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief. Like Cary, Charlie wants to live his new life as a writer and ex-burglar without any drama. But does he really? I believe Charlie still craves the excitement.

Tucked in bed at 2:00 am scribbling notes on his latest Michael Faulks novel, he hears someone stumbling around his apartment in Venice. What he finds is a gorgeous blonde cat burglar. Before he realizes what is happening, she lowers herself out the window via a climbing harness and disappears into the night. The only thing missing is a framed first edition of The Maltese Falcon - Charlie's most valuable procession (although questionably obtained). A red flyer has been left in its place.

This leads Charlie and his agent Victoria on a wild chase through the calles of Venice. Charlie follows the clue on the flyer and that only leads him into more danger. The burglar wants him to break into the Pallazzo Borelli on the Grand Canal and leave behind a briefcase in the strongroom. If he does this, she will return the book, she says. Not all goes as planned as Charlie's curiosity gets the better of him and he sets off a colossal bomb blast when the case opens. Luckily for him it was a timed detonation and most of the blast centered on the strongroom.

Battered, bruised and stunned by the turn of events, he staggers home. His burglar "friend" Graziella is none too pleased and she explains that since the blast did not kill Count Borelli, Charlie needs to do it. When Victoria hears this, she morphs into a super-secret agent and urges Charlie to save the Count from Graziella.

What follows is a crazy quest reminiscent of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.

I loved this book, especially the Venice locale, and I look forward to reading others in the series.  For books by Chris Ewan, click here. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Interview with Ritter Ames

Interview with Ritter Ames

How many books have you published?
By the end of June 2017 I’ll have 7 mystery titles, four in the Bodies of Art Mystery series and three in the Organized Mysteries series. Those are all full novels.

In addition to those, I’ve also self-published two multi-author anthologies that included two different Organized short stories that ran about 40 pages, and a Bodies of Art short story that ran about 20 pages. Finally, I contributed another Organized Mysteries short story to a third anthology coordinated by another author. All of those short-term anthologies are off-sale right now, but the Halloween anthology will be available again starting the end of August or early September.

Under what names do you publish?
I just publish under the one name. Marketing is so much work, and already takes time away from my writing, so I stick with one name to try to maximize my efforts.

My series are so different, however, that I did initially think about using another name for the cozy series. But I’ve watched authors do that, then post about how they’re writing the new series under the new penname (more marketing work), so I just kept it simple on the name side and made sure my series were branded distinctly so readers could easily tell the difference.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening, etc?
I really love writing at night. And if I start writing late I can find myself writing until dawn without even realizing it. But I had a cat for 20 years (she passed away two years ago) who always woke me when she was ready to get up every day—about 4:30. So, I’m just now finally getting my stride back really strong on night writing, and I love it.

Still, I continue to write as soon as I get up each day, and I try to not stop until 11 a.m. I’ll go online then, if I haven’t already done so, and check Facebook pages and email. Then I’ll eat and maybe do some research, stopping about 2 p.m. to run any errands for the day, then spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening on marketing.

During a release week, and the weeks leading up to one, however, the schedule changes. I have to start doing prep and promo work about three months ahead of a release date, and I spend a couple of hours extra each day, tweeting, promoting the series and preorder, and setting up ads for whichever book will run on sale during the release date. Paid ads fill up fast, and I start my list earlier and earlier all the time.

As far as daily writing goals go, my personal mandate is that I must write no less than 1000 words in a day, but I have written up to 11,000 in a day, and I usually average at least 3000. That’s not to say all of those words are keepers. I have absolutely no problem “killing my darlings,” which is a term authors use to talk about words, scenes and chapters they love, but know aren’t really best for the novel. If it doesn’t work, I rewrite, and have rewritten half a book or more if I get a better idea that I know will work well for the novel. For example, I wrote three-and-a-half different openers for Abstract Aliases. Finally knowing the last was the keeper. But I never throw anything out, and I turned two of the original openers into seasonal short stories—one ended up in a Christmas anthology, and I gave the Halloween short story away to my newsletter subscribers last fall.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I have all the important parts laid out for each book, but there’s a lot of flexibility. For example, for each series I always know what crime will occur in each story, who will be the villain, and different series information that needs to come out in this manuscript that may not be part of the crime, but is important to give for the series.

However, I actually work each series completely different.

The Bodies of Art Mystery series is highly structured to keep the series on track. Whereas, for the Organized Mysteries, whether I’m writing a novel or a long short story, I sit down and write a really messy, stream-of-consciousness type of outline and work from there. I try to blend in a lot of the characters’ families’ information and idiosyncrasies, too, and note things I added in previous stories that I need to remember to include in the newer ones. Like kids’ personality traits in the Organized Mysteries, or if someone had to get glasses, or someone’s health is at risk. That kind of human interest stuff.

Mostly, though, I try to leave things open so the characters can take off and surprise me by things I hadn’t considered before. I love the surprises as much as my readers seem to. 

How do you promote your books?
Like most authors, I really hate marketing myself, but it truly becomes the majority of my day. So, I try to do it in ways I can get to know my fans as much as possible. For instance, I have a street team that I’ve purposely kept small so I know the readers individually as much as possible—and, again, this street team is one composed of fans of each of my series. Some like one series, but not necessarily both, whereas others like everything I write. It would make more marketing sense to have separate groups, but that would leave me with less time to write—so I keep it simple again.

 I also have an FB Author Page where I post things I find interesting, like settings I have used or want to research and visit, news about art recoveries and heists, fun parenting things with kids or pets, things like that. I give updates about my books there, but I don’t do a lot of promoting with “buy my book” stuff.

Also, five other authors and I, who write globetrotting mysteries, just set up a new Passport Ready Writers—Readers group on FB. Again, we’re hoping to get to better know the readers who like the kind of books we write. We talk about places we’ve lived or visited or researched for books, the mystery angles we work in our titles, and we open it up for the other members to respond with their own insights, experiences, and questions. Again, we’re trying to use communication instead of promos to build rapport with fans.

Beyond that, I have a blog I usually use more like a bulletin board to let fans know about stuff I’ve found that interests me or ties to my titles. I also have a newsletter I send out several times a year—no more than once a month, but it probably averages about every six weeks. I only send it out when there’s something I think my readers want to hear.

Those are all kind of the day to day things. Beyond that, if I have a book on sale I use paid ads, like ENT, Robin Reads, Bargain Booksy, FKB&T, that sort of thing.

And, of course, I always do interviewers when nice people ask me. Thanks again for asking me here today, Christine 

Who is your favorite author?
Oh, wow, so many out there! If I had to choose just one, I would probably say the late Elizabeth Peters. I have a copy of every book she ever wrote—under all her pseudonyms, too, but my favorites are the series mysteries she wrote under the Peters name.

As far as live authors go, I love the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson, and I was a rabid fan of the television show The Catch that was developed from an idea she proposed to the networks. I love seeing the evolution of authors in media today.

Beyond those two, I have a very long and eclectic list of favorite authors that include Douglas Adams (especially the Dirk Gently series), Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May series, also author friends like Sara Rosett and Gigi Pandian, and anything by Lee Child or Frederick Forsythe or Dick Francis…the list goes on and on and on. 

There is so much going on in the Bodies of Art books, how do you keep characters, plots, etc. straight from book to book?
I have oodles of notes. Seriously, this series evolved slowly over an idea I played around with for
probably a decade. I had so many openings and “first half” attempts for the first book, I don’t even want to try to count. Then, I used the idea I had for the Laurel character to enter a flash fiction contest and won first prize, which was $100 and a signed copy of a Lee Child novel. But the best part about winning is that having to write in that highly compressed manner meant the story really helped cement Laurel’s character in my mind. That winning entry was expanded a little and used as the opening scene in Counterfeit Conspiracies.

But it wasn’t like I just took off and started writing then. While I had my new opener, before I really committed to writing Counterfeit Conspiracies, months were spent developing a detailed series arc for the stories. Besides having complicated characters with complicated histories, I had an overall heist concept that needed several books to get the entire plot situation out without rushing anything. In all, I saw a five-book arc as being necessary to get this phase done, and lucky for me, Henery Press agreed and signed for the first five books, then last month signed me for five more.

Each book is written as a standalone, so readers don’t have to read the previous titles. But my goal has always been to reward the readers who do read each title, so they gain from knowing all the nuances. It’s like the way I see a good television series—I can read a synopsis and start with a middle episode and know what’s going on, but I gain a lot more if I go back and binge watch the early episodes and let the characters and plot come out layer by layer.

As far as day to day work goes, I use a bunch of index cards, and pull files of info I’ve used in the past and need to revisit, or research on new settings or art criteria I need to weave into that day’s work. And I revisit my original Bodies of Art series plan a lot. There are things that have been moved to earlier books than I’d originally planned, because I or my publisher felt readers needed to know the information earlier. However, since the books are written from Laurel Beacham’s point of view, the reader can’t know anything she doesn’t know herself. So, if it’s important to keep the info from Laurel, the readers have to wait, too. On the other hand, Laurel is very vocal about sharing all information she does know, which I hope readers see as a means of my playing fair with them at all times.

I do have a lot of surprises in my books—more in the Bodies of Art Mysteries, but even to a lesser degree in the Organized Mysteries. Not just “whodunit.” Also, I truly enjoy writing “the next book” and finding out what the characters have been up to since the last time I was with them. I hope that enthusiasm is something my readers can feel as well.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Computer Nerds in Action

Lexi Carmichael always had an interest in numbers. Even as a child she carried math flashcards to entertain her parents friends. Now grown-up Lexi works as an information security technologist for the NSA in Julie Moffett's No One Lives Twice. 

Lexi and her colleagues joke about how the NSA is the brains of the nation and the CIA spooks are the brawn. She usually spends her days web surfing and stopping hackers from compromising America's national security. Imagine her surprise when on her way to dinner at her parents, she is first accosted by a big, beefy-necked guy demanding some papers from her friend Basia. He threatens her with a gun, then hands her is business card and says to call him when she has the papers.

After an unsuccessful dinner party where her mother tried to set her up with a date, Lexi returns to her apartment. To her shock another man is waiting in her apartment and is demanding the papers. He brashly writes his telephone number on her forearm and tells her to call when she has the papers. As she gazes around her ransacked apartment, she wonders what the papers contain and who has them.

When the papers do arrive, their meaning isn't any clearer as they are in Polish with a note from Basia
to keep them safe. Lexi calls on one of her co-workers at NSA and a pair of brainiac computer genius twins she knows to help her translate the papers. Her quiet life is shattered when she discovers the seriousness of the information contained in the papers.

The Zimmerman twins feel they need to contact Slash, the legendary superhacker working for the NSA to help them unravel the mystery. They "summon" him through a cryptic message. I almost felt as if they were summoning Batman, but it works. With two foreign governments, an international fertility clinic/research company lawyer and Slash, the legendary superhacker and computer, after her Lexi almost wishes for her dull, boring life again..

What transpires is a chilling discovery of in vitro cloning and a wild chase through many countries to stop the plan. This is the first book in the Lexi Carmichael series. Although I came late to this series (there are several other books) I really enjoyed it. Lexi and her computer nerd pals are clever, funny and dedicated, plus there's plenty of action. 

For more books in the Lexi Carmichael series, click here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Organic Gardening Can be Murder

Cam Flaherty has enough to worry about with the lack of rain on her farm, but the arrival of her wandering parents complicates her life immensely. In Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell, Cam has decided to start some of her basil and lettuce seedlings at the hydroponic greenhouse called Seacoast Fresh.

When she arrives at the greenhouse she encounters protestors, among their numbers are her mother and some of Cam's own volunteers. Purists like the group believe organic foods should be grown in soil, not in solution.

When she enters the greenhouse, she finds it strangely empty with only the sounds of the whirring ventilation fans. As she wanders around looking for Nicole, she finds her unfortunately sprawled jackknifed over the vat with her head in the slurry.

To complicate matters it appears Cam's mother had been in the
greenhouse earlier in the morning and that she knew Nicole in the distant past. What is there connection? Cam is horrified to think that her mother might be involved in the murder. When her mother refuses to explain how  she knows Nicole, Cam is more worried that ever.

When Nicole's ex-husband or soon-to-be-ex husband Rudin Kingsbury shows up claiming he did not want a divorce from her, Cam worries more about her mother. It appears the suspect list is narrowing. With the help of her father, Cam tracks down the murderer.

I always enjoy Edith Maxwell's books and I liked this one, but I felt there were some unresolved issues at the end of the book. For more books by Edith Maxwell, click here. For one of my reviews on another Edith Maxwell book, click here.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Domestic Diva Mystery

Domestic diva Sophie Winston is up to her elbows in chocolate party planning. It is the 60th anniversary of Amore Chocolates and she is in charge of the event in The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista Davis. The family is well known in the fine chocolate business and the event will have chocolate in many different forms.

While she is planning the event, the company's CEO Joe Merano, goes missing. The family implores Sophie to find him and not let the police know he is missing. On the day of the event Joe is still missing, but the family wants the celebration to go on as planned. Everything seems to be running smoothly as guests enjoy one of the five chocolate cakes and many of treats.

The event goes off without a hitch despite Joe's disappearance, but as Sophie is gathering the remnants of the party trash, she discovers the body of a rival chocolatier in the guesthouse bathroom.

As she investigates she discovers many secrets the family members would like to keep. The ins and
outs of the relationships of family members, mismanagement at the factory and now the dead rival blend together to form a bitter chocolate mess. To confuse the issue Sophie has been receiving boxes of chocolate daily with no name or logo on them. She is unsure of what that means.

Another death occurs and Sophie delves deeper into the mystery, feeling threatened as she tries to discover the truth. There are as many suspects as their are chocolate treats. Natasha, naturally, is in the middle of one disaster after another and Sophie's ex-husband Mars (currently Natasha's boyfriend) tries to hide from her craziness at Sophie's.

I sense a theme in my reading lately. Chocolate is the vein running through many books. Anyway I enjoyed this mystery and loved the chocolate recipes. Now if I only had the nerve to try them. Sigh...

For other books by Krista Davis, click here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Haunted House Renovation

Mel Turner has encountered many ghosts in her career in home renovation, but in A Ghostly Light by Juliet Blakewell, there are more that the usual number of spirits. Her client Alicia Withers wants Mel to renovate an historic San Francisco Bay lighthouse and the keeper's house for her boss, billionaire Ellis Elrich. They want to convert it to a bed and breakfast with a restaurant for drop-in dinner guests.

While Mel is scoping out the island, she sees a ghost leap to her death from the top of the lighthouse. Shortly afterwards she sees the ghost of a small boy dressed as a pirate walking along the rocks.

When Alicia's abusive ex-husband shows up on the island, Mel and Alicia try to remove him. Alicia thinks she is seeing a "ghost" when Thorn Walker shows up. He claims he is a changed man and wants to reconcile with her, but Mel's bodyguard hustles Thorn to the harbor. Alicia is shaken badly and wonders how he found her.

In the meantime Mel encounters three protestors who don't want the keeper's house and lighthouse renovated. They have been using the island as their own national park and they do not want that to stop. Mel tries to explain why they will still have limited access, but they are not appeased.

Still trying to focus on the renovation, Alicia heads to the tower to look around. Mel, still suffering from vertigo, is relieved not to have to climb the tower. Suddenly she hears Alicia scream and the body of a man comes tumbling down the stairs with a knife protruding from his chest. Alicia slowly walks down the stairs and her clothing is covered in blood. The dead man turns out to be Thorn Walker.

Before long a third ghost shows up -Thorn Walker. Mel, sruggling to overcome her vertigo, knows she needs to search the tower to clear Alicia who has been arrested and possibly learn who the other two ghosts are.

With three ghosts swirling around her, the remodeling takes the back burner as Mel tries to discover who the women ghost is. The plot forces Mel into the lighthouse keeper's life and the loneliness of the job.

I really enjoyed The Ghostly Light. Mel is a thoughtful character and she uses her ghost-seeing ability to solve the mystery. The peripheral characters including her father, her boyfriend and all the ancillary people living in her father's house add to the charm.

For other books by Juliet Blackwell, click here.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Not that Murder at the Cathedral

Not to be confused with T.S. Eliot's Murder at the Cathedral, Frances Evesham's Murder at the Cathedral also takes place in England in a cathedral. Libby Forest is happily making chocolate truffles at Frank's Bakery, but she still has her hand in mystery solving with Max Ramshore.

When Libby and her friend Angela learn historian Giles Temple was found dead in the Cathedral library, Libby can't resist the challenge. The victim was found with a heavy book chain around his neck; the added complication of an orange scarf seems to implicate Angela. The last thing Libby wants to do is leave the crime solving to the condescending Chief Inspector Arnold especially after he arrests Angela. It seems Giles Temple was a married man, yet he was flirting with Angela. She didn't take it seriously, but gave him the scarf as a joke.

In the meantime Libby and her fledgling private investigation agency (with Max, of course) are hired to find a missing cat. Not wanting to waste her time on searching for cats while she tries to help Angela, she takes the cat case anyway. When another person dies in an arson fire, and Libby's assistant Mandy seems to be a suspect, she goes into full investigation mode.

I like Libby Forest as a character. and as an investigator. She uses her head to solve the mystery rather than dashing off on a dangerous mission. In other books I have read, the lead character blindly walks into a dangerous situation and is too stupid to live. Libby is smart, thoughtful and cautious, plus she makes a mean chocolate truffle.

For my review of Murder at the Lighthouse, click here. For other books by Frances Evesham, click here.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Accidental Ghost Hunter

For a light-hearted trip into ghosts and paranormal activities, follow the antics of Verity Long as she struggles to save her grandmother's house. In Southern Spirits by Angie Fox, Verity finds herself hunting ghosts.

After she abruptly calls off her wedding at the altar because her fiance cheated on her, her future mother-in-law sues her for the cost of the wedding. Verity manages to pay some of the debt by selling everything in her house, but she is forced to consider selling the house to complete the payment.

When Verity accidentally dumps the ashes of a dead gangster in her grandmother's rose garden, she is visited by the ghost - Frankie the German. He tells her she has trapped his spirit on her property and he is bound to her. Not sure this is what she needs at the moment.

He also tells her about a treasure on her neighbor Maisie Hatcher's property. Maisie, a widow and a recluse, has been searching her property for the treasure her husband hide 50 years ago. With Frankie tagging along, Verity decides to search.

When she arrives at the house, she has a spot of ghostbusting to do
before she can find the treasure. The house is haunted by Jilted Josephine, whose killed her ex-lover and herself, and Josephine's poltergeist mother, a very angry spirit. Once Verity settles the ghost and finds the treasure, Maisie is so thrilled she gives Verity $3,000, not enough to save the house, but a start.

Her next case involves the brother of her ex-fiance. Ellis Wydell is a member of the Sugarland Sheriff's Office and after hearing her account of ghost busting on Maisie's property, her wants her help him. Someone or something is vandalizing the restaurant property he is renovating. What ensues is a wild, ghostbusting ride.

This was a fun book and the characters are likable. I wonder what the future holds for Verity and the brother of her ex-fiance. Only time will tell.

For other books by Angie Fox, click here.