Death by Proxy: A DIY Diva Mystery by Paula Darnell
Pets and Cozies
Cozy mystery authors face a bit of a dilemma when writing their books because these novels have a completely different vibe than hard-boiled, noir, gory, or forensic-oriented mysteries do. Like other books in the mystery genre, the crime in a cozy is almost always a murder. (There are a few exceptions; recently I read a cozy that centered around a kidnapping, but that’s rare.) At the same time, the author has the task of creating a setting that feels homey and a protagonist whom readers like. Casting the main character as a pet parent as well as an amateur sleuth adds to the coziness in these books and can often provide a touch of humor, too.
Roles of dogs and cats in cozy mysteries include such over-the-top portrayals as paranormal pets and pets as story narrators. However, I suspect that many, if not most, of the pet characters that appear in cozy mysteries are based on their authors’ own pets. That’s certainly the case for my DIY Diva cozy mysteries, in which Bear, Laurel McMillan’s lovable chocolate Labrador retriever, is a member of the family. In Death by Proxy, Laurel’s boyfriend Wes even tells Bear that he will “always be part of our family,” right after the curious dog runs to the newly engaged couple while Wes is still on bended knee.
Bear’s been with Laurel right from the beginning of the DIY Diva series. In fact, the first words in the first book, Death by Association, were “Bear, no,” as Laurel held the eager Lab back from chasing a bunny as she took him for his daily walk. Bear acts like a real dog because he’s inspired by two of my own dogs: Teddy Bear, a yellow Labrador retriever and Rocky Boy, a Pyrador (half Lab and half Great Pyrenees). Bear’s daily walks, love of treats, dancing for dinner, nudging Laurel when she works too long at the computer, chasing the neighbor’s cat, guilt tripping her when she leaves him home alone, and many more canine antics all come from real life. Several readers have commented that Bear and his antics seem authentic and lifelike, which has been very gratifying to me.
Rocky Boymodeling a reversible dog scarf. Instructions for making the scarf appear in the first DIY Diva mystery Death by Association, which also includes four dog treat recipes and instructions for making a no-sew dog bed.
I’ve included a couple of extras for dog lovers in Death by Proxy, too: a tuna-rice dog treat recipe and project instructions for making a dog’s bow tie.
About Death by Proxy
Death by Proxy: A DIY Diva Mystery Cozy Mystery 3rd in Series Cozy Cat Press (November 2019) Print Length ~220 Pages
With preparations for her upcoming wedding to handsome Wes Wesson, a Center City police lieutenant, on track and her DIY Bridal Crafts class at Hawkeye Haven’s community center wrapped up, DIY Diva Laurel McMillan looks forward to a calm pre-nuptial week to finalize her wedding plans. There’s only one problem: the week turns out to be anything but calm. Laurel and Wes narrowly escape being run down in the parking lot of their favorite restaurant. Laurel’s bridal shower is interrupted by a mysterious stranger who sends Laurel’s lovable chocolate Labrador retriever Bear into a frenzy, and when Laurel and Wes go to meet Lisa, their real estate agent, at a house she promised to show them, they discover Lisa’s sister’s body floating in the pool. Strangely, Lisa seems more concerned with selling houses than she does with her sister’s death. After Lisa’s mother inadvertently reveals family secrets, Laurel wonders whether Lisa could have killed her own sister. Will the mayhem and murder stop before Laurel discovers the key to the killer’s game plan?
About Paula Darnell
An instructor at five colleges over the years, Paula Darnell most often taught the dreaded first-year English composition classes, but she’s also been happy to teach some fun classes, such as fashion design, sewing, and jewelry making. Paula has a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and a Master’s degree in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Like Laurel, the main character in Death by Association, Paula enjoys all kinds of arts and crafts. Some of her memorable projects include making a hat and a cape to wear to Royal Ascot, sewing wedding gowns for both her daughters, exhibiting her textile and mixed-media artwork in juried art shows, and having one of her jewelry projects accepted for inclusion in Leather Jewelry, published by Lark Books. She sells some of her jewelry and hair accessories in her Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/PaulaDJewelry.
Paula’s interest in DIY craft projects and fashion led to her writing hundreds of articles for print and online national publications.
Living in a guard-gated community governed by a homeowners’ association gave Paula the idea for the setting of Death byAssociation. She finds that residing in an HOA community can be both a blessing and a curse. A Happy-New-Year greeting from her community association called on residents to “start the new year by reviewing your Rules and Regulations booklet,” something unlikely to top anyone’s list of New Year’s resolutions.
Paula lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her husband Gary and their 110-pound dog Rocky, whose favorite pastime is lurking in the kitchen, hoping for a handout.
Brewed Awakening (A Coffeehouse Mystery) by Cleo Coyle
I have read almost all of the Coffeehouse Mysteries. Brewed Awakening is my favorite so far. Using an innovative plot device like amnesia refreshes the series because Claire is thrust back to the beginning. She only remembers what happened ten years ago when she was recently divorced with an eleven-year-old daughter working in her ex-mother-in-law’s coffee shop. Imagine her surprise when the daughter is magically an adult and everyone, including herself, looks older than she remembers. She doesn’t even recognize the love of her life, Mike, who recently asked for her hand in marriage.
Claire is on camera as a witness to an heiress’ abduction. The shock has made her lose her recent memories. Can a miracle doctor help her memories return?
Brewed Awakening combines the best of a cozy mystery’s character focus with a thriller’s pace and plotline. It results in an innovative story that elevates what is achievable within the cozy mystery genre. It is highly recommended! 5 stars!
Thanks to the author, NetGalley and Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below for a Brewed Awakening Prize Package including a copy of the book!
From Cleo Coyle, the New York Times bestselling author of Shot in the Dark and Dead Cold Brew, comes a delicious new entry in the “fun and gripping” (The Huffington Post) Coffeehouse Mysteries.
When coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi awakens on a bench in Washington Square Park, she has no idea she’s been missing for the past week, or that her friends and family have been frantic with worry. Now that she’s back, everyone is overjoyed, including a handsome NYPD detective who claims to be her fiancé. But to Mike Quinn’s crushing distress, Clare doesn’t remember him, or much of anything about the last decade of her life.
Clare’s missing memory is tied to a crime she witnessed. An acquaintance of Clare’s elegant employer–and fellow member of an exclusive Gotham circle known as “The Ladies Who Brunch”–invited Clare to her posh hotel to sample gourmet wedding cakes. The pair took a stroll after their indulgent tasting and, according to security camera footage, a masked figure snatched the hotel heiress at gunpoint with Clare looking on. Did the kidnapper take Clare, too? The camera went dark, just like Clare’s memory. Soon authorities grow suspicious. Is Clare really a victim? Or merely acting like one? Evidence is mounting that she set the woman up.
To clear her name, Clare must find a way to reclaim her memories and rescue the heiress before this high-stakes crime ends in tragedy. Otherwise, instead of walking down the aisle, Clare may find herself perp-walking to prison as an accomplice to kidnapping and murder.
About Cleo Coyle
CLEO COYLE is the pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini. CLEO COYLE grew up in a small town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After earning scholarships to study writing at Carnegie Mellon and American Universities, she began her career as a cub reporter for The New York Times. Now an author of popular fiction and New York Times bestselling media tie-in writer, Cleo lives and works in New York City, where she collaborates with her husband (also a bestselling author) to pen the Coffeehouse Mysteries for Penguin. Together Cleo and her husband also write The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries under the name Alice Kimberly. When not haunting coffeehouses, hunting ghosts, or rescuing stray cats, Cleo and Marc are bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for NBC, Lucasfilm, Disney, Fox, Imagine, and MGM. In their spare time, they cook like crazy and drink a lot of java. You can learn more about Cleo, her husband, and the books they write by visiting www.CoffeehouseMystery.com.
No Way to Die: A Ming Dynasty Mystery by P.A. De Voe
Author Guest Post
I am often asked about how I write. That is, where do I get my ideas and what’s my process?
I write Chinese historical mysteries set in the early Ming Dynasty (late 1300s and early 1400s), so the first thing I do is read through various Imperial China legal cases to get an idea of what was going on and how the court dealt with the problem. I am usually looking for a case that would highlight a particularly interesting cultural/legal element. For example, how the severity of punishment for a crime depended on the person who committed the crime as well as who his victim was. That is, was the perpetrator and victim of the same social status, what was their gender. Also, when a crime is committed, it’s not just an offence against one person, it’s a breakdown in the moral order, and therefore involves the whole community. This essential concept of a disrupted moral order lays behind early Chinese law and creates interesting dilemmas in developing a story.
The next thing I do is decide what the crime is and who’s the criminal. I need to think about gender, position in his/her family, and social class; why they broke the law; and who else would be held responsible for that person’s crime. In No Way to Die, the second book in A Ming Dynasty Mystery series, a stranger is found murdered.
Of course, the protagonists are critical to a successful tale. They add dimension and texture to the story. A Ming Dynasty Mystery series has two main characters, a male and a female. I needed two because Imperial China was a highly gendered world. There was a strict division between the sexes. I needed characters who could get around as they investigated the crime. After some thought and research, I found the perfect duo: Shu-chang, a male teacher in a small clan school and Xiang-hua, a young, female women’s doctor. Shu-chang could move easily through wine houses and public spaces. Xiang-hua, as a women’s doctor, had access to the world of women, which would be closed to the teacher. By working together, this intrepid duo come together to find the murderer and bring the moral order back in balance.
But—as important as the two main characters are, they can’t carry the whole story by themselves. Secondary characters are also needed to populate their world. They shouldn’t be stick figures, but should also have interesting personalities. They can be used to create dilemmas which fill out the story as well as complicate the story line. Red herrings and real clues are more easily spread throughout the mystery once all of these secondary characters are established.
Finally, I start plotting the mystery. I plot, outline, in order to have a road map for my story. Once I’ve completed my outline, I start writing. As with any road map, I still have flexibility to make changes, to delete a scene or even a character, to add a scene or chapter.
About No Way To Die
No Way to Die: A Ming Dynasty Mystery Historical Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series Drum Tower Press, LLC (April 18, 2019) Paperback: 210 pages ISBN-10: 1942667116 ISBN-13: 978-1942667117 Digital ASIN: B07PWJ715D
Through mystery and intrigue, No Way To Die transports the reader into the complex and engaging world of early Ming China.
When a peddler finds a partially mutilated body of a stranger, the unlikely duo of a young scholar and a local women’s doctor once more join forces to discover who killed him and why. In probing the highly gendered world of early Ming China, unanticipated questions surface, complicating their investigation.
As their case rapidly transitions into the unexpected, they find all roads leading away from the victim, forcing them to consider alternate routes. Was the death the result of inexorable bad karma and beyond their purview, or merely the result of mortal foul play? Was the murdered man the intended victim? If not, who was and why? The investigation leads to a growing list of potential suspects: a lustful herbalist, an unscrupulous neighbor, a vengeful farmer, a jealous husband, a scorned wife, and a band of thieves. Who is innocent and who is the culprit? To solve the murder and bring peace to the victim’s spirit, the duo must untangle the truth and do it before the murderer strikes again.
About P.A. De Voe
P.A. De Voe is an anthropologist with a PhD in Asian studies and a specialty in China. She has authored several stories featuring the early Ming Dynasty: The Mei-hua Trilogy: Hidden, Warned, and Trapped; the A Ming Dynasty Mystery series with Deadly Relations and No Way to Die; Lotus Shoes, a Mei-hua short story; and a collection of short stories: Judge Lu’s Case Files, stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China. Warned won a Silver Falchion Award for Best International Mystery; Trapped was a finalist for an Agatha Award and for a Silver Falchion Award. Her short story, The Immortality Mushroom, (a Judge Lu story) was in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Murder Under the Oaks edited by Art Taylor.
I have found my future retirement community in Fairhope Alaska. While there are a lot of deaths at Harbor Village, that is a boon for a cozy mystery fan such as me. I want to be Cleo Mack. She has such an exciting life even though her job helping retired people may be a bit stressful at times. In this book, there is a Murder at the Arts and Crafts Festival.
I love the Harbor Village staff and residents. It feels like returning home for the holidays when reading the latest entry, the third, in the series. If you love cozy mysteries with eccentric characters and ingenious plotting, you should read Murder at the Arts and Crafts Festival. 4 stars!
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Death on the Danube: A New Year’s Murder in Budapest (Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery Series) by Jennifer S. Alderson
Lana is having a horrid decade. She is fired from her dream investigative journalist job after her confidential informant refuses to testify in the lawsuit against her paper. Her husband of nine years informs her that he is divorcing her by text. Her current kayak tour guide job hasn’t paid her in two months. So, there is really nothing holding her back from accepting her landlady Dotty’s tour guide job offer. Being a tour guide in exotic Budapest Hungary for six days in return for forgiveness of her two months of unpaid rent and credit for one month going forward? It’s almost time for the new year to begin so getting away from her problems in old-world Budapest sounds perfect.
Unfortunately, Lana’s tour group has the snobby Helen and her henpecked husband, Tom, for her to contend with. And what is the story between the other tour guide Carl and guest Jess? Dotty’s friend Sally has just announced her and Carl’s engagement so why does Carl look so unhappy? When Carl ends up dead and a guest is suspected by the police, Lana decides to use her investigative skills to uncover the real killer.
I love travel memoirs like Eat, Pray, Love so I snapped this book up. There are great descriptions of Budapest along with a character-driven cozy mystery within Death on the Danube. I enjoyed Lana’s determination to push past any obstacles in her way. Dotty’s Christmas dog sweaters make me want to crochet something creative for my dogs (I bought a couple online instead). Overall, I’m looking forward to the next in the Travel can be Murder series so I can revisit Dotty and Lana. 4 stars!
Thanks to the author and Great Escapes Book Tours for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter the prize package giveaway below!
Who knew a New Year’s trip to Budapest could be so deadly? The tour must go on – even with a killer in their midst…
Recent divorcee Lana Hansen needs a break. Her luck has run sour for going on a decade, ever since she got fired from her favorite job as an investigative reporter. When her fresh start in Seattle doesn’t work out as planned, Lana ends up unemployed and penniless on Christmas Eve.
Dotty Thompson, her landlord and the owner of Wanderlust Tours, is also in a tight spot after one of her tour guides ends up in the hospital, leaving her a guide short on Christmas Day.
When Dotty offers her a job leading the tour group through Budapest, Hungary, Lana jumps at the chance. It’s the perfect way to ring in the new year and pay her rent!
What starts off as the adventure of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare when Carl, her fellow tour guide, is found floating in the Danube River. Was it murder or accidental death? Suspects abound when Lana discovers almost everyone on the tour had a bone to pick with Carl.
But Dotty insists the tour must go on, so Lana finds herself trapped with nine murder suspects. When another guest turns up dead, Lana has to figure out who the killer is before she too ends up floating in the Danube…
Introducing Lana Hansen, tour guide, reluctant amateur sleuth, and star of the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery Series. Join Lana as she leads tourists and readers to fascinating cities around the globe on intriguing adventures that, unfortunately for Lana, often turn deadly.
Feel-good stories about friendship, travel, and celebrating new experiences. Coming soon: Books 2 and 3 in the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery Series!
About Jennifer S. Alderson
Jennifer S. Alderson was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. After traveling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before settling in the Netherlands. Her background in journalism, multimedia development, and art history enriches her novels. When not writing, she can be found in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning her next research trip.
Jennifer’s love of travel, art, and culture inspires her award-winning mystery series—the Zelda Richardson Mysteries and Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mysteries—and standalone stories.
No one would wish their worst enemy to Have a Deadly New Year. However, for the employees of the Country Seat restaurant and the reunited members of a 1990s band, it looks to be a dangerous holiday season!
Angie and Felicia own a small farm-to-fork restaurant. Felicia has a college connection to the recently reunited band Postal Mutiny. When she works out a deal to cater one meal for the band at the remote ski vacation house of the lead singer in return for a week of free lodging, it sounds like a win-win. However, the band’s constant fighting results in one member being “drumsticked” in the chest. When the sheriff is called away to search for a missing child, Angie steps in to solve the crime.
Angie, Felicia, and the other restaurant folks in Have a Deadly New Year feel like long-lost friends already. This is the first book in this series that I’ve read but it won’t be my last. The characters act realistically and feel genuine. The mystery was good too. 4 stars for this engaging book.
One more thing. Just a call out to the dedication to band members everywhere—you were the first friends I had who practiced mindfulness before it was even named that. Thank you for all the great life lessons.
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
In the Heart of Windy Pines Holly Tierney-Bedord
Publication date: November 24th 2019
Genres: Adult, Cozy Mystery
From the author of Kindle Unlimited All-Star winner Sweet Hollow Women comes a new novella featuring characters from Murder at Mistletoe Manor, Carnage at the Christmas Party, and The Port Elspeth Jewelry Making Club!
Klarinda Snow is the innkeeper of Mistletoe Manor in beautiful, remote, Windy Pines, Idaho, where she brings her unique brand of hospitality to the tiny mountain town.
When she finds her inn unexpectedly fully booked on a snowy Tuesday night in November, it brings back memories of a tragedy years before. Before she knows what hit her, she and her trusty team of employees (Myrtle, Pierre, and her new night manager, Josephine), have found themselves back at the task of solving another mystery at Mistletoe Manor!
While this book can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novella, if you plan to read the books in the Windy Pines Mystery series or The Port Elspeth Jewelry Making Club, it’s highly recommended you read those first, as this book contains spoilers that could affect your ability to enjoy them.
In all his life, the man in the Mercedes had never had a car break down on him. Plenty of other catastrophes had befallen him, but a failing automobile was a problem he had no experience with. Lately, however, his life had been full of firsts.
Just as the three-year-old Mercedes-Benz GLS he was driving began slowing and lurching like some old junker, a series of four small, weathered, peeling billboards, each lit up in the failing twilight by a single yellow bulb, came into view.
You’re just two miles from a good night’s sleep!
Stay with us at Mistletoe Manor!@Holly
Best dinner in town is at Mistletoe Manor!
Take your next right to Mistletoe Manor. Closed Mondays.
“It’s a… Tuesday!” he decided. Funny how the days ran together now that he was retired.
He put on his blinker and veered off the highway onto Pine Lookout Road. It was a narrow road and only the center of it had been plowed. It swooped down a bit and then rounded a corner, and then went up, up, up. It would have been plenty for any vehicle to take, but his malfunctioning automobile was hardly having it. It sputtered and lurched even more violently. A low guardrail and the chunks of snow and ice on the side of the road were all that separated him from the steeply cascading mountainside on his right. His hands gripped the steering wheel in white-knuckled fear, as he pressed the gas pedal to the floor.
“Come on, you can make it,” he told his vehicle, just as it shot ahead and began behaving normally again. “Thank you. You’ve got this,” he told it, in the same tone he’d used years ago when his kids were little and they were playing soccer or field hockey. “Good job, good job. Keep it up.”
Holly Tierney-Bedord is the author of over twenty novels and novellas including Kindle Unlimited All-Star winner Sweet Hollow Women. Her books feature quirky, flawed characters and the kind of crazy scenarios that could only happen to someone you probably know. Count on her stories to have unexpected twists and turns, dark secrets, and lots of laughs.
Holly is also an artist and miniaturist, creator of the mid-century dollhouse restoration blog flipthisminihouse.com, and the author of several non-fiction books about creating miniatures.
She lives in Madison, Wisconsin. When she’s not writing or decorating her real house or mini houses, she’s traveling. Visit her website at www.hollytierneybedord.com where you can connect to her blogs and subscribe to her newsletter.
Bookmarked for Murder (Mystery Bookshop) by V.M. Burns
A modern-day locked room (actually a tour bus) mystery and a tale set in 1938 England are both included in Bookmarked for Murder.
The author uses a clever plot device of having the main sleuth, Samantha, be creating the period mystery as we watch. Since Sam is also a mystery bookstore owner, she also recommends other excellent cozy mysteries a la the Death on Demand mystery series. The main plot on the bus involves Sam, her grandmother Jo, and her three neighbors at the senior living residence, Shady Acres. This allows the author to include some gentle humor.
“You ordered fifteen pizzas?” [says the] freckle-faced kid, who looked about twelve, with […] a red hoodie with a Star Trek insignia, and red Converse All-Stars. “Nice shoes,” said Nana Jo. […] “Thanks. All the old ladies usually like them.”
The coroner was removing the body from the bus. “That’s what’s left of the last person who called me an old lady. Remember, on Star Trek, the red shirts always die first.”—from Bookmarked for Murder
The historic fiction mystery within the mystery is set immediately prior to World War II. Lady Elizabeth and her niece, Lady Penelope, solve the mystery of a woman who fell to her death convinced her family was trying to kill her for her valuables.
Both the present-day and historic mysteries include plenty of character development. The humor is fun. Most enjoyable is the self-referential mystery trope references. I thought I would die laughing when Sam asked the detective for “a big reveal, like in Hercule Poirot books, where you bring all the suspects together and then the sleuth […] can reveal whodunit.” His reply? “Are you joking? This isn’t television. Real killers don’t crack under the pressure of hearing the evidence against them. Real killers laugh in the face of overwhelming mountains of evidence and deny to their dying day that they’re guilty.” What mystery reader hasn’t had that thought? But I’ve never seen it used in such a clever tongue-in-cheek way before. If you read a lot of cozies, Bookmarked for Murder will be a hilarious addition to your library with its witty takes on old mystery tropes and two intriguing mysteries to solve along with the heroines. 4 stars!
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below for a chance to win one of five $20 Amazon gift cards!
Amateur sleuth Samantha Washington’s shopping trip to Chicago takes a deadly detour when a man is murdered on her bus . . .
After some post-Christmas retail therapy in the Windy City, mystery bookshop owner and historical whodunit novelist Sam Washington is returning home to North Harbor, Michigan, on a chartered bus. With Nana Jo and her gal pals Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae from Shady Acres Retirement Village along for the ride, it’s a lively trip. But one passenger is not so lively—a gentleman Irma befriended is found dead in his seat after an unscheduled stop. The ladies immediately shift gears to find out who punched his ticket, while Sam slips into the driver’s seat to make sure Nana Jo and her crew steer clear of fatal conclusions . . .
About V.M. Burns
V.M. Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest, she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Her debut novel, The Plot is Murder was nominated for a 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at vmburns.com
Agatha Raisin is back in fine style literally (or in a book would it be literarily?) Beating about the Bush and finding a severed leg. Or is it severed? Or is it even a leg?
Raisin Investigations is hired by an electric car battery company to determine who is perpetrating industrial espionage on their new, longer lasting battery. Before their investigation has even begun, Agatha and her trusted assistant Toni find a leg in a hedgerow that appears to be wearing the shoe of the company president’s secretary, Mrs. Dinwiddy.
Soon Agatha and Toni are investigating a death by donkey. Agatha, of course, is siding with the donkey. Perhaps they feel a sisterhood in attitude?
In the meantime, Agatha’s on again-off again with Sir Charles takes a wild turn. Toni’s romance with a young doctor has its problems. Good thing that they have the battery company’s cast of suspects to keep them busy.
Wow, this is the best Agatha Raisin in a while. At number thirty in a slowly declining series that is truly amazing!
Beating about the Bush is as good as the first few in the series. If you have given up on them awhile back, it is well worth your time to check out this excellent mystery. Fans of the show will also enjoy catching up with a slightly older, but probably not much wiser, Agatha and her friends. With such great and even iconic cozy mystery characters plus two puzzling mysteries, you can’t miss with this book. 5 stars!
Thank you to Constable; Little, Brown Book Group UK; Minotaur Books; and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in return for my honest review. Out October 24, 2019 in the UK and December 3, 2019 in the US.
Ghosts of Painting Past (An Aurora Anderson Mystery) by Sybil Johnson
Christmas in Vista Beach in sunny California is filled with sandmen instead of snowmen in the new Aurora Anderson cozy mystery, Ghosts of Painting Past. Rory is working on a programming job in her home office when a body is found across the street during the teardown of the Zeppelin House. Along with the skeleton, a tole-painted heart was also found. Who was the victim? Why was he killed? What other dominos will fall within the town now that the body has been unearthed? When Rory’s father, Swan, is suspected of the crime, Rory must work with her best friend real estate agent, Liz, to solve the mystery. All while not angering her detective boyfriend, Martin.
I utterly adored that the conclusion of Ghosts of Painting Past tied up every loose end of the plot. There were so many different mysteries here that I was impressed that the author provided a clear end to each of them in the last few chapters. While discovering whodunit wasn’t very difficult, I enjoyed meeting the Anderson clan and respected their family’s closeness. Rory’s nervousness about meeting her boyfriend Martin’s parents is understandable and thoroughly relatable. Growing up in my own Los Angeles County beach community, I can assure everyone that it is very realistic (though I never created a sandman—because to Californians, the 50-degree Winter weather on the beach is freezing and best avoided, lol). I loved the characters in this book and will be anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. 4 stars!
Thanks to Henery Press and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below for one of three copies of the Kindle book!
It’s Christmastime in the quiet Los Angeles County city of Vista Beach, home of computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson. The magic of the season fills the air as residents enjoy school concerts, a pier lighting ceremony and the annual sand-snowman contest.
During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Rory plans on painting ornaments to sell at the local craft fair and joining in on the holiday fun. But she finds the season anything but jolly after the house across the street is torn down, revealing a decades old crime. Past meets present when her father is implicated in the murder.
Fearing for her father’s future, Rory launches her own investigation, intent on discovering the truth and clearing his name.
About Sybil Johnson
Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.
Scarlet Fever: A Novel (“Sister” Jane) by Rita Mae Brown
I have read and loved all of the author’s Mrs. Murphy series so when I saw Scarlet Fever on NetGalley I snapped it up. Mrs. Murphy books are a more traditional cat cozy mystery though the cats and dog do talk and investigate crimes.
Scarlet Fever is book number twelve in the “Sister” Jane mysteries. This book literally has a hundred characters. There are talking hounds, dogs, and horses—all with intricate family relationships. There are also many human characters with seemingly long-standing issues from previous books in the series. The author does provide a detailed biography of the cast at the beginning. However, it was difficult to get into the mystery while frequently having to turn pages back and forth. Therefore, I would not recommend starting the series with this entry.
However, if you like fox hunting, you will love this series that focuses minutely on the methods used by the hunters, their hounds, and the foxes trying to outwit them both. Long-term fans of the “Sister” Jane mysteries will be sure to enjoy Scarlet Fever. 4 stars!
Thanks to Ballantine Books, Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a print copy of the book below!
About Scarlet Fever
Scarlet Fever: A Novel (“Sister” Jane) Cozy Mystery 12th in Series Ballantine Books (November 26, 2019) Hardcover: 304 pages ISBN-10: 0593130006 ISBN-13: 978-0593130001 Digital ASIN: B07P8J8KVM
Winter blizzards bring a flurry of cases to solve in this riveting new foxhunting mystery featuring “Sister” Jane Arnold and her incorrigible hounds from New York Times bestselling author Rita Mae Brown.
Frigid February air has settled into the bones of the Blue Ridge Mountains, making for a slow foxhunting season, though “Sister” Jane Arnold’s enthusiasm is not so easily deterred. With the winter chill come tweed coats, blazing fireplaces—and perhaps another to share the warmth with, as the bold hunting scarlets worn by the men in Sister Jane’s hunting club make the hearts of women flutter—until someone’s stops entirely.
Harry Dunbar, a member of the Jefferson Hunt club with a penchant for antique furniture, is found with his skull cracked at the bottom of the stairs to a local store. There are no telltale signs of foul play—save for the priceless (and stolen) Erté fox ring in his pocket. Sister and her hounds set out to uncover the truth: was this simply an accident—a case of bad luck—or something much more sinister?
Steeped in the deep traditions of Virginia horse country and featuring a colorful cast of characters both two- and four-legged, Scarlet Fever is another spirited mystery from Rita Mae Brown.
About Rita Mae Brown
Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries; the Sister Jane series; the Runnymede novels, including Six of One and Cakewalk; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed;Rubyfruit Jungle; and In Her Day; as well as many other books. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia, and is a Master of Foxhounds and the huntsman.
Only ten miles off the coast of Tinker’s Cove Maine lies Fletcher’s Island. But the island, owned by venture capitalist billionaire Scott Newman seems a world apart. It has been refurbished at great expense to its original state including no Wi-Fi, no electricity, and only sailing ships for transport back to the twenty-first century. When Lucy Stone, a part-time investigative reporter is invited to stay on the island and write a puff piece for her newspaper little does she know it will ultimately be to an Invitation Only Murder.
It is hard-to-believe that this is the twenty-sixth entry in the Lucy Stone series. The plot seems as fresh as the first one. I fully enjoyed seeing Lucy away from her usual support team of friends and family. The idea of living life as it was almost two centuries ago was an original hook and drove a lot of the plot twists. I also learned a bit about puffins. Overall, Invitation Only Murder is a nice entry into the series and should be snapped up by Lucy Stone fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Turkey Basted to Death (The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series) by Jodi Rath
Small town Leavensport Ohio is having a town Thanksgiving party. At the last minute, chef Jolie is asked by the mayor to add a group of disadvantaged city teens to the party. She complies after meeting the teen’s advocate, Pria, a former homeless teen herself. Even before the food is served, Pria winds up dead, killed by a stainless-steel turkey baster in the ear. Jolie and her restaurant partner Ava, the owners of the baster, decide to find the murderer. After all, no one deserves to be Turkey Basted to Death.
I appreciate the author’s use of modern issues within the book to update the traditional cozy format. Jolie has a therapist and is working on trust issues created by her family life at a young age. Two characters are in various stages of transitioning to females. There is a FF couple and Jolie herself flirts with the idea of becoming bisexual.
However, Turkey Basted to Death also has an intriguing mystery and a more typical cozy romance for Jolie. Jolie is torn between the town’s two detectives—bad boy Meiser and good guy Keith. As thought by Jolie, “my stupid hoo-hah needs to get itself under control—as well as my heart.” It appears she may be going for the bad one.
This book is the third entry in the Cast Iron Skillet Mysteries series. However, it can easily be read as a standalone. Its short length makes it a good choice to read in one sitting. Even though it is a novella, it packs in plenty of plot and fully-realized characters. 4 stars!
Thanks to the author and Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaways below for a print copy of the book!
Thanksgiving is here, and Jolie Tucker has had quite the year! She is ready to sit back and relax with family and friends. But this is Leavensport, OH—so get ready for intense therapy sessions, dysfunctional family holiday gatherings, uninvited guests, and an inner-city teen advocate found DEAD—stabbed in the ear with the turkey baster!
Welcome to Leavensport, OH, where DEATH takes a DELICIOUS turn!
About the Author
Moving into her second decade working in education, Jodi Rath has decided to begin a life of crime in her The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Her passion for both mysteries and education led her to combine the two to create her business MYS ED, where she splits her time between working as an adjunct for Ohio teachers and creating mischief in her fictional writing. She currently resides in a small, cozy village in Ohio with her husband and her seven cats.
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Hazards in Hampshire (A British Book Tour Mystery) by Emma Dakin
The Author’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe
The George, Wallingford
In the book, Claire Barclay met Detective Inspector Mark Evans at this restaurant near the Agatha Christie Museum in Wallingford. The women on her tour were impressed with the menu and were delighted to indulge themselves.
The George has sticky toffee pudding with, as usual, your choice of ice cream, toffee sauce or custard with it. It seems silly to have sticky toffee pudding without the toffee sauce but I have had it with custard and it is delicious.
One May, my daughter, two of my friends and I took a trip to Scotland. The friends and I carried fiddles on our backs and we were determined to experience the country with as much gusto as possible. We did play Celtic tunes in pubs occasionally, and one memorable evening were served with free drinks, a sign that we were contributing to the pleasure of the patrons. We made a lot of friends on the trains who thought we were professional musicians instead of neophyte fiddlers. A goal of one of my friends was to experience all the different kinds of sticky toffee pudding and she ordered it almost daily. We all solemnly took a bite of her choice to do a comparative analysis. I consider myself now an expert in sticky toffee pudding.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
In England, restaurants can label all desserts “pudding”.
“Want a pudding then, love?” Means “Would you like some dessert?”
1 cup of diced, pitted dates
1 ½ cups water
1/3 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar ( I use the yellow kind as the molasses content is high in this recipe)
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup molasses
1 2/3 cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
What to Do
Preheat over to 350’F, grease a 9 x 5 inch baking pan
In a saucepan on the stove, put the dates and water, bring to boil and then simmer for about 2 minutes, just to soften. Then put in a blender and pulverize the mixture. Set aside.
Cream butter with brown sugar and eggs. Beat well until the mixture lightens in colour.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing as you go.
Add molasses and keep beating it. It’s a cake so it needs that vigorous beating.
Sift together flour and baking powder.
Add to creamed mixture and stir until smooth.
Stir in the dates and the baking soda.
Bake 30 minutes. Let cool.
½ cup of butter
½ cup of heavy cream (milk will do)
1 cup brown sugar
What to Do
Put everything into a saucepan and heat to boiling. Boil gently. Stir it continually.
It takes about 5 minutes to thicken, but you can serve it thin or thick.
Pour over the pudding.
It’s rich, but delicious.
I loved the new cozy mystery, Hazards in Hampshire, from its first lines:
“I had expected my hostess at the tea party to be boring. I hadn’t expected her to be dead.”
Claire Barclay is newly returned to England after inheriting a substantial sum from her stepfather. After years of travel, Claire is finally home to start her new business, British Mystery Book Tours, and reconnect with her barrister sister, Deidre. However, her new village is soon roiled by Claire finding a murder victim and a nearby arson. Everything seems related to the town’s book club, where the victim was the dictatorial president. Did someone dislike her enough to poison her? Was Claire going to be arrested for her murder simply because the stranger in town had to be the perp?
Reminiscent of Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand mysteries, this series is sure to introduce you to some new authors. The small-town feeling of everyone knowing each other’s business is similar to the feeling in Broward’s Rock Island too. My favorite part of this book was the authenticity of all the characters. It was easy to identify with forty-six-year-old Claire, especially her recent inheritance that allowed her to restart her life in a new direction. The mystery was puzzling too. Overall, Hazards in Hampshire is a great start to a sure-to-be topnotch series for cozy mystery readers. 4 stars!
Thanks to the author and Great Escapes Blog Tours for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below to receive one of ten digital copies of the book!
Moving to a quiet English village should have been tranquil, but Claire Barclay learns that even an invitation to tea can be deadly. Who killed Mrs. Paulson, the president of the local Mystery Books Club? Was the motive for murder located in the archives of the book club? The members of the books club might have reason to want Mrs. Paulson’s out of the way. She had lived in the village all her life, been involved in many organizations and societies and knew many secrets of the villagers. Was one secret too dangerous for her to keep? She had been wealthy and left her money to a member of the club. Could the legatee have been impatient for her inheritance? Who cared enough to want her dead? Claire, an expert in solving problems in her job as a tour guide, decides to delve into the archives and into the lives of the villagers—and find out.
About Emma Dakin
This is Emma Dakin’s first series, set in Britain the homeland of Emma’s grandparents. Emma channels her mother’s inherited English culture along with the attitudes and sayings of the modern Brits. She travels widely in England and at one point this May while travelling through the Yorkshire Moors she had all the tourists in a tour bus looking for a good place to hide a body. As Marion Crook, she has published many novels of adventure and mystery for young adult and middle-grade readers as well as non-fiction for adults and young adults and non-fiction on social issues. Firmly in the cozy mystery genre now, and committed to absorbing the culture and changing world of Britain, she plans to enjoy the research and the writing of cozies.
Fate: A Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery (The Witches of Doyle #6)
by Kirsten Weiss
Guest Post by the Author
November Kitchen Witchery
November is a cozy cooking time of year. And even though Jayce Bonheim, the heroine of my cozy witch mystery, Fate, calls herself an earth witch, there’s some definite kitchen witchery in her life as well. She knows that sharing a meal is about more than nutrition – it’s about sharing around a table and all the attendant emotions.
At its most basic, kitchen witchery involves cooking with intention. That could be the intention to heal, the intention to share love and gratitude, or simply the intention to make a delicious meal. It involves slowing down and making cooking a heartfelt meditation rather than a chore.
When Jayce practices kitchen witchery (when she’s not solving crimes and keeping her hometown free from bad mojo), she takes things a step further. She’ll stir clockwise to infuse her intention into whatever she’s cooking (if she lived below the equator, she’d stir counterclockwise).
She’d also choose ingredients which correspond to whatever she was trying to do. For example, chocolate is well known to be associated with love and romance, so cocoa powder in a dinner entrée for a romantic evening would work well. If you’re planning on making candied yams or sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving, those also correspond to love. This would be a good dish for Jayce to infuse with the intention of sharing the love. Pumpkin pie is associated with abundance and healing, and so is that Thanksgiving green bean casserole. When cooking either of those dishes, Jayce might stir in her intention of abundance.
Jayce uses the same basic process when she makes her non-edible coffee hand scrub, that she sells in her coffee shop, Ground.
But in book 6 in the Doyle Witch cozy mysteries, Fate, she’s brewing up more than hand scrub and happiness spells. Jayce is on the trail of a killer. And she must determine how the murderer of a local deputy is connected to a lodge of dark magicians intent on stealing a magical book, in…
Something wicked this way comes…
Witch Jayce Bonheim has spent the last four months waiting for a horde of dark magicians to come to town.
Now, they’ve arrived, embedded in a traveling circus.
And they’re bigger and badder than this ex-party girl could have imagined, wreaking havoc wherever they go.
But when a murder rocks her small town, Jayce must stop the chaos. Walking a tightrope between dark spells and past regrets, can Jayce stop a murderer and stop these magicians from transforming the world forever?
Start reading Fate, book 6 in The Witches of Doyle cozy mystery novels.
This novel is a full-length, witch cozy mystery featuring true-to-life spells in the back of the book, a trio of witchy sisters, and a dash of romance. Though Fate can be read as a standalone, it’s best read in series order. It’s rated PG-13 due to mild language and some romance.
Don’t forget to enter the two giveaways for the book or the entire series below!
Kirsten sends out original short stories of mystery and magic to her mailing list. If you’d like to get them delivered straight to your inbox, make sure to sign up for her newsletter at kirstenweiss.com
Memories and Murder (A Tourist Trap Mystery) by Lynn Cahoon
Jill runs a bookstore and coffee shop in a small coastal Californian town in Memories and Murder, the tenth entry in the Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. When her partner and aunt, Jackie, unexpectedly calls off her engagement to Harrold, her niece Jill worries that something is wrong. Little does she know how wrong…
Jackie has been a victim of a con before and it appears she is being targeted again. This time someone who says he is her dead husband but in witness protection is asking her for money. If her husband is alive, she obviously can’t marry someone else.
I really enjoyed my first foray into the Tourist Trap mysteries. The relationships in the book are sincere. The mystery had plenty of red herrings and a twisty plot. The denouement was truly surprising! After reading Memories and Murder, I will be reading the prior nine books in the series. 5 stars! It is recommended highly for all cozy mystery fans.
Thanks to Kensington Books, Great Escapes Blog Tours, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter for a free print copy of the book below!
It’s October in South Cove, California, and the locals in the quaint resort seem to be happily pairing off in the lull before the holidays. Everyone, that is, except for Jill Gardner’s elderly aunt, who just dumped her besotted fiancé—and she won’t say why.
When Jill hosts a talk at Coffee, Books, and More on the topic of elder abuse, all that’s really on her mind is lunch. But the topic hits close to home when she discovers Aunt Jackie has been getting mysterious calls. Jill’s certain the caller is a con artist, of course, but her feisty aunt claims to understand this, though she’s still shaken—and Harrold’s still heartbroken. Who’s behind the scam and why was her aunt targeted? When a volunteer from the Senior Project is found murdered, Jill’s detective boyfriend is on the case—and it soon becomes clear no one is safe when a caller from beyond becomes a killer in their midst.
About Lynn Cahoon
Lynn Cahoon is the award-winning author of several New York Times and USA Today bestselling cozy mystery series. The Tourist Trap series is set in central coastal California with six holiday novellas releasing in 2018–2019. She also pens the Cat Latimer series available in mass market paperback. Her newest series, the Farm to Fork mystery series, debuted in 2018. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and two fur babies. Sign up for her newsletter at www.lynncahoon.com.