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Murder in the Wine Country–plant smuggling mystery

Murder in the Wine Country

by Janet Finsilver

Redwood Cove is an isolated community in northern California. The wealthy Michael Corrigan, owner of Resorts International, is not the stereotypical rich businessman with cutthroat motives and actions. He is boss to Scott, manager of Redwood Cove Community Center, and to Kelly, manager of Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast. Always looking for ways to help others, especially veterans, Michael is hosting an exclusive event for other wealthy philanthropists with the goal of providing a model of community support that he hopes will inspire them to implement similar programs in their own communities. 

Problems have arisen in the little town with the presence of plant poachers who are digging up a certain plant that is popular in China and smuggling them out of the country. In the midst of this event, wardens warn visiting chefs, who are encouraged to forage for edible plants in the area to showcase in their culinary creations, of potential danger from these smugglers. When there is a death, a robbery, and three missing people, Kelly and the Silver Sentinels, a group of seniors who use their skills to help solve crimes, gather at Kelly’s B&B and get to work.

Other mainstay characters are involved in Janet Finsilver’s Murder in the Wine Country. My favorites are Tommy, a sweet boy with Asperger’s, and his Basset hound Fred. Deputy Stanton enjoys spending time with Tommy working on projects and with Tommy’s mom Helen, a widow who works at the inn. There is certainly potential for romance between them in future books. Scott and Kelly also have romantic inclinations, but the author doesn’t rush the characters into relationships. Another interesting character is Julie, a visiting chef who has a service dog Rex, who is not only a faithful companion, but can warn her of an impending epileptic seizure. He plays an important role in the story.

The plot moves along at a nice pace. Kelly’s investigations are successful to the point of putting her in danger of losing her life. The Silver Sentinels are ready to help at a moment’s notice as are other community members who aren’t even involved. The setting is great, but it’s the people who make Redwood Cove the kind of place you might want to live.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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: #6 in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series, but as the author provides good support for readers who are just beginning the series, I have no hesitation in recommending it as a standalone.

Publication:   April 28, 2020— Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

I had my own rescue bag of sorts. Years ago, I had vowed I would always stop to help a loose animal that was in danger, even if it meant missing an important appointment or an airplane flight. This was after watching car after car whiz by a shaking dog stranded on an island of a busy street, no one stopping to help.

Mary handed me a plate with a chocolate brownie studded with chunks of chocolate. Coffee and chocolate, my two favorites. I might recover after all.

For a split second, I considered not saying anything regarding the incident but immediately rejected the thought. He’d asked about the rest of the afternoon. Omitting was a form of lying, and I wouldn’t go there.

Penny for Your Secrets–post World War I England

Penny for Your Secrets

by Anna Lee Huber

Penny for Your SecretsI do so enjoy historical fiction with more than a touch of mystery. Penny for Your Secrets by Anna Lee Huber is that kind of book. Unfortunately, and perhaps it was just me, but this novel seemed to drag a bit. The premise is interesting and becomes increasingly complicated as more murders occur. The Kents, Verity and Sidney, can’t get away from their heroic pasts. Each played a critical undercover role in World War I, and their friends, the media, and their own souls will not let them forget it. In this book, issues from World War I resurface in various ways and involve current MI5 operatives as well.

Although I like the Kents, their relationship issues play a role that is too prominent at the expense of the plot. I understand their angst over past decisions, but sometimes I just wanted to tell them how lucky they are: they emerged from a horrific war with no major physical injuries, considerable financial wealth, and a marriage intact. So many could not claim any of those benefits after World War I.

Kudos to the author for an intricate plot, an appealing setting, and historical accuracy. It will be interesting to see what adventures await the fashionable Kents next.

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: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Verity Kent Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:   October 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

My skin prickled at being in such close proximity to so much anger, as if the daggers aimed at others had been deflected on to me.

“…my father always did have a different standard when it came to what he and his peers were allowed to do as opposed to the rest of the world.”

“In some situations, there is no winning. No right way. You can only make the best choices you can, and hope the people your decision might have harmed will forgive you in the end.”

Mr. Finchley Discovers His England–going on holiday

Mr. Finchley Discovers His England

by Victor Canning

Mr. Finchley Discovers His EnglandEdgar Finchley, a clerk in a law firm, has not had a vacation in ten years when his new boss surprises him with a three week holiday. This mild-mannered, middle aged bachelor anticipates trading his typical, longstanding daily schedule for a different holiday routine, but is surprised to find himself wrapped up in a series of adventures.

Victor Canning’s Mr. Finchley Discovers His England was originally published in 1934 before WWII when the author was twenty-three. A best seller upon publication, it is a humorous work reflective of a more innocent time and makes a fun read. I enjoyed all of Finchley’s exploits. Despite the light-hearted nature of the book, the character of Finchley develops as he finds courage and flexibility he never knew he had. This book is full of well written, vivid descriptions and many British terms. I enjoyed learning words such as “roach” (a type of fish)  and “rean” (a varian of reen, an irrigation ditch). Mr. Finchley Discovers His England is a delight to those who enjoy an author who can craft superlative descriptions and has an extensive vocabulary.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Humor

Notes: 1. The first in a series.

2. There is a chapter which devotes itself to a cricket match This part of the book  would be more interesting to a reader who is familiar with the game and terminology.

Publication:   April 18, 2019—Ferrago

Memorable Lines:

The sun tipped the edge of the hills in a blazing tiara and every copse and thicket, each barn and cottage, sprang into a bold relief, white wall vivid against chestnut green, and a church clock, black and gold against the grey of the stones.

…he came slowly to see what until now he had never realized; that danger, the wonder of the unexpected, the exhilaration of living and not knowing what one would be doing or where one would next be were the only thing that gave colour to life.

He was beginning to see that McGrath was the type of man who bullied and stormed at people—and was surprised when they accused him of losing his temper.

Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake–delectable adventure

Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

by Sarah Graves

Death by Chocolate Cherry CheesecakeIf the phrase “chocolate cherry cheesecake” is enticing, then you will love the cozy mystery Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake. In the tiny island village of Eastport, Maine, bakers and best friends Ellie and Jake (Jacobia) fill The Chocolate Moose with delectable and aromatic chocolate goodies. Their biggest baking challenge is preparing 22 cheesecakes to be auctioned off to pay for the Coast Guard’s firework extravaganza which also includes a treat for the town’s special education students. They get to view  the display from a barge.

If this were not challenge enough, Ellie and Jake discover a murdered man in their kitchen and Ellie becomes the prime suspect. This is not a simple mystery as various others in the town have links that Jake and Ellie must ferret out involving them in some life threatening situations. Jake is also in the middle of family crises, and Ellie has secret expansion plans for their business. All of these events occur during a brief time span, with little sleep, and an impending hurricane. Accompanying Jake and Ellie in pursuit of the real murderer provides the reader with exciting rides by boat and car. I’m looking forward to the next adventure in this new series.

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: Recipe for Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake is included at the end of the book.

Publication:  January 30, 2018–Kensington

Memorable Lines:

Once upon a time, Ma Bell ran the phone system with ruthless, utterly monopolistic efficiency. Now any fool can start a phone company and provide the kind of high-class personal communication service once offered only by two tin cans and a length of string.

When the door banged shut behind me, I must’ve jumped a foot. But it was only the wind blowing through the sliding-glass panels that looked out over the water, skittering the scattered papers like dry leaves across the slate-tiled floor.

I followed, with my heart pulsing crazily in my throat, thinking that if only I’d known how exciting the baking business would be, I’d have taken up some more sensible activity. Sword swallowing maybe, or milking poisonous snakes for their venom.

Dead Man’s Chest–beach holiday turns dangerous

Dead Man’s Chest

by Kerry Greenwood

Dead Man's ChestDead Man’s Chest deviates in a delightfully surprising way from the typical Phryne Fisher mystery with a change of setting. Most occur in St. Kilda near Melbourne, Australia, but in this work of historical fiction, detective Phryne Fisher takes her family to Queenscliff for a holiday while her home in St. Kilda is undergoing renovation.  The vacation turns into work as they arrive at the home an acquaintance has loaned her only to find the Johnsons, who serve as  butler and cook, have disappeared and the house has been emptied. Along with this mystery is a tale of a “pigtail snipper” who cuts off the braids of local young girls.

Ruth gets to try out her culinary skills, Jane delves into ancient bones and movie making, and Dot gets to spend some time with the strong and handsome Constable Hugh Collins. A young ne’er-do-well, Tinker, becomes a devout follower of his mentor, Miss Fisher, whom the whole family holds in high regard. Throw in some smuggling, tales of pirate treasure, a snoopy neighbor, insight into the impoverished lives of the serving classes and fishermen, and a taste of  Surrealism, and you have a lively story beckoning the reader to discover the answers to some fascinating Australian mysteries.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #18 in the Phryne Fisher’s Murder Mysteries; adequate as a standalone but more interesting with some background on the main characters

Publication: December 5, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

Phryne was getting out of the car. Dot closed her eyes. Miss Fisher was about to happen to someone again.

Dot had been training her in Suitable Topics for a Lady’s Dinner Table, which did not include Rat Dissection for Beginners or Beastly Customs of the Heathen, which was a pity because Jane knew a lot about both of these.

“We’re on a case again, aren’t we?” asked Dot gloomily. “Well, yes, but this time it really isn’t my fault, Dot dear. I was dropped right into this one.”

He was terrified. Not of the task, but that he might let the guv’nor down. She had trusted him. No one had ever trusted Tinker before.

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