Sink Trap by Christy Evans

 

Sink Trap has been on my TBR list for a while and it was actually available from my local library so I picked it up this week.

There is a lot to like in this first of a plumbing themed cozy mystery series.  The main character, Georgiana Neverall, her mother, Sandra, her “not my boyfriend”, Wade, and boss, Barry are all good characters.  They are interesting and behave as they are drawn. The relationships between them flow naturally in conversation and are believable, (who doesn’t have moments that their mother drives them nuts?)  The plumbing theme is not overwhelming but the pieces included are interesting, at least to me.  The book is well written as far as voice and tone for a cozy mystery.

The issue is that it is patently obvious almost from the beginning of the mystery, when Georgiana finds the brooch of Ms. Tepper in the sink trap, who the villains are and basically why they did it.  The rest of the book is spent with the sleuth leading the readers around as she chases red herrings and tires to convince others that a crime has actually been committed.  She lets her feelings of animosity towards certain characters drive her investigation rather than looking at what is actually happening. In fact, she doesn’t really solve the mystery, the reveal is more that the killer(s) come out.

There is enough enjoyable here with the characters and the setting that I will probably give another in the series a try.

 

Divorce Can Be Murder by Victoria Pade

 I picked up this one at my local second hand book seller.  I hadn’t heard anything about it but the cover and title intrigued me.

Jimi Plain is a technical writer and a single mother of 2 girls.  She has an ex, who is the girls’ father.  He is active “off screen” through broken promises and phone calls interwoven in the story.  Danny is her policeman cousin and Nell is her Grandmother.  At the beginning of the book, Jimi is moving her girls into the house with Danny and Nell somewhat regretfully but financially necessary.  Other characters include Linda, a good friend and neighbor in the middle of a divorce, and Audrey, a nun and counselor, who runs a divorce recovery group.  Although Audrey is a main character, and Nell and Danny both are regular church goers,  the story line is not preachy or full of religious references or moral “lessons”.

The Divorce group is at the center of the murders and the plot twists and turns.  The character of Jimi was interesting and sympathetic.  The other members of the divorce group seemed to me to represent the gamut of reactions to divorce and were very well done.  Jimi’s girls also gave realistic faces to teen children of divorce.  The representations of divorce and the impacts not only on the couple divorcing but others around them were particularly well done.

There were many intersections in the relationships among the characters and this led to red herrings in the mystery plot line. I did figure out the culprit at chapter 25 out of 35, however there was one piece I was wrong about and I did doubt myself a little bit so the book was still very engaging and the twist right at the end was unexpected.

A warning, simply because many cozy readers don’t like cursing at all, there are about two instances of cursing in the book but no sex.  That is a non-issue for me, but I do know that some readers expect their cozies to be clean.

I enjoyed this book and would read another in the series.  I am glad to have stumbled across it.

Dying in Style by Elaine Viets

 This book was this month’s read for the Cozy Mystery Corner Group on Goodreads.  I was pleasantly surprised by this cozy.  Sometimes fashion themed cozies are filled with shallow brand name dropping characters, but this was not like that at all.  Josie is a single mom, who works as a mystery shopper to support herself and her daughter.  She carries out her job wearing a series of costumes to fit in with the nature of each of her jobs.  The descriptions of how she gets into character are quite funny.

She gets involved in a series of murders related to poor reviews she gives a designer store that is in financial trouble and slated for a takeover.  The police suspect Josie of the murder and she begins to investigate in order to clear her own name.  Josie at times seems to charge headlong into danger without much of a plan, but on the whole she is a likable character.  Her mother, Jane, her daughter, Amelia and her friend, Alyce, are interesting sidekicks.  Jane’s plot line is particularly interesting and timely.

I really enjoyed this cozy and will be interested to see how the characters grow and change throughout the series.

The Cakes of Wrath by Jacklyn Brady

This is the 4th book in the A Piece of Cake Mystery series.  Rita has inherited her husband’s cake business in New Orleans and is running it along with her mother-in-law, who has her own ideas about how things should go.  The setting alone makes this a worth while series to read.  I haven’t lived in New Orleans, but I have visited a couple times and loved it.  In this outing in the series, Rita is suspected of the murder of a fellow business owner’s wife and has to work to clear herself since the police seem pretty sure she’s their “man”.

The character of Rita is strong, independent (almost to a fault), and intelligent.  It takes a forceful personality to survive in the catering/pastry business and Rita is built to thrive in it.  The other recurring characters have shown growth and the relationships have developed through the course of the books.  There is the introduction of some new characters this time and the notable absence of one of Rita’s love interests.  I do like how the author is handling the dreaded “love triangle” in this series, it is a more mature, realistic approach.

The mystery is well crafted and includes modern elements of drug addiction and rehabilitation, including NA.  This gave the cozy a more up to date feel.

This is a series that I always look forward to the next book.  Highly recommended fun cozy mystery!

Cat Nap by Claire Donally

This is the second book in the A Sunny & Shadow Mystery series.  In this book, the uneasy friendship between Sunny and Jane continues to develop with Will stuck in the middle.  This is an unusual love triangle for a cozy mystery.  The norm is that the female protagonist has two men she can’t or won’t decide between.  There is also the addition of another possible love interest, Tobe Phillips.  Mike, Sunny’s father, also shows growth in this book, both in his recovery from his heart attack, his independence, and his social life.

The mystery in this book centers around the death of Jane’s ex-husband and proving Jane’s innocence.  The ending had quite a twist and I didn’t figure it out all.  Shadow continues to provide his point of view to the story which is very well done.  The setting and the difficulties of living and working in a Northern climate are described in realistic detail.  After reading many southern series, this was a nice change.

I am definitely going to continue with this series, good characters and well written mystery plot!

 

Sloane Monroe Book 2 & 3

This was a 3 book set that I picked up on offer from Amazon.  I read book 1, Black Diamond Death, quite some time ago and now I finally came back to finish book 2, Sinnerman, and Book 3, I Have A Secret.  I really like the character of Sloane, she is fiercely independent, brave and uncompromising.  It is this last characteristic that leads to many of the situations she ends up in.

Sloane is a PI, who still mourns the death of her sister at the hand of a serial killer.  She uses this grief over her sister’s unsolved murder as motivation to solve crimes and see criminals brought to justice.  There are some romantic elements throughout the books, but I don’t want to say too much and give any of the twists and turns away.

The strength in these books is the investigative work Sloane engages in to solve the crimes.  This is not an unprofessional sleuth, who just stumbles across clues and suspects, but rather a methodical hard working professional.

My only issue with the books in this series is the seem too short.  There are characters I would like to see explored more but with all the detail in the investigative piece of the plot and the shortness of the books there simply isn’t time to develop them more fully.

Well written, quick-to-read mysteries with a strong, professional female lead.

Pearls and Poison by Duffy Brown

 

Just finished this last night, the third in the A Consignment Shop Mystery series.  I am really enjoying the humor in this series!  The antics of Reagan, her Aunt Kiki and the rest of her sidekicks add quite a bit of comic relief to the mystery.  The plot is peppered with red herrings and lots of clues to follow up on.

This series is very character driven and that definitely adds to the appeal.  I enjoy series in which the reader really gets to know the characters and this is certainly one of them.  The dialogue is very well done and part of the humor of the book.  The consignment shop theme is kept relatively low key and doesn’t get in the way of the characters or the mystery.   All in all, a very well done mystery in a fun series.

Honor Hartman: The Unkindest Cut

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Just finished this book, the second, and unfortunately to the best of my knowledge the last in the A Bridge Club Mystery series.  I loved the Bridge theme.  I used to play years ago and this was so much fun to “play” vicariously with Emma and her friends.

The series premise is a widow moves to a new home to be closer to her best friend for support and gets involved in a local bridge club.  Through her activities with the club she stumbles on murders which she solves.  The character of Emma is very believable and likable.  She is a widow and still grieving and that is dealt with in a realistic manner, but the book is not depressing at all.  Her friends make up an eclectic group and support her sleuthing activities.

In this episode, Emma travels to a bridge conference to support a friend and learn more.  At the conference, a “celebrity” is murdered and Emma is right in the  middle of it.  The mystery is will crafted and has many probable suspects to spread suspicion  among.

A very enjoyable read and I am sorry that there are not going to be more in this series!

 

Exile by Denise Mina

Just finished Denise Mina’s , Exile, book 2 in the Garnethill Trilogy.  I did enjoy book 1, Garnethill, however this book was much better!  Maureen’s character is in a self-destructive post-traumatic stress downward spiral fueled mainly by alcohol.  She is investigating a murder at the request of her friend Leslie, who is not much less of a mess.  A woman has been brutally tortured and murdered with her body dumped.  She was recently a resident at a battered woman’s shelter, so all fingers point toward the husband, Jimmy, who is the only surviving parent for their 4 small boys.  Only things are not what they seem and Maureen through her alcohol induced haze and her desire to maintain her friendship with Leslie seeks to prove that Jimmy didn’t kill his wife.

The characters are what makes this work stand out.  Denise Mina has crafted incredibly human characters with all the dirt and despair that one could stand to read.   Maureen is a walking train wreck, yet in this book she comes across as more intelligent, not just crafty in the way of many street survivors, but also analytical.  Jimmy is a portrait of despair and a born victim.  Even Winnie, in her own alcohol fueled rages, is a fully developed character.

Liam and Vik are some of the only positive characters in the book.  Liam has made great strides to pull himself out of his past.  Vik is strong enough to insist that he deserves to be treated right by Maureen.  There are still differences between these two:  Liam wants to save or protect Maureen, while Vik wants her to save herself.  After the ending of this book, I will be interested to see what happens here.

The mystery is well done  with great twists and turns and an ending that I did not see coming.  There is a great sense of place in this book, even though most of the places are nowhere the reader would want to be.

Great read!  I can’t wait to read the third one.

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

I should begin by saying that I have read all of the books so far in the Ruth Galloway series.  I truly love this series, it is one of my favorites.  I have been eagerly awaiting this, book 6, in the series.  And it was fine, but for some reason, just fine.

The characters of Ruth, Cathbad, and DI Harry Nelson are excellent as usual. The reader can see growth in these characters, within themselves and their relationships with each other and other characters.  The mystery still involves a background of archaeology, but certainly not to the extent of earlier books.  The plot is  a little overly crowded with characters and story lines.  It involves the discovery of an executed Victorian “child killer’s” body, a TV crew anxious for a high profile story, a child’d death and mother’s suicide, and  current child abductions.  Ruth is right in the middle of all of it, from discovering the body, to being involved in the TV program, and investigating the abductions.

This book, The Outcast Dead, was more about relationships, particularly the relationship between parent and child, Mother Hook and her “children”, Ruth, DI Nelson and Kate, Judy, Cathbad, and Michael, among others.  Children are involved in every plot line, in every conceivable way.  This seems to have occurred at the expense of the archaeological aspects, the mystery, and for me very importantly, the setting.  I missed that mood that the setting of these books usually evokes.  It was just not here in the this outing.

I will continue on with this series and see where it goes from here.  I am hoping the next book returns more to the feel and style of the early books.

As a side note, there are several references to early books, so I think this would be best read as part of the series, not a stand-alone.