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A Field Guide to Homicide–writing retreat you’d love to attend

A Field Guide to Homicide

by Lynn Cahoon

A Field Guide to HomicideAs a book lover, to hear an author’s thoughts on writing embedded in a cozy mystery is a special experience. Lynn Cahoon provides just such an opportunity through her Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but there is even more sharing of the writing process in the latest installment of the series. Cat Latimer, a former professor, conducts writers’ retreats in her restored Victorian mansion one week per month while she continues her own writing. She appreciates that she has the best of both worlds, authoring her own books while helping other writers develop their unique potential.

In A Field Guide to Homicide, Cat is hosting an unusual group that has two writing couples and a rather awkward college student. She is just beginning to recognize the different dynamics of this group and attempt to mesh them into a working team, when they have to cut an outing short due to a gruesome discovery. Seth is Cat’s boyfriend. He restores old homes and helps out with the retreats. Suddenly he finds himself in the middle of a mystery that seems to revolve around some old army buddies who are gathering for a reunion. Cat’s Uncle Pete plays a role too; as chief of police, he attempts to solve the crime and keep everyone safe. At the same time, he tries to entertain his girlfriend Shirley, a retired Alaskan deputy and aspiring writer, who is in town for the week.

A Field Guide to Homicide is structured so that as you finish one chapter, you absolutely must keep reading into the next. The characters are likable. The relationships are complicated, but not overly so. Although the writing process is a major theme, the all-important mystery takes the lead as it  heads in unexpected directions. The setting is a writer’s dream come true with Cat having her special writing space on the third floor with both a view and privacy. Her best friend and business partner, Shauna, cooks for the trio of Cat, Seth, and herself as well as providing breakfast and delicious snacks for the retreat group. This is a bookish mystery you won’t want to miss.

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 Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but holds up well as a standalone. Cahoon has a talent for jumping right into the plot while bringing readers up to speed on the characters.

Publication:  January 28, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

…she settled onto a living room couch and got lost in a futuristic world where good did conquer evil, even if it took three hundred pages.

She was sitting in the living room, in what she liked to call a good book coma or hangover. Where her mind didn’t want to leave the magic of the world she’d just created as she read the story.

Some people never found their true voice because they want to write what they think will sell or worse, what they think they should write. People needed to realize that writing is all about telling the story. And if you don’t like the story you’re writing, write something different.

Memories and Murder–scamming seniors

Memories and Murder

by Lynn Cahoon

Memories and MurderThe name of the series, Tourist Trap Mysteries, doesn’t begin to describe this bookish set adequately. Memories and Murder is the latest installment in which Jill Gardner, owner of Coffee, Books and More in little South Cove, drinks coffee, eats sweet treats, and reads her way through relationship and murder issues. There are lots of threads to this plot. Aunt Jackie has called off her engagement to Harrold and gone silent. Deek is a new barista in the coffee shop; he is more perceptive than psychic, despite his heritage. He has great ideas for book clubs and follows through with implementation. Jill juggles investigating a murder and a scam and finds herself in deadly trouble.

The story is told from Jill’s point of view, and first person narration works well here. The pace moves along snappily in this cozy mystery. Don’t be deterred by Memories and Murder being the tenth book in the sequence. Author Lynn Cahoon is a master at bringing readers up to speed on characters and background. In the first chapter you will learn almost everything you need to know to enjoy this book while the storyline gets underway. There is perhaps a little too much description of who ate what, when, and where, but other than feeling like I needed to accompany Jill and her dog Emma on their beach runs, those details were not truly excessive. In fact, I’m looking forward to joining the South Cove family of friends in their next adventure.

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: #10 in The Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   November 12, 2019— Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

Fighting with my boyfriend had not been one of the things on my to-do list today, but you had to make room for impromptu items.

Operation Harrold Wins Jackie Back was going to work. It had to work. All the best books and movies had a happily ever after. Real life should too.

…he’d assured me that the sun would turn to ice before he left me for her.

Death by Committee–a mastiff mix takes center stage

Death by Committee

by Alexis Morgan

Death by CommitteeLooking for an exciting cozy mystery? Death by Committee has more action than is normally found in a cozy mystery. It is for sure a page turner.

Death by Committee by Alexis Morgan features likable characters with some depth to them that makes you want to get to know them even better. Its setup has potential for lots of variety in future stories. Main character Abby McCree, recently divorced, inherits her aunt’s house in a small town. She finds herself landlady to Tripp, a handsome veteran who lives in a cottage on her property. Abby has plenty to do sorting through her aunt’s possessions, but Aunt Sibyl’s elderly friends expect her to step into her aunt’s shoes as head of the quilting guild and as a civic leader.

A body is found buried on Abby’s property wrapped in a quilt. This gruesome discovery leads to her informal and unsanctioned investigation to clear her aunt’s name, but there is more intrigue to follow. A side mystery involves the disappearance of thirteen quilts. The quilts are valuable, but are they worth the penalties for theft? 

My favorite character is the huge, slobbery Zeke: a mastiff cross who is Abby’s best buddy and defender. He is a constant throughout the story providing interest and humor. Zeke adores both Tripp and Abby (and treats) as much as the pair loves him. The book is filled with humorous repartee as Tripp and Abby struggle to understand each other, and fireworks of various kinds fly.

I did figure out before the reveal who the murderer is, but not the motive. I think this was intentional, making the final scenes even more dramatic. Abby put herself in danger sometimes through her own actions, but it does make for an exciting story. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. This one did not change my world, but it is a lot of fun, and it left me with a satisfied smile and wanting more.

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 Abby McCree Mystery Series

  2. The cute cover doesn’t depict what actually happened in the book.

Publication:   January 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

If she didn’t know what a sweetheart he was, she might have been just as leery of a dog of his size, too. The truth was, the only real threat the bighearted fellow presented to the world was his ability to produce an excessive amount of drool, which often left behind an icky trail of mastiff goo wherever he went.

The day hadn’t gone well at all, and her reward was a crushing headache. For now, she wasn’t going to think about anything more complicated than what flavor of tea would go best with ibuprofen.

“Don’t worry. We’re fine, boy. Just out for a drive.” Okay, that was a lie, and not even the dog was buying what she was selling.

Murder by the Book–rare books

Murder by the Book

by Lauren Elliott

Murder by the BookIf you are looking for an interesting cozy mystery with lots of crimes and suspects, you will find it in Lauren Elliott’s Murder by the Book. Addison Greyborne, with a background as a researcher of rare books, inherits her aunt’s huge house and large collection of books. Some of the residents of the small town where she decides to open a bookshop are not particularly welcoming, but she finds a friend in Serena who owns the tea shop next to Addie’s bookstore and in Serena’s brother Marc, the police chief.

Addie believes her research skills are similar to those needed for a murder investigation, so when Selena is arrested for murder, Addie decides to get involved. Although I enjoyed the story, there are parts of it that just don’t seem plausible. Addie personally, her shop, and her home are targeted numerous times without anyone being able to identify the mischief makers or their motives—although mysterious vehicles are seen many times. There are also several deaths tied into the plot and a number of suspicious newcomers to the small town that no one suspects until it is too late. The storyline contains too many characters dealing in rare books one way or another for that not to be the motive. Secret compartments, a fun device, abound. Unfortunately that device is overused as is the irritating tendency for other characters to tuck a strand of hair behind Addie’s ear. Serena also overplays her interest in Addie and Marc’s relationship while she is still under suspicion for murder.  In addition, I have to wonder at the number of customers the bookstore maintains day after day and at the ease with which both Addie and Selena can leave their shops unattended or closed any time they feel like it. On the positive side, there are gems of information about rare books tucked into the pages of this cozy. So, recommended? Yes. A terrific cozy? No, but since this is the first in the series, I am willing to give it another try when the next one is published.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery Series

Publication:   October 30, 2018—Kensington Press

Cry Wolf–part cozy, part police procedural

Cry Wolf

by Annette Dashofy

Cry WolfReaders get to ride along briefly with Zoe Chambers as she completes her nonstop shift as a Monongahela County EMS paramedic responding to a machete attack. As interesting as that is, it only gets more so as the characters involved are soon also identified as part of murder scenarios. In Cry Wolf, Annette Dashofy continues the personal tale of Zoe and her boyfriend, Pete Adams, who is Vance Township’s Chief of Police. The network expands to include Harry, Pete’s father with Alzheimer’s and Jason Cox, Zoe’s newly discovered half-brother.

Zoe’s boss is hospitalized, and she has to take over his coroner’s duties putting her closer to the investigation of both murders. Meanwhile the folks at Golden Oaks retirement home help out with the sleuthing, and Pete tries to come to grips with this newly found family relationship of Zoe’s. Vance’s small police force is currently undermanned due to a young officer’s reluctance to serve after his first police shooting results in a death.

Cry Wolf has a complicated plot with lots of interwoven threads and action scenes and a little humor thrown in. The characters are interesting and well-developed. This is a book you won’t want to put down until its surprise ending and satisfactory conclusion.

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: #7 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but the author does a great job of bringing the reader up to speed on the characters.

Publication:  September 18, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“Kristopher was livid. He has a very clear picture of how he wants his life to be. When anyone or anything interferes with that vision, he throws a temper tantrum to rival most two-year-olds.”

Zoe wondered what her dad would have been like in old age. On one hand, she’d been spared watching time and illness ravage his mind and body. On the other, she’d give just about anything to have him in her life, no matter what shape he’d be in.

Rooted in Deceit–the value of a painting

Rooted in Deceit

by Wendy Tyson

Rooted in DeceitWendy Tyson’s Rooted in Deceit is another stellar cozy mystery in The Greenhouse Mystery Series. Megan is the owner of Washington Acre Farms, a farm that supplies organic produce for her own café and organic store in Winsome as well as several restaurants in Philadelphia. 

Tyson dumps the reader into the story immediately with four major plot pieces. Megan’s mini-enterprise is almost ready to expand as her crew puts the finishing touches on the long awaited pizza farm restaurant. Her father Eddie and his wife of two years, Sylvia, arrive from Milan on business, swirling up lots of emotions and relationship issues. They will be staying in nearby Dartville at Peaceful Summit Yoga Retreat Center and Spa which may be competition for Megan’s café. Thrown into this mix is an artist and middle school friend of Megan’s, Thana Moore, whose work will be on display at the center.

Before you know it, Megan is up to her eyeballs in a murder investigation, without the help of boyfriend, veterinarian Denver, who is called to Scotland when his sister is in a serious accident. Megan has to come to grips with her feelings about her own family past as well as middle school shenanigans that come back to bite her and her former friends.

You’ll enjoy watching the plot unfold as Megan follows various leads. Some go to dead ends and others branch off into new possibilities. There’s never a dull moment in Rooted in Deceit.

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: #4 in The Greenhouse Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:  September 4, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

The day was hot and humid, a soupy late August afternoon that teased a cooling rain but delivered little more than sweat and sunburn.

“You and I both know people do inconceivable things for rational reasons, and conceivable things for irrational reasons. Crime rarely makes sense.”

…the right choice wasn’t always obvious at the time you were forced to make it. Life got complicated.

Uneasy Prey–preying on the elderly

Uneasy Prey

by Annette Dashofy

Uneasy PreyZoe Chambers is an EMT whose first call after being on medical leave for eight weeks is to the home of a ninety-two year old found lying at the bottom of the basement stairs. She says someone pushed her. Zoe involves her boyfriend Pete, who is police chief of Vance. The plot gets more involved as the police try to track down a white truck with no windows, Pete has to situate his father in an assisted living facility and Zoe has to find a new home for her horses.

Who wants to prey on elderly residents of small town Vance, Pennsylvania? They are frightened, losing their valuable possessions and potentially their lives. Uneasy Prey by Annette Dashofy is a cozy mystery that tries to answer this question, but opens the door to many more. This is a good read with several surprising twists as Zoe, Pete, and a cast of characters solve crimes and help others.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #6 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone

Publication:   March 27, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“No, he’s not okay. He’s got Alzheimer’s. He’s never okay.”

…the resolve and underlying anger in Marcus’ eyes made Pete think there was more going on here than a simple brawl between two testosterone-driven teens with anger-management issues.

A familiar mop of short blonde hair…a flash of crimson…sent his heart plummeting. All he could hear was the echo of stillness inside his head and his chest.

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