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The Thursday Murder Club–new life in cold cases

The Thursday Murder Club

by Richard Osman

Richard Osman’s first novel, The Thursday Murder Club, is a stellar mystery. Definitely not a thriller, the solving of a cold case or two gets mixed in with several current murders as four residents of a retirement community band together to solve crimes that have stumped law enforcement in the past.

The main characters stand out as individuals—Ron, a former trade union leader; Joyce, a retired nurse; Ibrahim, a psychiatrist occasionally still consulted by former patients; and the quite competent Elizabeth who has contacts all over the world from her secretive profession.  All play into the sleuthing with their personal strengths and break down stereotypes of senior citizens who have given up on life. Elizabeth is the leader as the one with the best skills at recognizing motives and relationships, understanding how a crime might have been committed, and devising plans to reveal  criminals.  Everyone recognizes that if Elizabeth wants something to happen, a meeting perhaps, she can indeed make it happen.

Even the law enforcement, PC Donna De Freitas and her boss DCI Chris Hudson, find themselves manipulated into cooperating in the investigations by Elizabeth and the other seniors. Since the plot is complicated, there are many characters including a priest, some gangsters, real estate developers, a sheep herder, and a famous boxer. There are even more, and some careful reading is involved as minor characters can have a bigger role than you might anticipate. For example, one important character never says a word: look for Penny in the story.  It is fascinating to watch the Thursday Murder Club pick at the threads of the various crimes until they unravel. There are some crimes that you don’t even realize occurred until they were solved. Now, that’s magical writing because there is nothing artificial about the way author Richard Osman makes it all come together.

The style of the writing is fantastic with lots of British humor to make you smile and a few absolutely laugh out loud scenes. Joyce records her views on the investigation and reflections on her personal life in a diary that we get to read; it is set off in bold print and interspersed with the other chapters which are written in the third person. None of the chapters are very long and some are less than a page making this many chaptered tome move quickly. The chapters change their focus from one crime and set of characters to another, and that also seems appropriate to the complexity of the plot. This is not a book with a lot of red herrings; it is replete with good solid clues. The reader is in for many surprises but discovers them as the characters do. With its intricate plot and characters with depth, The Thursday Murder Club gives you much to contemplate above and beyond the mystery itself. There are many ethical questions to ponder, but the author lays out the facts and leaves judgement up to the reader.

Rating: 5/5 

Category: Mystery, Humor

Notes: This award winning book has a sequel in the works: The Thursday Murder Club 2 is set for publication on September 16, 2021.

Publication:   September 3, 2020—Viking

Memorable Lines:

It looks out over the bowling green, and then farther down to the visitors’ car park, the permits for which are rationed to such an extent that the Parking Committee is the single most powerful cabal within Coopers Chase.

I think that if I have a special skill, it is that I am often overlooked. Is that the word? Underestimated, perhaps?…So everyone calms down through me. Quiet, sensible Joyce. There is no more shouting and the problem is fixed, more often than not in a way that benefits me—something no one ever seems to notice.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to use your mobile telephone in here, Elizabeth,” says John. She gives a kindly shrug. “Well, imagine if we only ever did what we were supposed to, John.”  “You have a point there, Elizabeth,” agrees John, and goes back to his book.

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.

Dash Away All–dangerous drama on the movie set

Dash Away All

by Christina Freeburn

I was close to frustration with Merry Winters, the main character in Dash Away All by Christina Freeman, when she became frustrated with herself. Finally! Merry has been contracted to create craft items for the backdrop of a Christmas movie featuring a crafter. The job becomes bigger than originally planned when a shed holding many Christmas decorations burns down and Merry is expected to create or round up from the tiny town of Carol Lake, Indiana, the necessary items to fill out the various scenes. For someone so overwhelmingly concerned about the quantity of crafts she is supposed to make, Merry spends a lot of time going down rabbit holes. Some of the trails she follows are legitimate ones to pursue a criminal, but others are self-indulgent like her visit to a toy store. Sometimes she is just plain nosy and involves herself in things that are truly none of her business.

This Christmas movie is being filmed in a hot and humid July, so if you are looking for a Christmassy read, this is not for you. If you want a cozy mystery with red herrings, a plot with twists and turns, some danger, and a tiny splash of romance, you would probably enjoy Dash Away All. An aging and domineering Christmas movie star is making a comeback at the same time she is trying to resolve some personal issues from her past. They happen to coincide with Merry’s current crisis in terms of family. Merry’s long distance business partner Bright is somewhat helpful, but it seems we will never meet her as she, for family reasons, is not able to join Merry in her time of need. I, unfortunately, felt little fondness for the characters in this mystery, and that hampered my enjoyment of the book. Even the role of Ebenezer the Guinea pig seemed contrived.

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: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Merry and Bright Handcrafted Mystery Series

Publication:   July 7, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“Luna’s three loves in life are acting, trouble, and men, and which takes the top spot changes from day to day.”

A woman who loved to feel needed and felt lost when those who had needed her most—children and mom—either no longer did as they’re venturing out on their own, or because they couldn’t remember her.

It was a simple solution. Why hadn’t I thought of it? I knew exactly why I hadn’t; complicating matters was becoming a new hobby. I was turning back into a teenage girl and morphing everything into a drama of the century.

A Fatal Yarn–detailed descriptions

A Fatal Yarn

by Peggy Ehrhart

I have read four out of five of the books in the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series by Peggy Ehrhart, so I obviously enjoy the series as a whole. All of the books are more calming than usual for a cozy mystery series, rather like knitting is a tranquil activity for many. In A Fatal Yarn, however, the author’s greatest asset, descriptive writing, becomes a flaw in her writing. At first I was just amazed at passage after passage detailing settings and meals. Then I realized that the food descriptions especially had become redundant. I don’t really need repeated retellings of the main character’s preparations of black coffee and multigrain toast to understand that she only has coffee and toast for breakfast every day.

The story revolves around Pamela, a widow who edits articles for a fiber craft magazine, and her friend and neighbor Bettina, a writer for the local weekly paper. In this case, they are trying to prove that Roland, a member of their knitting group, did not murder the mayor. Before they can accomplish that task, they discover that an elderly woman in town did not die of natural causes. Pamela and Bettina follow clues by trailing suspects, interviewing those with connections to the victims, and occasionally putting themselves in harm’s way. The plot was good, the characters quite likable, and the descriptions well executed. I enjoyed it because I like the series, but I would not recommend this book to introduce someone to the series. I wondered, sadly, if this talented author was trying to fill out a word count. Regardless, I still want to read the next book in the Knit & Nibble series.

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: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1.  #5 in the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series which does not have to be read in order.

  2. Includes directions for a knitted cover for a throw pillow and a recipe for “Lemon Yogurt Easter Cake with Cream Cheese Icing.”

Publication:   March 31, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Bettina was distracted then by the milkshakes. They arrived in tall glasses filmed with condensation and crowned with a froth of bubbles, accented by straws inserted at a jaunty angle. She pulled her milkshake toward her and sampled it with an eager sip.

Such a human impulse, she reflected, to express oneself with whatever art materials were at hand. And women, whose world was so much narrower in some cultures, had found in crafts like needlework or weaving or quilting or knitting vehicles for their artistry.

As they watched, a rooster appeared in the doorway, a magnificent creature with glossy feathers that shaded from fiery orange on his neck and chest to the iridescent blue-black plumes that formed his exuberant tail. He strutted forth, turning his head this way and that as if to display the proud serrations of his bright red comb and his quivering wattles.

One Little Lie–dangerous thriller

One Little Lie

by Colleen Coble

One Little LieI didn’t know quite what to expect from Colleen Coble’s new series Pelican Harbor, so I dove into the first book wondering how the author would combine some mystery, a little thriller, and a bit of clean romance while incorporating a Christian viewpoint. Not that it couldn’t be done or hasn’t been done, but it is not my typical cozy mystery read. As it turns out, One Little Lie is a page turner. Its plot and characters have depth, and the threads occur on many levels. The reader has to wonder if they are parallel or will possibly collide making this a very intricate mystery indeed. 

Jane Hardy is chosen to be the new Pelican Harbor Chief of Police after her father resigns. What was behind his leaving the force? Why is Reid Dixon, who makes documentaries, having conversations with Jane’s father? Reid has been granted approval by the mayor to follow Jane around. Besides the pressure of extra scrutiny on her first days as Police Chief, why does Reid’s presence make her uncomfortable? Several murders and kidnappings later, events ramp up to a high danger level for Jane and her K-9 officer and companion Parker. Who can Jane trust?

The prologue of this book is set fifteen years earlier during an attack on a cult. That event and the years prior cast a shadow and create devastating secrets for the characters in this book. As for the Christian viewpoint, some of the characters in the book trust in God and have a relationship with Him. Those characters have challenges in which they rely on God; other characters come to see that believing in God could impact their lives and choices in a positive way as they struggle to get past the lies others have told them. This book provides closure for many threads, but I feel there is more story to be told in Pelican Harbor, Alabama. I’m looking forward to the publication of Strands of Truth, the next book in the series, in September 2020.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Romance, Christian

Notes: 1. #1 in the Pelican Harbor Series

2. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book.

Publication:   March 3, 2020—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

Jane had no idea how much he was going to mess with her life. It had been a long time coming Retribution was an exciting word, one he’d rolled around and around in his head for years. It would be a freight train coming for the Hardys at full speed. None of them would understand his purpose until it was too late.

But if Olivia could face the horror of her future, surely Jane could face the past that couldn’t reach out and hurt her any longer.

She teetered on high heels and wore tight-fitting jeans and a top that showed off her curves. False advertising. A cute figure was never a substitute for a beautiful spirit.

Dressed Up 4 Murder–Chiweenie in a fashion parade

Dressed Up 4 Murder

Dressed Up 4 Murder

Sun City West, a retirement community in Arizona, is the setting for a cozy mystery series featuring Sophie Kimball, an accountant for Williams Investigations. Sophie uses her deductive reasoning skills to help with cases that her boss Nate and boyfriend Marshall are called upon to investigate, often by the county sheriff’s office.

Dressed Up 4 Murder is a combination of humor, thanks to Sophie’s persistent mother Harriet and her gossipy friends, and mystery involving murder, affairs, and seafood. The star of the book in so many ways is Harriet’s chiweenie, Streetman. He competes in a series of doggy parades dressed in themed costumes designed especially for him by Harriet’s friend Shirley. When Streetman literally uncovers a body, Sophie and Marshall are on the scene. Harriet depends on Sophie to solve the case and, meanwhile, keeps Sophie regularly updated on the developments of Streetman’s costumes.

The doggy parade and the banter of Harriet and her friends will leave you smiling and chuckling, while the red herrings will keep you turning pages to solve the mysteries. Do all the threads tie together or are there actually several cases and multiple villains?

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: #6 in the Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

…my mother used all of her available time to drive me nuts. Endless phone calls about doggie designer clothes and the Halloween pet parade. I was looking forward to this first spectacle of the Precious Pooches Holiday Extravaganza as much as a root canal.

…I got to enjoy three or four minutes of blissful silence. Until my mother opened her mouth. “Phee is investigating those poisonings. It’s very hush-hush.” If it’s so hush-hush, why is she announcing it at gossip’s epicenter?”

By now I was getting really antsy, and apparently I wasn’t the only one. “Dish the dirt, Myrna,” Louise said, “while most of us still have our hearing.”

Fatal Roots–mystery of fairy forts

Fatal Roots

by Sheila Connolly

Fatal RootsMaura Donovan is as American as can be until she inherits a pub, house, and assorted pasture lands in Ireland from an Irish friend of her grandmother’s. In Fatal Roots by Sheila Connolly, Maura has lived in Ireland about a year and is becoming comfortable with her new country, role of ownership, and relationship with her boyfriend Mick and other new friends in the small town in Cork.

Life gets more complicated for Maura when Ciara, a post graduate student in archaeology shows up on her doorstep requesting permission to examine Maura’s early Irish fairy forts. Maura doesn’t know where her various acreages lie and doesn’t know what a fairy fort is or anything about the superstitions surrounding them. In the process of rolling out this tale, there is a grizzly discovery, Maura’s mother who abandoned her as a child comes to Cork on business bringing Maura’s half sister, and Maura makes changes to the pub so she can sell food.

Throw in Mick’s grandmother Bridgett and Old Billy who lives above the pub and you have a good basis for a plot. I liked the story, but repetition hampered the enjoyment for me. I had to hear over and over again of Maura’s background, the Irish attitude toward fairy forts, Maura’s angst about…everything—her family, her relationship with Mick, superstitions, decisions about kitchen remodeling, the student archaeologists. The plot was wrapped up nicely, and the epilogue provided emotional closure for characters that I really liked. I also enjoyed learning about fairy forts, which are a mystery in themselves and go by many names.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #8 in the County Cork Mystery Series

Publication:  January 7, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

But it was beginning to seem like any time anything happened, it was like scraping off the present to see pieces of the past.

“I could show yeh, but it really doesn’t have an address.” “Neither does my place. So far it’s ‘the cottage halfway up the hill, past the yellow cottage. If you reach the piggery you’ve gone too far.’ This is all so not like Boston.”

Life was too short, with too many unexpected twists and turns, to wait for the one perfect moment, if there even was such a thing.

 

 

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.

Sauvigone for Good–chocolate creations

Sauvigone for Good

by J.C. Eaton

Sauvigone for GoodNorrie, part owner of Two Witches Winery in Penn Yan, New York, is doing her part to facilitate the wintery Chocolate and Wine Festival that is sure to draw a crowd to the benefit of the wineries on Seneca Lake. Three world class chocolatiers will be competing for a large cash prize plus lots of media attention. First, there will be three days of demonstrations and wine pairings at the wineries. Norrie has a great crew who can manage normal issues that might arise. No one is prepared, however, for murder, scheming, and sabotage.

To counter bad publicity that is sure to arise, Norrie sets out to investigate a puzzle that involves the chocolatiers and other mysterious guests from Europe. Her friends Don and Theo at a neighboring winery offer support, and Gladys, who works for the county sheriff, can be counted on for the occasional leak of information. Norrie has had run-ins with Deputy Hickman before. He associates her with disasters and repeatedly warns her off her attempts at investigating.

Although the plot centers on murder and intrigue with lots of red herrings, there are side threads as well. Norrie, while “babysitting” the winery in her sister’s absence, has a job and deadlines as a screenwriter. In addition, she is sorting through her feelings for Godfrey, a young entomologist friend who is very helpful whenever called upon, and for Bradley, a lawyer she is dating. 

I recommend Sauvigone for Good by J.C. Eaton as a fun cozy mystery, clean and interesting. I’m looking forward to the next whodunit by this husband and wife writing team.

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: #4 in The Wine Trail Mysteries but could be read as a standalone.

Publication:   December 10, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

“Do you want any of us to go with you?” Stephanie asked. “It’s not a problem for me. My husband can put the boys to bed instead of having a love affair with the remote.”

It was another frigid morning and the snow in our vineyards glistened from the crust of ice that had formed on top of it. Another picture-perfect postcard for the Finger Lakes, unless you actually had to be outdoors.

“…And she’s got a smirk on her face that makes the Cheshire Cat look like an amateur.”

Have a Deadly New Year–Christie-inspired plot

Have a Deadly New Year

by Lynn Cahoon

Have a Deadly New YearToday was a great day to read a novella—short and complete in one sitting. Lynn Cahoon’s Have a Deadly New Year found Angie Turner and her staff of chefs at The County Seat restaurant offsite at a combination catering event and retreat. After providing a fancy multi-course meal to kick off a famous band’s reunion, the chefs were looking forward to a week’s working vacation in the huge, glamorous mansion. Complications arise when one of the band leaders is murdered and no one can go anywhere. The house is in a remote area, a blizzard strikes, and they are mandated to stay until the police return from another emergency. Are they under lockdown with a murderer and who might it be? 

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: This is a Farm to Fork novella. I love this series, and I normally find Lynn Cahoon’s books effective as standalones. I would not recommend it for this novella, however. It is just too short to comprehensively make all of the connections necessary for full enjoyment.

Publication:   December 3, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines: 

“I have a personal motto that it’s all about me.” “You’re the leading man in your own play.”

“I suppose you’ll be doing New Year’s resolutions during your week? Make sure they’re about you and not what others think you should do.”

“Negative energy never produces a positive outlook.”

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