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The Subject of Malice–professional jealousy

The Subject of Malice

by Cynthia Kuhn

The Subject of MaliceAn academic like Lila Maclean is highly suitable to detective work; many of the same skills are required to interview witnesses, deduce events from clues, and analyze situations as she employs in her profession. It doesn’t hurt that Lila has a propensity for finding dead bodies thus putting her on the scene where all the evidence is.

In The Subject of Malice by Cynthia Kuhn, the police chief actually recognizes the valuable contributions Lila has made in the past and gives Detective Lex, her boyfriend, the nod to include Lila as a consultant. As an English professor, Lila’s focus on the genres of gothic and horror brings her to a convention as an organizer, presenter, and participant. The ugly side of the academic world is on full display as professors compete for publication which in turn helps them achieve tenure. In fact, the atmosphere turns nasty and downright deadly. As the convention winds down, the complications, both personal and professional don’t. With interesting characters and dramatic plot twists, Kuhn creates a story you’ll want to keep at all the way to solving the murders and a surprise twist.

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: #4 in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series; works well as a standalone

Publication:   July 23, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“Merrie’s the dearest friend—“ Simone mused, sweetly. She said most things sweetly, which was a misdirection of epic proportions.

“There has to be more to it than that. He doesn’t look like a cheater.”

“What does a cheater look like?”

“Good point.”

Sometimes I forgot who she’d shown herself to be and trusted her again. Which usually didn’t turn out very well. She had a tendency to shift behaviors right when I’d let down my guard.

Killer in the Carriage House–saving a village

Killer in the Carriage House

Killer in the Carriage House

Lisbeth invites her friend Kate to Asheboro to try to save the town. The only industry, a shovel factory, has long since closed its doors. Kate’s only work experience has been in managing large hotels, but she thinks she could possibly turn the town into a replica of a Victorian village. The source of the idea is the Victorian mansion left to the town by the deceased factory owner.

There are many unanswered questions involved in this project. Kate needs to get the townspeople, especially the shopkeepers, on board. She needs to research the history of the period and develop resources to help put the plan into action. Meanwhile, she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery when she discovers the body of a young man she encountered the day before at the library. She also wants to learn more about the factory owner and his connections with both Clara Barton and Thomas Edison.

The storyline of Killer in the Carriage House is acceptable, but I had a hard time with the main character Kate. She isn’t believable to me as a project manager. She wastes a lot of time just waiting for things to happen and then complains that there are so many things to do. She also says that in her former position she was told what she had to do and was never in charge of initiating events. That does not seem in line with a hotel manager’s responsibilities. Her personal relationships are weak and not well defined.

The plot is better developed than the characters. I liked the plot resolution but was surprised that certain characters’ presence in town hadn’t been questioned earlier.

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

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Although this book is the second book in the Victorian Village Mysteries, it is the first book in the series for me. It was easy to pick up with the plot and characters and move into the tale.

Publication:  July 9, 2019—St. Martin’s Press

Memorable Lines:

But to have someone—or in this case, something like an entire town—hand the whole unwieldy mess to me and say, “Here, make this nice, and don’t spend too much money”? I was left floundering.

“So, are you going to tell me about this new murder?” 

“You mean the body in the library? Sounds like an Agatha Christie novel, but unfortunately it’s true.”

“You got tossed into a difficult situation, one that kept changing about every ten minutes. You did the best you could.”

A House Divided–historical tale by a Lincoln scholar

A House Divided

by Jonathan F. Putnam

A House DividedI was surprised to find myself trudging through A House Divided by Jonathan F. Putnam, an author with an outstanding legal and historical background. This is the fourth book in this series, but I did not feel that my not having read the previous books was a hindrance. There just seemed to be a disjoint between the history and fiction of the tale. None of the characters were fleshed out with emotion for me, and so I did not identify with any of them. I really wanted to like this book, but it was difficult when  the characters’ motives were rarely disclosed. Lincoln and his friend Speed are competitors for the affections of Mary Todd, but even Mary’s character holds no depth.

The mystery was interesting and based somewhat on history, although the narrator Speed, a major actor in the story, was actually not a part of the real events of the crime and trial. Perhaps that alteration of the facts added to the difficulty of creating an interesting work of historical fiction. Perhaps the problem lies in timidity in assigning thoughts and feelings to major historical figures. Authors may find that easier to do when the main character is either a minor figure on the historical stage or the creation by the author of a composite character based on what a person in that role at that time of history would be like. 

I did appreciate the author’s efforts to include the plight of Irish workers and their families. They were caught in the middle of a web of corruption and greed on the part of politicians and bankers. Another positive of the book is the writer’s style which is appropriate to the period.

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: 3/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Lincoln and Speed Mystery Series 

Publication:   July 9, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

The Globe…As a feeding station for hungry village residents or residence for travelers, it was inferior in every respect to the sparkling new American House. Its only advantage at this point was familiarity, like a pair of shoes that slipped on easily despite worn-away soles.

Springfield…But citizens hoping to find entertainment that did not arrive in a bottle or cask were destined to be disappointed. Except when the circuit court was in session to adjudicate the county’s legal disputes. Then, the entire human condition, comedy and tragedy alike, was on display and free for all to watch.

Every turn in the road, every little rise of the prairie, might reveal a clutch of deadly and determined men, ready to hazard their own lives and reckless to mine.

Toxic Toffee–Jethro and Puff add humor

Toxic Toffee

by Amanda Flower

Toxic ToffeeAs I read Amanda Flower’s latest cozy mystery, Toxic Toffee, I was delighted to see familiar characters, like Jethro the polka dotted pig. I was amused by the introduction of a huge fluffy pet bunny named Puff and intrigued by the mysterious death of a rabbit farmer whom everyone loves. Reading about the construction of a ten foot toffee rabbit and other Easter treats was appealing to this chocoholic as well.

All of this sweetness is wrapped up in an intriguing mystery that starts in New York City where Bailey, chocolatier extraordinaire, and her naive Amish relative Charlotte have been filming candy making for a TV show. They soon leave the fascinating Big Apple where Charlotte’s Amish is frequently “showing” as she encounters a very unfamiliar world. They return to Holmes County, Ohio, where they help Bailey’s grandmother in their Amish candy shop. Bailey is approached by the son of a murdered man with a request that she help solve the mystery of his death. She agrees because of her community ties. Although “Englisch,” her ancestry is Amish and her grandmother is very respected in the community.

Threatening notes and a late night attack ramp up the danger level for Bailey and the concern level for her boyfriend, Deputy Aiden Brody. There are plot twists, turns, and surprises all the way to the end. Suspense, humor, and interesting characters make Toxic Toffee a must read for cozy mystery lovers.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #4 in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery series. 

             2. I believe this could be read without reading the previous books in the series, but I think this is one of the best so far in the series.

Publication:   June 25, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Not lucky. Blessed. Luck is an Englisch idea, not an Amish one.”

…I couldn’t live in fear. I would be afraid enough to be careful, but I would not allow myself to be stifled by fear.

“In my opinion, it’s better for a young person to leave the faith and be Englisch than force themselves to be Amish and make everyone around then miserable.”

Sweet Tea and Secrets–a web of lies

Sweet Tea and Secrets

by Joy Avon

Sweet Tea and SecretsLike the main character, Callie Aspen, the plot of Sweet Tea and Secrets seems to exist in limbo in Joy Avon’s latest cozy mystery. Callie has quit a job she loves as an international tour guide and moved back to Heart’s Harbor to help her Aunt Iphy run Book Tea, the local tea shop. She is waiting for a local rental to be restored to livable condition. She doesn’t actually contribute much help to the tea room in this book. To top it off, Deputy Falk, an additional enticement when she decided to move, seems less than enthusiastic about Callie’s return to town.

The plot follows the same erratic pacing and intensity as we see in Callie’s personal life. Callie gets pulled into the investigation of a cold murder case that revolves around a web of lies. It is hard for Callie and the reader to know which characters are reliable. My interest would ramp up, and then I would find myself wondering when the book would end. The ending was a surprise in regards to the mystery, and the author didn’t leave any loose ends. There were a number of subplots that were interesting but sometimes too distracting when acting as red herrings.  I was glad Callie’s personal relationship with Falk showed forward progress. I would read another book in the series, but I hope it will have more of a focus on the tea room like the first books in the series do.

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:  4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Book Tea Shop Mystery Series

 

Publication:   June 11, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

But nothing happened. Just those lights teasing her from the darkness. Telling her she wasn’t alone.

“So far everybody seems to have been lying about everything.”

Flower Power Trip–flowers at the heart of a mystery

Flower Power Trip

by James J. Cudney

Flower Power TripThe third cozy in the Braxton Campus Mystery series does not disappoint its fans nor leave out new readers. It begins with a helpful Who’s Who briefly describing the characters in the series. The first chapter follows up  with a summary of the action in the first two books as told by the main character Kellan, while getting the plot for the new book underway.

Kellan discovers a dead body and again finds himself in the middle of a homicide investigation. Flower Power Trip swirls delightfully with interesting characters, a multitude of clues, and humorous repartee. Several threads continue on from previous books: Kellan’s rocky relationships with his boss Myriam and Sheriff April Montague, Nana D’s bid for the mayoral seat, and Kellan’s presumed dead wife Francesca with ties to a mob family. There are also romantic conflicts and more than a little danger.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series but works quite well as a standalone

Publication:   March 30, 2019—Creativia 

Memorable Lines:

Helena recently celebrated her birthday by doing a pub crawl across all four villages in Wharton County. Eight hours, eight bars, eight different drinks. I wouldn’t have survived that level of commitment.

…”you are nothing but a nosy, interfering, non-stop questioning, painful wart on the tip of my pinky toe that has aggravated me beyond any reasonable expectation.”

…you must always have more physical books than e-books. I wanted Emma to experience a multitude of technology at her fingertips from an early age, but she also needed to respect and cherish all that our country had accomplished in the history of bookmaking and printing.

Bad Pick–goat yoga?

Bad Pick

by Linda Lovely

Bad PickBrie Hooker, a South Carolina aspiring vegan chef, teams up with her yoga instructor and a few friends to start a goat yoga class. That’s a perfect match because Brie is also helping her aunt with 500 goats on her goat farm where they make and sell goat cheese. Also Brie is trying to open a vegan B&B in a semi-dilapidated mansion her aunts bought for her fulfilling a long time dream.

You’ll just have to read this fast-paced cozy mystery to discover how goat yoga and a B&B can be essential components of a mystery with murders, arson, and blackmail. Throw in family relationships, a quirky best friend, and two competing bachelors, and you have Bad Pick, Linda Lovely’s latest humorous cozy you won’t want to put down.

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: 1. I had no idea “goat yoga” is actually a type of yoga. A quick Internet search convinced me that it is something people actually pay money to do. Are any of you goat yoga aficionados?

2. #3 in the Brie Hooker Mystery Series. It works as a standalone, but I think I enjoyed it more having read the other two books in the series.

Publication:   April 16, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“There’s more to yoga than meditation. What the goats provide is important—closeness to nature and unbridled joy. all part of being present in the moment.”

Eva’s crusty exterior poorly camouflaged her generous heart.

Mollye’s baby-faced beau always had an eager puppy-dog look about him. Yet his demeanor tonight made me sense he was a quite capable of barking and growling if the need arose.

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