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Don’t Believe It–an unexpected murderer

Don’t Believe It

by Charlie Donlea

Don't Believe ItThere is so much to recommend in Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea. The initial setting is exotic: Sugar Beach in St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. This mystery begins immediately with action and suspense. The main character, Sidney Ryan, is a smart, talented, ethical filmmaker. The documentary she is producing is presented almost in real time: the audience gets to learn the results of Sidney’s investigations and interviews in the same week they occur. Out of appeals, an old friend who has been incarcerated for murder for ten years in St. Lucia asks for Sidney’s help in drawing attention to her case as Sidney has done in three prior films that resulted in each instance in freeing the accused.

The story effectively jumps around to various locations and times and uses a variety of styles to convey the events. Designations for places and times  are clearly and helpfully added to the first of each chapter. The inclusion of documentary episodes based on interviews is very effective as a storytelling tool.

Don’t Believe It is fast-paced, and the author knows just where to break the chapters so the reader wants more. The mystery is engaging and suspenseful, and the various threads all come together in the end. There were a lot of plot inversions and surprises. I would rate this mystery highly until the end when the crime puzzle is solved, but there is no closure to two major threads. What is the point? Is the author being artsy by leaving the reader dangling? Perhaps he is letting the reader mentally finish the book according to the way the reader wants it to end. Maybe this open-endedness is preparation for a series. Whatever the reason, I was a happy reader for most of the book, disconcerted by but accepting of a sudden change in direction, and then unsettled by the ending. Charlie Donlea proved he has good skills as a mystery writer, and I would like to read more of his work to get a comprehensive feel for his talents.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Some swearing

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

The detectives did exactly what they’re trained not to do. They picked a suspect first, and then looked for evidence that supported their theory. And the problem with investigating a crime in that manner is that any evidence they came across that didn’t support their theory was ignored or discarded.

But she had found over the years that inmates, deprived of just about every luxury in life, possessed a great deal of patience. They never expected anything to happen quickly, and took news of delays in much the same fashion as finding the bathroom stall occupied. They simply took a breath and waited.

If I could start my career over and take a path that more closely represented my interests, I’d do it in a second.

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Murder with Cinnamon Scones–set in the tearoom of my dreams

Murder with Cinnamon Scones

by Karen Rose Smith

Murder with Cinnamon SconesMurder with Cinnamon Scones is the tale of an art dealer’s death, suspicions placed on those he loved, and the struggles we all go through in trying to make sense of our lives. As with most cozy mysteries, this one is set in a small town trying to survive. In Willow Creek, Pennsylvania, as January surrounds the town with cold and some intermittent snow, small business owners are cooperating to draw in more tourists through Quilt Lovers Weekend. Daisy, who owns Daisy’s Tea Garden, is one of the leaders of this group. She finds her time divided between running the tea shop, investigating a murder to clear her friend Tessa, and developing friendships with two handsome men. She also devotes time to her two teenage daughters, the quilting weekends, her extended family, and her cats. Oh, and she also has to stay alive!

As busy as Daisy is, she still has the time and skills to maintain her tearoom as a successful business. With an emphasis on customer service, the tearoom draws visitors and locals for its delicious formal teas as well as soups, breads, and more casual tea service. Daisy and others at the tearoom are constantly experimenting with recipes, and the various types of teas mentioned in the book are so appealing. If this weren’t fiction, I’d be eager to visit this delightful tearoom housed in an updated Victorian house.

I highly recommend Murder with Cinnamon Scones for a good mystery, a surprising resolution, and interesting characters and settings. In it lies a poignant reminder that in relationships, things are not always what they appear to be. I’m glad it is part of a series because I was sad to reach the end of the book.

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.  #2 in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series, but works well as a stand alone.

  2. Look for recipes in the back of the book.

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Quilting shouldn’t be about finishing. It’s about putting your heart into each stitch and just relaxing and doing your best in that moment.”

“You should know by now,” Rachel said, “that should and shouldn’t after the fact do no good when you’re a mom. You just start from where you left off, and you try to do better.”

Oh, to be nineteen again, and to know exactly what to do or what was right, Daisy thought.

Bear Witness to Murder–teddy bear themed cozy

Bear Witness to Murder

by Meg Macy

Bear Witness to MurderBear Witness to Murder is set in little Silver Hollow where Sasha Silverman, owner of Silver Bear Shop and Factory, is one of a number of local entrepreneurs trying to survive through foot traffic, bulk sales, and special  events like the village’s Oktobear Fest. This is a town where gossip reigns and the locals are family or longtime friends. Generally this is a quiet and peaceful place to live—until Sasha’s childhood nemesis Holly returns bringing her nasty attitude, a shop in direct competition to two others, and an assistant who is suing the mayor during his re-election campaign.

Meg Macy has a chatty style to her writing and sets the background well so that we are surprised along with Sasha when she discovers a dead body. The mystery centers on this event, but swirling around it are family and romantic entanglements as well as Holly’s backstabbing efforts against the Silverman family. Other characters that play a major role are Sasha’s sister Maddie, and the girls’ boyfriends Kip and Jay. All three are artists and contribute their efforts to the festival.

I like this book. As a teddy bear enthusiast, I found the theme charming. I also appreciate the main characters, who are fairly well developed.  There are, however, a lot of minor characters, and I found myself referring back to review their relationship to the main characters. The ending is surprising, startling even, but does not provide satisfying closure for Sasha and Maddie.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery Series, but it is good as a standalone.

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

It seemed to fit with my memories of Holly’s personality. Sweet to your face, but ready to change in an instant or stab you in the back.

He had a true gift, seeing an animal or object hidden within wood, and then bringing it into clear focus with such talent and skill.

Crime and Punctuation–super senior

Crime and Punctuation

by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Crime and PunctuationCrime and Punctuation features a retired Language Arts (English) teacher who decides to take up editing to fund the remodeling of the 110 year old home she lived in until she was seventeen. At age sixty-eight, newly widowed, Mikki returns from Maine to Lenape Hollow in New York’s Catskills and purchases the three story home of her childhood which has not been maintained properly.

Although Mikki intends for her business to mainly come through online sources, she is approached shortly after opening her enterprise by Tiffany, a young, enthusiastic, and well-funded new author. Mikki accepts her as a client and three days later there is a murder.

Lenape Hollow is a small town where news travels fast. Mikki finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation that involves old friends and enemies and brings up long forgotten memories. Tiffany’s book is fiction, but it is based on Mafia activity in the 1930’s. Her husband and his associates have been involved in some shady deals in the past and may be the models for some of the book’s unsavory characters. Crime and Punctuation is a good mystery with lots of suspects. It is not difficult to figure out who the murderer is, but it is fascinating to watch it play out. The book is well-paced and the main character Mikki is an interesting and likable character. Her honesty in her introspection is refreshing and not belabored. Mikki’s age is certainly older than the typical cozy mystery heroine, but that fact provides a different perspective that is interesting.

I have always enjoyed language, word study, and even grammar. Fresh out of college, I taught middle and high school English for a year while waiting for an elementary teaching position to open up. I was excited to teach, enjoyed the subject matter, and particularly related to the twelfth graders ready to embark on their next adventure in life. So in Mikki I find a kindred spirit with her references to the Oxford comma. Its use in Tiffany’s manuscript actually helped solve the case. On the other hand, I don’t think a reader needs to be obsessive about grammar to appreciate this latest mystery by Kaitlyn Dunnett.

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 in the Deadly Edits Mystery Series

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I can dress in my best, freshly pressed and pristine, and within five minutes, I look as if I’ve slept in my clothes. Don’t even talk to me about scarves! No matter how I tie them, they just hang there, limp and unflattering, feedbag instead of fashionable.

Thunderclouds scudded into Van Heusen’s face so fast that I expected it to start raining at any moment. My uneasiness about being alone with him returned just as quickly.

“Excuse me. Is Mr. Onslow available?” The redhead looked up, mouth opening in a startled, lipstick-circled O and heavily mascaraed eyes widening. I wondered if my question had been too complicated for her.

Lowcountry Bookshop–good intentions

Lowcountry Bookshop

by Susan M. Boyer

Lowcountry BookshopIn Lowcountry Bookshop, Susan M. Boyer outdoes her last cozy mystery which I thought was  good. In this book Liz Talbot and her husband Nate, both private investigators, are hired anonymously through an attorney to prove the innocence of a very sweet mail carrier who stopped at the scene of a hit and run. The plot is very complex and involves a group of women who try to help victims of domestic violence.

Watching Liz and Nate go about their business of investigating the crime and the people involved is very interesting. They have tools, disguises, and methods that they use to pursue the truth regardless of where it leads them.

In the middle of some pretty intense scenarios, there is a little comic relief as Liz’s family deals with a situation involving a Bassett hound, a pig with a broken leg, three escape artist goats, and a backyard dug in preparation for a swimming pool. As you can imagine, “Mamma ain’t happy” and everyone knows it.

Set in the Charlestown area of South Carolina, Lowcountry Bookshop features heat, humidity, and Southern charm. This mystery will keep you on your toes as you follow its complexities and guess who did it and why—right up until the end.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: 1.  #7 in the Liz Talbot Mystery Series but works as a standalone

2.  Slight paranormal aspect: One character is a helpful guardian spirit. Frankly, she contributes little to the solving of the mystery and could easily be removed without harming the plot.

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Sunday morning arrived on air as thick as mamma’s gravy.

At five in the morning, it was already eighty-three degrees.

Everyone had baggage. Some of us had heavier bags than others.

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Plot–great plot and characters

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Plot

by Sarah Osborne

Too Many Crooks Spoil the PlotToo Many Crooks Spoil the Plot begins with “Nothing warned me that my world was about to tilt on its axis and never tilt back again,” a sentence full of promise for a good cozy mystery. Author Sarah Osborne manages to pack a lot of background into her opening chapter. We are introduced to the main character, Dr. Ditie Brown, a pediatrician who works in a refugee clinic, her two pets, and her brother Tommy. There are hints of family troubles. Ditie reunites with her old friend Ellie whose emotions bounce all over the place. She asks a huge favor: “Do you think the kids could stay with you for a few days?” Unfortunately someone was gunning for Ellie—literally.

The plot is quite complex with lots of threads that seemingly don’t connect…until they do. Meanwhile, who are the good guys and who are the bad  guys? What do Ellie’s children have that is worth killing for? Through all of this we watch Ditie, her friend Lurleen (with an interesting faux French background and accent), Detective Garrett, P.I. Dan, and Garrett’s mother, a retired cop, work diligently to solve the mystery and keep the children, Lucie and Jason, safe.

I see in Lucie a level of responsibility that a former student of mine had. In my student’s case, the mother was  an alcoholic and my first grader got herself and her kindergarten brother ready for school and on the bus each day. Therefore, I find realism in Lucie, a fictional child whose mother is erratic; Lucie has to step in and be the “adult” for her brother.

Initially I felt that the two romances in the books happen way too quickly. On the other hand, extreme circumstances can cause extreme emotional reactions. I quickly got over my hesitation with that aspect of the story and enjoyed watching the two couples grow in their relationships as the story progresses.

This book is a winner. I’m looking forward to the next cozy mystery in this series.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Ditie Brown Mystery Series

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

It’s not every dog that can smile, but when you find one who does, you know you have a treasure.

He could hide behind the lights, the glitter, so that no one, least of all his sister, ever knew who he really was.

I felt uneasy. The murders felt so neatly solved. It was just the murderers that didn’t quite fit.

39 Winks–cozy mystery with a scientific edge

39 Winks

by Kathleen Valenti

39 WinksIn the first book of this series, Protocol, Maggie O’Malley gets drawn into a complicated and deadly abuse of power in her job as a pharmaceutical researcher. I assumed that in the second book in the series she would continue her work in the pharmaceutical industry. The author explains what happened: “Blame for the downturn was laid not only at the feet of the guilty but the person who had revealed their culpability. Coworkers stopped collaborating. Managers ‘forgot’ to invite her to meetings. Invitations to after-work drinks dried up and blew away with the prairie wind. It was The Great Corporate Freeze Out.”

As 39 Winks opens, Maggie is working at a lingerie shop when she learns that her boyfriend’s Aunt Polly, found her husband murdered and is asking for Maggie. Meanwhile, Maggie finds herself jobless again as she stands up for a coworker. Free to help Aunt Polly, Maggie is thrown in the middle of an investigation that gets more and more complicated. I couldn’t imagine how the author would tie up all the loose ends, but she does it masterfully.  39 Winks is a really good cozy mystery. It involves many serious social issues as well as medical issues. Maggie’s pharmaceutical expertise, her common sense, and courage are all called into play. She also has help from her computer genius boyfriend Constantine. This is a mystery I did not want to put down.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series and not really dependent on reading  the first book in the series

Publication:   May 22, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

She’d built the Wall, the secret place at the back of her mind where she corralled uncomfortable feelings, when she was eleven. She fortified it at every opportunity. She knew it was getting crowded back there, that she was quite possibly a hoarder of denial. She shoved that knowledge behind the Wall, too.

A look of revulsion crossed her face. “Is that a mouse?” Constantine looked down. Miss Vanilla peered from her tiny fabric lanai, whiskers dancing. “Hamster,” he corrected, “but she thinks she’s a gerbil.” He winked. “We humor her.”

“Another report? What do they plan to do, fend off the bad guys with paper cuts?“

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