Doom with a View

REVIEW: Doom with a View by Kate Kingsbury

Summary


Melanie West and her grandmother, Liza Harris, have finally opened their bed and breakfast after some trouble with a skeleton and a fire. Now they have their first set of guests, the elderly members of a book club who live near Portland.

This kick off week is going to be great! They have a new assistant, Cindi, to help with serving breakfast and cleaning the rooms while Melanie and Liza do the cooking. Cindi even gets her boyfriend to be a magician for their Halloween party. It’s going to be a great event.

But when one of their guests falls through sabotaged railings on the balcony, the local lead detective arrives at the Merry Ghost Inn with his usual gruff demeanor (Liza calls him “Grumpy”). He warns Melanie and Liza to stay out of his case. But they need their B&B to succeed. That means solving the mystery and getting their home and business back to normal. And they have their resident ghost, Orville, to help them again.

Review


This is the first Merry Ghost Inn book – book 2 in the series – I have read. It was easy to get into the story even without having read book one. Most of the action centered around their current guests, which will change with each book. The locals who are likely series regulars are well-defined in the story, even for a second book, so I was able to dig into the story right away. I like this because it means anyone can pick up the series and feel at home even if they didn’t get to the books in order.

The mystery was good. From the start there were several suspects but few clues to start eliminating anyone. I was eventually able to figure out the solution before the end, which is always satisfying.

I liked the main characters, but I didn’t click with them. They are completely likable; I have no complaints. I just didn’t feel drawn into their lives. Maybe that is the draw back of reading book 2 before the first one. Maybe I would have felt more connected by being introduced to the characters in the introduction to the series.

There are some interesting story lines that are laid out and go beyond this particular book, arching through the entire series. But I’m not sure I was hooked enough into the characters to come back to see how those threads work out. I have read paranormal stories before, but the ghost hook here didn’t grab my attention. I wasn’t turned off by it, or by the “seance” in the story, but those pieces didn’t distinguish this story for me from others in the genre. Again, I wonder if this is a drawback of starting with book two. The characters and the ghostly pieces might work better for readers who start from the beginning of the series.

Thanks to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the opportunity to read an electronic review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥

Crime of Passion Fruit

REVIEW: A Crime of Passion Fruit by Ellie Alexander

Summary


The cruise ship Amour of the Seas is in desperate need of a temporary pastry chef to get them through until their new hire can arrive. Carlos, back on the ship after his time in Ashland, asks Juliet to step in. The cruise offers her double pay, and Carlos arranges for her mom and the Professor to join the cruise for free. Four glorious days at sea. What could go wrong?

Being back on the ship helps Juliet gain new insights into her marriage, her cooking and her dreams for the future. It also puts her in place to discover a dead body. Even through she’s been away for awhile, Juliet’s knowledge of the ship and crew could help the captain and the Professor figure out who the dead woman is and what happened to her. While Juliet is hunting for a murderer and trying to survive a storm at sea, her friends in Ashland are trying to keep things going at Torte in the midst of a quarrelsome neighbor, a shake up with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival leadership, and major renovations at Torte. There’s never a dull moment in the latest addition to the Bakeshop mystery series.

Review


I really enjoyed this new addition to one of my favorite cozy series. While I missed the usual Torte crew, I liked the change of setting for this book. It added to the ongoing story line of Juliet and Carlos while also shaking up the food, the characters, and the location of the action. And it was all great.

I thoroughly enjoy the core characters of this series. There’s great camaraderie at Torte. And a great balance between the ongoing relationships in Ashland and the new details in each book for the mystery at hand. Good mystery in this one. With an unknown victim (“Jane Dough”), the motive and suspect portions didn’t evolve until later in the book once we knew more about the victim.

Personally, I am “Team Tommy,” and ready for Juliet and Carlos to sort out their relationship. I am looking forward to Another One Bites the Crust (winter 2017/2018) to see what happens next with the Ashland crew and see if the author will finally resolve the Carlos situation.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Assaulted Caramel

REVIEW: Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower

Summary


Bailey King puts her life as a chocolatier in New York aside to travel to Harvest, Ohio. Bailey’s Amish grandfather is sick. Even though she is up for a huge promotion at work, family comes first.

When she gets to Ohio, Bailey discovers that a developer, Tyson Colton, is trying to buy out her grandparents’ candy shop, Swissmen Sweets. After an argument with Bailey’s grandfather, Colton is found dead in the kitchen of Swissmen Sweets. As her grandfather’s health makes him too weak to be a viable suspect, Bailey becomes the sheriff’s top choice.

In order to stay out of jail, protect her family, and get back to New York to save her job, Bailey’s going to have to figure out who really killed Tyson Colton. There’s no shortage of suspects, from the other Amish store owners Colton tried to buy out to his own son. Bailey has her work cut out for her!

Review


I loved this! It was a great cozy with interesting characters and some fun humor. Great all the way around.

The Amish pieces were a nice contrast to Bailey’s usual world in New York as well as the world of most readers. There was a great balance with Bailey as she understood the community because of her family, but at the same time she was outside it. I think Bailey’s struggle with issues of faith when faced with the faith of her grandparents and the Amish community could be a fascinating aspect of future books.

I really enjoyed the mystery. In general, I find mysteries stressful when the protagonist is the main suspect. But I liked the other pieces of this – the characters, the setting, the candy, the potential romance – so much that it balanced the tension well.

My only complaint is that I have a couple questions I don’t feel were answers in the solution to the mystery. I’ve gone back and re-read sections to be sure I didn’t just skim too quickly over something, but I still didn’t find complete satisfaction with the solution on the murder. Maybe this is because I read an unedited review copy. Perhaps this last 5% of the solution will be resolved when I read this in a final copy – which I will. I’m looking forward to spending more time with Bailey and her family and friends. I already have book two, Lethal Licorice, in my shopping cart to pre-order before its February 2018 debut.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for providing an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review. I honestly adored this book!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Thanks Obama

REVIEW: Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper

Summary


Kelsey McKenna is a wedding planner. Destination weddings to vacation spots like Mexico are her specialty. And if she can keep herself from strangling the mother of the bride, she’s going to give Nicole and Vince the wedding of their dreams.

When one of the bridesmaids keels over during the ceremony and dies, the mother of the bride says it is Kelsey’s job to take care of it, including cleaning up the woman’s belongings and arranging for the body. And when the sister of the bride is arrested, Mrs. Abernathy seems to think it’s Kelsey’s job to fix that, too.

A wedding planner with a limited Spanish vocabulary is not particularly well-suited for solving a murder in Mexico. But Kelsey likes Nicole and Vince. She wants to help them have a happy ending to their wedding that has not gone at all to plan. So she’ll keep appeasing Mrs. Abernathy to get to the bottom of this murder – even if it puts Kelsey herself in harm’s way.

Review


This was a fun, fast read. I liked Kelsey and Brody as a sleuthing team. They seem to have a long term relationship and that felt genuine. The fact that Brody is gay means there’s no romantic tension between the two to complicate the relationship which kept things simple on that end.

Plenty of the other relationships in the story are complicated, though! There were several good suspects and motives for the crime to keep me guessing. The mother of the bride made me crazy, and I longed for someone to put her in her place. But she works well as a plot device to keep a wedding planner investigating a murder.

The theme for this cozy – destination wedding planner – is great. It gives options for awesome settings, diverse characters, and plenty of murderous shenanigans. Book 2 is Dying on the Vine and I am adding it to my TBR list!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Daughter of Sherlock Holmes

REVIEW: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg

Summary


A young woman visits 221b Baker Street after the suspicious death of her brother. The police think it’s a suicide which is confirmed by one witness. But there’s a second witness, Joanna Blalock, and her statement contradicts the first.

Dr. Watson, the original partner of Sherlock Holmes, and his son, John, are investigating. And when they meet Joanna, they add her brilliance to their team. Watson recognizes it. She is just like her father, Sherlock Holmes. He shares the news with John, but they keep it secret from Joanna. They even tell Lestrade (son of the original inspector) that she was a student of Sherlock Holmes in order to explain her amazing skill at deductive reasoning.

Watson, John, and Joanna will need all of their skills and expertise to corner a killer who keeps eliminating co-conspirators in ways that look like accidents.

Review


This was fantastic! The three main characters clicked in a natural way. They’re likable, they work well together, and they appreciate what each person brings to the team. The budding romance between John and Joanna is sweet.

The mystery is terrific. It’s complicated and they are working against investigative “professionals” who accept whatever explanation is simplest for each death. The deductions from the team are logical. I didn’t feel like the author was “reaching” to explain how Watson and company could deduce the things they do.

The Sherlock Holmes references aren’t too “inside.” I’ve never read any Holmes, but I know the Adler and Lestrade and Moriarty references from movies and TV. There’s nothing to get in the way of any mystery lover checking out this book. I highly recommend it.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

About a Dog

REVIEW: About a Dog by Jenn McKinlay

Summary


Seven years ago, Mackenzie was jilted at the altar. Then she slept with her best friend’s brother. Before anyone else found out, she left town, planning to never return.

But now her best friend, Emma, is getting married and Mackenzie has to return to Bluff Point. She and her boyfriend are “taking a break,” so she’s going to the wedding alone. Emma’s perfect solution is for Mackenzie to hang out with her brother! Gaven was recently dumped, and Emma reasons it will be good for both of them to have someone to hang out with for the wedding festivities.

Mackenzie is determined to forget that night with Gaven from so long ago. But Gaven thinks there are still sparks between them, and he’s confident he can rekindle things if he can get Mackenzie to give them a chance.

A sweet dog named Tulip helps pull the two together. But she may not be enough to keep them together.

Review


Jenn McKinlay is one of my favorite mystery authors. This is a very different kind of story than I’m used to from her – sexier, more language, and some juvenile humor and innuendo at times – but still a thoroughly enjoyable story.

The will-they-or-won’t-they tension is well-played with reasonable road blocks. Of course, most stories like this would be simply sorted out if everyone would just tell the whole truth from the beginning. But where’s the fun in that?!

The chemistry between the two main characters is great. The whole bridal party is a hoot, even if they can be crass at times. And the dog is an adorable part of the story. This is a fun, romantic romp with great characters.

Book 2, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, will be out in September and will focus on one of the other bridesmaids in Emma’s wedding. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Death in Dark Blue

REVIEW: Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley

Summary


Lena London may have proven her boyfriend, Sam West, innocent of murder. But his estranged wife, Victoria, is still missing. And plenty of people who were “certain” Sam was guilty – and treated him accordingly – need to eat crow.

That includes Victoria’s best friend, Taylor, a popular blogger who bashed Sam when he was being investigated. She promises to come to Blue Lake to apologize in person. But someone kills her before she can get to Sam.

It looks like Sam is in trouble again when Lena finds Taylor’s body on his property. The press have descended on Blue Lake like vultures. Lena is determined to clear Sam’s name and get back to some sort of peaceful existence and maybe pick up their budding romance. But even if she can find Taylor’s killer, they still have the mystery of Victoria hanging over their heads.

Review


This was excellent! And I am so pleased. I loved book one in the Writer’s Apprentice series, A Dark and Stormy Murder. I hoped Death in Dark Blue would be just as good and I was not disappointed.

The characters are great. I love Lena’s relationship with her boss/mentor, Camilla. We didn’t get to enjoy a lot of their writing work in this book, but it is still a fun thread. The core group working on the mystery is terrific. I loved the addition of the research librarian, Belinda. She totally earned an ARC of Lena and Camilla’s first book!

The mystery was good – solid suspects and great action. I could not puzzle out the solution until the end. What I love most about this series, though, is that unmasking Taylor’s killer isn’t the end of the story. The ongoing Victoria situation is still playing out as the story goes on, and it’s just as fun to watch that as it is the original mystery. Ms. Buckley does a great job of setting up this overarching plot between books – and may even have set up something else for future books down the line. It’s brilliant plotting and I love it. I highly recommend this series.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

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: ♥♥♥♥