December Reading…

The Santa Klaus Murder is actually a reread. I forgot I had read it until I got started and just decided to finish. A manor house murder mystery set at Christmas time complete with a Santa running around. A enjoyable holiday mystery.

The Christmas Invitation was a fun holiday women’s fiction read. A beautiful home in a bucolic setting, complete with snow and holiday decorations. A misunderstandings from the past intruding on the present. A big boisterous family with lovely traditions and a lonely portrait artist recovering from illness, all make for a completely lovely Christmas read.

Sweet Water feels like a very timely novel with the discussion of privilege and the lives the uber wealthy lead. In this mystery, Sarah, is the wrong side of the tracks girl who marries Martin, a man far above her station. She seems to have spent the marriage enjoying the perks but not really understanding what they mean or where they are coming from, perhaps preferring to stick her head in the sand. Her son becomes involved in horrible crime and Sarah must decide who she is, who she wants her son to be, and what price she is willing to pay. Overall, a good read, I did think the reason behind the crime was pretty obvious early on but I still enjoyed the book.

Frozen Minds is book 2 in the DI Winter Meadows series. The case here involves a murder in which the body is discovered in the freezer of a care home for adults with disabilities. As the detectives work on the case, the reader meets several of the residents and the care home workers. There is quite an obvious red herring thrown out early on and the murder is not the only crime occurring. This was an okay read. I actually went back and checked the publication date because it really came across somehow as dated feeling, but it was published in 2016. Not sure that I’d read more in this series.

Murder in the Manor is a cozy mystery set in England with an American protagonist. Lacey Doyle is reeling from her recent divorce and decides to return to the last place she had memories of her father. The small town initially starts off as a vacation destination, but Lacey decides to use her contacts and set up an antique shop in an empty store front. One of the first people who approaches her to do a valuation lives in the elegant manor house outside the village. Unfortunately when Lacey arrives, she not only finds antiques but also a dead body. As a newcomer and the person who found the body, fingers point her way rather quickly and she sets out to investigate to clear her name. Cute cozy mystery read, you just need to suspend your belief a bit at the seemingly bottomless well of money Lacey has to fund her entire expedition.

Ring Around the Rosie is a mystery with a bit of supernatural bent to it. The Rosie of the title is our protagonist’s long dead sister, Rosie, who was murdered and no one was ever caught. Rosie appears at will to chat with Olivia. A second body appears with seeming connections to Rosie’s murder and Olivia starts trying to look into the past with the help of her friend Nate. Good psychological thriller read.

The Sussex Downs Murder

This is the third John Bude mystery I have read. All of them have been reprintings as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. I have to say of this entire series I really like the John Bude books more than many of the others.

In this book, we have a pair of brothers, one missing presumed murdered, a beautiful young wife and a gruesome discovery. Superintendent Meredith has his hands full as the clues point first in one direction and then the other. An interesting mystery leading to an uncommon resolution. The case is uncovered through dogged police work even down to the filling of gas tanks and driving and redriving routes to uncover what may have happened. A really enjoyable classic mystery novel that deserves more attention.

Several reads from this Autumn…

Twelve Angry Librarians is the 8th book in the Cat in the Stacks mystery. In this Charlie finds himself stressed out by the hosting of a Library convention, especially when he discovers an old nemesis is due to be speaking at the convention. This is an always wonderful series and this installment does not disappoint. Charlie and Diesel become embroiled in a murder as one of the convention attendees is killed in front of an audience. There are also subplots from Charlie’s personal life as he is about to be a grandfather, his romantic interest is making a change in her life, and he has to make a decision about his position at the library. Fun cozy mystery read.

Pietr the Latvian is a book that I was looking forward to for quite a while, ever since I watched both versions of the Maigret TV series. Twisting turning plot as Maigret tracks down a villain. Very atmospheric and full of tension, all the makings of book you can’t put down. Maigret is a great detective character and one that makes me want to read more in this series.

Say it with Poison, the first in the Mitchell and Markby series, is a book I’ve had on my TBR for a while. From the description, it sounds like everything I would be interested in reading. Unfortunately, it falls short and I can’t even say why. It just felt like a struggle for me to keep going with it. I didn’t really like the sleuth. The action felt almost non-existent. I won’t be reading any more of this.

The Last Resort was an impulse download, I believe it was a free Amazon First Reads. A weak attempt at a Christie-esque, And Then There Were None crossed with some high tech version of Survivor. Fairly obvious early on as to who the villain was and the reason why. Not the book for me, I’m sorry to say.

Trick or Treat or Die was a impulse download from Amazon, I was looking for a Halloween cozy. The saying don’t judge a book by its cover applies here. Definitely not cozy, it concerns a violent rampage at a Halloween festival. There is also the killing of animals referenced and on screen. For someone interested in reading books about mass killings, like school shootings or the like, this might be the book for you.

I received a free ebook copy of Privilege from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Sorry to say this was a “did not finish” for me. I just couldn’t get into this book at all. After a few attempts, I gave up and moved on to others.

I received a free ebook copy of The Man in the Microwave Oven from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Theo is a British expat who owns a soap store in San Francisco. She is trying to keep a low profile and avoid detection after events in her native England. Murder is not very low profile and so when her neighborhood becomes the scene of one, she is definitely concerned. The murder ends up leading to a world of international espionage, old spies, and more entanglements with her family. An okay mystery read.

I received a free ebook copy of When the Past Kills from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. This was a really good mystery in the DI Ridpath series. This series is different from many others as DI Ridpath is assigned to the Coroner’s Office mainly and the perspective towards investigating is different from the standard police force. The mystery itself here was twisted, full of tension and action. This will keep up late turning the pages to finish.

I received a free ebook version of In Bad Company from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. This is book 9 in the Sandhamm Murders series. In this installment, the action centers on Bosnian refugees, organized crime, and domestic abuse. The actions of some of the characters can perhaps be linked to their experiences although that does not excuse any of them. The main focus is a young Swedish mother, Mina, who married a man, who is more monster than man. Nora and Thomas find themselves in a difficult fight to nail down this elusive criminal figure who uses terror and the law to stay ahead of them and out of jail. Very good mystery read.

I received a free ebook version of Death by French Roast from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. This is book 8 in the series and I have not read all the others before it, but that did not hinder my enjoyment of this one. The death of Krissy’s neighbor, although not a murder itself, does draw Krissy into the investigation of unsolved cold case. As she learns of the mystery surrounding “Uncle Wade” and his connection to Rita, a friend of hers, Krissy decides to look into it. Uncovering old secrets and rivalries that have long been brewing. Fun, fast cozy read.

Super Short Check in:

September is always a crazy month for me and this year is even more so with the whole virtual back to school thing going on and so although I am still reading, I really have not had much time to review or post.

Just an FYI, Thin Crust Killers and Assault and Batter are later books in long running series that I enjoy and have been reading for a while. They are by the same author. I would recommend both series The Pizza Mysteries and The Donut Mysteries. Both 4 star cozy reads.

The Ice Princess is a Nordic Noir read. There is a lot of really good Nordic Noir right now and I would say this was just average. Probably about a 3 star read. The main characters were okay, but it seemed to get distracted in the middle and the ancillary characters were not that well done.

Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs was a really good cozy mystery read. The series so far has been great and this was no exception. The characters and setting are all very well done. Writing is above par in the field Definitely a strong 4 star cozy

The Last Kashmiri Rose is not my usual genre being historical, but it was a really interesting read. The time period, the aspects of British colonialism, and the military life in India were all written about. I did find some aspects of the resolution a little hard to believe, but it was still a good read. Probably 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.

All Sales Fatal and Malled to Death are books 2 and 3 in the Mall Cop series from Laura DiSilverio. I really enjoyed this series, which I believe is discontinued as there have been no further books for a while. I will say that I purchased these two as Kindle books from Amazon and book 3 appeared to be an uncorrected proof, which was a little odd. There were still notes in the book ( add xxxx here ) (build in back story….) etc. That being said I love the characters and the plot from these books. 4 star cozy mysteries.

Survival of the Fritters and A Deadly Inside Scoop are both firsts in new series, they were both okay but I’m not sure that either one grabbed me enough that I would continue with these series. 3 stars

Plantation Shudders is a series I’ve been meaning to get to for a while and I just picked it up from the library and really did enjoy it. I found the characters and the mystery plot well done and interesting . 4 stars.

Some mysteries…

Die Buying is the first in the Mall Cop series. This series was recommended to me multiple times by multiple cozy readers but I’ve never picked it up because,quite frankly, the theme did nothing for me, a mall cop or malls in general just didn’t seem appealing. I really regret now that I didn’t because this series ended up having a rather short run, a 3 book series, and it really is excellent. The protagonist is a veteran on military medical discharge. She was an MP and hasn’t had any luck finding civilian police work and took the closest work to it. The story line is well done and there is an interesting cast of supporting characters. A well written engaging cozy mystery. I am going to finish the series.

Cake and Punishment and Batter Off Dead are books 1 and 2 in the A Southern Cake Baker Mystery Series. I picked up both of these from the library. Sophia Cummings, a trained pastry chef has returned home from NY to recuperate from her broken heart. While home she gets roped into providing cakes for upcoming events as the town’s bakery recently closed. She also stumbles over a dead body or two and gets embroiled in murder investigations. This is fun series and walks a really nice line between being light-hearted enough for a cozy audience and to build that warm homey feeling without becoming silly. I enjoyed these two but I am not sure if there will be more in the series or not as the last one was published in 2018.

My Sister’s Bones is psychological mystery with an investigative journalist who travels the world, probably to avoid looking to hard at the issues that await her at home. The death of her mother triggers a return to home and confrontations head on with her own PTSD from the horrors she has encountered both in her work and in being raised with a violent drunk. She begins to see a small child next door in an ostensibly childless household and no one believes her. The story is told in her interviews in the police station and in events as they happen. There were some really good elements here but somehow as a whole I found just an okay read. A mash up perhaps of Dorothy Whipple’s Charlotte and Geoffrey from They were Sisters, some Girl on a Train, and Room?

Rosemary’s Gravy was an okay cozy mystery more focused on the romantic sub plots than the mystery. I think I probably am not the target demographic for this Hollywood celebrity chef themed cozy.

How to Bake a Murder is a cute short cozy. First in a series featuring a grandmother who is hosting her very reluctant grandmother to give her daughter a break from some teenage rebellion time. The Grandmother, Cookie, runs a bakery which she lives above and is currently barely breaking even. A regular customer dies in the shop and now rumors abound, in the midst of all this a developer swans in with offers to buy up the shop. Cookie wants to clear her name, figure out who killed her customer, and try to hang on to her shop. There are also some romantic side plots. Cute cozy, on the shorter side, currently free as a Kindle book.

The Corpse Who Knew Too Much & For Letter or Worse

I was really excited to see the 4th Food Blogger mystery on NetGalley and requested in right away. I love this series about Hope and her blog, Hope at Home. This time winter has socked in with plenty of snow giving that sense of isolation to the town. An old friend of Hope’s has returned home determined to finally solve the disappearance of her mother. There are plenty of people in town who would just rather that “all that unpleasantness” be left to rest. When a new murder occurs, Hope knows there is a connection and sets out to find out what happened all those years ago.

The Corpse Who Knew Too Much is a great installment in the series. I loved the introduction of the true crime podcasting, it gives a very modern vibe to the cozy. This is a cozy that manages to maintain the traditional feel with characters you want to befriend, the warmth and small town appeal, and yet also brings in the modern world. Good mystery plot and a variety of characters and possible villains to choose from in the investigation. Great read for cozy fans!

For Letter or Worse is the second in the Stationery Shop Mystery series. The theme and the setting of this series are both just amazing. I love stationery and the locale of Tundish, Montana stands out. Even the idea of the store being located in a repurposed jail building is unique and adds to the sense of place. The store owners are called on to host a craft table for a wealthy woman’s birthday celebration which ends abruptly with a murder. After events in the first book, Delta is no stranger to being in the middle of an investigation and she seems to be pulled into this one as well. Fine cozy mystery.

One by One, House of Lies, & The Cooking School Murders

One by One by Ruth Ware reminds me very much of her earlier book, In a Dark, Dark Wood, which I enjoyed greatly when I read it. This builds that sense of claustrophobic menace. Here we have a ski chalet and the weather with an avalanche cutting them all off causing the isolation. A team of wealthy tech entrepreneurs have met for their company retreat and find themselves at odds over the fate of the company involving millions. The tech staff and the chalet staff of two are stranded and then the dying begins.

This had a great sense of place and an interesting protagonist to root for throughout. I think the weakness what that the villain was pretty obvious fairly early on. I did like the story line and the idea of the tech company Snoop.

House of Lies is book four in series of which I have not read the first three, but that did not really seem to be an issue with jumping in here. DS Karen Hart is called in to look into what is initially a missing person case and seems somewhat premature as the girls are almost adults and they have not yet been gone 24 hours. Natasha and Cressida are staying at a Manse turned convention center currently hosting an expensive cram session for children of well off parents who want to give their kids a leg up on exams. They had purportedly decided to take a night off of cramming and hit the town and simply not shown up for breakfast. Suspicious characters abound and soon the case does turn into a murder investigation.

This was a really interesting case with many twists and turns. The characters were all nicely developed. The resolution was very well done. I would want to read more in the series. A very good police procedural.

The Cooking School Murder has been on my TBR for quite a while. Ever since I got hooked into Culinary cozies with the Diane Mott Davidson series, I meant to read the series that is supposed to be the one that started the genre and that is this series, the Eugenie Potter series by Virginia Rich. Virginia Rich published this book, the first in the series in 1982. She published 2 more books in the series before her death. She left notes for a couple more and her friend, Nancy Pickard continued the series.

The title is somewhat of a misnomer, the mystery is not really about a cooking school, the book starts off with a group people who signed up at Eugenie’s request for an Adult Education Cooking course being offered in the Home Ec Room at the local High School. After the murder(s) occur, the course is not revisited.

The good here: I loved the character of Eugenie, the food descriptions, the recipes. The crime was interesting and clever. There is an acknowledgement of classism, which was surprising for the time period. The historical context of the development of culinary cozies is easy to trace from this. Typical things we still see in modern culinary cozies occur here such as, events occur in the story and Eugenie cooks a dish or describes a dish. The townsfolk being introduced, especially in the first book in a series, and the small town “everyone knows everyone” atmosphere which are staples in many cozies. She even uses a technique I even seen in other series of writing out scenarios for how each of her “suspects” could have done it”, as a way of showing the sleuth’s thoughts.

The bad:

It does have a dated feel to it, which is understandable to a certain extent, but I was an adult in the 80s and this feels dated to me. Particularly in the discussion of homosexuality in relation to the character of Edward and to the use of the word gay. This might be because there is somewhat of a Christian bend here. Also in general some of the techniques, like her self dialogue as to her suspects “stories” are clunky.

Overall, I am glad that I read this, simply because it was interesting to see how Culinary cozies have developed.

Gluten-Free Murder, Cream Puff Murder, Frozen, Interference, Grounds for Murder, and Cake Popped Off

Cake Popped Off is the second in a series, I will admit I have not read the first and perhaps that left me at somewhat of a disadvantage. This involved a young woman, Emory, who is working as a live in caretaker of a wealthy lady, Tillie. At the same time, she is starting up a cupcake catering business. There is an assortment of Tillie’s family members, who seem all after her money. I felt that some of the characters where just too much like stereotypes of the obnoxious entitled wealthy women and men, without enough nuance to make them stand out. The culinary cozy field is a tough field and this was an okay book.

Grounds for Murder is not the first cozy that I’ve read with this title. I’ve actually read a few coffee house themed cozies. I love the Cleo Coyle series so I do seek them out, but many pale in comparison to that one, but this is really good! It feels modern and I wasn’t disappointed by it all. The character of Lana as the coffee shop manager/owner’s daughter/used to be reporter made a believable sleuth. The other characters were fleshed out and added to the story and the setting was well done. I figured out the culprit with the clues provided, but I still enjoyed the story right up to the end and would read another in this series. Great new Coffee House series.

Gluten-Free Murder was a Kindle book I found as I scrolled through unread titles on my Kindle. I really have no idea why I picked it up, whether it was a freebie or not. In this first in a new series, Erin comes to town to claim her inheritance. Her aunt has died and left her a tea shop and house. Erin has grown up in foster care and has really latched on to this as the opportunity of a lifetime. She is re-imagining the tea shop as a gluten free bakery. At her launch party, the town’s only other baker dies in her shop, which of course makes her the prime suspect. There are some fun characters, her assistant Vic, Officer Piper and K9, and William Andrews adding to the local color. I didn’t go into this with a lot of expectations, but it was a well done mystery and the tension really ratcheted up in the latter half of the book. Overall, a very good cozy mystery!

Frozen is a short story by Ann Cleeves, one of my favorite authors, set in the Vera story line. It is a brief case that Vera gets involved in when she actually has a day off. I normally do not read too many short stories, however this one is free on Amazon (at least when I purchased it). Vera is visiting an old church when a body is discovered. Artifacts on the body trigger her memory of missing child and Vera immediately knows who the body is and starts an investigation. Great short interlude into Vera and her team’s work.

Interference is a scientific thriller. Very much involved in the world of physics and working on transference of sub atomic particles and then larger and larger particles and attempting to manipulate them. The scientist, Mark, involved is kidnapped and then held for ransom. There are several red herrings to keep the reader dancing round in circles. There is government agency involvement as well. This was a good read for anyone interested in science heavy thrillers.

Cream Puff Murder is book 11 in the Hannah Swenson series. In this outing, Hannah is put in a desperate situation. Her mother is having a regency themed book release party and has ordered dresses for all her daughters. Hannah’s doesn’t fit, working in a cookie bakery will do that for you. She only has a few weeks to rectify the situation. She joins her sister in attending a workout studio at the mall where a trainer works who is rather thoroughly disliked by most of the women she comes in contact with. Hannah finds her body and launches her own investigation as many of the people she knows are implicated in some kind of relationship with the trainer. As always there are lots of recipes and side plots involving Hannah and Norman and Mike and Hannah’s sisters. Fun cozy read with familiar characters who feel like friends.

The Hidden Things & The Chalk Circle Man

The Chalk Circle Man is a French Noir mystery. It is the first in the Commissaire Adamsburg Series. Adamsburg is an unconventional officer with an admirable solve rate for murders. He is relocated to an office in Paris when a series of strange chalk circles begin appearing throughout the city. At first they are the subject of humor and much speculation by the population, but Adamsburg, who relies on his ability to sense cruelty and evil intent, believes that the perpetrator will escalate to murder. A dark and in many places cheerless police procedural. The plot was definitely engaging although I found the resolution somewhat of a stretch. Well written and fast paced, a very enjoyable read.

The Hidden Things is an art heist based mystery. The sale of painting went very wrong with people ending up dead and one historian maimed and on the run. Now several years later, a different crime occurs and home security camera footage goes viral offering a glimpse that appears to show the painting in question. The surviving original players are once again drawn together for a confrontation. There were interesting moments and some strongly drawn characters here along with plenty of twists and turns to make for an entertaining story line.

Where the Truth Lies, Cold Killing, Carrot Cake Murder, The Dentist, and Crime in the Choir

These are books sourced from either my local library on Hoopla or Kindle Freebies.

Cold Killing was a title I saw on a blog and found on Hoopla so I picked it up. This was a kind of a spin on the tortured detective in that DI Sean Corrigan had a horrific childhood, however he managed to overcome it and is not the trainwreck cop that we so often see with severe drug/alcohol/violence issues. He is married and just uses his experiences and insights into the deviant mind to solve cases. In this first outing in the series, he is tracking a serial killer even when others don’t really see the connections.

This was well written and plotted. A dark psychological thriller with a strongly developed character in Sean Corrigan at the head of it. I would read another in this series.

Where the Truth Lies is also the first in a new series, the DI Ridpath series. In the series opener, DI Ridpath is returning to duty from fighting a serious bout of cancer. The issue is that even though he is a good officer, they don’t really want him back since he collapsed on duty. In an attempt to shuffle him out they place him in the Coroner’s office. He is responsible now for performing the investigations for the coroner. This was really interesting to see the difference between what the concerns are from a coroner’s perspective and from the police perspective in investigating death. I found this a great read even though it was a little gruesome, with some torture scenes. I will definitely read another.

Crime in the Choir is the first book in the series but the second one of these I’ve read. I believe that I read one as a book club read, but I’m not absolutely certain. The book surrounds a boy’s choir school and the discovery of two bodies during a dig. The bodies are found to be of students who disappeared twenty years ago. As the investigation proceeds, this develops as a solid police procedural, but it is also quite scary with a nicely drawn sense of menace about the setting . I was drawn in to the plight of Nat and Julian and definitely felt the need for urgency pushing me to turn the pages. Good read!

Carrot Cake Murder is book 10 in Joanne Fluke’s long running Hannah Swenson series. I love the characters and the town. They just feel like friends. I will say I stopped reading the series for a little bit because the love triangle felt a little mean to me, but I understand from people who are up to date on it that it resolved so I am now continuing. This book did not disappoint for what I expect from the series. Hannah stumbles, literally, on the body of a man who had recently returned to town. She investigates, as do her love interests. As always there is lovely food to eat and bake. All ends well in Lake Eden!

The Dentist is this month’s read over at the Kindle English Mystery Book Club. This was also a free Kindle book, at least when I purchased it. A man’s body is found. Initially, the thought it is that it will be difficult to solve as it seems to be “homeless on homeless” crime. But some things do not seem to add up, expensive dental work, special contacts, etc. Eventually, as the investigation unfolds connections are made to the past and there seem to be many paths to take to find out who the killer was and why they killed.

Much is made here of the detective, DS George Cross, as he is on the autism spectrum and has many traits that are discussed sometimes negatively and are key to his crime solving during the novel. There are so many detective novels with the detective exhibiting autism traits that I am not entirely sure how I feel about it. I have read many from The Curious Incident… a while ago, to just last week Some Choose Darkness . I’ve enjoyed the writing and the plots. I just wonder at times how autistic individuals feel about this plethora of fiction depicting them all as these crime solving savants. Anyway food for thought:

BookRiot article on writing autistic characters

Another article from Crime Reads