cozy mystery

Review of ‘Starboard Secrets’

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Less than ten minutes after arriving for her first cruise, a dead body is found near the ship’s bar. There’s speculation that the victim, a clerk in one of the ship’s stores, was murdered. Millie had previously worked for her husband’s PI agency, and decides to investigate the crime. This gets someone on board the ship upset, and she gets threats, but with a new-found friend, she persists, even though her new boss is one of the prime suspects.
Starboard Secrets by Hope Callaghan is a humorous cozy mystery with an interesting cast of characters. This is a quick read that can be done in one sitting, and is actually quite entertaining.

I give this opening salvo in the cruise ship cozy mystery series three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Bake, Battle & Roll’

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When Lexy Baker is offered a job as a fill-in pastry chef at a trendy resort, she sees it as a great way to combine work and pleasure, and spend some quality time with her fiancé, Roger, and her grandmother, Nan. It would be ideal, except for the testy head chef, Alain Dugasse, whose temperament and harsh treatment of the kitchen staff grates on her. Then, Lexy finds Dugasse, face up near a dumpster behind the kitchen, with a chef’s knife in his chest, and she becomes the number-one suspect in his murder.
With her grandmother, and her octogenarian friends, who belong to an amateur sleuthing club, Lexy sets out to solve the crime before her vacation ends with her behind bars.
Bake, Battle, & Roll by Leighann Dobbs is a humorous, but at times, chilling, cozy mystery set in the backdrop of the culinary world. Sandwiched between the episodes of her search for an elusive killer, Lexy takes time out to canoodle with Roger and prepare dishes that, on paper at least, sound scrumptious.
A delightful summer read. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Wisdom of Father Brown’

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Father Brown, a rustic, English, Catholic priest, is hardly a heroic looking character, but his sharpness of mind and ability to get at the truth make him one of the most adept of fiction’s amateur sleuths. In a series of short stories first published in 1914, Father Brown’s creator, G. K. Chesterton pioneered the cozy mystery genre, mysteries where the protagonist is an often bumbling, well-meaning civilian who out-flanks the police in solving crimes.

In The Wisdom of Father Brown the reader is treated to Chesterton’s poetic use of language as was the mode in that era, and we meet Father Brown as he works his mental legerdemain to unmask a series of intriguing mysteries.

If you’ve ever watched any of the BBC’s ‘Father Brown’ shows, you’ll immediately recognize the cherubic priest with the rapier-sharp mind and often bumbling manner of stumbling upon the truth.

This is an entertaining trip back in time to a period when mysteries didn’t need four-letter words, gun battles, and car chases to be enjoyed. The language of the period will seem archaic and stiff to many modern readers, but the author was there, so one must assume that this is the way people actually talked.

I give this volume four stars.

Review of ‘From Garden to Grave’

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After two years of hunkering down in her apartment, Verity Hawkes is drawn out of her solitude when she receives a call from a lawyer from the village of Leafy Hollow, informing her that her aunt is missing. She travels to Leafy Hollow to take over her aunt’s landscaping business. When one of her clients ends up dead, Verity is a prime suspect. If she is to avoid being confined to a space worse than her apartment for much longer than two years, Verity has to solve the crime.

From Garden to Grave by Rickie Blair is a delightfully funny cozy mystery set in a small Canadian village. Populated with a cast of quirky characters, including the protagonist, it has all the twists and red herrings you’d expect from the genre, and is a thoroughly entertaining read. This is the author’s first book in the Leafy Hollow Mysteries series, and if this is anything to go by, this series will be a hit.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this author four stars for this one, and look forward to future offerings.

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.