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Til Death–another fantastic Zoe Chambers mystery

Til Death

by Annette Dashofy

If all mysteries were as good as Til Death, readers would be glued to their easy chairs and no work would get done. Annette Dashofy continues her series with main character Zoe Chambers being promoted to Chief Deputy Coroner and giving up her job as an EMT. This is a huge change with lots of responsibilities, a big learning curve, and people and events that challenge her.

The story opens with County Coroner Franklin Marshall collapsing in the autopsy suite—and not out of a squeamish response to the procedure. The action takes off from there and doesn’t stop until the last period. There are several deaths, a cold case, attacks on law enforcement, and berserk ex-wives. Among all the cases could there be more than one criminal? There are three modes of murder, so maybe? Or do they all somehow tie together? 

Philandering Dustin Landis is released from prison when a judge overturns his conviction. The D.A. is going to try him again. Dustin has always insisted on his innocence. Now pieces are coming to light that indicate a serial killer was operating in the area at the time. When Franklin’s most recent ex-wife explodes on the scene, chaos follows her. She tears Franklin’s office apart, apparently in search of a document, and summarily kicks out Zoe and the Coroner’s Office with her.

Zoe’s attention is divided as she and Police Chief Pete Adams are getting married in two weeks, an event that brings seemingly inevitable family drama to the forefront. A staff romance in the Vance Township Police force causes a crisis of a different sort. Meanwhile Zoe and Pete have to work together and independently to fit all of the puzzle pieces together with the goal of solving all those mysteries simultaneously.

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: #10 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but holds up well as a standalone.

Publication:   June 16, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

If Loretta Marshall’s dark hair had been half white, Zoe would’ve warned her friends who owned Dalmatians.

“Good old Dr. Davis. Politician first. Forensic expert second. Human being? Somewhere way lower on the list.”

Zoe collapsed onto her stacked boxes, staring out the dirt-streaked window, thoughts and emotions racing inside her skull like deranged bumper cars.

Murder with Clotted Cream–cozy mystery with an emphasis on relationships

Murder with Clotted Cream

by Karen Rose Smith

You can jump right into Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series with Murder with Clotted Cream, the fifth book in this series by Karen Rose Smith. The author does an outstanding job of providing information on the characters for the new or returning reader.

Daisy Swanson is co-owner of Daisy’s Tea Garden. In this book, Daisy is hired to provide a tea for the actors preparing a play for the Little Theater, newly built by a real estate developer and his actress wife. When a murder occurs at the tea, Daisy finds herself in the middle of yet another investigation. Other major parts of this plot are relationship oriented: Daisy and her boyfriend Jonas, Daisy’s daughter Jazzi and her biological mother, Daisy and her own mother Rose, and Daisy’s other daughter who suffers from postpartum depression. As you can see, Daisy has a lot on her plate, and it doesn’t help that the detective on the case has an ax to grind with Daisy’s boyfriend.

There are a lot of suspects to keep you guessing and some danger along the way for Daisy. The book also deals with important parenting issues across the generations. Some of Daisy’s investigations are digital or local to her town, but others involve a train trip to New York City. We get to view her not as a one-dimensional heroine but as an independent businesswoman, a caring mom, a widow exploring a friendship blossoming slowly into romance, and a careful observer of those around her.

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

Notes:  1. #5 in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series, but great as a standalone.

  2. Includes 3 original recipes

Publication:   May 26, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“She knows how to ask questions, and she doesn’t treat everyone she meets as if they were hostile witnesses. You might be better served to do the same.”

November has descended with a cold grip, and today was a perfect example of a steel-gray day with the reminder of winter in any wind that blew.

Daisy heard Jonas gasp as if Zeke had punched him in his solar plexus. In that one statement Zeke just might have changed Jonas’s attitude about life, about love, and about moving forward.

A Very Mummy Holiday–runaway bride

A Very Mummy Holiday

by Lynn Cahoon

A Very Mummy HolidayJill, a passionate reader and the owner of Coffee, Books, and More in a small, coastal, tourist town in central California, takes off for Thanksgiving week with her boyfriend Greg who is a very capable detective. They go with another couple to stay at a large cabin on the Oregon Coast. A Very Mummy Holiday by Lynn Cahoon is a little novella packed with action and mystery as the focus turns to the case of a runaway bride. Things turn from sad to deadly as a corpse is found. Danger seems to surround the visitors in the subtle form of threats from the Devil Riders motorcycle gang. Jill and Greg work with the local police to bring justice to the fiancee and avert a kidnapping—all before more friends arrive to celebrate with a big dinner.

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: A Tourist Trap novella, but it works well as a standalone.

Publication:   October 28, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

“Everything okay?” Blake called out. “Just wondering if you locked the cabin.” Greg lied. And he did it so calmly. I was beginning to see a new side of my boyfriend. I wasn’t sure I liked it.

“You know this isn’t your investigation.” Sheriff Anderson’s eyes went flat and hard. “I’ve been looking for that girl for years and for what it’s worth, only one man had motive and opportunity to kill. And he’s sitting on that porch.”

Some days the best conversations I had were with my dog.

Fatal Cajun Festival–Louisiana backdrop

Fatal Cajun Festival

by Ellen Byron

Fatal Cajun FestivalIf you are charmed or captivated by all things Cajun, from zydeco music to Jambalaya with shrimp and sausage, you will enjoy Ellen Byron’s Fatal Cajun Festival. The Louisiana plantation setting is a great backdrop for a mystery that centers around Tammy Barker, hometown girl who made it big in the music industry. She returns to the small town of Pelican to give back, gloat, or maybe exact revenge at the Cajun Country Live Festival.

Local artist, Maggie Crozat, who also helps out at her family’s B&B, is caught up in deciphering the motives of Tammy and her entourage and in clearing her friend Gaynell of suspicion. There is a tangle of relationships which won’t be resolved until the end. Meanwhile, Maggie and her fiancé Bo Durand, a detective, try to keep the peace and everyone alive in Pelican. Maggie’s family has a booth at the festival selling Maggie’s artwork and as many pralines as she can make. There is also a brief side story about a mysterious Carina who may have been involved with Maggie’s now deceased Grand-père. This is an all round fun cozy mystery with lots of Louisiana flavor and interesting characters. 

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: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1.  #4 in the Cajun Country Mystery Series, but works as a standalone as the author includes a list of characters with notes about them.

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

Publication:   September 10, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

“You used refined oil, didn’t you?” Nanette flashed a devilish grin. “Chère, that oil’s so refined it could be a debutante.”

“Remember his favorite saying…”  “In Louisiana, we only follow the rules we like,” the couple said simultaneously.

Bo once told her that humiliation was the main motivation behind most murders.

Death by Jack-O’-Lantern–vets helping vets

Death by Jack-O’-Lantern

by Alexis Morgan

Death by Jack-O'-LanternOstensibly a Halloween cozy mystery, Death by Jack-O’-Lantern by Alexis Morgan is so much more. In addition to a great mystery, there is a budding romance between Tripp Blackson and his landlady Abby McCree and lots of small town activity as Snowberry Creek in the Pacific Northwest pulls together to make their Halloween Festival a success. In the midst of a murder investigation, pumpkins carved to resemble townspeople crop up all over town, produced by an anonymous artist. There are lots of supportive new friends for Abby as she tries to settle into her new town, but there are also some puzzling characters. The overarching serious questions are important ones: How can we help returning veterans with PTSD? To what extent does a person go to help and protect his friend?

Abby goes too far in her investigations, stirring up danger for herself and anger in Tripp and the local law enforcement officers as they fear for her safety. Zeke, her mastiff mix, plays a recurring role as her buddy and protector. Abby, an excellent manager and organizer, spends a lot of her time coordinating volunteers for several committees. She also loves to bake, especially for her friends, and to consume copious amounts of caffeinated coffee and sweet treats.

I enjoyed this top notch cozy mystery, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series. Kudos to the author as this story’s ending was one I didn’t see coming!

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: #2 in the Abby McCree Mystery Series. It would be OK to read as a standalone, but I think it would be more enjoyable if you read #1 in the series first.

Publication:   August 27, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Connie has a real talent for ‘volunteering’ people. I swear, you walk into city hall to ask a simple question about property taxes and somehow walk out in charge of a major town event. You’re even grateful for the chance to help out.”

Abby used artificial sweetener in her coffee to help compensate for the huge chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies she’d ordered. Yeah, it was a bit silly, but logic didn’t play a big part in her need for chocolate in times of stress.

She’d let Zeke outside for his usual morning patrol around the yard, but he hadn’t come trotting back in to inhale his breakfast…When she finally spotted him, her heart almost broke. He was sitting on Tripp’s front porch and staring at the door as if sheer determination would make his friend appear. How on earth was she supposed to explain to him that his buddy had been locked up in the people pound?

Needled to Death–accidental OD, suicide, or murder?

Needled to Death

by Annelise Ryan

Needled to DeathWelcome to the first book in The Helping Hands Mystery Series by Annelise Ryan. This series and its premier tale, Needled to Death, share some characters with Ryan’s Mattie Winston Mystery Series. As is true in the real world, people in a fairly closed community, like those who deal with crime and its victims, such as evidence technicians, detectives, and those in the Medical Examiner’s office, frequently have intersecting spheres. Experience with that series is not necessary to enjoy this one.

In Needled to Death, the main character is Hildy Schneider, a social worker for the hospital. Hilda is a flawed protagonist if ever there was one, and you will quickly come to love her, quirks and all. A product of the foster care system since a young age, she has been passed through more homes and psychiatrists than most people can count. Hildy, however, has emerged strong, but vulnerable, with an insatiable curiosity and a desire to help others.

A woman in Hildy’s grief support group at the hospital is convinced her son was murdered, and Hildy agrees to try to get the police to reopen the case. Hildy manages to get involved in the investigation as well as with the investigators on a personal level. There are a lot of interesting characters including P.J., a neighbor girl with Asperger’s, and Rosco, Hildy’s golden retriever whom she sometimes uses with clients as a therapy dog. Hildy goes from no social life to attracting the interest of two men who admire her smarts and spunk.

Author Ryan has a talent in her writing style that makes it hard to put this book down. I really needed to stop reading to attend to another task. Unfortunately for the other project, I would end a chapter, peek at the next, and off I went into the plot again. It was at least five chapters later before I managed to get tough and close the book. Another feature I like about this book is the humor scattered throughout. The ending of one chapter (no spoilers here) was a surprise that was laugh out loud funny. With a great plot and characters with interesting backgrounds, Needled to Death skyrockets for me, and I can hardly wait for the next book in the series to make an appearance!

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 Helping Hands Mystery Series, but Annelise Ryan’s third series.

Publication:   July 30, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

These glimpses of family life both warm and depress me. It’s a life I’ve never had or experienced, and I feel the lack of it at times. I try not to dwell in the land of self-pity too much, though, and if I do linger there overly long, Roscoe seems to sense it, and he’ll nudge me out of my depression.

I hate being so paranoid, someone who always suspects the motives of others as nefarious, but my experience, both in the foster system and as a social worker, bears it out. I’ve been lied to, ripped off, and manipulated by some of the best. 

I loved books and the stories I read. They provided me with an escape, with adventures I might not otherwise have, and with characters whose lives I could step into and borrow for a time to replace my own.

Death on a Summer Morning: an absolutely gripping cozy mystery novel

Death on a Summer Morning

by Betty Rowlands

Death on a Summer MorningPreviously published as Deadly Obsession by Severn House, this cozy mystery by Betty Rowlands is being published anew as Death on a Summer Morning by Bookouture as part of a thirteen book series centered around Sukey Reynolds, a Scene of Crime Officer responsible for photographing and collecting evidence at crime scenes. Sukey has a nose for detective work which often leads her into scenarios that she is not prepared for, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend DI Jim Castle.

In this case, Sukey arrives at the home of a somewhat elderly man who appears to have fallen down the stairs. Both the man’s younger fiancée and his estranged daughter are convinced there is more to the story, but are at odds with each other in every other way. Meanwhile a headless torso is found in a watery ditch, and the police have the unpleasant and difficult task of identifying the body.

The characters in this book include Fergus (Gus), Sukey’s amiable son who is ready to enter university. Caught in time between teenager and adult, he acts as a sounding board when Sukey needs a listening ear. The plot moves quickly; the setting is important to the plot and well described. I ended the book satisfied with the outcomes, but wanting to read more in this series.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Although this book is #6 in the Sukey Reynolds Mystery Series of 13 books and it is my first Betty Rowlands book, I had no problem jumping into the series and already have another waiting in my queue based on my enjoyment of this book.

Publication:   July 22, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

A short time later, the garden was empty of birds. They had all taken fright at the high, thin scream of terror and the crash of broken crockery and glass that shattered the peace of the morning.

“My father’s death was no accident; he was murdered.” The blue eyes that had made such an impression on Dalia Chen blazed with an almost fanatical intensity.

“In the hope that Sabrina will stop tilting at windmills, I’ll do what I can to get her and Elspeth to talk to each other.”  …Fergus grinned. “I’d love to be a fly on the wall if those two ever get together. It’ll be the mother of all cat fights!”

Telephone Line–mystery set in the 70’s

Telephone Line

by Julie Mulhern

Telephone LineIf asked to recommend only one cozy mystery series to be read in its entirety, I would select The Country Club Murders. It (like Ellison’s beloved Mr. Coffee machine) never lets me down. Telephone Line has characters you can care about. The main character, Ellison, really doesn’t want to live up to her reputation and find yet another dead body. Her interactions with her mother, a country club matriarch known as a force to be reckoned with if crossed, play out with great humor. The setting is Kansas City’s upper crust in the 70’s. It’s hard to believe the etiquette-following country club set can be involved in such shenanigans, but crime knows no boundaries. Ellison is aided by her kaftan wearing housekeeper with an investigative background, her boyfriend Detective Anarchy Jones, and her former boyfriend Taft, a lawyer.

With several murders upsetting the city, Ellison has to work hard to stay alive and take care of those she loves. Her dead husband’s blackmailing schemes give her some insider knowledge, but will she be forced to reveal information to Anarchy that will embarrass her family and cause her to  relive past traumas?

Although Telephone Line is a great mystery with a surprise ending and lots of humor, it contains a serious side. It deals with rape and the inability of the justice system to adequately support the victim.

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: #9 in The Country Club Murders series, but can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Publication:   June 18, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“Mother—“ maybe I could reason with her (and maybe Gloria Steinem and Hugh Hefner would run away together) “—this is ridiculous.”

“It can’t be Mother.” Mother only called early when things were dire—when she’d heard I’d found a body or when someone with newly acquired wealth was put up for membership at the club.

“Painting centers me. Does that sound too woo-woo?”

“I’m from San Francisco. There’s nothing you could say that would sound too woo-woo.”

Little Girls Sleeping: an absolutely gripping crime thriller

Little Girls Sleeping: an absolutely gripping crime thriller

by Jennifer Chase

Little Girls SleepingMy general philosophy is “I don’t read thrillers, especially psychological thrillers.” They just hold too much impact for me. I read an online review, however, that led me to believe that perhaps I should make an exception for Little Girls Sleeping, the first in a new series by Jennifer Chase. As I started reading this thriller, I wondered if I had made a mistake as the story involves the disappearance of young girls and gives some insight into the twisted mind of the perpetrator. Soon, however, the tale expands into the story of returning veteran Katie Scott and Cisco, her K9 military companion.

A former police officer, Katie is taking some time to decide her next career move when she comes across a cold case file on her uncle’s desk. For Katie, the case is personal because it brings up memories of a childhood friend at camp who was murdered. The rest of the book tracks Katie’s pursuit of the truth and is part thriller, part mystery, and part police procedural. If you are drawn to K9 stories you will certainly enjoy this one as Cisco plays a major role.

Katie, who suffers from PTSD, is a strong and determined young woman. Her character is likable, and readers will look forward to watching her develop in future books in this series. She has support from a childhood friend, Chad, and from her uncle, Sheriff Scott. The plot line is engaging. At about 60% through the book, I had figured out who the evil “Toymaker” is—but I was wrong, and at about 80%, the true murderer is revealed. At that point, however, the action just gets more intense. I’m glad I read this page turner, and I am happy to report no nightmares as a result.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery and Thriller

Notes: 1. If you are interested in the review that inspired my choosing this book, visit blogger/reviewer Shalini.  

          2. #1 in the Detective Katie Scott Series

Publication:   May 31, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

The detective didn’t scare her. She had encountered some real tyrants in the army, from sergeants to training officers, so Templeton was like a yapping little dog to her—fierce, but only annoying at best.

Anxiety was a stealthy and unpredictable enemy.

She rubbed her hands together and let the happy memories flood her mind—at least for a short period. Sometimes it was difficult for her to let the positive things into her life. Her experiences had skewed her perception so that everything seemed on the verge of catastrophe. It was as if she had blocked out anything good in her life.

Into the Frying Pan–medical mayhem

Into the Frying Pan

by Sarah Osborne

Into the Frying PanIf my opinion of this book were based on the likability of the characters the plot centers around in Into the Frying Pan, it would get a low rating. Fortunately the main characters, pediatrician Ditie Brown and her detective boyfriend Mason, along with Ditie’s adopted daughter Lucie and Ditie’s  close friends Lurleen and Danny, do not like these people either. Sadly they were an odd group of former friends from Ditie’s medical school days.

The tale is full of suspicions and secrets when one of the group is killed during a Civil War reenactment. Ugly motives and complicated relationships emerge. Will Ditie be able to protect herself and her children while interviewing former friends to discover the murderer?

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: #2 in the Ditie Brown Mystery Series but great as a standalone.

Publication:  May 28, 2019— Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

I hung up not sure what I was feeling. I’d put Phil in a category of lousy human being and now he was trying to ease his way out of that box.

Agatha Christie would have loved this gathering. A small clutch of people with one murderer in the mix.

“You see, I learned the hard way that some people get broken by their past and don’t recover from it—that was Carl. I did everything I could not to be like my mother, but Carl became his father. He ran around, had schemes to get money, and always wanted more than he had. I thought I could love him into being a better man, but you can’t do that for another person. They have to do it for themselves.”

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