Toucan Keep a Secret
August 13th, 2018 by diane92345

Toucan Keep a Secret about a thirty-year-old robbery and murder.

By all accounts, Junius Hagley was not a nice man. Frustrated by the paperwork to disintern his wife’s cremated remains, he took matters, and a crowbar, into his own hands to rectify the situation. When someone interrupts, and then murders him, Meg investigates for Pastor Robin, who is on pregnancy bedrest.

It’s always a pleasure to return to Meg’s world. After 23 books, her family and friends feel like my friends too. I would have liked more time with Michael and the boys—even with her ironwork—which were much more prevalent in the early entries in the series. Still Toucan Keep a Secret is a good cozy mystery worth 4 stars.

Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , ,

Against the Claw
July 31st, 2018 by diane92345

The second Lobster Shack mystery, after Curses, Boiled Again (reviewed here), is as good as the first!  Against the Claw starts with Allie pulling lobster traps with Bertha. The last trap also pulls up a dead girl.

With Aunt Gully’s Lobster Shack expected to host a huge number of customers on the Fourth of July, a catering opportunity that is too good to pass up appears. Catering the famous modeling agent Stellene’s annual party would be excellent publicity. When Allie and her sister Lorel get the opportunity to stay on Stellene’s massive yacht with only superstar singer Eden and her guitarist boyfriend on board, it seems like the perfect day. But when Lorel’s recently ex-boyfriend Patrick is found dead in the morning in a raft tied to the yacht, the party abruptly ends.

I love the characters in the Lobster Shack books. They feel like old friends who are stuck in bad circumstances whose wits will ultimately win out over evil. The mystery was good—not to easy or too difficult to figure out. You definitely do not need to read the first book in the series, Curses, Boiled Again, to enjoy this one. Even better, Against the Claw has no spoilers to the first book so they can be read out of order. Highly recommended to cozy mystery fans. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Midnight Snacks are Murder
July 29th, 2018 by diane92345

Midnight Snacks are Murder is a good humorous cozy with a wonderful setting and characters. The addition of gluten-free recipes makes this series unique.

Poppy is opening a bed and breakfast with her Aunt Ginny. Her contractor, Smitty, is incompetent. Worse, her investor and former mother-in-law, Georgina, has come to help if helping means firing the maid, cancelling guest bookings and undermining Poppy’s design decisions. Things are looking up with Poppy’s love life after her husband’s death nine months earlier. There’s Tim, her high school sweetheart, and the sexy barista, Gia. Gia is buying Poppy’s gluten-free goodies for his coffee shop. But his Italian momma spends all her time trying to break up their romance. When neighborhood thefts of food and worthless items lead to murder, Poppy is intent on solving the crime and freeing the accused murderer, Aunt Ginny.

Being gluten-free, I love the inclusion of seven gluten-free recipes for Paleo Espresso Brownies, Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins, Paleo Chocolate-Orange Muffins, Paleo Banana-Walnut Muffins, Honey Maple Pecan Shortbread (with notes to convert to pie crust or Pecan Pie Bars), and Butterscotch-Oatmeal Bars. The romantic triangle is great and similar to the one in the Stephanie Plum books basically hot vs. nice. The madcap antics of Poppy and her friends and family are amusing. The mystery is more challenging than most cozy series. All in all, 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Kensington Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

Shelved Under Murder
July 11th, 2018 by diane92345

Amy and Richard stumble upon another body in the second novel in the Blue Ridge Library series, Shelved Under Murder.

Amy is the head librarian and Sunny is her assistant at the perpetually underfunded Blue Ridge library. Sunny convinces a local artist to donate three paintings to the library. While retrieving them, Amy and Richard find the artist, Rachel LeBlanc, stabbed to death in her artist’s studio. In the same studio are several art forgeries hidden in a secret closet.

The romantic relationships shine more than the mysteries in Shelved Under Murder. My biggest complaint is that there are no gray areas in the characters. They are either devils or saints. In addition, no one has much of a reason to be a villain other than for the love of money. With such shallow motives, this book receives 3 stars.

Be aware that Shelved Under Murder describes the conclusion of the first book, including the murderer’s name, multiple times so plan to read them in order.

Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: ,

Blue Murder
June 29th, 2018 by diane92345

Flaxborough is crying Blue Murder in the 10th mystery in the excellent British small town police procedural.

A writer for a London tabloid is sent to find a porno supposedly filmed with the town’s citizens. Mayor Hockley challenges the writer to a duel. Several mysterious deaths are investigated by the local police.

For such a short book, Blue Murder has a multitude of plots. However, the conclusion nicely merges them together well. This British mystery is extremely well written. The ending is surprising but fair. 4 stars!

Thanks to Farrago Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

Bodies in a Bookshop
June 28th, 2018 by diane92345

In 1946 London, the Bodies in a Bookshop pile up while a would-be Sherlock Holmes tries to find the killer.

Allan Leslie is a bookseller. When he is found murdered in a locked room with another victim, thriller reader and amateur detective Professor Stubbs and his assistant Max Boyle are on the case. Mr. Leslie was into unsavory pursuits like porn and stolen property. Could his sidelines have been the motive for his death? Also, what was the connection between him and the other victim, Cecil Baird?

It is hard not to laugh at the frequent allusions to book buying being as addictive as alcoholism. The book was written in 1946 London and the atmosphere of relief from wartime fears is palpable. Everyone, even Chief Inspector Bishop, is constantly drinking. While the setting is evocative of an earlier time, the mystery itself was extremely easy to solve so only 3 stars from me.

Thanks to Dover Publications and NetGalley for a copy.

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Keep It Quiet
June 27th, 2018 by diane92345

Keep It Quiet is a witty British golden age mystery chock full of curmudgeons complaining about minor issues while members are being killed in their club’s easy chairs.

The chef at a London’s men’s club may have accidentally poisoned a member to death. The club’s secretary, Ford, wants to Keep It Quiet to avoid bad publicity. He enlists the help of a member, Dr. Anstruther, to put the cause of death as heart failure. Thus begins a comic farce of blackmail, threats and other crimes.

This book is hilarious! I enjoyed the hunt for the blackmailer. Despite guessing basically everyone in the book at various times, I still failed to guess correctly by the end.

Overall, highly recommended to armchair detectives and anyone looking for a droll golden age mystery. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Ipso now Agora Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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One Man's Meat
June 17th, 2018 by diane92345

One Man’s Meat is Gone Girl 60s style!

The ninth Flaxborough mystery was published in 1977 but is set in the “swinging” 60s. Motorcycle gang member Digger Tring falls from a carnival ride 100 feet to his death. Julia Harton’s husband wants a divorce to marry his mistress who is willing to play the waffle game with a tennis racket, butter and her bum. Con man Mr. Rothermer convinces Julia to use the “classic ploy of the vanished wife” to ensure she receives $20,000 in her divorce settlement. Inspector Purbright and Detective Love investigate.

Highly recommended for its dry wit and great mystery. Definitely one of the best in a series that just keeps improving. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Farrago Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: , , ,

Spook in the Stacks
June 14th, 2018 by diane92345

Spook in the Stacks is an entertaining cozy mystery.  It is the fourth Lighthouse Library Mystery.

The Bodie Island lighthouse library is located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Rich Jay Ruddle is looking for somewhere to house his historic documents.  The library and a local college are in the final round. At the same time, the library is holding several Halloween events in the days leading up to the holiday. During the first event, a murder occurs in the library.

I only read the third in the series before this one.  However, I had no problem keeping up with the large cast of characters and the characters are the best part of Spook in the Stacks. Everyone, even the difficult Louise Jane, are clearly differentiated and have reasonable motivations.  Teddy takes center stage in this series entry. But Lucy and Connor’s relationship are also featured. There is a paranormal element that is not resolved that hopefully will be revisited in book five.

Spook in the Stacks is a fun mystery for cozy fans. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Probable Claws
June 2nd, 2018 by diane92345

Probable Claws continues the 18th century tale from the previous book along with a modern day mystery.

Harry, her Corgi Tucker, fat cat Pewter and even tempered cat Mrs. Murphy are hunting a killer again in the 27th entry in the long-running series. When a motorcycler shoots Harry’s architect, Gary, dead right next to her, she decides to investigate. In alternating chapters, the story of slave holders in early Virginia is also told.

The animals always have the best lines in this series. This one is no exception. Pewter has an ongoing feud with a “dinosaur spider”. New Irish Wolfhound puppy, Pirate, is perplexed by Pewter’s dislike of anything that doesn’t bow down at her feet.

I liked the modern story best. In the 1780s story, there were a multitude of characters and French history to wade through. If I lived in Virginia, it would have been more interesting. The modern plot had a few surprising twists and the killer wasn’t easy to determine even though the clues were fairly presented. Probable Claws is recommended to both cozy mystery and historical mystery fans. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Bantam Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Naked Nuns
May 31st, 2018 by diane92345

More trouble for Flaxborough in the 8th book in the series.

A contentious boat race leads 2 of the town’s leaders almost to blows. Nighttime escapades show the naked frolicking of a town leader, his friend, and two working girls to the neighbors. A mysterious note from the states promises “naked nuns” and a paid “hit”. An old friend of the series welcomes an “olive oil importer” to town. Eventually, a brutal murder occurs. What is happening in this quaint and usually quiet British town?

The town characters are well-utilized in the Naked Nuns for those already familiar with the series. However, for newbies, this is not the place to start. One character shown is the answer to a previous book’s mystery-ruining the ending for anyone reading this first. There are many characters introduced in the first few chapters that will be confusing for newcomers. The trademark dark humor is not as obvious as in previous books. The murder occurs near the end. Overall, not one of the best books in the series. 3 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Farrago Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Flaxborough Crab
May 12th, 2018 by diane92345

“Something or other is sending half the over-sixties round the twist” in the Flaxborough Crab.

A rash of panty theft, quick grope and runs, and window peeping has befallen Flaxborough. The perps are described as elderly men who scuttle away sideways like a crab. When an esteemed villager is accidentally killed while perpetrating an attack, the police rest easy. But hours later, two more incidents are reported. What is causing the disruption of the usual calmness of Flaxborough life?

This is the sixth book in the Flaxborough Mystery series but it can easily be read as a stand-alone. By using metaphors, the Flaxborough Crab successfully combines naughty details with a totally clean story line that is fine for all ages. Some of the metaphors, especially at the senior picnic using flowers, are laugh-out-loud funny. The mystery is more of a whydunnit than the traditional whodunnit.

The Flaxborough Crab is highly recommended for 20th century police procedural and British cozy mystery fans. It could be likened to a 1950’s precursor of the Stephanie Plum series with the elderly women of the village playing a clean version of Lula. Seriously, this book is funny! 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Farrago Books, and NetGalley for a copy. I can’t wait for the next in the series!

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: , ,

Marmalade Murders
April 28th, 2018 by diane92345

The Marmalade Murders is an enjoyable cozy mystery set in a small North Wales village.

Penny and Victoria are partners in the village spa. When they get roped into checking in contestants for the local food competition, they discover some irregularities. Why did someone call Florence telling her to check in too late? How did a person’s marmalade win when she missed the deadline?  There is a definite small town vibe as everyone is in everyone else’s business.

While this is the ninth in the Penny Brannigan series, I had no trouble keeping up with the characters despite this being the first book in the series I’ve read. The location in North Wales seemed like almost a character within the Marmalade Murders. It was pleasant to visit somewhere I haven’t book (or physically) traveled to before.  I also enjoyed the setting of a small town agriculture show that included food, floral, and animal competitions. The ages of the main characters were older than most cozies, which was refreshing. While the book’s plot could have taken place any time from the 1940’s forward, it was updated with a transgender character. Overall, a great cozy mystery. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Charity Ends at Home
April 20th, 2018 by diane92345

Fifth in the Flaxborough Mystery series, Charity Ends at Home is another late Golden Age small English village cozy.

The village coroner, constable and editor of the local paper each receive an identical unsigned note stating that the writer is fearful of being murdered. The note references a photo of the writer but the photo is not included in any of the notes.

The plot and characters within Charity Ends at Home are unique. The mystery is great and unusual. This 20th century police procedural is worth 4 stars.

Thanks to Farrago and NetGalley for a copy. #FrugalFriday Short Review

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Scot Free
April 6th, 2018 by diane92345

Cozy mystery Scot Free is my #FrugalFriday short review this week! 

Marriage counselor Lexy Campbell moves to California to marry and quickly divorce. The husband of her client, Visalia, is murdered by fireworks. Visalia is arrested. Lexy decides to solve the crime since she co-signed Visalia’s bail bond.

Born and living in California all my life, I hoped this series would be a Elmore Leonard/Tim Dorsey-type book about California. Unfortunately, it is neither zany nor California-specific enough. However, the characters, mystery and ending were good so 3 ½ stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Midnight Ink, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Lonelyheart 4122
April 5th, 2018 by diane92345

The fourth in the Flaxborough Mystery series is much better than the third. Lonelyheart 4122 is the anonymous number of the enigmatic man who possibly murdered two lonely women and may be working on his third.

Inspector Purbright and Sergeant Love are searching for two missing middle-aged ladies. Mrs. Bannister is a relatively wealthy widow. Miss Reckitt is a spinster with some savings too. Their only connection is a lonely hearts club (think 1960s match.com), where both were looking for love and companionship. There is a parallel story line of Miss Teatime’s meeting with the mysterious 4122, who got her name from the club.

I read the previous entry in the series and didn’t like the spy part of the plot. Here is my review of Hopjoy was Here. However, I liked the small village of Flaxborough and its citizens enough to read this one, the next book in the series. I’m glad I did. The mystery was much better especially the ending. People are still looking for love so this felt both modern and quaint in its methods.

“It would be quite in character for a latter-day courtship to be conducted by correspondence.”

I can’t imagine what the villagers would think of Tinder and sexting! Overall, Lonelyheart 4122 earns 4 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Farrago, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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