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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.”

False Conclusion–dangerous inheritance

False Conclusion

by Veronica Heley

Much to her dismay, Bea Abbot, the owner of the Abbot Agency becomes desperately entangled in the affairs of the rich and influential Trescott family. All is not as it appears in that closely knit family…well, closely knit in terms of the secrets they try to keep. Mysterious deaths keep piling up. Bea’s ward Bernice is rather forced at boarding school into a friendship role with the Trescott matriarch’s niece Evelina (Evie), a disheveled and almost incoherent teenager. Evie is meant to marry an older cousin Joshua who has promised to take care of her and, Bea suspects, her fortune too. Meanwhile, some rather disturbing patterns arise when Joshua’s tempestuous brother Benjy takes an interest in Bernice who is only 14 and also destined to be wealthy.

Veronica Heley’s False Conclusion is a good mystery that combines reasoning, investigation, and character conflicts with action. The author’s writing style insists that the reader sneak a quick peak at each “next chapter” which, of course, segues into the next and the next; it is a book that is hard to put down.

If you have been following this series, you will be interested in the relationship developments between Bea and her ex-husband Piers, a famous portrait painter whose artistic skills and quick thinking play a role in False Conclusion’s plot. If this series is new to you, don’t hesitate to dive in; you will quickly be brought up to speed on the characters and find that the plot is fresh. In fact, the intriguing opening lines throw both new and returning reader into the story without hesitation: “Bea Abbot shut the front door on her departing guests and demanded, ‘What on earth was that all about?’ ”

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Christian

Notes: 1. #14 in the Abbot Agency Mystery Series, but would work as a standalone.

2.  Although not overtly a Christian book, the author does show Bea’s reliance on God through a few short prayers for wisdom and protection during difficult times.

Publication:   July 7, 2020—Severn House Publishers

Memorable Lines:

His hand on her shoulder had been heavy. He’d meant her to feel the weight of his hand, and to remind her of the power behind it. He was smiling, but his eyes glittered, needle sharp. He had ceased to dismiss her as a pawn in the game.

She stared into the future. It was a dark pit, filled with crashing noises and a seething tangle of snakes. It was more real than her bedroom. It horrified her. She couldn’t look away. She couldn’t even pray.

“Forgiveness comes with understanding. And remorse. And courage to look into the future and not back at the past.”

Night Shift–using heart and brain

Night Shift

by Annelise Ryan

Two books to read. One—a thought provoking theological memoir with an impending book club deadline. The other—a page turner by one of my favorite authors, Annelise Ryan. She really knows how to tell a story. My decision, given this choice, is not hard to guess. As I finished the mystery, Night Shift, I should have been wearing my “one more chapter” sweatshirt because that is what happened, all the way to a surprising and satisfying conclusion.

Whereas Ryan’s Mattie Winston Mystery Series focuses on forensics and pathology, her equally well-written Helping Hands Series is about Hildy, a social worker who is combining her job with the hospital as a social worker with a newly created position where she rides along with local enforcement officers to support both the officers and the citizens they encounter. The upside is that many of her clients overlap; the downside is that the hours are extended with the jobs back to back not really allowing for any kind of normal sleep routines. Hildy has been trained in appropriate protocol to keep her safe, and she follows it. She has three big advantages in her new job. She is smart and is good at noticing clues and making connections that others may not see. She has a trained therapy dog Roscoe who interacts well with people in crisis helping to calm them. Personal traumas as a child and her experiences in the foster care system make her an understanding advocate.

In this mystery, Hildy’s welfare check on a farmer yields unpleasant results that are just the beginning of an intricate plot. Threads include a female vet with PTSD, a schizophrenic young man who hallucinates, two adult daughters of the victim who are not very nice people, and a militia organization.

Hildy is determined, persistent, and very caring. On a personal level, she befriends a young neighbor with autism and initiates a relationship with a bachelor detective who is ready to make changes in his life. On a professional level, she is confronted by her boss at the hospital who was turned down for the law enforcement position Hildy now holds. 

Annelise Ryan’s books have some of the characteristics of a cozy mystery, but they have a little edge to them in the crime scene descriptions. They also have characters with more depth to them than the typical cozy mystery. She takes great care to bring the reader along as she supplies background information from the first novel in a natural and organic way. The characters are interesting and show development. The plot is intricate and fast moving. This is a mystery you’ll be thinking about for days as you wonder what adventures lie in store for Hildy in the next book.

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: #2 in the Helping Hands Mystery Series, but excellent as a standalone

Publication:   July 28, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

If eyes truly are the windows to the soul, one look at Danny’s makes it clear that reason and sanity have left that particular building. At least for now.

As I follow her in there, it occurs to me that this is a kid who never displays emotion, and that I may have just been played by an eleven-year-old.

The rest of the station employees not only haven’t noticed, but they’ve made no effort whatsoever to maintain the newly cleaned state. I’m surprised I got the job I did with this department because, apparently, being a slob is one of the criteria for working here.

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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Of Mutts and Men–a tired tale

Of Mutts and Men

by Spencer Quinn

Although I really enjoyed reading the first book in the Chet and Bernie Series, I was a little disappointed as I read Of Mutts and Men, the tenth book in the series. I felt like I was reading a clone of the first book, sporting a different cover and title and with the same jokes, but repeated too often. The mystery concerning a murder, an aquifer, and big business is fresh but somehow did not thrust me into a page turning mode. Chet, a K-9 school failure but faithful sidekick to P.I. Bernie, is always devotedly at Bernie’s side, but his role in capturing the “perps” in this book is less than I think he deserves. He has valuable deductions, but as a dog can not share them effectively in this tale. The story includes a personal side of Bernie’s life as a former flame reenters the picture, but there is no deep examination and it doesn’t seem believable.

I recommend this book if you like mysteries that involve canines and you want a light read. Unfortunately, although it reads well as a standalone, it does not compel me to read the eight books that I skipped over in the series. I am planning to read the next book in the series to inspire me to read more or to convince me that the series is not worth investing more time.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Macmillan—Tor/Forge for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #10 in the Chet and Bernie Series, but can be read as a standalone.

  2. Contains some profanity.

  3. Link to my review of the first book in the series, Dog On It.

Publication:   July 7, 2020— Macmillan—Tor/Forge

Memorable Lines:

“Sometimes I don’t understand you.” Well, right back at ya. Which didn’t change how I felt about him, not the slightest bit. And just to show him, I put my paw on his leg and pressed down firmly, so he’d know how much I cared. We shot through the intersection, the light luckily turning green at that moment, or just about to. 

The big heat of summer was coming very soon, and the back of Bernie’s shirt—one of his nicest, with the flamingos drinking at a bar pattern—was getting sweaty, and he was huffing and puffing a bit. I followed him up the slope, first from behind and then from in front, where I do my best following.

I started feeling very good about the case. As for what it was about, exactly, those details would come to me soon, or later, or not at all. But the important thing was that we were cooking, me and Bernie.

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?”

The Thursday Murder Club–new life in cold cases

The Thursday Murder Club

by Richard Osman

Richard Osman’s first novel, The Thursday Murder Club, is a stellar mystery. Definitely not a thriller, the solving of a cold case or two gets mixed in with several current murders as four residents of a retirement community band together to solve crimes that have stumped law enforcement in the past.

The main characters stand out as individuals—Ron, a former trade union leader; Joyce, a retired nurse; Ibrahim, a psychiatrist occasionally still consulted by former patients; and the quite competent Elizabeth who has contacts all over the world from her secretive profession.  All play into the sleuthing with their personal strengths and break down stereotypes of senior citizens who have given up on life. Elizabeth is the leader as the one with the best skills at recognizing motives and relationships, understanding how a crime might have been committed, and devising plans to reveal  criminals.  Everyone recognizes that if Elizabeth wants something to happen, a meeting perhaps, she can indeed make it happen.

Even the law enforcement, PC Donna De Freitas and her boss DCI Chris Hudson, find themselves manipulated into cooperating in the investigations by Elizabeth and the other seniors. Since the plot is complicated, there are many characters including a priest, some gangsters, real estate developers, a sheep herder, and a famous boxer. There are even more, and some careful reading is involved as minor characters can have a bigger role than you might anticipate. For example, one important character never says a word: look for Penny in the story.  It is fascinating to watch the Thursday Murder Club pick at the threads of the various crimes until they unravel. There are some crimes that you don’t even realize occurred until they were solved. Now, that’s magical writing because there is nothing artificial about the way author Richard Osman makes it all come together.

The style of the writing is fantastic with lots of British humor to make you smile and a few absolutely laugh out loud scenes. Joyce records her views on the investigation and reflections on her personal life in a diary that we get to read; it is set off in bold print and interspersed with the other chapters which are written in the third person. None of the chapters are very long and some are less than a page making this many chaptered tome move quickly. The chapters change their focus from one crime and set of characters to another, and that also seems appropriate to the complexity of the plot. This is not a book with a lot of red herrings; it is replete with good solid clues. The reader is in for many surprises but discovers them as the characters do. With its intricate plot and characters with depth, The Thursday Murder Club gives you much to contemplate above and beyond the mystery itself. There are many ethical questions to ponder, but the author lays out the facts and leaves judgement up to the reader.

Rating: 5/5 

Category: Mystery, Humor

Notes: This award winning book has a sequel in the works: The Thursday Murder Club 2 is set for publication on September 16, 2021.

Publication:   September 3, 2020—Viking

Memorable Lines:

It looks out over the bowling green, and then farther down to the visitors’ car park, the permits for which are rationed to such an extent that the Parking Committee is the single most powerful cabal within Coopers Chase.

I think that if I have a special skill, it is that I am often overlooked. Is that the word? Underestimated, perhaps?…So everyone calms down through me. Quiet, sensible Joyce. There is no more shouting and the problem is fixed, more often than not in a way that benefits me—something no one ever seems to notice.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to use your mobile telephone in here, Elizabeth,” says John. She gives a kindly shrug. “Well, imagine if we only ever did what we were supposed to, John.”  “You have a point there, Elizabeth,” agrees John, and goes back to his book.

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