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Broadcast 4 Murder–mystery with lots of humor

Broadcast 4 Murder

by J.C. Eaton

Get ready to solve several mysteries, laughing your way through the pages of J.C. Eaton’s Broadcast 4 Murder. Sophie (aka “Kiddo” to her boss, “Phee” to her mother, and “Hon” to her boyfriend Marshall) gets pulled into a murder investigation when her mother discovers a dead body at the Sun City West radio station as she prepares to broadcast a show about cozy mysteries. As soon as Sophie’s mother enters the scene, the reader can expect demands on Sophie to nose around, daily phone calls, and wacky shenanigans as the residents of this Arizona senior community interact. Streetman, her mom’s chiweenie, gets a delightful starring role.

The first murder is not the last, and other crimes are discovered in the process of the investigation. Lots of characters are implicated as possible suspects, but they don’t appear to fit all the requirements—motive, means, and opportunity. These crimes are a puzzle to local detectives as well as the private investigators Sophie works with. She is not a private investigator; she is an accountant. In this book, however, she is able to do some informal forensic accounting along with on the ground sleuthing to catch some crooks. Broadcast 4 Murder is funny, has a complicated plot, and will keep you turning pages while you just don’t want it to end.

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: #7 in the Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but you can enjoy this cozy mystery as a standalone. This husband/wife writing team does an excellent job of beginning the action simultaneously with providing pertinent details of the backstory. They never miss a beat.

Publication: October 27, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Someone misplaced an apostrophe on some boxes? That’s the trouble these days. Schools no longer teach the important things. They’re too busy with social skills and self-esteem building. How can anyone build self-esteem if they can’t write a decent sentence?”

“You don’t have to worry about social media. She doesn’t use it. She prefers yenta media. It’s faster and commands a larger audience.”

It played out during the entire week with more and more salient details every night. It was as if we had our own version of Telemundo, only instead of seasoned actors, we had greedy retirees.

Christmas Card Murder–three novellas

Christmas Card Murder

by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Peggy Ehrhart

The book Christmas Card Murder is a compilation of three novellas. The first one is also called Christmas Card Murder, and it’s written by Leslie Meier. It is an acceptable cozy mystery about a writer for a small town Maine newspaper who discovers a Christmas card with a hateful, mysterious message during a remodeling project. When a snowstorm brings more than snow, the main character Lucy finds herself in danger. With themes regarding the effectiveness of our criminal justice system, DNA evidence, and reasonable doubt, this mystery’s last few chapters have a very serious tone and the conclusion provides mixed outcomes for the characters. This story is more thought provoking than fun.

Death of a Christmas Carol
As I began the second novella, I sensed a theme. Also set in Maine, Death of a Christmas Carol’s plot is centered around a Christmas card. This card is addressed to three friends and includes a threat. The sender of the card is a flirtatious woman who has had conflicts with all the ladies. Is the card a joke or is someone’s husband unfaithful? Lee Hollis’ tale is about female bonding, marital happiness, and murder. Embedded are some short stories by the main character who is a writer for the local newspaper and some of her favorite seasonal recipes.

Death of a Christmas Card Crafter
Karma Karling was Penny’s favorite teacher in high school. A talented artist, she created a new card each Christmas season based on the “12 Days of Christmas.” Clearly the last in the series, this year’s card features 12 drummer boys—but there are thirteen depicted. Could that be a clue to Karma’s untimely death? Bettina and Pamela, both knitters, make it their business to discover the murderer while absolving a fellow knitter.

All of the novellas in this trio appear to be part of each author’s series. I enjoyed this novella the most—partly because, of the three, this is the only series that I have been following. I credit this one as having the best descriptive passages, the most interesting plot, and a surprise ending that was truly unexpected.

All of these novellas work as a stand-alone, but the author of Death of a Christmas Card Crafter excels in pulling the reader into the story while giving back information that makes the characters more appealing. Peggy Ehrhart’s book includes directions for knitting doll clothes using only the knit stitch and recipes for an intensely chocolate cake and a quick bread featuring dried fruits.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Publication: October 27, 2020—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

Christmas Card Murder—She knew that kids frequently didn’t realize that their actions had consequences; this was something most people learned the hard way.

Death of a Christmas Carol—“I got him to talk by threatening not to make him dinner. He’d make a terrible spy. He’d give up the nation’s secrets for a box of Hamburger Helper.”

Death of a Christmas Card Crafter—The spicy pine scent carried all the way to the sidewalk, and its evocation of a season that should be happy seemed an incongruous contradiction to the crime-scene tape and the uniformed officer.

Candy Cane Crime–sweet cozy mystery

Candy Cane Crime

by Amanda Flower

I just love that Amanda Flower has contributed Candy Cane Crime to the growing list of Christmas themed cozy mysteries. Why? Because it has a real Christmas flavor to it, not just a background setting. More importantly, because there is no murder! The mystery revolves around the Candy Cane Exchange, a fundraiser for new costumes for the town’s Christmas parade and pageant. Even without a murder, there is a villain to be rooted out in the little town of Harvest.

Charlotte, a young Amish woman who works in the candy shop, volunteers to be coordinator for the project. At age twenty-two, Charlotte is considered “old” to have not yet decided on whether to join the Amish church or to become Englisch. She becomes obsessed with who her secret admirer might be with several candidates under consideration and observation. The story is told from Charlotte’s point of view since, for most of the story, the usual main character of the series, Bailey, is in New York. This change in POV works perfectly for Candy Cane Crime.

The word “sweetest” is used many times and has a special significance in this story. It is a fast read, and I was sorry to come to the end. This is the sweetest cozy mystery! If you are searching for something gentle, Christmasy, and guaranteed to make you smile, seek out Candy Cane Crime.

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. #6 in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series, but is perfect as a standalone.
2. A recipe for Peppermint Popcorn is included that sounds delicious.

Publication: October 6, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Other than the bishop’s wife, Ruth Yoder, Margot is the most determined woman I’ve ever known. If the two of them joined together, none of us would have any peace. It’s for the best the pair of them are rarely in agreement.”

Since I had left my conservative home district, I had heard little from my siblings and parents. I knew that I had made the right decision, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I missed them and wished they would at least speak to me from time to time.

But that wasn’t how I was. It was why I had never fit well in my old conservative district. I had this need to know and ask why and how.

A Pretty Deceit–the pursuit of Ardmore continues

A Pretty Deceit

by Anna Lee Huber

In the aftermath of The Great War, there are many “walking wounded.” This category refers to soldiers with physical wounds, of course. Also included are those psychologically affected, unable to relate to others, even those they love most. Waking or sleeping, the horrors of the war remain with them. Their families have suffered as well. Many have lost sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands either through death or trauma. Women are living in limbo or trying to raise children on their own. All of these injured are touched on as we witness the struggles of the characters in A Pretty Deceit. The protagonist, Verity Kent, is a high society woman married to a war hero. You would think the couple would be happily “living the life” after the war. They harbor secrets, however, as each individually worked for intelligence services, and their past efforts continue to disrupt their current lives.

Verity has a penchant for solving mysteries, and in this historical novel by Anna Lee Huber, Verity is called on by her family to investigate her aunt’s missing possessions as well as the disappearance of a maid. Her husband’s influence is solicited to encourage the government to provide reparations to Verity’s aunt for damages that occurred when Air Force officers were billeted in her home. As the couple tries to help, a murder is discovered on the estate, and Verity is called on to clear the murder victim’s wife. In the middle of these investigations, the couple is asked, unofficially, to investigate a wealthy businessman with connections that rise high in the government. He rarely dirties his own hands but has many minions willing to do his bidding.

I have read two more books in this series, and A Pretty Deceit is my favorite so far. Well written, as all of the books in this series are, this novel is outstanding in background, pace, and character development. We meet Reg, Verity’s cousin who was blinded in the war. We also see her current interactions with two men who had a romantic interest in Verity during the war. Verity is well aware of her attractiveness and is not afraid to subtly use it to achieve her ends. The position and influence of a woman in this time period is well demonstrated by the reactions of characters to women in accordance with class status and race. This historical fiction is a piece worth reading.

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: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Verity Kent Series, but works well as a standalone

Publication: September 29, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

For all that Aunt Ernestine would be horrified at such conduct in others, she was remarkably oblivious to the fault in herself.

Compassion need not be a restricted commodity, especially not during a time when everyone was still struggling to right themselves after the topsy-turvy years of the war.

He was a cunning manipulator, making people question even those things they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt to be true, and exploiting people’s best and worst natures to convince them to do things they would never have dreamed themselves capable of.

Death, Dismay and Rosé–opportune timing

Death, Dismay and Rosé

by J. C. Eaton

Norrie is a screenwriter and part owner of Two Witches Winery on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. She is counting the days until her sister returns from Costa Rica to take over the winery again and she can return to her lawyer boyfriend Bradley and her urban life.

Unfortunately, Norrie finds herself, yet again, in the middle of a murder she needs to solve to get a friend released from jail. The situation is not simple, however. Although Norrie is not superstitious, one of her staff members and lots of tourists are. Now Norrie has to deal with a local, two hundred year old curse that supposedly takes effect when a full moon and the summer solstice occur on the same night. The results could be deadly.

Neighboring winery owners Don and Theo and entomologist Godfrey are Norrie’s friends and are dragged reluctantly into her investigations which are not always legal and are sometimes dangerous. The clock is ticking as time draws near for the solstice to occur and for the local police to give up on their murder investigation. Will Norrie be able to solve the crime before another death occurs, Alex is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, some thieves get away with a stolen Porsche engine, or Norrie and Godfrey are arrested? So much is riding on her investigation. Fortunately, Norrie is both spunky and determined.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Beyond the Page Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #6 in the Wine Trail Mystery Series, but OK as a standalone

Publication: September 29, 2020—Beyond the Page Publishing

Memorable Lines:

It’s never good when someone says they hope something doesn’t upset you, because inevitably, it will upset you. I held my breath and waited for her to continue.

“Do you have any idea what kind of danger you’re putting yourself in? And I don’t mean the skunk. The mess you’re getting into won’t be solved by a can of tomato juice and a hose!”

Funny how food can make people forget whatever else is on their minds, because for a brief respite, I found myself immersed in a whole other world…

The Last Agent–suspenseful spy novel

The Last Agent

by Robert Dugoni

Oddly, I have watched many more spy movies than I have read spy books. Robert Dugoni’s The Last Agent is a great pathway for me into the world of spy novels. It is part of a series in that Charles Jenkins is the main character in the series that bears his name. Although the characters are important to the story, appreciating the book is not predicated on having read others in the series. This book is a fine example of a story that is so engaging, so complex, that the plot stands on its own merits.

Charlie Jenkins is a retired spy, forced out by his own organization. He tries to enjoy rural life with his much younger wife and two young children. When opportunity knocks at his door, however, Charlie answers with minimal hesitation. This assignment is especially appealing because it gives him the chance to help Paulina who sacrificed herself so that he could return to his family. An extremely strong double agent mentally, she is questioned relentlessly with physical and psychological torture by Russians who want to know the identity of certain assets.

Charlie is supposed to engineer her escape from an impenetrable prison and see her to the U.S. and freedom. She is in an extremely compromised physical condition and is heavily guarded. Getting her out would take a lot of skill and planning along with a dose of good luck. The Russians want her information badly and have the advantage of Putin’s extensive “Big Brother” network of cameras. Fortunately, Charlie has support from his handlers with assets all over Europe and a huge bank account that gives him leverage with a former Russian agent.

There are so many intricate steps in achieving the various goals along the way. Not everything goes smoothly so a lot of improvisation is required. Hideous weather both hinders and helps. Disguises and unusual means of transportation are called into play. I guarantee this book is a page turner that will keep you reading way past “lights out.”

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Thomas & Mercer for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thriller (Spy)

Notes: #2 in The Charles Jenkins Series, but I read it as a standalone with no problems understanding or enjoying it.

Publication: September 22, 2020—Thomas & Mercer

Memorable Lines:

His anger spiked; he couldn’t believe the agency that had allowed him to be tried for espionage now had the audacity to seek his help.

You Americans are too impatient. It is your consumerism. You want everything now. This minute. You must learn Russian patience. We must take the first step before we take the second.”

Viktor Federov knew well that Big Brother had returned to Russia, though the method of spying—once Russians reporting on fellow Russians—now employed computer technology cameras, and cell phones.

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard–town of Pelican tries to attract tourists

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

by Ellen Byron

Although I do not usually favor Halloween themed mysteries, I had a good time with Murder in the Bayou Boneyard. Obviously set in Louisiana, Ellen Byron’s series takes the reader to the Crozat Plantation where the family works together to maintain their property by running a B & B.

A lot is going on in the little town of Pelican as the B & B’s in the area try to attract tourists with Pelican’s Spooky Past packages including a special mystery play, themed edible treats, crafts, and spa specials. Hopefully this will counteract the efforts of Gavin Grody who is buying up affordable housing and using them as tourist rentals. 

There are so many plot threads! While all this is going on in the town,  the Crozat’s distant cousins from Canada arrive bringing chaos and murder with them. Oil companies are making offers on the plantation land whose ownership may be in question. Don’t take any of the characters at face value; some are not who they seem to be, from the scary gardener to the amiable stage manager to the overacting thespian. There are multiple murders and other dangers along the way, but I promise that all the threads connect with a surprise ending. 

My only disappointment was the minimal inclusion of Gopher, the Crozat  family’s rescue basset hound in the story despite being featured prominently on the book’s cover. Byron makes up for neglecting Gopher by introducing Louie, a quite talkative parrot with a pivotal and humorous role.

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: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #6 in the Cajun Country Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone. The author dumps you into the story with a prologue that may seem confusing, but will be made clear in the conclusion of the novel. Then she proceeds to provide some background even as the story begins.

2. The characters in the book are listed with relations and connections if the reader needs a reference.

3. The book includes 5 recipes with a Cajun twist.

Publication:   September 8, 2020—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

“Sandy’s got me on this health kick. There should be a state law against making jambalaya with quinoa, whatever the heck that is.”

“He can be smug, overbearing, opinionated, lazy, a total slob—“  “And you’re with him why?”  Sandy teared up. “Because he’s smart and funny and loves me more than anybody I’ve ever known.”

“Whoa, whoa,” Bo said, flummoxed. “That’s a whole lotta word salad, chère. You need to calm down. Take deep breaths.”

Two Reasons to Run–fast-paced thriller

Two Reasons to Run

by Colleen Coble

I have to admit that in the middle of a complicated transition (i.e. I moved), I had forgotten that One Little Lie was Colleen Coble’s first book in The Pelican Harbor Series, and I had read it. Going into the second book of the series, Two Reasons to Run, was indeed like reading it as a standalone. I had a few confused moments along the way, but the plot is compelling and Coble is a good storyteller. I was able and motivated to push through my mental rough spots.

Jane Hardy, Pelican Harbor’s police chief, has reunited with her teenage son Will. Will’s father Reid had escaped from a cult with him many years ago, but Jane had been told her son was dead. The plot involves Jane’s and Reid’s efforts to overcome the past and re-establish relationships with various family members. Meanwhile, Jane is asked by a grieving mother to investigate her son’s death on an oil rig. Can Jane avert a terrorist plot without losing her life or risking the safety of those she loves?

The pace is quick, the characters are believable, and the oil rig setting in the Gulf is interesting. The cult background and a hired killer make the intrigue even more complicated. The questions center around who is behind the plot, what motivates the terrorist, and how he tries to achieve his goal. The answers rest in Jane’s strength and determination and Reid’s love for Will and Jane and his faith in God.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery & Thriller, Christian

Notes: #2 in The Pelican Harbor Series, but can be read as a standalone.

Publication:   September 8, 2020—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

No excuses, no rationalizations. His naked sorrow over his behavior touched the sore places of her heart with a soothing balm.

White pickups were as plentiful as shrimp here…

“I know, I know. I’m struggling with it too. But God doesn’t want us to live in fear, honey. At some point you have to have some faith in God’s provision.”

Hanging Falls–a different sort of community

Hanging Falls

by Margaret Mizushima

Three story threads are woven together to form the foundation for the plot of Hanging Falls:

  1. Mattie’s reconnection with long lost family members.
  2. Two separate violent murders near Hanging Falls.
  3. An unusual community, the Brothers of Salvation, comprised of a few males and many more women and children.

With a predominant theme of family, it is not surprising that a big part of this K-9 mystery focuses on Mattie’s canine partner, Robo, who is like family to her. Also important is her boyfriend Cole, a veterinarian, and his two daughters. Mattie’s sad past colors her relationships as she struggles to lead a normal life and help others as a deputy.

As always with the books in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series, the information on Robo’s skills and training is fascinating. Mattie and Robo encounter some dangerous situations. Margaret Mizushima’s Hanging Falls is another page turner in a very good series.

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: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #6 in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.

Publication:   September 8, 2020—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

Their sudden distance had lasted longer than he’d thought it would, and it chafed him like an ill-fitting harness on a workhorse.

Hanging Falls would never be the same to her again. It was like trading a little slice of heaven for a big chunk of hell.

The turgid river roared off to one side, and he hated having it flow downhill at his back, knowing full well that a wall of water could come down the canyon at any moment, sweeping them off the trail into its maelstrom.

The Nine Tailors–complicated plot

The Nine Tailors

by Dorothy Sayers

The reader of The Nine Tailors is thrown headlong into the world of change-ringing in English churches, the ancient art of ringing huge bells by ropes, not according to melody, but mathematical patterns. Dorothy Sayers’ book also immerses the reader into Anglican church architecture and local sluices, fens, and waterways. I didn’t have the necessary background knowledge to understand or appreciate the extensive backdrop Sayers paints for her mystery, and that deficit on my part hindered my appreciation of the novel.

At the same time, I must applaud the author for one of the most convoluted plot structures I have ever encountered. Dorothy Sayers is considered one of the top writers in the mystery genre, and having read The Nine Tailors, I understand the reason for her reputation even though her style is not quite to my taste. Her main character, Lord Peter Wimsey, is a likable protagonist. The conclusion of the tale is both satisfying and surprising. I must admit on a personal level that I have allowed myself to be spoiled by the easy reading afforded by currently produced cozy mysteries which I very much enjoy. The Nine Tailors has a much more intellectual bent and certainly stretches the reader’s mental reaches. I recommend this book within the constraints of a mystery that requires the reader to put forth at least equal effort to that of the author.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  #11 in the Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery Series. As it is not very character dependent, it could be appreciated as a standalone.

Publication:  1934—Harcourt Brace & Co. (Harvest Books)

Memorable Lines:

A powerful ecclesiastical odor, compounded of ancient wood, varnish, dry rot, hassocks, hymn-books, paraffin lamps, flowers and candles, all gently baking in the warmth of slow-combustion stoves, billowed out from the interior.

It came upon him with a shock that Uncle Edward could not be many years older than himself. He felt for him the apprehensive reverence which one feels for a quaint and brittle piece of antiquity.

I think I have been the most unmitigated and unconscionable ass that ever brayed in a sleuth-hound’s skin.

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