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’Twas the Knife Before Christmas
by Jacqueline Frost
I have to applaud Jacqueline Frost for ’Twas the Knife Before Christmas, the second book in her Christmas Tree Farm Mysteries. Full of the Christmas spirit, it is a fun read and a delightful cozy mystery. The story begins with an introduction to the engaging town of Mistletoe, the main character Holly, and the setting of Reindeer Games which is Holly’s family’s Christmas tree farm. Unfortunately, a murder is discovered at a very Christmasy unveiling. Holly is determined to find the murderer who is also trying to frame Holly’s friend Caroline. Sheriff Evan Gray is equally determined to keep Holly alive despite her dangerous investigative efforts.
’Twas the Knife Before Christmas is a solid mystery with interesting and well-developed characters. The plot has twists and turns, some romance, and a little Christmas magic, making it a cozy mystery you won’t want to miss this Christmas season.
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.
Notes: #2 in the Christmas Tree Farm Mystery Series but works well as a standalone.
Publication: November 13, 2018—Crooked Lane Books
…she’d taught me to love art the way she loved life: voraciously and with spirit.
Unfortunately, Mom and I also shared a soft personality. We were bleeding hearts, givers of fifteenth chances, and avid avoiders of conflict, at least when the problem only concerned ourselves. Basically, we’d fight black bears with our hands for someone else, then let the bear eat us if we thought he was hungry.
The homes in Derek’s neighborhood were oversized and overpriced. It was the kind of place where people with four-car attached garages parked outside all summer just to show off their vehicles and further inflate their already out-of-control egos.
The Spirit in Question
by Cynthia Kuhn
Having enjoyed the first two cozy mysteries in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series, I was looking forward to another. This book has many good features. Readers are filled in on background quickly. The series branches out from the typical college professor tenure issues by focusing on Professor Lila Maclean’s role as dramatic consultant to a play written by one Stonydale professor and directed by a visiting professor from France. The play is embroiled in conflicts over changes the director wants to make as well as picketing by the local historical society over potential damages to the Opera House, an old theater with a flamboyant and murderous past.
Cynthia Kuhn, the author of The Spirit in Question, chooses to develop her plot with a lot of paranormal activity, even bringing in the Spirit Wranglers who try to prove ghostly existence for their TV viewers. Is a ghost responsible for accidents and murders or is there a human element at work? Not a fan of paranormal novels, I did not enjoy this cozy mystery as much as the others in the series. I did enjoy watching Lila unravel some of the mystery threads and obtain a confession. I’m assuming the author will drop the paranormal focus in future books and resume mysteries that look more at life in the Colorado university town of Stonedale and Lila’s role there as a professor.
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.
Notes: 1. #3 in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series, but effective as a standalone
2. Author and characters seem to be unable to decide if there was paranormal activity involved in the mysterious happenings in the theater.
Publication: October 2, 2018—Henery Press
I knew I needed to focus the conversation so that she wouldn’t begin regaling me with a cascade of memories about the time she went here or there with future celebrity x, y, or z. Once that train left the station, there would be no stopping it.
Gavin scratched his head, resulting in a dry little scratchy sound that made me want to run for the nearest tank of hand sanitizer.
…somehow it was difficult to think of him as actively guilty. He was more like a casualty swept up in the tsunami of her relentless determination.
This summer I took a short trip to Asheville, NC and while there got a peek at the impressive Grove Park Inn.
After touring some craft shops with beautiful furniture, paintings, and sculptures, we went to the Antique Car Museum behind the Inn. It is housed in a former weaving shop belonging to Biltmore Industries. I’m sure the large windows were essential to the 40 workers making bolts of homespun fabric. Now the long building displays horse drawn carriages, a 1921 fire engine, and vintage autos.
My favorite is this beautiful 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham of which only 400 were produced.
Here’s the displayed information if you want to know more about this magnificent vehicle.
I can’t resist adding a picture of a cute restaurant that looks like it jumped off the pages of a fairy tale.
Accessories to Die For
by Paula Paul
Paula Paul has written a cozy mystery set in Santa Fe and tribal lands near there. As a New Mexican resident for many years, I find her use of this setting well done and effective in Accessories to Die For. She incorporates the drug problems that are all too prevalent there and the Native American culture that binds Catholicism with ancient religious beliefs. Paul showcases the tourist impact and the artisan craftsmanship.
If the author did all of that so well, why am I not excited about this book? I think it is the characters; they are just not very likable. Irene has given up her law career to be with her aging and still self-centered mother Adelle. There is a potential love interest with P.J. an attorney. Both lawyers make bad choices and do stupid (illegal) things along with jewelry artist Juanita who is looking for her druggie son Danny. There is a murder, several assaults, and a major theft. When it is all sorted out, the person who is able to lay out the facts and relationships is realistically the least likely to be able to do so.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Alibi) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #2 in the Irene’s Closet Series
Publication: December 5, 2017—Random House (Alibi)
Danny Calabaza gave the flute its voice as he sat on a low hill that was sparsely carpeted with the brown and white grass of his tribal land. He had crafted the instrument himself from a piece of cedar wood in the manner of his grandfathers—hollowed from a branch, not split and glued together as some men did now.
The sweet scent of piñon fires wafted around her. It was a seductive scent, promising chile stew and fry bread cooked over the fires as well as warm loaves of bread pulled from the piñon-stoked hornos.
P. J. cleared his throat—something he never did in front of a prosecuting attorney. When a lawyer cleared his throat in a courtroom, it made him appear nervous. But there was something about this woman that threw him off balance. No, he wouldn’t go there. He would just look her in the eye and speak.