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Knit of the Living Dead
by Peggy Ehrhart
If you enjoy a cozy mystery with a lot of well-composed descriptions, likable characters, and clean language, you might enjoy the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series. In Knit of the Living Dead, Pamela, an editor for a fiber arts magazine, follows screams at a Halloween bonfire. She discovers a young woman who has found a dead body. With almost everyone in costume, it is difficult to tell who is in attendance, much less who the murderer is. It is possible that the deceased is not even the intended victim.
Pamela and her best friend and neighbor Bettina are joined in their sleuthing activities by Nell, an elderly member of their knitting club. They interview possible suspects under various guises, narrowing down the pool and often hoping the perpetrator is not someone nice that they have difficulty imagining as a killer. Both the murderer and the motivation are a surprise when revealed.
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.
Notes: 1. #6 in the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series, but would work as a standalone.
2. Includes directions for making a Trick-or-Treat tote for children and recipes for Pumpkin-Spice Crumb Cake and Candy Corn Halloween Cookies (which have a chocolate base).
Publication: August 25, 2020—Kensington Books
Despite the festive atmosphere and good cheer, the bonfire awoke feelings more appropriate to a pagan celebration marking nature’s mysterious powers. The flames illuminated rapt faces, dramatizing features and rendering the familiar unfamiliar.
The air was chilly but still, and the day was bright and cloudless. Lawns on Angler Road were still green, with fallen leaves like bright paint spatters here and there.
Wilfred had outdone himself. The beef was meltingly tender, savory, and meaty, infused with the flavors of carrots, mushrooms, and the subtly sweet onions—all melded together during the stew’s long, slow cooking.
A Fatal Fiction
by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Mikki Lincoln is a retired middle school English teacher in Kaitlyn Dunnett’s A Fatal Fiction. In order to remodel her childhood home that has been neglected for many years, she supplements her retirement income using her skills as a copy editor. She lived in Maine for about fifty years, but has returned to her hometown, Lenape Hollow, NY. While stopped at a gas station, seventy year old Mikki is verbally attacked by a very angry businessman who has cheated a lot of people over the years by luring them into failing investments. Video of the encounter goes viral, even though Mikki never understood the cause of his anger. Mikki is the prime suspect when her attacker, CEO Greg Onslow, is found dead on one of the properties his company is developing.
Mikki is determined to discover who killed Onslow, but he was not a very nice man, so there are multiple suspects. Friends and family discourage her investigations as they seem dangerous at times.
The editing aspect of the story revolves around Sunny Feldman, last of the owners of a famous resort in the Catskills. She has hired Mikki to edit her semi tell-all memoirs of the celebrities who frequented the resort when she was a teenager. Onslow has bought the property for a development venture. Could their interests be colliding to cause these problems? Could Onslow’s ex-wife or even his second wife have killed him? There are some interesting locals who may have been involved as well. Most importantly, will the murderer set his or her sights on Mikki to cover up the crime and stop the investigation?
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.
Notes: 1. #3 in the Deadly Edits Mystery Series, but will work as a standalone.
2. At the end of the book, there is a section that will especially appeal to those who love language. It is composed of several pages of language and grammar tips including warnings on split infinitives, dangling modifiers, and usage of the terms swearing and foul language. The tips are interesting and often humorous.
Publication: June 30, 2020—Kensington Books
Warmth crept up my neck and into my face. I was torn between feeling a sense of pride for standing up for myself and enduring acute embarrassment because I’d lost control.
Since I used the “teacher” voice I’d perfected over decades of dealing with junior high students, he caved, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d have said he was sulking, except that there was a definite look of panic in his eyes.
Unfortunately, to properly put on the airs of a grand dame one really needs to be sipping tea from a delicate china cup. I was drinking my coffee out of a Star Wars mug, a Christmas present from my great-niece.
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.
Notes: #10 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but holds up well as a standalone.
Publication: June 16, 2020—Henery Press
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.
A Deathly Silence
by Jane Isaac
Detective Chief Inspector Helen Lavery has been recuperating from work related injuries when she gets called back by the horrific death of a young woman. Helen, a widow and the mother of two boys, was fast-tracked into her current position and leads a team of investigators in Jane Isaac’s A Deathly Silence which is a police procedural on steroids.
This mystery details the dangerous investigation that leads Helen and her team to examine evidence, interview suspects and witnesses multiple times, attend autopsies, engage in stake-outs, create timelines, and gather to brainstorm theories. The clues become even more muddled as a leak appears and Helen and her team wonder who they can trust. One death seems to lead to more, and even the gang that previously sidelined Helen comes under suspicion. A Deathly Silence is a top-notch mystery and police procedural. Helen is a likable main character, but the plot is the show stopper in this book that will set you up to want to read more in this series. The murder is a surprise as is the motive.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Legend Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, General Fiction (Adult)
Notes: As #3 in the the DCI Helen Lavery Novel Series, this book can most definitely work as a standalone; I was not aware it was part of a series until I prepared to write this review.
Publication: October 15, 2019—Legend Press
He was in a tailspin, a swirling vortex of emotions, his heart fighting to burst out of his chest.
Teamwork existed on trust and the very idea that one of her people had betrayed that trust was like a fishbone lodged in the back of her throat.
There were always more casualties than the dead in a murder investigation.
A Plain Vanilla Murder
by Susan Wittig Albert
It is not like me to jump into a cozy mystery series on the twenty-seventh book. Who engages in that kind of craziness anyway? Amazingly, I didn’t find the lapse in character background knowledge to be a problem. While A Plain Vanilla Murder is not the best cozy I’ve ever read, it was very good. I particularly liked all the information provided on vanilla. I had no idea vanilla is part of an orchid plant or that there is such an active trade in exotic orchid plants.
This mystery has lots of threads. A professor is killed, and lots of enemies emerge as possible suspects. Could the motive be professional rivalry, dalliances or orchid laundering? All are sufficient to motivate an attacker, but what really happened? The main character, China Bayles, is a former criminal lawyer. This is one of the few crimes that land on her doorstep that leads her to become involved professionally.
Always interested in learning new things about a subject, I enjoyed the many quotes about vanilla that are included in the chapters as well as in the addendum. Susan Wittig Albert is a prolific writer as evidenced by this series that focuses on herbs and spices as well as the three other series she writes in addition to a number of independent books. I look forward to reading more by this author.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Persevero Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Women’s Fiction
Notes: #27 in the China Bayles Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.
Publication: June 4, 2019— Persevero Press
Campus politics are labyrinthine. A dispute involving faculty can be vicious, even if it looks like nothing more than a petty turf war over a few inconsequential footnotes in an insignificant publication. It can also be something bigger, dirtier, and deeper.
My first thought was that he was the last person on earth to do such a thing. But of course you can never tell what devils live in somebody’s private hell.
Any time you have to sit down with a cop, you immediately remember the times you’ve jaywalked or parked where you shouldn’t or failed to return a library book and now have a humongous unpaid fine. It’s stupid, of course, but it’s a universal paranoia, and completely understandable.
by Eileen Brady
A clever murderer is on the loose and his endless killing seems to extend over the years. How do you stop a murderer who is a master of disguise? What do you do if you feel like someone is watching you—only to have him disappear? Dr. Kate in Eileen Brady’s Penned, after briefly befriending a senior with a memory for faces who is in the beginning stages of dementia, has to confront these questions.
Dr. Kate gets along well with the residents of Oak Falls where she serves as veterinarian, taking over an established practice for a year. The book has interesting characters and some romance, but the true focus is the mystery. I thought I had solved the crime only to be surprised at the end. I highly recommend this page turner.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #4 in the Kate Turner, DVM Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.
Publication: October 9, 2018—Poisoned Pen Press
“I don’t make any money. I’m a writer. The only people who are poorer than writers are actors. One night I calculated all the hours I put into my last book and how much I made, minus the cash off the top that my agent and publisher took. I would have been better off working at McDonalds.”
“What idiot uses a match to kill a tick? You could have set our dog on fire and burned down the house.” “I blew out the flame before I squished it,” Amos countered. This time I swear the dog rolled his eyes.
I remember arrogantly thinking I knew the answers to everything when I was a in my teens, and now…now I realize I hadn’t even understood the questions.
Murder by Suggestion
by Veronica Heley
A group of neglected wives at the country club joke around about ways to kill off their husbands. They find it amusing until deaths start occurring. Who really wants these men dead and why? And why do the men respond to the jokes so passionately? Author Veronica Heley weaves a fascinating story in Murder by Suggestion as Ellie Quicke again finds herself in the middle of a mystery that brings uninvited houseguests and more than a little danger into her quiet and comfortable home. Her daughter Diana is at the center of the chaos, and she is responding to her problems with no grace and even less charm. It is all Ellie can do to not attack her own daughter in response to her insulting and outrageous behavior. Diana, never an easy person, seems outside the realm of reason until she discloses the cause of her extreme behavior.
Heley writes in such a way that as you finish one chapter you really must start the next. I love it when a book is that engaging. Another interesting aspect of this book is that the setting is almost entirely in Ellie’s home. The action comes to her: she talks to people and sorts out the who’s, how’s and why’s. Although there are a lot of major characters, it was easy for me to keep them straight along with their marital partners. All in all, another successful mystery in this excellent series.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #19 in the Ellie Quicke Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone
Publication: October 1, 2018—Severn House
Dear Lord above. What a mess. I know you are here as well as in church. I haven’t time to tell you all that’s been happening. Oh, how stupid I am. You know, anyway, don’t you? Any words of wisdom for me?
“It may be raining outside. You’ve had a bad time today and the future is uncertain, but you are all here, safe and sound. Take the time to rest and recover. Be thankful for the meal. Let tomorrow bring what it will. Tonight you are among friends.”
Somehow or other she had to get to the bottom of this tangled skein of motives, or someone else would die.
Dark Tide Rising
by Anne Perry
I know that Anne Perry is a celebrated author with two main series and many other books to her credit. Therefore, I was really looking forward to reading this work of historical fiction, a genre I have come to enjoy recently. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. A lot of Dark Tide Rising centers around a betrayal that is central to understanding the kidnapping and murder of Kate Exeter. When I say “a lot,” I mean Perry belabors the points to the extent of redundancy. Also, I figured out the identity and motive of the murderer early on in the book. The last courtroom scene of the book is interesting as it establishes proof of the murderer and motives for the actions of some of the minor characters. Another overly emphasized point is that Monk’s wife Hester served with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War. Although Nightingale has long had my admiration, I do not think any and every association with her needs to be touted as proof of a woman’s fortitude. On a positive note, I did enjoy learning about the Thames River Police.
Although I was anxious to bring this book to a close, I am open to reading another by this author. I want to determine if the problem is this particular book or if Perry’s books are just not a good fit for me.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Ballantine) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Notes: #24 in the Monk series, but works as a standalone
Publication: September 18, 2018—Random House (Ballantine)
Monk himself ached in every bone, but how much was bruising and minor cuts, and how much the torture of utter failure, he did not yet know.
And what other secrets would the search lay bare? Perhaps it was selfish in the face of such grief to think of personal fears, not yet realized, but he could not discard them. When he lay alone and silent in the dark, there was nothing to hold them at bay.
by Jo Bannister
Gabriel Ash, formerly a security analyst with the British government, has recently been released from mental health care. He has opened a second hand book shop, Rambles with Books. He has also been reunited with his two sons after a four year separation as a result of his wife’s illegally taking the boys. All should be relatively smooth sailing in the Ash household, but that is not the case. Ash’s good friend, Constable Hazel Best, drives to school to pick up the boys, and she sees them and their nanny being accosted in what appears to be a kidnapping attempt.
The plot of Kindred Spirits rapidly becomes complicated as the older boy, Gilbert, insists that only the nanny was being forced into the van. This fast-moving police procedural by Jo Bannister puts on display not only how the police investigate crimes, but also the behind-the-scenes politics. Neither Hazel nor Detective Inspector Dave Gorman are armchair detectives. The same can be said about Ash when those he cares about are personally threatened. All three are motivated by doing what is right. When an old case clashes with the events of a new case, they refuse to turn a blind eye. The results are dangerous, and you won’t want to stop reading until the mystery is resolved.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Police Procedural
Notes: #5 in the Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash Mystery Series. This was the first book in the series for me to read, and I had no problem catching up with the background.
Publication: September 1, 2018—Severn House
Perhaps he was the last man in England—the last man in the civilized world—to enjoy the sensation, both sensual and intellectual, of paper pages curling away under his fingers. Of words, and the ideas they encoded, waiting for him to find them—and staying close at hand after he’d read them, in case he needed to flick back a page or two to check something.
She had less and less patience with hard feelings and petty jealousies. She did her job, and did it well; being liked was an optional extra. It wasn’t something that she’d ever struggled with before, but if it came to a choice between being popular and doing what she believed to be right, she had broad shoulders.
Gorman knew that Jerome Harbinger was sixty-eight. If he hadn’t known, he’d have thought he was ten years older than that. His craggy face was savaged by deep lines that had nothing to do with laughter and everything to do with bitter unhappiness.
Conan Doyle for the Defence
by Margalit Fox
As a lover of mysteries, I enjoyed reading Conan Doyle for the Defense. Be forewarned, however, that this book is not light reading. It is the recounting of Arthur Conan Doyle’s application of Holmesian deductive skills to the real case of Oscar Slater, wrongfully found guilty of the murder of an elderly lady.
In the process of relating the details of the case, the author Margalit Fox puts the events in context. She discusses the Victorian era and the development of crime fiction, including, of course, the Sherlock Holmes mystery series. She also addresses the life and character of Arthur Conan Doyle as well as Scottish politics, police, and the penal system. Fox presents an in-depth discussion of the different types of reasoning that might be used in trying to solve crimes.
If you are looking for a beach read, Conan Doyle for the Defence is not it. If you are interested in learning more about true crime detection, and how its principles apply to fiction, then this is the right book for you.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Profile Books/Serpent’s Tail for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: History, True Crime
Notes: Includes a complete list of references, footnotes, and bibliography to support the information contained in the book.
Publication: June 28, 2018—Profile Books/Serpent’s Tail
First joining the case in 1912, he turned his formidable powers to the effort to free him, dissecting the conduct of police and prosecution with Holmesian acumen. But despite his influence and energy, Conan Doyle discovered, he wrote, that “I was up against a ring of political lawyers who could not give away the police without also giving away themselves.”
Holmes quickly became a global sensation, not only for his investigative prowess, unimpeachable morals and ultrarational cast of mind, but also for his exquisite embodiment of an age of Victorian gentility, and Victorian certainties, that was already imperiled.
Detection, at bottom, is a diagnostic enterprise, and the late 19th century was where the shared diagnostic concerns of medicine, criminalistics and literary detection first truly converged in public life.