Three reads…

These are my latest three reads, State of the Onion was this month’s read for the Cozy Mystery Corner on Goodreads. This was an okay cozy mystery, more action or tension than the average cozy and less character development.  I think this is mainly due to the White House setting and all the attendant security and political issues.  The book was well written and paced, however some of it seemed to push hard at the boundaries of belief suspension.  Many readers do enjoy this series and so I am inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt and think about reading another in the series.

Stirring the Plot is the third in the Cookbook nook series by Daryl Wood Gerber, who also writes the Cheese Shop Mysteries that I like under the name of Avery Aames.  This book has a Halloween setting and witches abound, all in good fun until one of them ends up dead.  The witches, a charitable group, and others come under suspicion and the twists and turns uncover secrets and misdirect the reader and Jenna, the sleuth.  The romance subplot begun in earlier books continues to develop here as does Jenna’s life and immersion in the community, which she moved to in order to recover from her husband’s death.  I heartily recommend this fun, fast paced cozy mystery.

Making Marion was an impulse pick up for me from the library. I was scanning the new arrival shelves and the cover popped out at me.  This book handles the topic of childhood neglect and its impacts sensitively without being maudlin.  Marion is still, as an adult, dealing with the rejection from her mother and the resulting selective mutism, but has bravely chosen to strike out on her own in search of answers about her beloved father who died when she was a child.  She meets a motley crew of campground characters and makes her way into their unconventional “family” with the help of Scarlett, the owner.  Lovely happy ending after some bittersweet moments, themes of loving yourself, forgiveness and family are all explored in this charming book. I will definitely look for more by this author, Beth Moran.

I “read” another book besides these three this week, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.

I read this as the November read for the Kindle English Mystery book club.  I use the word read lightly.  This book is organized into a series of loosely connected short stories with recurring characters.  I read the first one and then skipped around and read another.  Finally, I skimmed most of it.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into the character or the book.  To be fair I don’t really read many historical fictions and very few with religious undertones, so it might work for other readers.

By Cook or By Crook by Maya Corrigan

Just finished this new cozy mystery, first in the series of Five Ingredient Mysteries.  I enjoyed reading this one, more than I expected.  The cover drew me in…I know, I’m shallow, but the idea of  5-ingredient recipes is not, on its own, a big draw for me.  The protagonist, Val,  has crashed and burned from her big city life as a cookbook publicist and has arrived at her grandfather’s home, ostensibly to get the house packed up, sold, and him moved, but really to work on her own cookbook and find her footing again.

Her day job is in  a fitness club cafe and on the side she is working on her own recipes.  Her grandfather is somewhat of a typical grouchy old man with a heart of gold.  He seems to have her best interests at heart, although he is not against finding something in it for himself.  There is a lot going on between real estate deals, tennis fanatics, affairs, disguises, gambling rings, fraudulent business practices, and murder.  There is also a romantic subplot with two love interests to choose between.  Aside from the main murder mystery and the romantic subplot, there is also a mystery from Val’s past which  she is trying to work through but can’t quite remember due to the side effects of a concussion.

Lots going on and lots to think about making for a fast, fun cozy read.

And as an aside the recipes were not what I thought.  When I think of the 5 ingredient recipes, I think bland, tasteless food or worse the classic …”start with a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup” recipes and these didn’t seem like that.  I am tempted to try out the crab cake recipe because it really sounds good.

Rebel Without a Cake by Jacklyn Brady

  I really enjoy this series set in New Orleans with Rita Lucero as the protagonist, bakery owner and reluctant sleuth.  In this outing Halloween is fast approaching, Edie is pregnant and not dealing well, Miss Frankie is volunteering Rita for things without her consent and there is still more discontent in the bakery mainly coming from Ox, who still seems to harbor resentment about Rita’s ownership and management of the Zydeco bakery.

Rita gets drawn into a “field trip” with Miss Frankie and her neighbor Bernice to a small remote town and there she stumbles over a body.  The mystery  plot twists and turns alternating with other story lines involving Edie and Miss Frankie and the not very likable Evangeline Delahunt.  The settings of both New Orleans and the isolated Baie Rebelle are well described and help draw the reader into the story.

Fun, cozy mystery read probably best read in order with the rest of the series.

The Fat Woman Mystery and One Dead Cookie

  These are my two latest cozy mystery reads.  I got The Fat Woman Mystery on my Kindle for $2.99 after seeing it advertised.  I enjoyed it, especially the realistic discussion of the differences between the casual dieter, 10 to 20 pounds to lose, and the life long dieter with serious issues with food in the obese to morbidly obese category.  The main character, Margaret, is very likable and easy to relate to, at least for me.  She doesn’t want pity or sympathy from her friends, other members of her diet club, as she deals with the death of her husband.  She is in a not so small case of denial about her grief.

The mystery was interesting and tied together lots of pieces very nicely.  My first issue with this is that I found that the book seemed short, either that or it was a very quick read.  The second is that I found the theme really similar to another series that I really, really love by JB Stanley AKA Ellery Adams, the Supper Club Mysteries.  I couldn’t help compare the two, with the Supper Club Mysteries coming out on top as far as character development and richness of setting and story line.

One Dead Cookie is the fourth book in a Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery.  I really enjoy this series.  The main character, Olivia owns the shop and lives above it with her dog.  She is busy dealing with baking for her best friend Maddie’s engagement party.  The party gets wilder when a B list celebrity arrives and the murder occurs.  The murder is connected to people who stayed in the area and to an old unsolved crime.  On top of the murder, there are other smaller crimes occurring muddying the waters.  I really do enjoy this series, but I will say this was not my favorite it it so far.  I am looking forward to reading the next one nonetheless.

The Wolfe Widow & Crime Rib

  These are the latest two cozy mysteries I have read.

The Wolfe Widow is the third in the book collector series by Victoria Abbott. I really enjoy this well written series.  I will say I got a little nervous in the beginning which starts out with our protagonist, Jordan, losing her position with the difficult to please Vera Van Alst. I was afraid that the whole tenor of the series was about to change.   The mystery is an interesting twist on this series that usually revolves around stolen books in that the books take more of a back seat here.  Jordan follows up on clues about the suspected villain with the help of Uncle Kev, but the rest of her side kicks seem to have disappeared.  All is explained in a neatly wrapped up conclusion after many twists and turns.

A very well written series, good mystery plot with excellent pacing and tension building, I would highly recommend this book (but start with the first in the series).

I am happy that I gave Crime RIb a chance.  I really wasn’t going to read it because the first in this series Death Al Dente didn’t really work for me,  but I kept hearing good things about the second book.  The mystery was well done and kept you guessing until close to the end.  I liked the characters much more than I remember liking them.   The food and festival details were fun and certainly kept me interested.

This was definitely a case of the series improving as it progressed or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood when I read the first one.

Do or Diner & Fat Cat at Large

  I finished these two cozies in the last couple days.

Do or Diner was this month’s group read at the Cozy Mystery Corner on Goodreads.  I had seen this before but hadn’t picked it up to read or even put it on my TBR list.  I am really glad it was a book club read because I enjoyed reading it, so much so that I already purchased the second book in the series.

The protagonist has purchased a family business that includes a diner as it’s mainstay.  The rest of the business is focused on summer holiday cottages.  The diner specializes in old fashioned type comfort food that sounds delicious.  The protagonist, Trixie becomes embroiled in the murder because it happens in the kitchen of her diner and threatens the reputation of the diner.  Trixie is not convinced that the local police, who include a possible love interest cowboy cop, are investigating quickly enough to save her business or with enough zeal to clear her name.  An interesting selection of supporting characters, including diner kitchen and wait staff and a mayor who comes across as a sleazeball.

Well done cozy mystery with a very comforting feel, it reminded me of Connie Archer’s Soup Shop mystery series which I also love.

Fat Cat at Large was a book I read about online and was waiting to be released.  My local indie bookshop just got it in and let me know so I picked it up on my last trip over there.  There is a lot to like about this book, Quincy, the fat cat, is an obvious plus, the theme, a bar cookie bakery, and even the setting of Minneapolis, with the cozy bakeshop and Chase’s apartment above it.

I also liked the realism shown through the tension between the business partners, Chase and Anna.  Often cozies feature best friends, or relatives as business partners in small businesses and show none of the tension or issues that can and usually do arise in those circumstances.  As a former accountant, I can tell you that as much as you love someone, going into business with them can often sound the death knell on the relationship.

I did enjoy reading this but I feel that it needed to be tightened up a little editing wise and some of the dialogue needs tweaking.  It seemed a little off at times.  This is the first in the series so I will look forward to the next one to see how it develops.

Sinister Sprinkles by Jessica Beck

  This is the third in the Donut Shop Mystery series by Tim Myers writing as Jessica Beck.  Even though I am not a fan of donuts, I do like this series.  The main character Suzanne, her sidekicks Grace and George and the relationship with her mom are all well written and engaging.  The mystery this time involves secrets, mistaken identity, elder fraud,I  internet fraud, and of course murder.  I especially thought the internet fraud was timely, there was  a tragic case in the news locally of an older woman who committed suicide after losing all of her money to internet fraud.

The town is a nice place to visit through Jessica Beck’s writing.  The locals are recurring features and over the course of the series I am sure we will get to know them better.  This is a Christmas book that I read in August so it was a fun change of pace for that reason, I loved all the snow descriptions when it is hot and humid here.  Overall, a well done cozy mystery series that I will continue reading.



A Roux of Revenge, Written in Blood, & The Cornish Coast Mystery

My latest three reads are pictured above.  A Roux of Revenge is the third book in the “A Soup Lover’s Mystery” by Connie Archer.  Lucky is busy running her business, hosting a pumpkin carving contest, and attempting to sort out the family problems of young employee, Janie and her mother, Miriam.  In the midst of all this, a fair is being hosted in the town by a somewhat sleazy businessman, a murder occurs of  a mystery man, and details of an old unsolved robbery surface.  There is lots of action that certainly pushes the plot along in this outing of the series.  Lucky is a great character and the other recurring characters continue to be fleshed out as the series develops.

The mystery plot is interesting with a few red herrings to throw the reader off the trail.  There is also an interesting romantic subplot with Lucky that is explored more than it was in previous books.   I thoroughly enjoyed A Roux of Revenge and look forward to the next book in the series.

Written in the Blood by Caroline Graham is one of the books that the Midsomer Murders TV series is based on  with the wonderful Inspector Barnaby as the sleuth.   This was actually one of my favorite episodes of the TV show.  A writers group’s invitation to a well known author to speak leads to murder and old secrets springing forth.  The members of the writing group are an eclectic bunch from a woman writing her family history, to a college professor who does improvisational work and a kind of poetry, the professor’s wife with a children’s book about a dragon and others.  There are many secrets that come to light before the murderer is finally exposed.   A really well done English village mystery which includes a colorful cast of characters, a lovely setting, and an intelligent, admirable sleuth.

The Cornish Coast Mystery by John Bude is a British Library Crime Classic.  It is part of a series of crime novels from the British golden age of crime writing that are now being republished after almost disappearing from sight.  This was an engaging read right from the first chapter.  The Vicar earns not only the Inspector’s respect but the reader’s as well.  His methodical approach to solving the crime and following the clues shows intelligence and insight.  The interest in this book is in the details.  The details show the difference between reading a book that written in the past and reading a modern day historical  fiction.   The scene is established vividly through the details.  The red herrings are supported by evidence to lead the reader along enough to be convincing.

The author employs a technique that I know I have seen in current mystery novels and I am curious whether he was the first to try it.  I don’t want to say more because it is an integral part of the plot.  I am certain I will enjoy reading more work by John Bude and more of the British Crime Classics in general.

Fiction from #Deadly Ink

I attended the Deadly Ink conference this past weekend and the authors of these books were all there.  The Donna Andrews book I picked up ahead of time after hearing that she would be the Toastmaster of the event and realizing I had never read any of her books.  I purchased other books at the conference, which was excellent and very well ran.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to attend writing classes, listen to authors on panel discussions and just in general meet with authors in a more intimate setting.

The Cat Sitter’s Cradle is book 8 in the Dixie Hemingway series, a series began by Blaize Clement and continued by her son, John after her death.  I had read a book or two in the series a while ago, unfortunately I am not very good at keeping track of my series and was surprised to see how many books I had missed.  This happens to me all the time with lots of series.

Even though I read this one out of order, it did not impact my enjoyment of it.  The book opens with Dixie   stumbling across both a woman giving birth and a “dead” expensive exotic bird while walking her dog.  The book takes off from there and continues at a good pace.  On one of Dixie’s pet sitting jobs, a dead body appears and she finds herself right in the middle of the investigation, knowing both the victim and the suspects.

The mystery plot was well done and I was surprised at who the killer was revealed to be.  The characters are interesting and very natural feeling.  Dixie’s back story is tragic and probably a little darker than the average cozy, but makes her a more complex character.  Dixie’s brother and his partner are well done, in that they fit seamlessly into the story.  Lately, I have noticed that there seems to be a trend to have a gay character, just for the sake of having a gay character, not because they are a purposeful part of the story, that type of insertion feels to me more like a marketing ploy and turns me off.

Very good pacing throughout the story and the romantic subplot was charming.  The writing gave a well defined sense of place (or at least I think so having not spent much time in Florida).

Lovely, quick reading cozy mystery.  I bought a second one at the conference, The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas which I will read soon.

Murder with Peacocks was written by Donna Andrews, the Toastmaster of the convention.  This series is set in Yorktown, Virginia and I spent some time growing up in Norfolk, so I am somewhat familiar with Virginia.

Meg Langslow has returned home for the summer to be  the unpaid, unofficial wedding planner/wrangler/point person for not one, but 3 family members.  Lots of crazy characters and antics are involved here along with the murder of a particularly unpleasant guest. There is also a romantic interest, sort of anyway.  Let’s just say that there are obstacles in the way of the romance and leave it at that.

This is the first in the series and so I assume that that is why so little of the book is actually concerned with the mystery, rather it involves the antics of a wide ranging cast of characters.   I feel as though this book really was introducing the supporting characters, the setting and the sleuth.  Setting up for a very popular and long running series of cozy mysteries.  Definitely on the side of the humorous cozies, this series seems more for comedy than mystery.

Cinnamon Girl:  A Village Cooks Mystery by Valerie Horowitz is a culinary mystery with some interesting political connections.  The sleuth Bonnie Emerson, is a daughter of a former POTUS.  Now married, she has a son and a small cookbook and cooking supply store in a affluent New Jersey community.  A murder occurs and through several events it becomes evident that the murderer thinks that Bonnie knows who he is.  The Secret Service is called in and the investigation continues through a large cast of characters, interesting cookbook references, and another death.

I live in New Jersey and so the setting is very familiar to me and seemed accurate. There is a large cast of characters and the author provides a list in the front of the book to keep them straight. This is the author’s first in a series of Village Cooks Mysteries.


Diamond Solitaire by Peter Lovesey

This is the second book in the Peter Diamond series.  I really liked the first book in this series and that is why I picked this one up.  This second outing in the series is very different from the first, Diamond is no longer a policeman, he begins the book as a Harrod’s department store security man, which he doesn’t last very  long as once it is discovered that a small child has managed to breach security.

Losing the job at Harrod’s has left Diamond with time on his hands.  Intrigued by the fate of the still unclaimed Japanese child, he begins to develop a relationship with her and to investigate how she ended up in Harrods.  The investigation trots around the world and involves the cut throat business of pharmaceutical manufacturing and the quest for the next big drug.  Naomi, as she is known to Diamond, appears to be autistic and/or suffering from selective mutism.  Diamond is determined to see this little girl safely home and solve the mystery that surrounds her.

This is just as well written as the first in the series, however a different style.  There is more of a thriller/international chase feel to this book.  I did enjoy it but I found some of it a little far fetched,mainly to do with the actual treatment of Naomi.  The child is discovered and not claimed and then placed in a school for autism where Diamond is given unlimited access to her.  Then, a woman shows up claims the child and waltzes off with her.  The villain and the whole pharmaceutical plot was well done and was tied together with Naomi in a satisfying resolution.