cozy mystery

Review of ‘Murder at the Jolly Jester’

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As the live-in manager of the Jolly Jester, Roland Rowntree lives an almost normal life. Normal, that is, until his barman, Sam, interrupts his morning routine to inform that there’s a dead body in the bar. Old Pete, one of the Jolly Jester’s regulars, is sitting in a back booth with a machete in his head, and the only viable suspect is Roland. Now, he knows he’s innocent, but no one else seems to believe him, so he’s left with nothing to do but solve the crime himself. He plunges his somewhat overweight body into the case, and with the help of the mysterious Miriam begins to uncover age-old secrets of the small village of Duckley that some rather dangerous people want to keep hidden.

Murder at the Jolly Jester by Ian Thompson is a droll mystery, the first in what promises to be an interesting series featuring the hapless Roland Rowntree. British writers excel in the cozy mystery, and Thompson has added a new wrinkle—humor. A nice fireside read.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this opening salvo in the series four stars.

Review of ‘Murder Western Style’

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It was supposed to be a nice, quiet day at a local rodeo for sisters, Lea and Maddy, but things take a turn for the worse when a local rancher who’d been in a confrontation with Maddy’s friend, Scott, is found shot to death. The murder weapon belongs to Scott, but when the investigating detective, Tom, who has romantic feelings for Maddy, focuses on Scott as the prime suspect, she’s determined to prove his innocence.

She has trouble convincing Lea to help her investigate until Lea’s husband, Paul, learns that one of his clients, a land developer, is also a suspect because the victim had been refusing to sell his land to the client’s assistant. Paul had been against Lea’s involvement in criminal investigations, but, like Maddy, he’s convinced that his client is innocent and asks her to help prove it.

With no shortage of suspects, the two sisters begin to dig into everyone’s background, and in doing so, turn over rocks, exposing many dark secrets that people would rather remain hidden. All this is happening against the backdrop of Tom trying to bring down a shadowy figure known only as the Kingpin, the boss of an extensive drug and trafficking operation in coastal California.

The disparate threads of the two cases come together in an explosive conclusion in Murder Western Style by Rayna Morgan. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries with protagonists who are always one step ahead of the police and the bad guys, you’ll love this book. It moves like a sidewinder from start to finish, and sinks its teeth into you without warning.

I received a free copy of this book

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Deadly Gamble’

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Charlie Parker is an accountant and partner in a PI firm with her elder brother. When an old friend, shows up at her firm asking her help to retrieve an expensive watch that was stolen from her by a man with whom she was having an affair, Charlie is conflicted. The friend ran off with Charlie’s fiancé, causing much heartbreak, and she’s reluctant to become involved. But, her natural curiosity and desire to help someone who is clearly troubled, causes her to take on the case. She quickly retrieves the watch, and thinks that’s the end of it, until the miscreant, a shady con man with a checkered past, is found shot to death in his driveway, and her old friend is the prime suspect.

Charlie is convinced the friend, despite their past troubled relationship, is innocent, and over her brother’s objections, begins to investigate. She’s no investigator, though, and makes many a false start, making herself the target of a mysterious assailant, as she pries into the dead man’s background, in the process disturbing a number of people who would rather not become involved.

Deadly Gamble by Connie Shelton is an e-book release of the author’s first novel in the Charlie Parker cozy series, which was published before the advent of electronic books, and has been reissued unchanged from the original. This is a well-plotted cozy mystery, with lots of red herrings and false clues that also has many of the faults of first novels. The few gaffes notwithstanding, the author’s skill shines through as she takes the heroine on a fast-paced journey to the resolution, which comes like a bolt out of the blue that will trip up even the most devoted mystery fans.

If you’ve never read Shelton before, this book is a good gamble, and is likely to whet your appetite for more of her work. I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Facade’

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Iris Reid, an architect, is asked to teach a special course on architecture at Harvard. There, she meets Xander DeWitt, a famous Dutch architect, who is also a guest lecturer. When DeWitt is implicated in the case of a young girl, a Cambridge student, but claims that he’s never met the girl before, Iris finds herself in the position of being able to give him an alibi for the time the girl went missing, but unsure if he’s actually innocent.

The more she learns about the case, and about Xander, the more confused she becomes. Is he, as he claims, being framed, or is he an accomplished child predator, using her to cover his crime?

Façade by Susan Cory is a finely-tuned cozy mystery, with a long list of suspects, plenty of red herrings, and a surprise ending that marks this author as someone to keep an eye on.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘A Crabby Killer’

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There’s nothing funny about murder—unless it happens to have been committed on Mooseamuck Island off the coast of Maine, and Claire Watkins and Dominic ‘Dom’ Benedetti happen to be investigating it. The islanders aren’t too worried about the body of an ‘outsider’ being found stuffed inside a large crab pot on the eve of the island’s big crab festival, provided it doesn’t interfere with the festivities. Claire and Dom, though, are like old firehouse dogs, when a crime has been committed, despite their advanced ages, they answer the call of the firehouse alarm.

A Crabby Killer by Leighann Dobbs is a cozy mystery about two old timers, one a former criminal psychology consultant and the other a former cop, who, having solved a murder less than a year earlier, find excitement in the chase, even though they find it difficult at first to work with each other. They doggedly follow the clues, each with a different suspect in mind, until they literally stumble over the truth. Tense, but at times, immensely funny, this book is like a good crab boil—tasty.

I give it four stars.