Skeleton Makes a Friend
November 6th, 2018 by diane92345

Skeleton Makes a Friend is another fun romp with Georgia and her animated skeleton Sid.

Adjunct Professor Georgia gets a summer job teaching writing to high school students in a prestigious, but rundown, New England college. The job comes with a three bedroom cabin perfect for Georgia, her teenage daughter, Madison, and her best friend, Sid.

A teenage girl named Jen comes to the cabin looking for her online gaming friend who is a detective IRL. It doesn’t take long for Georgia to figure out she means Sid. Jen states that one of their online group has been missing for over a week. Unfortunately, she only knows him as Erik Bloodaxe, his gaming name.

Sid eventually convinces Georgia to help him find the real Erik in the college halls. When mysterious events start occurring, only the amateur detective team of Sid and Georgia can ferret out the truth.

I missed Sid, Georgia and Madison. After reading and enjoying the first two books in the series, I must have missed the next two. I snapped this one up when I saw it on NetGalley. It is amazing how useful an animated skeleton is when investigating crime. With no fingerprints, no need for sleep, and more than a lifetime of knowledge, Sid is an extremely good detective.

It is surprising how much a skeleton can feel like a genuine member of the family. The antics of Sid make for an amusing afternoon of reading. Skeleton Makes a Friend, as well as the other books in this series, are recommended to any cozy readers willing to suspend disbelief in animated skeletons for a few hours. 4 stars!

Thanks to Diversion Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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

Wrench in the Works
November 4th, 2018 by diane92345

Charming characters in a unique setting enliven A Wrench in the Works, the sixth Fixer-Upper Mystery.

Sisters Shannon and Chloe grew up working in their dad’s construction company. Shannon took over her dad’s company when he retired. Chloe moved to Hollywood and stars in a fixer-upper show.

Chloe decides to go back to her hometown to film a season of her show with the help of her sister’s construction team. When someone on the production is killed and Chloe is threatened, Shannon investigates.

Despite being part of a series, A Wrench in the Works works well as a stand-alone. The characters and their relationships are genuine. Setting the mystery behind the scenes on an HGTV-type show is innovative. I would have liked the puzzle to be slightly harder to solve. However, I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

A Wrench in the Works is recommended to cozy readers looking for endearing characters in an unusual setting. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Berkley Mystery, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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

Yule Log Murder
November 2nd, 2018 by diane92345

Three novellas in bestselling cozy mystery series all involving yule logs and set in the Christmas season are told in the Yule Log Murder.

The Yule Log Murder is part of the Lucy Stone series. An assistant on a movie shoot is killed while transporting a yule log. It includes the recipe for the yule log at the end of the story.

In Death by Yule Log, the obnoxious boyfriend of the daughter of Hayley Powell is suspected of bludgeoning someone to death with a frozen yule log. The recipes included sound yummy.  They are:

  • Mom’s Christmas Morning Cocktail
  • Dustin’s Christmas Morning Cinnamon Muffins
  • Gemma’s Hot Chocolate
  • Mom’s Special Hot Chocolate (adds vodka and peppermint schnapps to Gemma’s recipe above)
  • Randy’s Crock-Pot Mulled Wine
  • Hayley’s Christmas Yule Log

Logged On tells the story of elderly Mrs. St. Onge, whose complicated Buche de Noel (yule log in French), is suspected of poisoning multiple people in the town. This tale is part of the Maine Clambake Mystery series. It includes the recipe for the Buche de Noel plus a warning by the author to find a professional baker to make the complicated recipe.  The author helpfully includes an easy recipe for Jewel Brooch Cookies for those of us that are not professional bakers.

While I enjoyed all three stories, Logged On was my favorite because of its unusual plot.  I liked it so much that I am beginning to read the Maine Clambake mysteries beginning with Steamed Open to be published on December 18, 2018. Many people read cozy food mysteries for the recipes.  The recipes in Death by Yule Log are much more likely to appear on my Christmas table. Lucy Stone is one of my favorite characters.  I feel like I am growing up (or old?) with her family and friends.

The Yule Log Murder is an excellent way to get into the Christmas spirit. Despite all the tales using a yule log, each one had an entirely different spin on the plot. It is recommended to cozy readers looking for a few light evening reads. 3.5 stars!

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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

Gift of Bones
October 18th, 2018 by diane92345

A Gift of Bones is a good small town private investigator cozy mystery.

Eve is days away from giving birth when she disappears. A ransom demand is sent to her cousin. Private investigator, Sarah Booth Delaney, and her partner, Tinkie, are hired to find the missing woman.

The missing woman’s life becomes the focus of the investigation. With parents who disowned her for her unwed pregnancy and an unknown baby daddy, suspects are hard to find.

The setting in a small town Mississippi detective agency and the use of an unwed mother as the victim are frequent cozy tropes. However, the use of a transgendered character updates the story to 2018. Other than that, a Gift of Bones is a good cozy mystery but not very unique. I like the previous entry in the series much better.  My 4-star review is here. However, a Gift of Bones gets a reluctant 3 stars.

Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Nantucket Counterfeit
October 17th, 2018 by diane92345

A multitude of suspects fills Nantucket Counterfeit, an enjoyable merging of a cozy setting with a police procedural.

Horst Refn is the Artistic Director of the Nantucket Theater Lab. He is a ladies man and a possible blackmailer. Worse, he is found face down in his basement’s chest freezer—frostbitten and dead by strangulation.

Nantucket’s police chief Henry Kennis has no shortage of suspects. Even his girlfriend, Jane Stiles, is identified as running away from the crime or could it be her lookalike, Marcia Stoddard. Both had motive and no alibi. Or it could be Donald Harcourt who found the body and verbally fought with the victim recently. Or even Joey Little who had texted Harcourt to meet him at the victim’s house. Refn was both screwing his wife and blackmailing him.

When the police chief discovers that the first play of the season, Who Dun It?, appears to be based on real people’s stories, he investigates and finds even more motives for murder.

Nantucket Counterfeit is a fun dive into the backbiting world of community theater. The characterizations are great. Despite many more suspects than the usual cozy, it was easy to keep them straight.

This is the fifth book in the Chief Kennis series but can easily be read as a stand-alone. Recommended to both cozy and police procedural fans, Nantucket Counterfeit gets 4 stars from me.

Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Be Our Ghost
October 13th, 2018 by diane92345

In Be Our Ghost, Kate and her grandmother, Liza, run a bed and breakfast in coastal Oregon. When a local businessman is found dead, they investigate to exonerate a local business owner. Soon they are uncovering oodles of secrets in this fine cozy mystery.

Norman wants to open a large arcade in small town, Sully’s Landing. When he is found dead shortly before the planning commission’s vote, suspicion falls on commission member, Doug. Doug, the outspoken owner of the town’s hardware store/pub/restaurant, has venomously opposed the arcade and was seen near the scene of the crime. Liza is convinced that Doug cannot be the murder. As Liza and Melanie investigate, they are assisted by Cindi, their millennial assistant at the inn, and Orville, the inn’s mysterious laughing ghost.

I loved the small town setting in coastal Oregon. All the characters were believable. The mystery was clever and the writing well done. My only complaint was that I want more of Orville’s history and motivation. Why is he haunting the inn? How do they know his name is Orville? Also, other than cooking breakfast, we rarely see the mechanics of running the inn, which would be an interesting subplot.

Be Our Ghost is the third book in the Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series but it works fine as a stand-alone. The characters are engaging, and the mystery is intriguing. It is an excellent choice for a blustery fall afternoon read for cozy mystery fans. 4 stars!

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

Bird, Bath and Beyond
October 10th, 2018 by diane92345

Light and easy cozy mystery set in the world of talent agent, Kay, who provides animal actors to television and film productions. Bird, Bath and Beyond is a nice afternoon’s entertainment with no graphic violence or language.

Celebrity parrot, Barney, is the sole witness to the death of television star, Dray. When Detective Bostwick asks Kay to question the parrot, she explains that it takes hours to teach parrots to speak specific phrases. Immediately, Barney says “Put down the gun.” When Bostwick arrests a suspect, the suspect asks Kay, who is also an attorney, to represent them. Since Kay is an entertainment lawyer, she calls on a defense attorney for help. However, she decides to also try to find the real murderer.

Bird, Bath and Beyond is the second in the Agent to the Paws Mystery series but can be read as a stand-alone. The humor and animals are the best part of this cozy mystery. There are many funny sub-plots such as her new gigantic dog, her theatrical parents, her love interest and her aspirational assistant. Despite some red herrings, the mystery was relatively easy to solve.

This book is recommended to readers of Stephanie Plum who want a more family-oriented read. 3.5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Dead Ringer
October 1st, 2018 by diane92345

Dead Ringer is another perfect cozy mystery featuring Agatha Raisin!

A group of eight bell ringers is planning a song to welcome the handsome and single bishop to their small village, Thirk Magna. The village church is full of secrets. Bishop Peter’s girlfriend disappeared without a trace a few years earlier. The vicar allegedly beats his wife. When he is found bound and injured in his home, two twin congregants explain they were playing a bondage game with him. The new policeman who responds to Agatha’s call sells the vicar’s story to the tabloids. When the policeman is later found dead, Agatha and her detective agency spring into action.

After watching the excellent Acorn Agatha Raisin series on television, I couldn’t wait to read the latest book in the series. Dead Ringer doesn’t disappoint. The bodies pile up, and multiple people fall into and out of love. Just another day in the Cotswolds.

Dead Ringer is perfect for readers looking for a side of dry British wit with their cozy mystery. 4 stars!

Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Christmas Cake Murder
September 30th, 2018 by diane92345

The Christmas Cake Murder turns the clock back to before Hannah opened her bakery, The Cookie Jar.

In a short prequel set before the rest of the books in the series, Hannah returns home from college to attend her father’s funeral. Her mother, Delores, is understandably depressed so she is given a task to take her mind off her troubles. She is asked to help a local older woman, Essie, who has broken her hip. Essie wants to return to her youth by recreating the old-fashioned Christmas Cake Ball. Delores, Hannah and her sisters work together on the project by renovating an old ballroom and baking lots of cakes. Most of the cake and frosting recipes are shared with the reader.

Meanwhile, Hannah decides to drop out of college and forego her dream of becoming a college professor. Why quit college? Over a man (foreshadowing the issues many had with the previous book in the series). Also, the family reads a unfinished crime novel by Essie they find in her room.

The mystery in the Christmas Cake Murder is painfully obvious from the beginning. However, Essie’s crime story is good and drives readers to finish the book. It was also nice to hear why and how Hannah started her business. In addition, there is a heartwarming Christmas story ending. However, the lack of any mystery in a cozy mystery is a serious plot problem. For completists out there (like me) who have read the entire series, this is an interesting read. For others, I wouldn’t recommend it. Do not start the series here—start at the delightful series beginning. 2 1/2 stars.

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Premeditated Peppermint
September 29th, 2018 by diane92345

Another murder for Bailey to solve in the excellent cozy mystery, Premeditated Peppermint, the third entry in the Amish Candy Shop series.

Bailey works with her Amish grandmother and cousin in her deceased grandfather’s candy shop, Swissmen Sweets in rural Ohio. When Bailey’s NYC ex-boyfriend hits town, he asks her for help in filming the local Harvest Christmas Market for his reality series. Bailey has a table at the Market featuring peppermint candy.

When the series’ producer ends up dead with Eric as the prime suspect, Bailey investigates. Meanwhile, the mother of Bailey’s boyfriend, Deputy Aiden, asks Bailey for help making her pet pig, Jethro, a movie star.

I loved this series from the beginning. However, this entry is the best yet. It is a perfect blend of kooky locals, light romance, a pleasant setting, a tasty sounding recipe for Peppermint Bark and humor within an intriguing mystery.

Because the story moves forward in each entry in the series, it is best to read them in order. However, there is enough back story quickly presented in this book to allow Premeditated Peppermint to be read as a stand-alone too.

I can’t wait to read Toxic Toffee, the next series entry in the series, previewed in this book! Premeditated Peppermint does not disappoint. It is highly recommended to cozy mystery fans. 4 1/2 stars!

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Silver Anniversary Murder
September 28th, 2018 by diane92345

There are two mysteries in the Silver Anniversary Murder.

The first is the death of Lucy’s old friend Beth. Beth’s jump from her penthouse’s balcony is ruled a suicide. But Lucy, a reporter in small town Maine, doesn’t believe it. After all, Beth has three ex-husbands and one almost ex who all had motive to kill her.

The second is why Warren and Sylvia Bickford are having a town-wide celebration of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Sylvia is constantly putting Warren down in public. Could it just be a publicity stunt for her wedding shop and his limo service?

The Silver Anniversary Murder is the 25th book in the Lucy Stone series. I disliked the last entry, the Turkey Trot Murder, intensely. My 1 star review is here. I’m glad to report this entry has returned to form. It is recommended to cozy readers who want a nice simple evening’s entertainment. 3 stars!

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller
September 24th, 2018 by diane92345

“Your eyes are bigger than a hooch hound at a hop joint” says Jack in the Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller. That perfectly describes my feelings when I saw this delightful series return after a ten year long Big Sleep.

Penelope runs a bookstore with her aunt Sadie in Quindicott, Rhode Island. A widow, after her husband’s suicide, Penelope returns to her hometown with her eleven year old son. While renovating the bookstore, she disturbs Jack, the ghost of a 1940s hard-boiled detective. Jack offers Penelope much unsolicited advice in the patois of his time.

At the bookstore, new customer, Emma, sees an author photo on a steamy novel that disturbs her. While the author’s name is not familiar, the author’s photo is. It’s Emma herself! Without paying, Emma races out with the book in hand.

Penelope uncovers Emma’s address and goes there after work to recover the book. She finds the door unlocked, rare books everywhere and Emma dead of an apparent suicide. When incompetent Chief Ciders refuses to look into the case as a suspicious death, Penelope and Jack investigate.

I read most of this series as they were published in the 2000s. I always enjoyed the gentle joshing of Sam Spade type detectives. The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller carries on seamlessly in this tradition. Despite his language and tough guy attitude, Jack seems like a real and caring person. Emma is an excellent amateur detective who rarely makes a wrong move—mostly because of Jack’s help.

The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller is highly recommended for cozy mystery readers looking for something a bit different. There are plenty of suspects and deaths to keep armchair detectives busy. 4 stars!

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

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal Tagged with: ,

Die Me a River
September 8th, 2018 by diane92345

In Die Me a River, the small rural town of Scumble River is still recovering from the tornado in the last book in this cozy mystery series.

The town is abuzz with complaints about the shady practices of Homestead Insurance. Claims are being reduced, denied and seldom paid timely. When their insurance inspector turns up dead in a bombing, Police Chief Wally must investigate a plethora of suspects. Wally would much rather be at home with his school psychologist wife, Skye, and their still unnamed newborn twins. Skye is on maternity leave. She is seemingly being stalked by a new town resident, Millicent Rose, who just wants to go the twins’ baptism. According to their priest, Millicent has gone to both of the other baptisms since she arrived in town and gave each baby some type of verbal gift.

Die Me a River is the second in the rebooted Scumble River series. However, there were nineteen books in the original series too. Despite never reading any of those books, I had no trouble catching up with the character’s backstories. This works well as a stand-alone.

Most readers, and I include myself, read cozies more for the ambience and characters than for the puzzle. This book does a great job pulling the reader into small town Illinois life. While there are a lot of characters here, each has such a diverse personality it is is easy to keep them separated.

The two mysteries are well-presented. I actually liked the fairy godmother sub-plot better than the insurance main plot but that was just personal preference. I enjoyed the minor mystery around the naming of the babies too.

Die Me a River is a great, relaxing cozy mystery. It is recommended for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in someone else’s life for a day. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Deadly Habit: A theatrical mystery
August 25th, 2018 by diane92345

A Deadly Habit plops Charles Paris in a West End play where a real murderer is afoot.

Charles Paris “spent a great deal more time out of work than in”. But things are looking up when his lackluster agent Maurice finds him a three-month job playing a monk in The Habit of Faith in London’s West End. Little does Charles know that he will soon be investigating a cast member’s murder while also trying to quit drinking his beloved Bell’s whiskey and reunite with his long-estranged wife, Frances.

It is hard to believe this is the twentieth book in the series. I read the first one in middle school and nine more during my twenties. Charles’ life is still as feckless and humorous as I remember. There is no need to read the series in order though this one does share a few minor spoilers to the earlier books.

The mystery was relatively easy to solve with the clues and red herrings plain to see. The setting of a British play and its petty backstage grumblings was a nice change from the usual cozy’s crafts or small businesses as was using an older male amateur detective. The inclusion of the #MeToo movement modernizes a tale that could be set any time in the 20th or 21st century. Overall, there is enough different here to recommend A Deadly Habit to cozy fans. 3 stars!

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

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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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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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