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Candy Slain Murder–lots of food and mystery

Candy Slain Murder

by Maddie Day

December arrives to provide a Christmassy backdrop to this cozy mystery set in the little town of South Lick, Indiana, where Robbie Jordan owns a breakfast and lunch restaurant that also features vintage cookware for sale. There is a cast of regulars making their appearance in Maddie Day’s Candy Slain Murder, but remain fearless, dear Reader, as the author’s talents include bringing the reader quickly on board with Robbie’s friends and family.

This mystery includes a cold case and a new murder case that appear to be connected. There are a number of characters with potential motives that Robbie has to sort through as she informally interviews various persons of interest as well as those whose knowledge might contribute to her investigations.

Another thread in the story is the surprise appearance of the mysterious half-brother of one of Robbie’s employees. Protective of those she loves, Robbie is concerned that this man’s claims might not be legitimate. Even his religious ties as a former Quaker turned Muslim are odd. They lead to a discussion of inclusiveness versus discrimination in South Lick with some B&B guests. This thread is interesting, but seems an afterthought as the couple appears only once besides meal times.

I enjoyed the book as I tried to discover the murderer or murderers along with Robbie. There were plenty of distractions to keep me guessing, although I had in mind a resolution that I wanted to see. Happily, I was correct, but it was fun to follow the characters to a satisfactory conclusion.

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. #8 in the Country Store Mysteries Series. I have read, out of order, a few of the books in this series. All, including Candy Slain Murder, have worked well as standalones.

  2. Six recipes are included in the book and several are holiday appropriate.

  3. I am puzzled by Robbie’s critical comment on the celebration of Christmas in the little town. They were having a Christmas tree lighting and a visit by Santa. Robbie said of the mayor, “Corrine could have slanted the celebration in a more secular direction.” As a Christian, I think the celebration was very secular. There was no nativity scene and no mention of the birth of Jesus, which is the origin of Christmas celebrations. 

Publication:   September 29, 2020—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

“You’re more full of questions than one of them robots on the phone. At least you ain’t asking me to press one for this and two for that.”

Buck poured on the syrup and tore into his cranberry pancakes so fast I thought they would catch on fire.

“It’s one of them, you know, fifty percent of one and a dozen of the other.” My jaw dropped at his fractured metaphor.

Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder–deadly Polar Bear Plunge

Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder

by Tina Kashian

As usual, even though this is the fifth book in the Kitchen Kebab Series, author Tina Kashian does a brilliant job of bringing the reader up to date on the characters in the series at the same time that they are taking the Polar Bear Plunge in the little New Jersey town of Ocean Crest. The title of the book, Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder, encapsulates the plot—but in reverse order. The frigid swim Lucy Barbarian and her sidekick Katie Watson undertake for charity results, unfortunately, in a drowning, but not one of accidental causes. This death (MURDER) and Lucy’s investigation to clear her friend Susan, a local baker, takes top billing in the story. Mediterranean cuisine (MOUSSAKA) comes in second as Lucy manages her parents’ restaurant; the book features enticing descriptions of food. Romance is also in the air (MISTLETOE) as Lucy plans her wedding to head chef Azad.

This cozy mystery will have you turning pages quickly as Lucy discovers that everyone who had opportunity to commit this crime also had motive. Secrets abound. Some of Lucy’s inquiries edge along dangerous lines, and the local detective discourages her “interference.” Gadoo, Lucy’s adopted cat, and Cupid, her landlady’s shih tzu, learn to tolerate each other, and Gadoo has an exciting major role in this book.

The setting is an ocean beach town that depends for its economic survival on three months of summer tourist trade. This book, however, has a cold Christmas backdrop with a nice mix of mystery and holiday fun.

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. #5 in the Kitchen Kebab Mystery Series, but works quite well as a standalone.

2. A recipe section is included with 4 recipes ranging from easy to more complicated.

3. There was a small scene where a character did a coffee reading similar to someone telling the future from tea leaves. I do not read books with a paranormal focus, but this coffee reading was an extremely minor part of the book and would not dissuade me from reading more in the series.

Publication:  September 29, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

It was isolated in the evening, and a cold breeze blew from the ocean. A full moon hung like a Roman coin in the velvet sky and illuminated the ocean in an iridescent glow. The sounds of the waves were constant and calming.

The streetlamp cast long shadows on the snow-covered street. Coming from a cheerful and noisy crowd in the park, it was eerily quiet.

The mesmerizing pull of the ocean was Mother Nature’s way of clearing her thoughts.

My Fair Latte–coffee, wine, and classic flicks

My Fair Latte

by Vickie Fee

My Fair LatteHere’s an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new cozy mystery series by an established author, Vickie Fee. In My Fair Latte, Halley Greer inherits an old theater from an uncle she barely knew. Immediately, the reason for this bequest to Halley arises as a background puzzle, but the real mystery centers around vandalism and murder in the theater that  Halley is working hard to resurrect as a business that combines her two passions—old movies and coffee.

The residents of the little tourist town of Utopia Springs, Arkansas, welcome Halley and encourage her in her new business. She has to clean up both the theater and the upstairs apartment, quite an undertaking as her uncle was a hoarder. Favorite characters are George and Trudy, local artists who take her under their wing, and Kendra who owns the escape room business across the street. There are several romantic interests as well.

I enjoyed meeting the residents of Utopia Springs and watching Halley develop her creative ideas on a shoe string budget. It was great to witness her new friends pitching in to help, building community around her. As the police seem to suspect Halley, she and Kendra investigate to try to put the focus on other possibilities. I found myself doing that myself, but missed the mark until the end. Eartha Kitty, another inheritance from Uncle Leon, has an important role in the story. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, but hoping that I won’t gain weight just reading about the huge, fresh cinnamon rolls that are a staple in Halley’s breakfast routine.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Café Cinema Mystery Series

Publication:   March 3, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

While it may have been a glamorous leading lady in its prime, the Star Movie Palace was now a faded beauty whose slip was showing from beneath its tattered couture.

Their fanny packs and I-heart-Utopia-Springs t-shirts were like tattooing tourist on their foreheads.

“I dearly love George, but this morning he started tap dancing on my last nerve before I’d even had a cup of coffee.”

Theater Nights Are Murder–elder sleuths

Theater Nights Are Murder

by Libby Klein

Theater Nights Are MurderPoppy, a plus size single in her forties, and her Aunt Ginny, a red-headed octogenarian with all kinds of spunk, are the main characters in Theater Nights Are Murder. There is a huge cast of supporting characters sporting lots of quirks. Topping the list are Gia, an Italian barista, and Tim, a chef with romantic ties to Poppy’s youth; both men are vying for Poppy’s heart, and six months after her move back to her hometown, she remains indecisive. Also, front and center, are the “biddies,” friends of Aunt Ginny who manage to get into all kinds of trouble. Figaro, her cat, has a mind of his own and has free run of the Victorian house the two ladies are trying to convert into a Bed and Breakfast. As a pastry chef, Poppy divides her time between Gia’s coffee shop, Tim’s restaurant, and her own B&B.

As if friends, family, and business are not enough to keep Poppy busy, author Libby Klein immerses her and the biddies in the senior center’s production of Momma Mia, starring Royce, an aging, homegrown,  Shakespearean star. The plot of this cozy is complicated by old rivalries, reignited loves, and mysterious men who appear in the audience during practices. All is fun until one of the cast members falls to his death from a catwalk. Is it a suicide, an accident, or murder?

The biddies are so funny as they investigate, bringing in Sponge Bob walkie talkies and applying tips they have picked up from Murder She Wrote and other television shows. Meanwhile, trolls are scattering bad reviews under various names across social media. They focus on criticizing Poppy’s pastries at all three establishments while actual demand for the goodies and praise at the restaurants remain consistently high. A frustrated Poppy has no idea how to stop the false reviews, uncover a murderer, or solve her love dilemma.

Theater Nights Are Murder is packed with fun situations and dialogue. The plot and quirky characters will keep you turning the pages to help out the likable, down to earth, pastry chef who ironically is confined to gluten free treats. Throughout this cozy mystery, Aunt Ginny and her pals prove that octogenarians can enjoy fun, romance, and some senior humor at their own expense.

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. #4 in the Poppy McAllister Mystery Series, but OK as a standalone as the author fills you in as you read.

  2. Recipes are included at the end of the book.

Publication:   December 3, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I was a little stunned, the way Miss Piggy was a little self-involved.

I can barely control myself, let alone a group of stubborn biddies who have their minds made up. In their heads, those ladies were conducting an FBI sting rivaling that of capturing Osama Bin Laden, and they were going to get their man.

The peachy-pink glow is a bouquet of empty promises of warmth and comfort mocked by the frigid wind blowing off the Atlantic Ocean. Even the seagulls sit with their wings wrapped around themselves, too disgruntled by the cold to dive-bomb passersby for potential smackerals.

Silent Knit, Deadly Knit–knitting with friends

Silent Knit, Deadly Knit

by Peggy Ehrhart

Silent Knit, Deadly KnitVarious cozy mystery series stand out for special strengths. The strong point might be humor, breathtaking setting, fast pace, intricate plot, or interesting characters. Peggy Ehrhart’s Knit & Nibble Mystery Series is different from most in its genre. The main character, Pamela, is calmer. The pace is slower. The descriptions of everyday life are more detailed. And somehow the combination works. Ehrhart’s latest mystery, Silent Knit, Deadly Knit, is no exception. Set in the Christmas season, we get to join Pamela, her daughter Penny who is home from college, and their friends and neighbors as they celebrate the Christmas season while trying to discover who murdered their friend.

Silent Knit, Deadly Knit provides a nice break from the overly sweet seasonal romances. The characters are not depicted as saints. Pamela  struggles with letting her daughter gain her independence. Bettina pushes her friend Pamela to make a connection with a single neighbor. The plot does not get lost in all the character interaction, however. There are deadly doings in little Arborville, and Pamela and her friends are caught up in the action. My favorite character is Bettina’s retired husband, Wilfred—always a helpful gentleman, but never stuffy.

As the crime is being solved, Pamela and the reader work through various theories. When the character who appears to be the murderer is found murdered, the investigation takes a whole new direction resulting in a surprise ending.

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 Knit & Nibble Mystery Series, but is excellent as a standalone!

  2. At the end of the book, there is a recipe for a poppy seed cake and directions for knitting fingerless gloves.

Publication:   October 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

A soft form stirred at her feet, migrated up the side of her leg, and inched its way delicately across her torso. It eased its head out from under the down comforter that Pamela used on chilly winter nights. Two amber eyes stared at her from a heart-shaped face covered with silky jet-black fur.

Pamela was a kind person, but she occasionally enjoyed the slight feeling of power that came from having a secret to share. Bettina’s lips, which today were a shade of deep orange that matched her coat, curved into a tiny smile that acknowledged she knew she was being strung along.

It was tempting, especially at holidays, to imagine a past in which joy had been unalloyed. But Pamela knew she’d been happy about some things, worried about others then too, just like now.

Fear on Four Paws–an animal whisperer

Fear on Four Paws

by Clea Simon

Fear on Four PawsFear on Four Paws easily drops into the category of “really good cozy mystery.”  Main character Pru Marlowe, an animal behaviorist working towards a master’s degree and certification, has a sensitivity for communicating with animals, understanding their feelings, and opening herself up so that they understand her. Although actually a gift, like a good sense of direction or the ability to play music by ear, when Pru’s aptitude for communication with animals first manifests itself, she thinks she is going crazy. Realizing what others might think of this special ability, she is careful to conceal it.

In Fear on Four Paws, Pru is working a number of jobs to support herself. She assists the game warden, the animal control officer, and the local vet, supplementing her various incomes with freelance work as a dog trainer and walker. She finds herself enmeshed in a murder investigation in which the Beauville animal control officer is a person of interest. While Pru could benefit by his being found guilty, she is more interested in understanding what is happening to the young male bears in the area, the animal control officer’s ferret, and an unusual number of dogs and cats who suspiciously disappear and reappear in a well-to-do neighborhood. Meanwhile she has to sort out her love life between Game Warden Greg and her current flame, Detective Jim Creighton, who is as wrapped up in his job as Pru is in hers.

The interaction between Pru and the variety of animals in the book takes top billing and is an integral part of the storyline and the successful resolution of the mysteries. Pru does not hear the animals directly talk to her, so her efforts to fine tune her understanding of them is quite interesting.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the Pru Pet Noir Series but works well as a stand alone.

Publication:   July 3, 2018—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

We’re all animals, after all, and our vulnerabilities are heightened when we’re tired, hungry, or scared.

Outside my own open window, the birds were getting busy. Food and childcare, love and rivalry playing out in trills and whistles.

Animals don’t rework the past the way we humans do. While they experience longing and grief and sadness, they understand, better than we do, that time doesn’t go backward, for all our wishing.

Murder, She Knit–a tale of knitting, eating…and murder

Murder, She Knit

by Peggy Ehrhart

Murder, She KnitMurder, She Knit is a cozy mystery with elements of calmness and sweetness. Pamela Paterson is a widow living in the small town of Arborville, New Jersey. She has a daughter who is a freshman in college in Massachusetts. Pamela’s life centers around her hobby of knitting, her friends, and her job as associate editor of the magazine Fiber Craft.

This serene, settled life that has developed for Pamela is shattered when she finds a dead body in her yard. With the theme of “the police don’t always ask the right questions,” Pamela sets out to discover some answers to this murder mystery.

Author Peggy Ehrhart has devised likable characters and an interesting plot. I look forward to reading the next book in her Knit and Nibble Mystery Series.

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.  #1 in the new Knit and Nibble Mystery Series.

  2. This book ends with directions for knitting a “Bohemian Chic Scarf,” which is      a very simple project and can use yarn remnants from other projects.

Publication:   March 27, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

He might seem nosy, but nosy people were a great boon to the amateur sleuth.

He was a jovial man whose pink cheeks and less than svelte figure signaled his love of food and drink.

Dark clouds were blotting out the morning’s sunny sky, and the prospect of staying indoors seemed more a treat than a privation.

As Dark as My Fur–a disappointment for this reader

As Dark as My Fur

by Clea Simon

As Dark as My FurI looked forward to the novelty of a mystery narrated by a cat in As Dark as My Fur. I had read positive reviews and thought the cat’s perspective might add interest as well as a touch of humor. It didn’t contribute any amusement, but that was the author’s choice and is acceptable. The cat is, in fact, a man who has been murdered and reincarnated as a cat with only partial memories of his prior life.

The author, Clea Simon, has a remarkable command of the English language, excellent powers of description, and insightful views into the frustrations of being a cat. Unfortunately, she calls upon the latter strength over and over again at the expense of the plot. The average reader can easily grasp the difficulties of trying to communicate with a human from a cat’s body. The author belabors the point in every chapter. I easily put the book aside multiple times with no sense of loss. Finally, at the end of chapter thirty-one (88% through the book), the author inserted a hook that made me want to finish reading the book. Simultaneously, the plot pace picked up and I completed it. I was disappointed that the active mystery has resolution, but the main villain is not revealed.

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

Rating: 2/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Blackie and Care #2

Publication:   April 1, 2017—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Silence elicits speech.

As I have noted, I am a cat. And while I may be frustrated by my inability to communicate directly, at least with the girl with whom I have forged a bond, I do enjoy my superior senses.

There is joy to be found in a bright morning, in the company of one who may be trusted.

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