Collared

REVIEW: Collared by David Rosenfelt

Summary


Three years ago, Dylan Hickman was kidnapped along with the family dog, Cody. The baby’s nanny named her boss’ ex-fiancé as the culprit. While he wore a mask, she said she recognized his voice and eyes. Keith was arrested. Jill Hickman grieved the loss of her adopted son, desperate for a clue to his whereabouts, but Dylan and the dog had disappeared without a trace.

When Cody the dog is left at the Tara Foundation, lawyer Andy Carpenter is drawn into the case once again. Andy had no official role the first time, but he was familiar with the case. Since Jill Hickman and Andy’s wife, Laurie, were high school friends, the Carpenters offer to look into things for Jill to see if they can find Dylan.

Andy agrees to be Keith’s lawyer in name only in order to access the details from the case as the original lawyer has passed away. Before long, though, he’s Keith’s lawyer for real as the nanny’s testimony seems to be a complete fabrication. While Andy and his team take the case back for retrial and continue their investigation, the path to the truth becomes littered with dead bodies.

Review


This was an excellent mystery! This is the third Andy Carpenter mystery I’ve read, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each one. The plotting is fantastic, the characters feel real, and the humor is delightfully dry. The sarcasm prompts me to read sections out loud to my family because I have to explain what is so funny.  I love that this is a series I can drop into anywhere and feel completely engrossed without have to read every book in order

Andy is a fascinating character. He has an interesting code of conduct from how he approaches his law practice (the fewer clients the better) to how he views money (he inherited a bunch of it but uses it to further his agenda both with his practice and with the foundation). He wrestles with a moral dilemma in this story which was another layer of how real the character feels. It made me like Andy even more than I already did.

The mystery was fantastic. Every roadblock to the case led to an interesting new wrinkle to explore. I had NO idea where things where going, and I enjoyed every twist and turn. I’ll be tracking down more of the books in this terrific series! (Language)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

I received an electronic copy of this for review purposes. Many thanks to Netgalley and Minotaur books for the opportunity to read an early copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. It was a joy to read!

Ten Dead Comedians

REVIEW: Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente

Summary


Eight comedians are invited to a private island to work with comedic great, Dustin Walker. Mr. Walker’s assistant, Meredith (a comedian in training) is coordinating all the details including gathering the guests at the airport and getting them to the island.

But the island caretaker is no where to be found when they arrive. The elevator at the dock is broken, so they can’t even get their belongings up to the house. There’s no cell service or internet access. The island seems to be deserted. This is not a terrific start to their weekend.

Once they all gather in the house, Mr. Walker welcomes everyone via video. He says they are all there to address “crimes against comedy.” And then the guests watch him wrap a noose around his neck and throw himself off a cliff ledge.

Mr. Walker’s death is only the first as the island’s inhabitants are slowly being killed off one at a time. Who is behind the murders? Will anyone be left standing in the end?

Review


This is a good execution of the kind of mystery seen most famously in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None or the movie Clue. The mystery had a couple nice twists in it before it was all said and done.

There are a lot of characters in a story like this. I needed a list at first to keep track of who was who. And since someone wanted to kill all of them off, it was hard to find characters to like or cheer for. Some were less obnoxious or odious than others but there weren’t any I truly liked.

While I tend to be motivated by characters in books, it had to be the plot to move me along in this story. And the clever murder methods and the question of who would be next and who might survive were what kept me going to the satisfying conclusion. This contained more language and crass conversations than in my usual cozy mysteries. Cozy readers should keep that in mind if they decide to give this one a try. But it is a solid mystery for fans who enjoy a wide range of mystery styles.

Rating: ♥♥♥½

I received an electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Thanks to Netgalley and Quirk Books for the opportunity to read an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Every Body on Deck

REVIEW: Every Body on Deck by G. A. McKevett

Summary


Savannah, Dirk and the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency are hired by a famous mystery author. Natasha Van Cleef has been receiving threatening notes. She’s about to do a promotional cruise to Alaska. She wants Savannah and her team to protect her and her entourage on the cruise. The whole team is thrilled to enjoy an Alaskan cruise. Savannah’s Granny and Dirk’s parents even join them for the experience.

Once on the ship, though, Natasha is resistant to Savannah’s presence. She refuses to keep protection around her at dinner and pushes the team to leave her alone for most of the next day so she can enjoy being with her husband and a long massage.

But when Savannah and Dirk arrive to find Natasha and her husband missing and another threatening note, it seems the author needed Midnight Magnolia Detective Agency’s protection more than she thought.

Review


This is the 22nd book in this series that I have enjoyed for ages. They can be enjoyed out of order – the mysteries easily stand alone. But part of the fun of the series for me is the team, and they have grown and changed over the years. It is fun to experience that evolution in series order.

Savannah and Dirk are great characters – smart and good at their jobs. They make an interesting couple. There’s plenty of banter as she’s a Southern belle and he’s a little more rough around the edges. I love Savannah’s family (at least the ones in this book) and the larger role her granny and brother have had in recent books.

The mystery was good. I didn’t get a great feel for the author and her entourage as they weren’t around much in the story. I didn’t have a strong feeling for them – either worry over what happened or a good sense of the suspects. But I enjoyed the twisty investigation and the overall solution in the end.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

One Dog Night

REVIEW: One Dog Night by David Rosenfelt

Summary


Andy Carpenter is a defense attorney with no clients. Thanks to a large inheritance, Andy only has to work when he wants to – which is hardly ever. Something big has to draw him in.

Noah Galloway has been waiting for six years to be arrested. While he doesn’t remember setting the fire that killed 26 people, he thinks he might have done it during a drug-induced black out. He’s planning to plead guilty and serve his time.

Andy and Noah are connected. Noah once gave up his beloved dog. He knew he was barely taking care of himself; she deserved better.  So he gave her to a shelter and watched to see who picked her up. That person was Andy.

Tara is the best dog Andy’s ever known. And Noah is part of the reason Andy has her. So he starts to look into Noah’s situation. And soon he’s convinced that Noah is innocent.

Review


This is the second Andy Carpenter book I have read. I read The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, the 15th book in the series last year and I thought it was fantastic! This is book nine. I love that I can drop into this series anywhere without feeling lost!

Andy is a great character with a dry sense of humor. The team around him is quirky but competent. The quirky parts add to the fun and humor of the book.

This particular story has a lot of secondary characters. It can be hard to keep them all straight early on as the story is setting up. The mystery is fascinating. The reader knows the plotting and scheming going on but doesn’t know WHY everything is happening.

This is more of a traditional adult mystery than my usual cozy reads. There’s a little more violence or description of the violence. And there’s some language.

I’m looking forward to reading more books in this series including book 16, Collared,  which will release later this summer.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Death by Chocolate Lab

REVIEW: Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake

Summary


Daphne Templeton is a pet sitter with a PhD in philosophy. In some ways, she’s pretty flighty. She is in an undefined relationship with her sister’s vet tech, she rarely has money and often offers her pet-sitting services for free. It’s not unusual for her to run out of gas – sometimes, two days in a row! But when her sister is the primary suspect in the death of her somewhat-ex boyfriend, Daphne is like a dog with a bone. She’s determined to keep asking questions and keep snooping until she not only finds a murderer, but finds the victim’s missing dog, too.

 

Review


This was a fun read, and a great first book in a series. The characters are introduced well, so you know who is who, but there are still things to discover about them as the series goes on. The author did an especially good job of holding back information about the detective. While Daphne knew things from research, she didn’t reveal them to the reader for awhile, which was an interesting writing choice. I laughed out loud many times and got a kick out of Daphne and her animals.

I feel like the various dogs in the story were stronger characters than some of the townspeople. The cast of characters in this book is fairly small. Half seem to be core characters and the other half are possible suspects. The author does a great job of integrating the animals – and their personalities – into the story. They aren’t just set pieces to move around from scene to scene.

The mystery was good. Interesting suspects with good motives. The solution caught me completely by surprise. I will definitely read more books in this series. Book 2, Dial Meow for Murder, is scheduled to release in September 2017.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Twelve Angry Librarians

REVIEW: Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James

Summary


Athena is hosting an academic librarian’s conference which means Charlie is enjoying catching up with old friends. But he’s not happy to see every person who is attending the conference.

Gavin Fong is horrible. He steals credit on professional articles and blackballs other librarians from advancing in their careers. He even tries to blackmail Charlie into helping him get the Library Director’s job at Athena College.

When Gavin dies from poison in his bottled water – the special brand he insisted on during one of his diva moments – no one is really surprised. Plenty of people despised him. As an insider, Charlie may be able to ask questions and pursue clues to help the police catch a killer.

Review


Another great mystery in this terrific series! (Book 8 in the series)

The core characters play their usual roles in the story. The detective is willing to hear Charlie’s theories while maintaining a professional distance. Charlie’s family and friends are supportive while also having their own lives and parts to play in the larger story.

The mystery was great. There were a LOT of folks who didn’t like the victim. He was narcissistic and cruel. He cared only for himself and his own advancement no matter the cost. The solution was creative and unusual while also being reasonable and satisfying.

This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series right now. You can’t go wrong with any book in the series! The author’s next book will be a new story in the Southern Ladies Mystery series, Fixing to Die, which will be out in the fall.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Alien Education

REVIEW: Alien Education by Gini Koch

Summary


Kitty Katt-Martini has defeated alien monsters, foiled evil genius plots, and taken out the Mastermind, the man behind years of take-over-the-world schemes. She’s been head diplomat for the A-Cs, an alien race living on Earth for decades. She’s the First Lady of the United States and Queen Regent of Earth for the Annocusal Royal Family. She has tremendous skills.

You’d think dealing with the PTA president at her kids’ new school would be easy after all that!

With the Mastermind gone, Kitty gets to do some normal mom stuff, like get involved in her kids’ new school. And she does FLOTUS stuff like celebrate the opening of the Intergalactic School. Sadly, though, the Mastermind wasn’t the only enemy Kitty had. There’s still plenty of bad press to spin as well as robot and android plots, not to mention murder attempts and terrorist attacks, to thwart. And don’t even mention the PTA bake sale! But Kitty is just the woman to handle it all! She’ll just do what she always does – go with “the crazy.”

Review


This was a whirlwind read! I completely blew off sleep to plow through this as fast as possible. I know I will read it again very soon in order to go more slowly and catch all the details. For my first read, though, I just want to know what happens as soon as possible.

Once again, Kitty has a secret nemesis. I love trying to work through the hints and clues in an effort to catch who it might be (no clue after my first read). I was close on my Mastermind guess several years ago. I had it narrowed down to two people, and one was right. I’m excited about puzzling out this new secret.

Lots of new players introduced in this book. I’m not sure yet who will end up being a big player and what side everyone will end up on. But that’s part of the fun of this series. My favorite new characters are the kids who either are new or who get expanded roles in this story! Can’t wait to read more about them.

The other parts of the fun of this series for me are the humor and the action – and this book has both in spades. There’s very little down time in the story and many things are introduced but not resolved, pushing the reader forward to the next book in the series, Aliens Abroad, releasing in December 2017. I already have mine pre-ordered!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Cookie Dough or Die

REVIEW: Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell

Summary


Olivia Greyson owns The Gingerbread House, a store that specializes in cookies and cookie cutters. When her mentor, Clarisse, dies, Livie doesn’t think it was an accident.

Fortunately, a few things start happening that clue the police into the possibility that Clarisse was murdered. Unfortunately, those things also make Livie look like the culprit. Can antique cookie cutters, internet research, and some family and friends help Livie catch a killer?

Review


This is the first book in this series that is now 6 books long. The main characters – Livie and Maddie – are fun. They balance each other out in their business, but work well together in investigating.

I enjoyed the mystery. The first part of the book focused on determining if the death was an accident or not. When murder seemed likely, the focus shifted to alibis and motives. I did not figure out the killer before it was revealed; I focused on one of the other suspects instead so the end was a nice surprise.

The theme – cookies and cookie cutters – was unusual. There are no recipes in this book. I think there are plenty of culinary mysteries with recipes. This one doesn’t NEED them, but I think they would have tied in well. Cookie cutters, though, were the real emphasis. Maybe some history notes or details about antique cutters or something might have made a  fun addition to support the theme.

I’m looking forward to trying another book from this series.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

We Wish You a Murderous Christmas

REVIEW: We Wish You a Murderous Christmas by Vicki Delany

Summary


Rudolph, New York is Christmas Town. And in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the holiday spirit is growing. But a rude business man, called in to help in a family emergency, is ruining the Christmas Spirit as he talks of selling out to a big box store or a chain hotel, destroying the Christmas theme the town has worked so hard to develop.

So there is no shortage of possible culprits when the man is found dead. It could be his wife who was eager to throw around blame on others but didn’t shed a tear at the loss. It could be the chef he threatened to fire or the baker he cut out of a large contract. But the police department’s favorite suspect is the town’s Santa Clause – Merry’s dad. There’s no way Merry is going to let her dad’s reputation – and her town’s future – be smeared by this murder! If the police won’t find the real killer, maybe Merry will.

 

Review


This is the second book in the Year Round Christmas mystery series starring Merry Wilkinson. As this particular story happens at Christmas time, there’s extra Christmas fun to enjoy. Rudolph sounds like a delightful town. If it were real, I would totally want to visit!

The mystery was a puzzle all the way to the end. It was obvious to me that most of the suspects weren’t strong candidates. One possibility was eliminated by Merry in the story, so I had only one guess left. But then new information surfaced near the end of the story to wrap things up.

There were a couple moments when the writing stopped the flow of the reading for me. Some words that seemed out of place. They may have only been regional word choices that were jarring for me, but not for readers from other locales. And there were a couple spots where things were restated that had been covered earlier in the story. I mention these things because they momentarily stalled the flow of the story for me, but I was able to get right back in and enjoy the rest of the tale.

Rating: ♥♥♥½

Bloom and Doom

REVIEW: Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen

Summary


Audrey Bloom and her cousin, Liv, have made their dream of running a flower shop a reality. And the wedding side of their business is booming, especially as people find out about Audrey’s skill of pulling together flower arrangements that mean positive things like faithfulness, hope and friendship. But the business takes a hit when a potential groom is killed, their shop is implicated, and a friend of Audrey’s is arrested for the crime. Now Audrey is determined to find out what really happened to the groom and get her friend out of jail.

 

Review


This was terrific! The writing style and the characters felt comfortable and familiar. It was like I was reading a new story in a familiar series rather than the first in a new one. The characters at the flower shop were fun and interesting. I’m hoping for more information on some of the secondary staff in future books. The camaraderie at the store reminds me of another favorite series, the Bakeshop Mysteries by Ellie Alexander.

The mystery was well-written. The circle of possible suspects and motives grew wider and wider as the story developed, giving me several things to puzzle through while I read. In the end, I’d say I figured out only half of the puzzles in the story. I was able to feel both successful and surprised in the end.

There are two more books in this series, and I am eager to read both of them soon. Book 2 is For Whom the Bluebell Tolls.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥