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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.

Death by Auction–fun event turns deadly

Death by Auction

by Alexis Morgan

Abby McCree is new to Snowberry Creek, but wants to contribute to her community, so she spearheads a fundraiser in support of a local veterans’ group. It is a fun bachelor/bachelorette auction which will be followed in a few weeks by a World War II era dance. Well, it would be fun if Abby had not discovered her celebrity Master of Ceremony’s dead body and if her boyfriend’s ex-wife hadn’t made a surprise visit to Snowberry Creek.

Abby is not happy to be in the middle of this mess, but she responds in her usual hospitable manner to the unwelcome ex-wife whom she privately  calls “the barnacle.” With her never ending stash of muffins and cookies tucked away in the freezer, she even feeds the law enforcement officers who show up on her doorstep.

The story, which varies in mood from humorous to serious, moves quickly. As much as I wanted to know who committed the crime, I still didn’t want the book to end. From adventures at a biker bar to the joys of having her boyfriend’s ex-wife, who is one of the suspects, as a houseguest, the plot has a high energy level. The characters’ interactions are interesting. I’d love to join Abby at her kitchen table for a chat and the chance to pet Zeke, her slobbery ninety pound mastiff mix who is a good companion for her because of his intimidating size and his abilities in judging character. Abby is astute in her investigations and instrumental in solving the crime. All in all, Alexis Morgan’s Death by Auction is a very satisfying cozy mystery.

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: #3 in the Abby McCree Mystery Series, but would be excellent as a standalone

Publication:   May 26, 2020—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

They settled in at the table while Zeke parked himself between them in case someone dropped food on the floor that would require an emergency cleanup. He was good about things like that.

“I’ve learned never to underestimate your total inability to stay out of trouble, but also every guilty thought you have flashes across your face like it’s a billboard.”

Mount St. Helens had nothing on the eruption Abby could sense brewing in Tripp. His fists were clenched so tightly that his knuckles stood out in stark relief. One wrong word at this point, and she had no doubt he would go ballistic.

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.”

Sell Low, Sweet Harriet–mid-winter estate sale

Sell Low, Sweet Harriet

by Sherry Harris

Sell Low, Sweet HarrietWhen Alicia Arbas was murdered, the Fitch Air Force Base community turned out in support, including Sarah Winston who only knew her in passing. To Sarah’s surprise, she is recruited by Pellner who works for the local Ellington Police Dept. and Special Agent Bristol, an investigator with the Air Force OSI, to keep her ears open to any talk around base that might help them solve Alicia’s murder.

As the ex-wife of an Air Force security officer, Sarah still volunteers at the base thrift store and has maintained some of her social contacts. She also has been involved in informally investigating other local crimes.

Sell Low, Sweet Harriet is a cozy mystery with lots of fascinating threads. Sarah has a garage/estate sale business and in this book is hired to sell off goods that belong to former CIA agents who recently passed away in a faulty gas line accident. The house is full of interesting items from their travels around the world. so while Sarah is involved in a murder investigation and a mid-winter estate sale, she is trying to pinpoint her feelings for District Attorney boyfriend Seth and help her friend and landlady Stella with her relationship with an enforcement officer whom Sarah has nicknamed “Awesome.” Mike Titone, a mobster has also complicated her life by moving into the other apartment on her floor—again.

This mystery moves quickly; the characters are interesting. I hated to get to the end although I enjoyed the surprise. I want to see this series continue, but I am a little concerned about the direction it may take. Sarah makes it clear that as time passes, she has fewer genuine connections to the Air Force base. I wonder if the author will continue to rely on these tenuous connections or focus on Sarah’s new relationships and her business. I like Sarah because, despite various personal digs and a betrayal, she takes the high road, never seeking revenge.

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 Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, but works quite well as a standalone.

  2. Includes tips for holding a winter garage sale.

Publication:  December 31, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

And every time someone opened the door the wind nipped at my ankles like an overenthusiastic puppy.

“It’s hard enough to feel judged when it’s just you, but then worrying about tanking your husband’s career too? It feels like you’re walking a minefield of rules no one gave you.”

Pellner’s expression didn’t change. He kept his cop face locked and loaded. I thought his dimples deepened just a bit, but his impassiveness was impressive.

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.”

Toxic Toffee–Jethro and Puff add humor

Toxic Toffee

by Amanda Flower

Toxic ToffeeAs I read Amanda Flower’s latest cozy mystery, Toxic Toffee, I was delighted to see familiar characters, like Jethro the polka dotted pig. I was amused by the introduction of a huge fluffy pet bunny named Puff and intrigued by the mysterious death of a rabbit farmer whom everyone loves. Reading about the construction of a ten foot toffee rabbit and other Easter treats was appealing to this chocoholic as well.

All of this sweetness is wrapped up in an intriguing mystery that starts in New York City where Bailey, chocolatier extraordinaire, and her naive Amish relative Charlotte have been filming candy making for a TV show. They soon leave the fascinating Big Apple where Charlotte’s Amish is frequently “showing” as she encounters a very unfamiliar world. They return to Holmes County, Ohio, where they help Bailey’s grandmother in their Amish candy shop. Bailey is approached by the son of a murdered man with a request that she help solve the mystery of his death. She agrees because of her community ties. Although “Englisch,” her ancestry is Amish and her grandmother is very respected in the community.

Threatening notes and a late night attack ramp up the danger level for Bailey and the concern level for her boyfriend, Deputy Aiden Brody. There are plot twists, turns, and surprises all the way to the end. Suspense, humor, and interesting characters make Toxic Toffee a must read for cozy mystery lovers.

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 Amish Candy Shop Mystery series. 

             2. I believe this could be read without reading the previous books in the series, but I think this is one of the best so far in the series.

Publication:   June 25, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Not lucky. Blessed. Luck is an Englisch idea, not an Amish one.”

…I couldn’t live in fear. I would be afraid enough to be careful, but I would not allow myself to be stifled by fear.

“In my opinion, it’s better for a young person to leave the faith and be Englisch than force themselves to be Amish and make everyone around then miserable.”

Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake–delicious cozy mystery

Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake

by Sarah Graves

Death by Chocolate Malted MilkshakeJake (Jacobia) relates this tale from the first person point of view as she and her friend Ellie struggle to survive the low tourist season in Maine. In this delightful cozy mystery, Jake and Ellie own their dream shop, The Chocolate Moose. Having recently purchased a vintage, mint green milkshake maker, they have added chocolate milkshakes to the treats featured in their chocolate themed bakery. Unfortunately, an abusive local drunk is found dead with one of their milkshake cups beside him.

In Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake by Sarah Graves, questions swirl like a milkshake in a blender. Was the victim poisoned by the milkshake? Will the tampered milkshake rumors prove deadly to their struggling business? The ladies are counting on a whoopie-pie wedding cake to keep their business afloat; but with the groom suspected of murder, will the wedding even take place?

There are other suspects, interesting extended family members, a competent, sympathetic sheriff, lots of action, and more than a little danger as Jake and Ellie try to save their shop, keep Ellie and her family from having to move, discover the murderer and stay alive. I was surprised by the ending and the revelation of the murderer.

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 Death by Chocolate Mystery Series, but will work as a standalone.

It features a recipe for Ginger Chocolate Biscotti.

Publication:   January 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

The landlady’s glare was so cold, you could’ve used it to freeze fish.

An old railroad trestle crossed the gap between two high bluffs over a grassy salt marsh. In the moonlight, the cattails in the marsh stood motionless as if at attention.

Basically, I thought, frogs lived in a puddle, ate flies, and never got warm; still they yelled out their happiness in doing it and I found that encouraging.

Murder at the Mushroom Festival–beautiful setting for terrible mayhem

Murder at the Mushroom Festival

by Janet Finsilver

Murder at the Mushroom FestivalMurder, poisoning, blackmail, theft, destruction of Native American lands, assault, and threats! There’s plenty of action in Redwood Cove, a coastal town in northern California where lots of folks are gathering for the Mushroom Festival. Kelly Jackson, new manager of the Redwood Cove Bed-and-Breakfast finds herself in the middle of trouble when she and the Silver Sentinels, a group of amateur sleuths with wisdom and connections on their side, try to find a murderer and determine if the other crimes are related.

Murder at the Mushroom Festival kept me wondering at the identity of the villain as suspicion was thrown on various characters. The solution is much more complicated than one might imagine. Kelly and her Miss Marple-like fellow sleuths are likable. Two children, several dogs and a truffle snuffling pig add further interest. I enjoyed learning about mushrooms and about sinker redwood as the mystery progressed.

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 Kelly Jackson Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone.

Publication:   April 17, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

He parked, and we got out in what I felt was an enchanted forest. I breathed in the life of the woodland around me. Musty, sweet, earthy, topped off with a sprinkling of salt from the nearby ocean. Spears of sunlight cut through the towering redwoods like beacons to highlight certain areas. A raven cawed, loud and raucous, as we walked through a sunlit glen. A hawk drifted overhead, soaring on the wind currents.

The waves varied in intensity. When a strong one hit the rocky shoreline, water exploded high into the air. The rise and fall of the swell, like a creature breathing, made the ocean a living body.

People who were sure their way was the only way could make life unpleasant.

Hummus and Homicide–mystery with a side of hummus

Hummus and Homicide

by Tina Kashian

Hummus and HomicideI read and reviewed more nonfiction books in February than I usually do. While I enjoyed most of them, I emerged from the month a little drained. Just as the month was ending, however, I read a review written by prolific book blogger Betty of Hummus and Homicide. Her review made this cozy mystery appealing, and I was able to request it as an ARC shortly before the deadline. It was just the relaxing break I needed. You can go to Betty’s blog to see her review by clicking here:

MYSTERIES GALORE AND PHOTOS

Now, on to my review:

Hummus and Homicide is the tale of patent attorney Lucy Berberian’s return from Philadelphia to her hometown Ocean Crest, New Jersey. For eight years she had devoted her life to her career but had hit her head on the metaphorical glass ceiling for women. She bounces back to her family’s Mediterranean restaurant in the small New Jersey beach town. Unfortunately, a former classmate meets an unfortunate demise after Lucy serves her food at the restaurant, making Lucy a prime suspect.

To save her parents’ restaurant from closure and herself from jail, Lucy sets out to discover the killer. There are many possibilities including rival restaurant owners, a famous author, and the boss of a crime family. Along with solving the mystery, Lucy has some personal romantic entanglements to resolve as well as decisions about her career choice to make. Hummus and Homicide is a fun, relaxing read that moves quickly and has interesting, likable characters.

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. This is the first book in the new Kebab Kitchen Mystery Series.

 2. There are recipes included at the end of the book.

Publication:   February 27, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

If curiosity killed the cat, what would it do to an out-of-work lawyer sticking her nose where it didn’t belong?

Her eyes slid shut as she bit into the hot pastry. the crunch of the thin layers of buttered pastry, the sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts, blended together in a sweet ballet.

She knew how fast news traveled in town. The Internet had nothing on Ocean Crest when it came to the information superhighway.

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