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: cozy mystery, Nov 6 2018, series
Séances are for Suckers is a humorous take on old school romantic mysteries like The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart.
Ellie is the youngest of a set of triplets. On her eighteenth birthday, her mother is killed and her sister descends into a vegetative state. Her brother is an elementary school gym teacher. To earn the money for her sister’s long-term care, Ellie works as a fake medium. Ridding families of their ghosts frequently means more psychological than psychic assistance.
When Nicholas approaches Ellie with a project, she can’t resist even though Nicholas knows she is a fake. He wants Ellie to prove to his elderly mother that her ghost, Xavier, is someone’s childish game.
Once at the family’s ancient estate, Ellie suspects everyone including Nicholas of causing the ghostly events. It doesn’t help that Nicholas is devilishly handsome and apparently rich too. Plus there is the man-of-all-work, Thomas, who is equally handsome but so much less complicated than Nicholas. When Ellie literally stumbles over a corpse who is gone before she returns with help, Ellie begins to believe that this particular ghost may be real.
I actually liked the romance more than the mystery. Like Ellie, I started to feel like part of the family and really wanted it not to be an intentional fake haunting for profit. Séances are for Suckers is a very enjoyable romantic read perfect for a cozy night in with only your cat (or dog, if you are one of those people) for company. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: family drama, Oct 30 2018, series
Where are the haunts in Read and Gone, the second book in the Haunted Library series?
Carrie has her life on track. She has a boyfriend, a job as a library events coordinator and a cute cottage where the rent is cheap. So she isn’t happy when her thieving ex-con father, John, reappears one night after breaking into her house.
Within 24 hours, John is a person of interest in both a murder and a million dollar jewel heist. When he gets left for dead in a parking lot, he is hospitalized with a concussion for a week. John asks Carrie to find both the murderer and the gems stolen by the victim.
Since this is the second in the Haunted Library series, I expected more interaction with the resident ghost. She has basically a walk-on part. Her frequent clothing and hair styles changes are discussed. She dispenses some obvious advice and vanishes. Not having read the first in this series made it difficult to understand the motivations of the multitude of characters. I would highly recommend reading this series in order.
The lack of a paranormal plotline and an overly familiar mystery plot made Read and Gone a miss for me. 2 stars.
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Haunted Library, Sep 11 2018, series
The Jane Hawk series finally hits its stride with its fourth entry, The Forbidden Door.
The Techno Arcadians are upping their game by accusing Jane on a 60 Minutes-style show of murdering her beloved husband Matt and faking his suicide. The Arcadians set in motion a plan to kidnap or kill everyone dear to Jane. Ancel and Clare Hawk, Jane’s in-laws, must flee their farm. Jane and Matt’s five-year-old son, Travis, must flee across the desert. Even Jane is tracked by one of the Techno Arcadians as the net around Jane and all her loved ones is slowly tightened.
The villain this time is Egon Gottfrey. Egon believes in radical philosophical nihilism. Nothing is real. Only his mind exists guided by an Unknown Playwright. Why is he scarier than most villains? Because he has no fear of death. “Gottfrey has no objection to a shootout. His physical existence is an illusion; he can’t be killed.” Egon is also a vicious killer, who kills total strangers for fun. All without a nanobot implant. He is a world-class antagonist and the perfect foil to Jane’s over-the-top bada$$ery.
It is hard not to see the extremes of good and evil plus Jane’s incredible skills as a superhero tale. Finally, a Joker has been set against Jane’s Batman. This entry in the series is definitely the best so far. I would even recommend just reading this one rather than beginning with the first in the series. It is perfect for thriller fans. However, it would also work for superhero comic fans too. The Forbidden Door would make a great movie. Hopefully, it has already been optioned by someone. 5 stars!
Thanks to Bantam Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Jane Hawk, Sep 11 2018, series
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.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: cozy mystery, Sep 4 2018, series
This time it’s personal in Depth of Winter, the 14th entry in the Longmire series.
Sheriff Longmire is a long way from his Wyoming home in Mexico. He is looking for his daughter Cady who was kidnapped by the head of a Mexican drug cartel, Tomas Bidarte. His only help is the infamous US Border Patrolman Buck Guzman, a blind Seer, driver Alonzo and tattoo artist Bianca. Posing as a famous football player and being chauffered around in a bright pink Caddy doesn’t seem the best way to sneak up on Bidarte but Longmire somehow makes it work.
The change of setting to the heat of the Mexican desert contrasts nicely with usual coldness of Wyoming. There is an introduction to Mexican culture and Mexico’s current crime issues. A (wo)manhunt for an ethical cause always makes a compelling read. However, some of the plot seems rather unlikely considering the ruthlessness of Mexican drug cartels.
Depth of Winter is recommended for long time Longmire fans. I think it would be difficult for new readers of the series to begin here because of the emphasis on prior book’s plots especially the immediately preceding entry, The Western Star. Unfortunately, though it resolves the cliffhanger from the previous book, it is not one of the better books in the series. 3 stars.
Thanks to Viking Books and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Longmire, Sep 4 2018, series
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.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: cozy mystery, Sep 1 2018, series
Trust the rich to make Whatever’s Been Going on at Mumblesby? an intricate braintwister of a cozy mystery.
It’s 1981 and Flaxborough’s upper class neighboring town, Mumblesby, is in an uproar. First, solicitor Richard installed Zoe Claypole, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, in his house as his common law wife. Second, Richard died leaving his estate to Zoe. Finally, someone hatched an elaborate plan to burn down Richard’s house with Zoe in it. What about the expensive antiques with questionable provenance throughout Richard’s house? If you thought Flaxborough had some bizarre crimes, wait until you see Whatever’s Been Going on at Mumblesby?
It’s sad to think this is the last book in the Flaxborough series. I’ll miss this zany take-off on the Miss Marple type British village cozy mystery. However, Whatever’s Been Going on at Mumblesby? is an excellent end to the series. It is an intriguing puzzle sure to enchant all armchair detectives, myself included. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Farrago, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Aug 9 2018, Flaxborough, series
In the sixth Rosato and DiNunzio book, the firm is sued directly by Mary’s archnemesis, Nick Machiavelli. Three male plantiffs are alleging gender hiring discrimination and using the words of the firm’s sole male attorney against them. Hiring Roger Vitez to defend them, the firm is shocked to discover a murder. Now rushing to save their firm and find a killer, Bennie, Mary and Judy makes some strange bedfellows in Feared.
Mary’s Tony-filled family is always a treat. Her pragnancy issues are played mostly for laughs. However, there are plenty of twists for thriller fans. A good entry to the series with no spoilers to earlier books, Feared is highly recommended to thriller and Lisa Scottoline fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Aug 14 2018, series
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.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Aug 7 2018, cozy mystery, series
This time it’s personal for Sherlock and Savich in Paradox, the latest book in the FBI Thriller series.
Sherlock and Savich awake to an attempted kidnapping of their five-year-old son, Sean. Concurrently, Chief Ty witnesses a murder on a lake. When the lake is dragged for the victim, many old bones are found along with the new body. A old belt buckle is found with the victims that links the case to another in Sherlock and Savich’s history. The three stories intertwine as the plot plays out.
Regardless of which series I’m reading, Catherine Coulter never fails to keep me entertained. Even in the 22nd book in this series, the suspense is kept at a fever pace. Paradox begins with a breathless adrenaline rush and finishes with a twisty but not ultimately surprising finale. I liked Enigma, the immediately prior book in the series, more (review here) than this one but that was because of the science in that book. Still this book is highly recommended for thriller fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Gallery Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Jul 31 2018, serial killer, series, Sherlock & Savich
Five people are killed after a house party gets lethal in Measure of Darkness.
A confrontation between neighbors kills three including one of the combatants. A six-year-old is hit in his bed from crossfire. In the ensuing uproar, another party guest is run down in the street by a panicked young girl. But what of the girl found hidden in a shed strangled?
Coroner investigator, Clay Edison, is trying to determine the former name of the car victim to find her next of kin. Born a male and living on the street as female, the trans community shuts down Clay’s search for her parents. In the meantime, Clay hunts for the strangulation victim’s identity and the reason for her death.
Isaiah is targeted as the shooter when he goes to the hospital for a gunshot wound. He, one of the dead and their childhood friends Tuan can be seen on the many YouTube videos showing the confrontation. Tuan has fled. In the video, returning Tuan’s fire is Dane who is also in the wind.
Clay and Amy have their parents over for Christmas dinner. Luke, Clay’s just out of prison brother announces his engagement to surprise guest Andrea.
This is second book in the Clay Edison series after Crime Scene (review here). The books do not have to be read in order. The conclusion is twisty and satisfying. Giving a coroner investigator’s viewpoint within a traditional police procedural, Measure of Darkness is highly recommended to mystery fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Ballantine, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Coroner, Jul 31 2018, series
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.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: cozy mystery, Jul 31 2018, series
“The world never ran out of monsters.” Earl Marcus is back fighting them In the Valley of the Devil.
In the rural Georgia mountain countryside, a new preacher has arrived. Jeb Walsh is running for the Senate, pushing his book and preaching his version of hate and intolerence at his town square rally. In the meantime, racist graffiti is turning up all over town. A rumor about Old Nathaniel, a hooded racist killer, has resurfaced after several African-Americans are reported missing.
Earl has recovered from the incidents in Heaven’s Crooked Finger (see my review). He is now a private detective. When his African-American Atlanta police officer girlfriend, Mary, is kidnapped, Earl pulls out all the stops to find her.
In the Valley of the Devil really lives up to the thriller label. It is an exhilarating pulse-pounding ride to the finish. Highly recommended but I cannot overemphasize the need to read Heaven’s Crooked Finger first. Events in the first book continue to impact the characters in this book plus there are major spoilers in here. Luckily, both the first book and this one are excellent and earn 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Jul 10 2018, series, Southern Gothic
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: cozy mystery, Flaxborough, Jun 14 2018, series
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.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: 1970s, cozy mystery, Flaxborough, May 31 2018, Police procedural, series