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Lineage Most Lethal–secrets from the past

Lineage Most Lethal

by S.C. Perkins

Having read a very positive review of the debut novel in S.C. Perkins’ Ancestry Detective Mystery Series, I decided, when the opportunity arose, to give Lineage Most Lethal, the second book in the series, a try. I am fairly neutral on the interest continuum when it comes to genealogies, but this cozy mystery afforded a different perspective for me on family trees. I also learned a little about the intricacies of researching lineages.

Lucy Lancaster is an outgoing young woman who shares office space with two friends in downtown Austin, Texas. Currently she is spending a week at the high-end Sutton hotel working for Pippa Sutton to investigate her family’s history and compile the information into a video to be presented at a family gathering. As the plot progresses, we learn about Lucy’s own beloved grandfather’s involvement in World War II and a little about her former boyfriend, Ben, an FBI agent who has ghosted her.

Lucy’s research turns dark when a stranger dies before her eyes, Pippa’s mother Roselyn begins acting strangely, and Chef Rocky is found dead. Lucy’s grandfather shares secrets from the past, and suddenly it seems many in the present are in a dangerous state. As Lucy tries to juggle all the balls, she is pushing against a murderer’s timetable as well as her professional and personal commitments.

Although I suspected the identity of the murderer, I did not grasp the intricate connections of the victims, potential victims, a nutcase who appeared sane, and their descendants. The tale includes a few red herrings dealing with cipher codes and given names as well. The solution is definitely complicated. Well played, S. C. Perkins!

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Ancestry Detective Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone.

Publication:   July 21, 2020—St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur

Memorable Lines:

The point is, do yourself a favor and halve your problem by sharing it with someone.”

I would do my part to protect these people, even if I would never meet them and got branded by the APD as a genealogist who was a taco short of a combination plate.

Ben took my hand and led me out the French doors into the winter wonderland, the white fairy lights making the falling snow glitter like diamonds.

Sowing Malice–page turner

Sowing Malice

by Wendy Tyson

I am overwhelmed at the plot complexity in Wendy Tyson’s Sowing Malice. When a rich man dies in Winsome, Pennsylvania, a storm of activities is released including a murder, distraught widows and lovers, planted evidence, semi-abandoned houses, and inheritance issues. More importantly, a murder victim is transferred to Megan’s property where it can’t be missed and attention is diverted to Megan Sawyer. Megan, the widow of a soldier she loved deeply, lives in Winsome with Bibi, her grandmother. She owns and manages an organic farm that supplies her café and other restaurants with fresh organic produce. In this book in the series, she is also finishing renovations on a house on adjoining land she purchased. Her goal is to convert it and a barn into an inn, education facility, and event center. Her Scottish boyfriend, the local veterinarian, continues to play a role as he supports her and patiently waits for her to be ready for a deeper commitment.

All of this story background is the vehicle for delivering a plot with more legitimate suspects than you would think possible. Megan has to work hard to discern the motivations of the various characters and determine who is lying and why. Family relationships keep the focus on tangled connections; extra effort is needed to sort out what occurred when and who benefits from it.

It will come as no surprise to Wendy Tyson fans that she achieves success with this cozy mystery as she racks up yet another page turner. As the book concludes, there are also several surprises in the personal arena that will leave the reader smiling with satisfaction.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #6 in the Greenhouse Mystery Series, but would be great as a standalone.

Publication:   July 14, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“My grandfather liked to play games with people. If you understand that about him, then everything makes sense.” 

“You’re impossible, you know.” “I think these days I’d be called strong and independent.” Megan laughed. As usual, her grandmother was right.

“I don’t follow.” “Because you’re probably sane, and the actions of cruel people don’t make sense.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotes from Cozy Mysteries

Great Quotes from Cozy Writers

Carla Loves To Read

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week a new theme is suggested for bloggers to participate in. Create your own Top Ten list that fits that topic – putting your unique spin on it if you want. Everyone is welcome to join but please link back to The Artsy Reader Girl in your own Top Ten Tuesday post.

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Mums and Mayhem–Bellewick’s famous fiddler returns

Mums and Mayhem

by Amanda Flower

Fiona Knox transplanted herself from Tennessee to the east coast of Scotland when she inherited Duncreigan, a very small cottage with its magical garden, from her godfather Ian. She became Keeper of the garden and is learning how to care for it through trial and error. She also owns a floral shop in the little town of Bellewick where she has made a number of friends despite some animosity against her as an American.

In this mystery, world famous fiddler Barley McFee has returned home for a concert, but there are complications to his visit. Fiona’s parents have also come to Scotland for a visit. She plans on pinning them down on the identity of her biological father. Fiona and her sister Isla also want to introduce them to the men in their lives. Complications added into the plot are disputes in Barley’s backup band, a historian who wants access to the magic garden, a businessman who wants to restore a tumbling manor house, a fire at sea, vandalism in the magic garden, and a murder.

With so much going on in the little village, Fiona is stretched to her limits, but her boyfriend, Chief Inspector Neil Craig, her friend Presha, and her Scottish Fold cat, Ivanhoe, are a constant source of support.

Amanda Flower’s Mums and Mayhem is a cozy mystery with a Scottish flair and a sprinkle of magic of the whimsical variety. Fiona is desperate to restore the magical garden and the conclusion not only reveals the murderer and resolves the personal conflicts with her parents, but also shows Fiona regarding the garden in a new light.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Magic Garden Mysteries, but can be read as a standalone allowing the author to fill in any needed background information.

Publication:  July 7, 2020—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

The American tendency is more and bigger and better and new. We don’t always buy into that in Scotland. We appreciate old and tradition.

My heart sank. I wanted to grab the words out of the air and shove them back into my mouth. But it was too late for that.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. It feels right, in any case, and when dealing with the garden, I have learned that going with my gut has always been the best choice.”

A Fatal Fiction–editing can be dangerous

A Fatal Fiction

by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Mikki Lincoln is a retired middle school English teacher in Kaitlyn Dunnett’s A Fatal Fiction. In order to remodel her childhood home that has been neglected for many years, she supplements her retirement income using her skills as a copy editor. She lived in Maine for about fifty years, but has returned to her hometown, Lenape Hollow, NY. While stopped at a gas station, seventy year old Mikki is verbally attacked by a very angry businessman who has cheated a lot of people over the years by luring them into failing investments. Video of the encounter goes viral, even though Mikki never understood the cause of his anger. Mikki is the prime suspect when her attacker, CEO Greg Onslow, is found dead on one of the properties his company is developing.

Mikki is determined to discover who killed Onslow, but he was not a very nice man, so there are multiple suspects. Friends and family discourage her investigations as they seem dangerous at times.

The editing aspect of the story revolves around Sunny Feldman, last of the owners of a famous resort in the Catskills. She has hired Mikki to edit her semi tell-all memoirs of the celebrities who frequented the resort when she was a teenager. Onslow has bought the property for a development venture. Could their interests be colliding to cause these problems? Could Onslow’s ex-wife or even his second wife have killed him? There are some interesting locals who may have been involved as well. Most importantly, will the murderer set his or her sights on Mikki to cover up the crime and stop the investigation?

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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. #3 in the Deadly Edits Mystery Series, but will work as a standalone.

  2. At the end of the book, there is a section that will especially appeal to those who love language. It is composed of several pages of language and grammar tips including warnings on split infinitives, dangling modifiers, and usage of the terms swearing and foul language. The tips are interesting and often humorous.

Publication:   June 30, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Warmth crept up my neck and into my face. I was torn between feeling a sense of pride for standing up for myself and enduring acute embarrassment because I’d lost control.

Since I used the “teacher” voice I’d perfected over decades of dealing with junior high students, he caved, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d have said he was sulking, except that there was a definite look of panic in his eyes.

Unfortunately, to properly put on the airs of a grand dame one really needs to be sipping tea from a delicate china cup. I was drinking my coffee out of a Star Wars mug, a Christmas present from my great-niece.

Lowcountry Boondoggle–growing hemp for supercapacitors

Lowcountry Boondoggle

by Susan M. Boyer

I am not regularly a reader of paranormal books, but Susan M. Boyer’s cozy mysteries have a different sort of paranormal twist. They focus on Liz Talbot, P.I., who is married to Nate, also a P.I. and her business partner. It’s no spoiler in my review of the ninth book in the series to say one of the characters is the spirit of Colleen who passed away during her junior year in high school. A spunky redhead, she has returned on a mission to guard their little town of Stella Maris. There are rules she has to follow or there will be consequences. Liz and Nate are the only people who can see her. She adds humor to the books but also aids in the investigations—sporadically. I write about her at such length because she has a pivotal role in this book, but to say more would indeed be a spoiler.

There are a number of threads in Lowcountry Boondoggle. Darius, a former reality TV star has been located by Brantley, his “long-lost love child” who is the sole survivor of a fire that wiped out his adoptive family’s home. Brantley has teamed up with two other friends, Tyler and Will, to establish an agricultural business to raise hemp. The young men will be concentrating on selling the stems to make supercapacitors, and they need money to start their business.

The plot centers around arson, murder, theft, deception, and jealousy. There is some humorous relief when Liz discovers her father’s plotting to create a Halloween scene on steroids on the front lawn. What will Mama say? Foodies will enjoy descriptions of Liz’s mama’s Southern cooking as well as some of the couple’s extravagant dining at the expense of their clients.

The plot was well-devised, but seemed to drag a little. I also didn’t enjoy the characters as much as I have in some other cozy mysteries in this series. Even the setting didn’t have the pizzaz I expected. Fortunately, I have read several books in this series and know the next one will probably be more to my taste as Boyer has included several intriguing hooks in her conclusion.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #9 in the Liz Talbot Mystery Series

Publication:   June 30, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“…bad people are often very good at hiding behind masks of fake virtue.”

My husband was up to something, just as sure as azaleas would bloom all over Charleston in the spring.

“I always thought I had plenty of time, no rush. We make that same mistake all the time, don’t we? Thinking we have time?”

Nacho Average Murder–chemical danger in Santa Barbara

Nacho Average Murder

by Maddie Day

Robbie Jordan leaves wintry Indiana for a week’s vacation in sunny Santa Barbara. The initial draw is her tenth high school reunion, but she is excited to catch up with two of her best friends from her high school years, Alana and Jason, who will also be attending. It is fun for Robbie to revisit locales from her childhood, but the trip is tinged with sadness as her mom passed away two years prior.

Robbie finds herself in the midst of several investigations that may be tied together. There is a murder, and Robbie wonders if it could be connected to her own mother’s death as both of the deceased were young to be afflicted with the diagnosed aneurysms. She becomes involved in an ongoing battle between concerned citizens and Walter Russom of Agrosafe, a company that manufactures a spray on fumigant that is making workers and animals in nearby fields very sick. Russom’s daughter Katherine was a dominating force back in their high school days and is still making her presence felt. There are other persons of interest that lead Robbie and Alana down new areas of investigation, and Robbie seems to have danger following her by car and on foot. She wonders if it is real or if she being paranoid.

Maddie Day’s Nacho Average Murder, besides its great title, is an all-round good cozy mystery. Don’t start reading this while you are hungry. Robbie, who runs a B&B/restaurant back home, is staying at a South of the Border styled B&B. It has Mexican flavor extending from Carmen, the charming hostess, and Mamá, her Spanish speaking mother, who are excellent cooks, to the colorful Southwestern decor. Robbie also tries out a lot of the local restaurants so we are treated to descriptions of yummy dishes beginning with king crab ceviche appetizer and delicious guacamole. With Carmen’s blessing, Robbie takes pictures to remind her of the food and stores away ideas for her own B&B. Mamá, who could win tortilla making speed records, even teaches Robbie how to flatten out tortillas by hand. 

Start reading this book because it is part of an excellent series, keep reading to solve the murder, and revisit this cozy to try out some of its recipes. It’s almost like a mini vacation. Put on your shorts and sandals and enjoy the beach, the food, and the scenery. You’ll meet some great characters and maybe even a few of the local alpacas.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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. #7 in the Country Store Mystery Series, but it is perfect as a standalone because the main character is away from the usual setting and cast of characters.

  2. Includes 6 delicious sounding recipes.

Publication:   June 30, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Remember when we came here on that double date our junior year?”    She groaned. “With those twins, Whoosit and What’s His Name? That was a disaster and a half.”    “No kidding.” I snorted.

“You came!” She walked up to us with a smile wider than the San Andreas Fault and a lot less dangerous.

As I hurried between the wooden tables, my footsteps resounded louder on the gravel than a hundred monks crunching popcorn.

Murder in Waiting–hit and run?

Murder in Waiting

by Lynn Cahoon

If you’re looking for a good cozy mystery, you can’t go wrong with one written by Lynn Cahoon. Her Murder in Waiting fulfilled my expectations. Jill Gardner, former attorney, owns South Cove’s combination coffee house and bookshop. She has several employees and loves taking the first shift as it gives her time to read. She lives with Greg King, the lead detective for the local police. With each having a prior marriage, neither is anxious to make the big commitment again.

Jill’s friend Amy, however, is ready to tie the knot and manipulates Jill into planning her bachelorette party. The book devotes some time to the upcoming nuptials, but the author might have a surprise tie-in to the mystery itself. Jill witnesses a hit and run fatality, and it is up to the local police to determine if it was an accident or murder. 

Meanwhile, Jill is being bombarded with two personal issues. A developer wants the land her cottage is built on, and various individuals keep approaching her to try to convince her to sell. Some are rather threatening. Jill provides space and refreshments for a local business group’s monthly meetings. In the absence of the leader of the group, a member starts an unfounded smear campaign on Jill claiming their membership dues are rising because of Jill.

Besides the nitty gritty of the suspicious and murderous happenings, there are fun things going on in South Cove too. Deek, a “super dude” barista, not only has great marketing ideas, but is also trying to write his first book. Jill and Greg’s comfortable relationship takes them further along without high pressure expectations. Jill’s Aunt Jackie and her boyfriend Harrold are important characters in the story. Emma is Jill’s dog who loves nothing better than a run along the beach or handouts and pats from her human friends. There is a lot of food talk, but it is not over the top.

With its sunny California setting and the small tourist town vibes, South Cove opens its heart and Diamond Lille’s diner to welcome you to stay and visit. As Greg and Jill work through the many plot threads, you’ll be glad you dropped in. 

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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. #11 in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

  2. Recipe included for Easy Low-Carb Egg Muffins

Publication:   June 30, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Relationships. They were as bumpy as a road filled with land mines.

If my employees weren’t emotional eaters before they joined the staff, I tended to train them to become one by modeling the behavior.

Family. You had to accept them as they were because you weren’t going to change them.

Til Death–another fantastic Zoe Chambers mystery

Til Death

by Annette Dashofy

If all mysteries were as good as Til Death, readers would be glued to their easy chairs and no work would get done. Annette Dashofy continues her series with main character Zoe Chambers being promoted to Chief Deputy Coroner and giving up her job as an EMT. This is a huge change with lots of responsibilities, a big learning curve, and people and events that challenge her.

The story opens with County Coroner Franklin Marshall collapsing in the autopsy suite—and not out of a squeamish response to the procedure. The action takes off from there and doesn’t stop until the last period. There are several deaths, a cold case, attacks on law enforcement, and berserk ex-wives. Among all the cases could there be more than one criminal? There are three modes of murder, so maybe? Or do they all somehow tie together? 

Philandering Dustin Landis is released from prison when a judge overturns his conviction. The D.A. is going to try him again. Dustin has always insisted on his innocence. Now pieces are coming to light that indicate a serial killer was operating in the area at the time. When Franklin’s most recent ex-wife explodes on the scene, chaos follows her. She tears Franklin’s office apart, apparently in search of a document, and summarily kicks out Zoe and the Coroner’s Office with her.

Zoe’s attention is divided as she and Police Chief Pete Adams are getting married in two weeks, an event that brings seemingly inevitable family drama to the forefront. A staff romance in the Vance Township Police force causes a crisis of a different sort. Meanwhile Zoe and Pete have to work together and independently to fit all of the puzzle pieces together with the goal of solving all those mysteries simultaneously.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and Henery 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 Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but holds up well as a standalone.

Publication:   June 16, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

If Loretta Marshall’s dark hair had been half white, Zoe would’ve warned her friends who owned Dalmatians.

“Good old Dr. Davis. Politician first. Forensic expert second. Human being? Somewhere way lower on the list.”

Zoe collapsed onto her stacked boxes, staring out the dirt-streaked window, thoughts and emotions racing inside her skull like deranged bumper cars.

Booked for Death–murders, books, and suspicion

Booked for Death

by Victoria Gilbert

Victoria Gilbert, a retired librarian, has started a second series for those who love all things bookish. In Booked for Death, Charlotte, a widow, has inherited a large home from her Great Aunt Isabella whose life was a mystery to her family. Already an established B&B, the inn is called Chapters because of the extensive library it houses which includes many rare books. In keeping with the various themes, Charlotte hosts special events centered on authors and books.

In Booked for Death, the week’s focus is British writer Josephine Tey. As the participants dive into one of her mysteries, there is a murder at the B&B.  There are many suspects with legitimately plausible motivations for killing bookseller Lincoln Delamont as he was not a very nice man. Charlotte tries to find out as much as she can about all the people who were at the B& B at the time of the murder. Information comes out gradually as to backgrounds and alibis. Charlotte, who has a reason to wish Lincoln dead, is one of the suspects but soon finds her own life in danger.

There are many interesting characters. Some of those will clearly appear in future books in the series—her friend Julie, housekeeper and cook Alicia, and neighbor Ellen. Others may or may not make a reappearance. Charlotte’s investigations take her to the dusty, cluttered attic to try to understand her great aunt’s complicated past. 

Most of the book is well-written. There is a small portion that has stilted dialogue between Ellen and Charlotte, but most of the book, which is written in first person, flows smoothly. I did not guess who the murderer is, but the reveal is both surprising and nicely disclosed. The conclusion is very satisfying and so well played that I read the last few pages twice just to enjoy both the implications for future books and the written words themselves. It is easy to see how this book can segue into even bigger mysteries in future books with legitimate, not contrived, investigations.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1.#1 in the Booklovers B&B Mystery Series

2. The second book in the series, Reserved for Murder, is scheduled for release on June 8, 2021.

3. I have one criticism of the book (in its ARC form) which may well have been altered for publication. The author overused the term “narrowed/narrowing his/her eye” (15 times) and “side-eyed” (8 times). I’m sure with a little creativity, the author can find other ways to explain the character’s expressions. This issue was overshadowed for me by the intricacies of the plot, some beautifully written passages, and the excellent ending which left me looking forward to the next book in the series.

Publication:   June 9, 2020—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

Her vivacious beauty, undimmed even in her later years, had seemed far too exotic for our rather unexceptional family. Like a butterfly among the moths, I thought, as I laid down the photo and picked up another.

“I was hungry,” Tara said, fixing me with a glare that would’ve frozen the blood of most adults. But I’d taught high school for far too long to be intimidated by such tactics.

“…she wasn’t believed when she told the truth as a child. And honestly, it’s not always easy to share our deepest pain, even with the ones we love.”

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