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Murder on the Chopping Block–movie set turns violent

Murder on the Chopping Block

by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder on the Chopping BlockThe Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series is always open to new adventures because the main character, Penelope Sutherland, is the owner of a catering company that provides meals and snacks for movie productions. So, Penelope and her crew have to travel to wherever the setting for a film is. In Murder on the Chopping Block, they are in Salacia Beach, California, near Monterey. 

Author Shawn Reilly Simmons really knows how to move a cozy mystery along. She uses fairly short chapters, but they end up making you want to jump into the next one. This book has just the right amount of character focus, intrigue, and action combined with a little romance and settings that range from cliffs along the Pacific to beautiful homes of the wealthy. A fun character in this cozy is Mirabella, a cat with an important role.

When a shot rings out on the movie set, the blood is not fake, and Penelope jumps into action. She also overhears a domestic incident that later leads to violence. She picks up on  a lot of clues that others might miss by being observant when she is in the right place at the right time. When others notice her perceptiveness, however, things get dangerous for her.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone as this plot is not dependent on understanding an extensive character background.

Publication:   September 17, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“Come on, sweetie,” Penelope said in a soft voice. Mirabella stared at her, acting like she wasn’t going to follow, then rose up on stiff legs and strutted toward the gate as if it was her idea in the first place.

“I never even thought about what happens to animals after…” “The unexpected happens,” Brice finished her thought. “You know how it is. A lot of people have pets. Even criminals have pets. When stuff goes down, these guys are impacted too. Kids and animals, they suffer the most, if you ask me.”

“Forgiveness is its own reward,” Joey said. “It’s easier and healthier to forgive than it is to carry around a grudge forever.”

Fatal Cajun Festival–Louisiana backdrop

Fatal Cajun Festival

by Ellen Byron

Fatal Cajun FestivalIf you are charmed or captivated by all things Cajun, from zydeco music to Jambalaya with shrimp and sausage, you will enjoy Ellen Byron’s Fatal Cajun Festival. The Louisiana plantation setting is a great backdrop for a mystery that centers around Tammy Barker, hometown girl who made it big in the music industry. She returns to the small town of Pelican to give back, gloat, or maybe exact revenge at the Cajun Country Live Festival.

Local artist, Maggie Crozat, who also helps out at her family’s B&B, is caught up in deciphering the motives of Tammy and her entourage and in clearing her friend Gaynell of suspicion. There is a tangle of relationships which won’t be resolved until the end. Meanwhile, Maggie and her fiancé Bo Durand, a detective, try to keep the peace and everyone alive in Pelican. Maggie’s family has a booth at the festival selling Maggie’s artwork and as many pralines as she can make. There is also a brief side story about a mysterious Carina who may have been involved with Maggie’s now deceased Grand-père. This is an all round fun cozy mystery with lots of Louisiana flavor and interesting characters. 

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane 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 Cajun Country Mystery Series, but works as a standalone as the author includes a list of characters with notes about them.

2.  Recipes are included at the end of the book.

Publication:   September 10, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

“You used refined oil, didn’t you?” Nanette flashed a devilish grin. “Chère, that oil’s so refined it could be a debutante.”

“Remember his favorite saying…”  “In Louisiana, we only follow the rules we like,” the couple said simultaneously.

Bo once told her that humiliation was the main motivation behind most murders.

Low country Boomerang–investigative reporter murdered

Lowcountry Boomerang

by Susan M. Boyer

Lowcountry BoomerangDue to a sleep deficit causing me to repeatedly nod off and a several day reading gap, I chose to skim the first third of Lowcountry Boomerang by Susan M. Boyer again before I plunged back in where I left off. I absolutely enjoyed the second reading as much as the first, maybe more, since I was not concentrating on staying awake. I highlighted multiple passages that defined the characters, their backgrounds, and their relationships because there were so many and the web was so complex. I had only read two of the books in the series previously, and I found I needed to really focus to keep up.

Liz and her husband, Nate, are private investigators in South Carolina with family ties to law enforcement agents and a helpful guardian spirit giving them an inside edge. In this cozy mystery, they are tasked with proving the innocence of a “down home,” folksy TV star who has just returned to his roots. There is lots of good investigating, albeit much of it illegal, set in tourist friendly Charleston. Southern dialogue will transport “y’all” to the land of sweet tea, Geechie fries (french fried grits sticks), heat with humidity, and ferries. There are a lot of possible suspects, but the ending is a complete surprise to the dynamic duo of investigators as well as the reader.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #8 in the Liz Talbot Mystery Series and probably best read as part of the series, but could be enjoyed as a standalone

Publication:  September 3, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Regardless of who paid for my time, I always viewed the victim as my ultimate client.

“However, in this particular case, budget is not a concern. If you need to book llamas to Machu Picchu, Mr. Baker’s retainer will cover it.”

“How’s Calista?” “Madder than a feral cat being baptized.”

Tilling the Truth–civic action by the garden squad

Tilling the Truth

by Julia Henry

Tilliing the TruthWhen I met the Garden Squad in Pruning the Dead, I was charmed by this group of Goosebush denizens who anonymously take on gardening projects and accomplish them at night for the good of the community. In Julia Henry’s sequel Tilling the Truth, the Garden Squad which is led by Lily, a prominent senior citizen in Goosebush, gets involved in solving murders and uncovering shady real estate deals. At the same time, Lily is acting as the executor of a friend’s estate which includes a controversial bird sanctuary.

The main characters do not appeal to me. They seem cliquish and concerned with their own prominence. They love to eat and a lot of the book’s activity centers around food as much as gardening.

Setting is very important in this book, and the author describes the individual locations quite well. Unfortunately, the locations of the houses in relation to each other, to various businesses, and to the town center is not defined adequately, and that is a distraction for me in trying to picture the action.

Although there are many potential suspects, the investigative path is not terribly complex and not very surprising. The action scene that reveals the murderer is well-written and satisfying.

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: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #2 in the Garden Squad Mystery Series

2. There is an addendum of interesting gardening notes.

Publication:   August 27, 2019—Kensington 

Memorable Lines:

“She is such a miserable woman. Honestly, when she comes into my store the flowers wilt.”

“Braden was born on third base and acts like the world owes him a home run.”

But hosting a fundraiser? That felt like the seventh circle of hell closing in.

Death by Jack-O’-Lantern–vets helping vets

Death by Jack-O’-Lantern

by Alexis Morgan

Death by Jack-O'-LanternOstensibly a Halloween cozy mystery, Death by Jack-O’-Lantern by Alexis Morgan is so much more. In addition to a great mystery, there is a budding romance between Tripp Blackson and his landlady Abby McCree and lots of small town activity as Snowberry Creek in the Pacific Northwest pulls together to make their Halloween Festival a success. In the midst of a murder investigation, pumpkins carved to resemble townspeople crop up all over town, produced by an anonymous artist. There are lots of supportive new friends for Abby as she tries to settle into her new town, but there are also some puzzling characters. The overarching serious questions are important ones: How can we help returning veterans with PTSD? To what extent does a person go to help and protect his friend?

Abby goes too far in her investigations, stirring up danger for herself and anger in Tripp and the local law enforcement officers as they fear for her safety. Zeke, her mastiff mix, plays a recurring role as her buddy and protector. Abby, an excellent manager and organizer, spends a lot of her time coordinating volunteers for several committees. She also loves to bake, especially for her friends, and to consume copious amounts of caffeinated coffee and sweet treats.

I enjoyed this top notch cozy mystery, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series. Kudos to the author as this story’s ending was one I didn’t see coming!

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: #2 in the Abby McCree Mystery Series. It would be OK to read as a standalone, but I think it would be more enjoyable if you read #1 in the series first.

Publication:   August 27, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Connie has a real talent for ‘volunteering’ people. I swear, you walk into city hall to ask a simple question about property taxes and somehow walk out in charge of a major town event. You’re even grateful for the chance to help out.”

Abby used artificial sweetener in her coffee to help compensate for the huge chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies she’d ordered. Yeah, it was a bit silly, but logic didn’t play a big part in her need for chocolate in times of stress.

She’d let Zeke outside for his usual morning patrol around the yard, but he hadn’t come trotting back in to inhale his breakfast…When she finally spotted him, her heart almost broke. He was sitting on Tripp’s front porch and staring at the door as if sheer determination would make his friend appear. How on earth was she supposed to explain to him that his buddy had been locked up in the people pound?

Molded 4 Murder–suffocation by clay

Molded 4 Murder

by J.C. Eaton

Molded 4 MurderSophia (Phee) Kimball is a full-time bookkeeper for Williams Investigations located in Glendale, Arizona. Nate, a retired police officer, moved to Arizona from Minnesota and persuaded Phee to work for his agency. Later he hired Marshall to join the group. They all knew each other from their jobs in Minnesota, but Phee and Marshall now have a romantic relationship. Phee lives close to her mother who, in league with her book club, keeps drama and gossip stirred up in the retirement community of Sun City West.

Phee finds herself drawn into an off-the-books mystery when two ladies she met on an airplane ask her to find out who is pilfering odd items in their resort retirement community. At the same time, Nate and Marshall are called in by local law enforcement as consultants when a semi-retired art teacher is found suffocated. Both mysteries get more complicated as the story progresses forming an intricate web. Not everyone is who they seem to be, and Phee’s favor to the ladies turns deadly. J.C. Eaton’s Molded 4 Murder includes quirky characters, humorous dialogue, investigators who know how to work as a team, and a lot of plot twists. It’s a cozy mystery that will leave you wanting more of the fun and action that this husband/wife writing duo dishes up so well.

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: #5 in the Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.

Publication:  August 27, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

We’ve got enough sugar cookies to set an entire classroom of kindergartners spinning for hours.

You give up a lot of things when you get old. You shouldn’t have to give up your privacy.

That girl can pick up gossip quicker than a black sweater picks up lint.

Penne Dreadful–a delicious cozy mystery

Penne Dreadful

by Catherine Bruns

Penne DreadfulA cozy mystery about a chef whose heritage and passion is Italian cuisine? Count me in! Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns is filled with food references from the beginning “Italians are passionate about almost everything in the world, and food is at the top of the list” to recipes for sauce, pizza, and stromboli at the end. In between, you will find a solid plot and interesting characters. 

Five weeks prior to the story’s action, Tessa’s husband, Dylan, was killed in a car accident. Tess walks around in a trance until she learns that the crash may not have been an accident and neither her husband nor her marriage was what she thought they were. Secrets and evil minded souls abound, and it seems her husband was one of them. The discovery jolts Tess out of her grieving stupor and into action putting herself and her friends in danger as she tries to uncover the truth.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Italian Chef Mystery Series

Publication:   July 30, 2019—Sourcebooks Landmark

Memorable Lines:

Luigi’s V-8 engine noises continued while I filled his food dish with star-shaped kitty crunches, and then he couldn’t scramble out of my arms fast enough.

“…you don’t ever want to get on Izzy’s bad side. That broad has enough venom in her to make a snake jealous.”

That was one of the beauties about New York weather. It might be ninety degrees one day, and forty the next. Unpredictable, the same as life.

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