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An Ale of Two Cities–bookish at its best

An Ale of Two Cities

by Sarah Fox

An Ale of Two CitiesI found some relief from the pandemic news in An Ale of Two Cities by Sarah Fox. It is a fun, serious, puzzling cozy mystery with some action and excitement included. Although setting and atmosphere usually take a backseat to plot and characters in this kind of mystery, all of the elements are important here. The bookish setting is the Inkwell, Sadie’s pub decked out with bookshelves, literary decor, and special cozy rooms such as the one dedicated to Agatha Christie. Special literary-themed drinks are offered and, with two chefs, food has been added to the menu. Sadie has organized genre book clubs that meet monthly as well. All of this takes place in Vermont where our Tennessean main character has to adapt to the snow and cold weather.

The deadly mischief begins at the Winter Carnival’s Ice Sculpting Competition. Mel, one of Sadie’s employees, is competing and discovers a minor crime in the theft of her tools; but the plot turns deadly when Freddy, an unpleasant former denizen of the tourist town, is found dead in the snow. The evidence initially points to Mel, but there are lots of people with motivations to cut Freddy’s life short. Sadie investigates hoping to find the murderer thus clearing Mel’s name. In addition to the trauma of discovering dead bodies, Sadie has to deal with her growing attraction to Grayson who owns a local brewery. Winter Carnival appeals to her competitive nature as she organizes a hockey team representing her pub in ugly, mustard-yellow sweaters and learns how to snowshoe in preparation for the big race.

I highly recommend An Ale of Two Cities for its humor, plot, and all-around good reading fun. If you love books, then you’ll probably give this mystery  bonus points for its bookish nature.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:

 1. #2 in the Literary Pub Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.

  2. Recipes are included for some cocktails as well as Paradise Lox.

Publication:   November 26, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

When my cat wanted his breakfast, he wasn’t about to let anything get in his way, especially not five more minutes of heavenly slumber for his human servant.

I had to take a long, hot shower and drink another cup of steaming coffee before I could declare myself completely thawed out. Once I no longer felt like a close cousin of one of the ice sculptures out on the village green, I headed downstairs to the Inkwell to get ready for the workday.

Spreading rumors was her superpower. It didn’t matter if they were true or not. As soon as Gretchen got hold of some tasty tidbit of fact or fiction, there was no stopping its spread through town.

Murder with Cherry Tarts–tearoom delights throughout the mystery

Murder with Cherry Tarts

by Karen Rose Smith

Murder with Cherry TartsWhat a delightful cozy mystery! I enjoyed Murder with Cherry Tarts by Karen Rose Smith from beginning to end. It has interesting characters including Daisy Swanson, a widow and co-owner of Daisy’s Tea Garden with her Aunt Iris. Daisy is at the center of the book’s many threads. There is, of course, a murder mystery which Daisy tries not to get involved in, but her kind nature won’t allow her to stand by while an innocent man is railroaded by a detective with a chip on his shoulder. That chip is connected to Daisy’s boyfriend Jonas, a former detective. Other tensions include a homeless man and his daughter and an elderly antique shop owner possibly being cheated by a family member. Also, Daisy has continuing relationship issues with her mother, preparations for the upcoming wedding of her pregnant daughter, and the struggles of her youngest daughter, who is adopted, to connect with her biological mother. It is a busy story!

The setting is Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Although Daisy is not Amish, there are a sprinkling of references to horse and buggy transport and other Amish customs as Willow Creek is a seasonal tourist town.

Despite the various focuses on relationships, the mystery is still key. There are several suspects with plausible motives, but when the murderer is revealed in a scene replete with danger, the surprise ending is stunning.

The author follows up with an epilogue that provides a promisingly happy conclusion to the relationship threads as well as the murder investigation. There are, however, still developments to look forward to in the next cozy in this series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #4 in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series, but works very well as a standalone. The characters’ backgrounds  are skillfully woven into the first chapter.

2. The book concludes with recipes, including one for Daisy’s famous cherry tarts that everyone raves about.

Publication:   November 26, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Sharing tea with a friend is a calming experience. I think it has to do with just taking time out of your day to talk and to share. It doesn’t matter the type of tea or if you use sugar or honey or milk. It’s just the experience of sipping it that counts.”

That was exactly what grief felt like, a hole that could never be filled up.

The photographs would never reveal the tension that always bubbled up within her family. But that was the point of happy photos, wasn’t it? To remember the good times and cherish them.

Memories and Murder–scamming seniors

Memories and Murder

by Lynn Cahoon

Memories and MurderThe name of the series, Tourist Trap Mysteries, doesn’t begin to describe this bookish set adequately. Memories and Murder is the latest installment in which Jill Gardner, owner of Coffee, Books and More in little South Cove, drinks coffee, eats sweet treats, and reads her way through relationship and murder issues. There are lots of threads to this plot. Aunt Jackie has called off her engagement to Harrold and gone silent. Deek is a new barista in the coffee shop; he is more perceptive than psychic, despite his heritage. He has great ideas for book clubs and follows through with implementation. Jill juggles investigating a murder and a scam and finds herself in deadly trouble.

The story is told from Jill’s point of view, and first person narration works well here. The pace moves along snappily in this cozy mystery. Don’t be deterred by Memories and Murder being the tenth book in the sequence. Author Lynn Cahoon is a master at bringing readers up to speed on characters and background. In the first chapter you will learn almost everything you need to know to enjoy this book while the storyline gets underway. There is perhaps a little too much description of who ate what, when, and where, but other than feeling like I needed to accompany Jill and her dog Emma on their beach runs, those details were not truly excessive. In fact, I’m looking forward to joining the South Cove family of friends in their next adventure.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #10 in The Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   November 12, 2019— Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

Fighting with my boyfriend had not been one of the things on my to-do list today, but you had to make room for impromptu items.

Operation Harrold Wins Jackie Back was going to work. It had to work. All the best books and movies had a happily ever after. Real life should too.

…he’d assured me that the sun would turn to ice before he left me for her.

Haunted House Ghost–convoluted plot

Haunted House Ghost

by James J. Cudney

FHaunted House Ghostor readers who enjoy a complex mystery, I recommend Haunted House Ghost for a plot that is intricate and convoluted, but in the best possible way. Author James J. Cudney takes plot complexities to a whole new level with family relationships taking center stage as past and current marriages and paternity issues come to light when victim remains from cold murder cases are discovered. 

Murder and intrigue play out in the setting of a haunted house that the main character Kellan is trying to restore as a home for his growing family. Weird sightings, threatening messages, and a locked basement set the stage for a ghostly mystery. Is a ghost actually haunting the house? Is Madam Zenya really a psychic medium? In true Agatha Christie style, the main players in the mystery are gathered to force the truth to emerge. 

There are so many surprises in Haunted House Ghost that I watched in amazement as the mystery developed. Fortunately, the author helps with a recap of possible suspects and motives as Kellan meets with the sheriff (his girlfriend April) and the case detective (his best friend Connor) to convince them to try his clever idea to force the murderer into the open. The murderer’s identity is surprising and unpredictable as are the final pages that make the perfect setup for the next book in the series.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: I am behind in my reading and reviewing but really wanted to be caught up with the Braxton Campus Mystery Series before the sixth book in the series, Frozen Stiff Drink, is published on March 18, 2020. Therefore, Haunted House Ghost (#5 ) snuck up to the top of my reading queue. All of the books in this series can be read as standalones as the author provides a lot of support in the form of a character list and an area map as well as explanations of character relationships in the context of the ongoing plot. My personal preference in reading this series, however, is to read the books in order as there are so many interesting characters and lots of developing relationships.

Publication:  October 1, 2019—Next Chapter

Memorable Lines:

“It’s sealed tighter than Scrooge’s wallet.”

Instinct suggested there were many threads to this conundrum, and if I pulled on a few random ones, I might unravel the whole knotted ball of yarn soon enough.

My skin prickled as if thousands of tiny insects crawled up and down my body. A drafty wind whistled through the stairwell as the steps creaked.

Death at Sycamore House–cozy mystery/police procedural

Death at Sycamore House

by Betty Rowlands

Death at Sycamore HouseJust when Sukey Reynolds begins to feel work as a Detective Constable has slowed to a snail’s pace, her team gets called in on a murder investigation in the quiet area known as Sycamore House. In a case that initially appears to Sukey to be easily solved, a number of secrets surface along with an increase in suspects and a second murder. The team has to try to sort through multiple red herrings to arrive at the truth.

Sukey cooperates with her newspaper reporter boyfriend, but she shares a limited amount of research results, always taking care not to leak information. The characters in Betty Rowlands’ Death at Sycamore House are interesting, and the plot is engaging. The outcome is an enjoyable, police procedural.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: This book is #12 in the Sukey Reynolds Mystery Series. I started into the series late and have only read a few, but I find that I don’t need to have background on the characters to enjoy or understand the individual books. The focus is on solving the crime.

Publication:  October 28, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

“She’s probably regretting not having made an effort at reconciliation and now it’s too late.”

“She must have spent most of her life desperately seeking the love she never got from her own mother.”

“Now and again you pick up a piece that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere, almost as if it belongs to another puzzle and has somehow got into the wrong box. Then you suddenly see its connection with another piece that you haven’t noticed before.”

Silent Knit, Deadly Knit–knitting with friends

Silent Knit, Deadly Knit

by Peggy Ehrhart

Silent Knit, Deadly KnitVarious cozy mystery series stand out for special strengths. The strong point might be humor, breathtaking setting, fast pace, intricate plot, or interesting characters. Peggy Ehrhart’s Knit & Nibble Mystery Series is different from most in its genre. The main character, Pamela, is calmer. The pace is slower. The descriptions of everyday life are more detailed. And somehow the combination works. Ehrhart’s latest mystery, Silent Knit, Deadly Knit, is no exception. Set in the Christmas season, we get to join Pamela, her daughter Penny who is home from college, and their friends and neighbors as they celebrate the Christmas season while trying to discover who murdered their friend.

Silent Knit, Deadly Knit provides a nice break from the overly sweet seasonal romances. The characters are not depicted as saints. Pamela  struggles with letting her daughter gain her independence. Bettina pushes her friend Pamela to make a connection with a single neighbor. The plot does not get lost in all the character interaction, however. There are deadly doings in little Arborville, and Pamela and her friends are caught up in the action. My favorite character is Bettina’s retired husband, Wilfred—always a helpful gentleman, but never stuffy.

As the crime is being solved, Pamela and the reader work through various theories. When the character who appears to be the murderer is found murdered, the investigation takes a whole new direction resulting in a surprise ending.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  1.  #4 in the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series, but is excellent as a standalone!

  2. At the end of the book, there is a recipe for a poppy seed cake and directions for knitting fingerless gloves.

Publication:   October 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

A soft form stirred at her feet, migrated up the side of her leg, and inched its way delicately across her torso. It eased its head out from under the down comforter that Pamela used on chilly winter nights. Two amber eyes stared at her from a heart-shaped face covered with silky jet-black fur.

Pamela was a kind person, but she occasionally enjoyed the slight feeling of power that came from having a secret to share. Bettina’s lips, which today were a shade of deep orange that matched her coat, curved into a tiny smile that acknowledged she knew she was being strung along.

It was tempting, especially at holidays, to imagine a past in which joy had been unalloyed. But Pamela knew she’d been happy about some things, worried about others then too, just like now.

A Very Mummy Holiday–runaway bride

A Very Mummy Holiday

by Lynn Cahoon

A Very Mummy HolidayJill, a passionate reader and the owner of Coffee, Books, and More in a small, coastal, tourist town in central California, takes off for Thanksgiving week with her boyfriend Greg who is a very capable detective. They go with another couple to stay at a large cabin on the Oregon Coast. A Very Mummy Holiday by Lynn Cahoon is a little novella packed with action and mystery as the focus turns to the case of a runaway bride. Things turn from sad to deadly as a corpse is found. Danger seems to surround the visitors in the subtle form of threats from the Devil Riders motorcycle gang. Jill and Greg work with the local police to bring justice to the fiancee and avert a kidnapping—all before more friends arrive to celebrate with a big dinner.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: A Tourist Trap novella, but it works well as a standalone.

Publication:   October 28, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

“Everything okay?” Blake called out. “Just wondering if you locked the cabin.” Greg lied. And he did it so calmly. I was beginning to see a new side of my boyfriend. I wasn’t sure I liked it.

“You know this isn’t your investigation.” Sheriff Anderson’s eyes went flat and hard. “I’ve been looking for that girl for years and for what it’s worth, only one man had motive and opportunity to kill. And he’s sitting on that porch.”

Some days the best conversations I had were with my dog.

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