Book Review of Overkilt by Kaitlyn Dunnett – A Liss MacKrimmon Scottish Mystery

The New Age Pilgrims dominate the tale, Overkilt, by Kaitlyn Dunnett. Apparently the cultlike group has lived outside the borders of the town of Moosetookalook Maine throughout the story series but I don’t believe they’ve been mentioned previously.

These Maine based mysteries have been among my favorite cozies for many years. This one didn’t intrigue me when it began, but the plot intensified consistently and continued to twist until nearly the last page.

Dan, Liss’ most often even tempered husband, loses his composure and nearly throttles a surprising person. The town’s female sheriff must reign him in, but she understands and shares his concern about the growing threat to peace and harmony in the village and business at the shops that line the street.

When one of the New Age Pilgrims becomes a murder victim, Liss is forced to do her best to solve the puzzle in order to exonerate friend and family suspects. All amid adjusting to her parents’ return to Moosetookalook from years of living in Arizona, the early online Christmas rush at her Scottish Emporium, and plans for Thanksgiving with Dan, her parents, Aunt Margaret, and Lumpkin and Glenora, her feline family.

Book Review of A Crime of a Different Stripe by Sally Goldenbaum

It took me a while to finish this tale. Intricate details of a network of friends living on the enchanting peninsula of Cape Ann, Massachusetts are featured in A Crime of a Different Stripe.

I’ve read a mystery in this cozy series previously, featuring the friends and pets residing in the neighborhood of “The Seaside Knitters Society”. The stories are charming. They feature pets, quaint shops and cafes, coastal settings, the perfect combination for a pleasant adventure.

Sally Goldenbaum even included a custom designed baby hat pattern for knitting lovers, inside the back cover of the book.

I’m not much of a knitter, but I did pretty much unravel the plot to this story on my own, about three-fourths of the way through. Nevertheless it gave me a great excuse to mingle in my mind with those in the fictional town of Sea Harbor – what a lovely name. An award-winning photographer and a professional yoga teacher play prominently but that’s all I’m saying about the plot. You’ll want to spend a few gray winter days reading it yourself.

I’ve been to Cape Ann, and also set a story there myself – it was published! A unique place. The real setting and the ones crafted with artistic lincense.

Book Review of Back Bay Blues by Peter Colt

Definitely not a cozy, Back Bay Blues by Peter Colt is nevertheless well-written and fulfilling. A good read for fans of Boston like me, with empathy for the difficulties of Viet Nam (or any combat) vets, seeking a rewarding path in the less intense environment of everyday society.

The last few chapters had me on my toes, unable to rise from my recliner to attend to comparatively mundane household details. The twists and turns of the plot, the imminent danger, the implications of unresolved tensions left over from the conflict that officially ended decades ago but apparently continues today through the efforts of underground organizations, offered much food for thought.

Star character Any Roarke, former Viet Nam war strategist, seeks solace for his post war issues by offering his services as an – in Roarke’s own words – “less strong, charming and well-dressed” Spenser style private investigator. I found Andy Roarke’s demeanor comforting, the violent scenes realistic for the theme, yet not too overwhelming.

The mystery involves a friend of Roarke’s, a Viet Namese refugee who struggled and saved in order to eventually become a successful restauranteur, well able to support his family, in the Boston suburb of Quincy.

Roarke hears a story of a stash of gold from ‘Nam which may still exist in a ship anchored off the coast of San Francisco. The PI has to know if it still exists, so risks his life, with the help of another veteran Viet Nam brother, to find the answer. A dramatic conclusion, back in Boston brings the loose ends together.

We are left with a greater understanding of the main character’s strengths and vulnerabilities as we follow him thorough relationships with an attractive female Boston Police Detective and a sexy foreign agent, observe his ever present need to play an essential role involving careful planning and risk, resulting in the equally acceptable, from his perspective, result of either triumph or death. An unshakable desire left over from days of playing a key part, thanks to talented planning and much luck, in the conflict against communism that was the stated purpose of the US campaign in Viet Nam.

A lesson in history and human psychology wrapped up in an exciting adventure story whose lighter moments include tales of a meal at Boston’s Historic Union Oyster House and at the home of Roarke’s eccentric friend on the California Coast, an unexpectedly talented culinary artist.

Book Review of Something Borrowed, Something Mewed by Bethany Blake

Perhaps it was only because I’ve been lacking sufficient sleep recently, but I had a difficult time keeping track of human and animal characters in this topsy turvy tale, entitled Something Borrowed, Something Mewed. I enjoyed an earlier Bethany Blake “Lucky paws pet sitting mystery”. Loved the cute cast of people and pets and their interesting antics.

This one opens into a scene of preparations for Daphne Templeton’s sister Piper’s wedding. The well-laid plans are knocked off kilter when the wedding planner ends up dead in a fountain. Snowdrop, the murder victim’s poodle, and Socrates, Daphne’s Basset, tag along with pet sitter Daphne through the days following the incident, riding in her old VW Van as the murder plot is unraveled.

A lover of pets and old hippie vans, that’s one of my favorite features of these stories. Tinkleston, Daphne’s “catastrophe prone cat” in her own words, plays a role in the tale too.

A surprise romantic event awaits at the close of the story. (No peeking). One thing is certain; you’ll never suffer boredom as you venture through this book’s pages, but you’d better stay on your toes to keep track of the happenings.

There are bonus recipes for tasty treats at the back of the book that will tempt your pets. (There’s one for people too.)       

Check it out if you’re seeking a fun and quite eventful read, or a gift for a pet lover on your list.    

Book Review of Hitting the Books by Jenn McKinlay

Just finished Hitting the Books – Jenn McKinlay’s great title. Yes the title is great – reminding us this book is an installment in the library lover’s mystery series – but so is the story. . .

My emotions are still roller-coastering following the nail-biting drama of several scenes where main character, librarian Lindsey Norris, her significant other, and law enforcement friends, not to mention her beloved canine, Heathcliff, are threatened with death at the hands of . . . well I won’t give away the suspects’ identities . . .

If you enjoy romance, sleuthing, libraries, threats of danger, happy endings – not for everyone, but for the main characters. This could be your next enjoyable read.

And the bonus is – there is inspiration at the end, for planning your own “crafternoon” – a book discussion get together featuring a light gourmet meal and a fun, easy craft project. – Plus even a snipped of Jenn’s latest contemporary romance tale.

Jenn McKinlay is a fluent author with four great series’ under her belt. Wow, that’s impressive. I’m still working on my first . . . along with reading everyone else’s stories and other responsibilities. . .

Book Review of Dyeing Season by Karen MacInerney

What do you get when you cross a Texas tornado with a murder, add a relatively young woman and her menagerie of farm animals, an Easter craft sale, and an interesting array of friends and neighbors?

Another great cozy mystery from Karen MacInerney, of course.

The tornado tears things up as Dyeing Season begins, but that’s just the start of the chaos. A home health aide who is missing following the storm is soon discovered, dead. Her passing was not caused by the natural disaster, however.

Threats are scrawled on area barns and the chicken house that belongs to main character Lucy Resnick. Lucy is forced to deal with the problems of her friend and next door neighbor, who was formerly served by the now deceased home health aide, as she searches for a baby goat she hasn’t seen since the twister, replaces seedlings lost to the wind, prepares items for the Easter Market, and searches for Eva, the home health aide’s killer. Phew! Are you as tired as I am already?!

Obviously a page turner, this book had me hooked from the beginning and the momentum kept going straight through to the suspenseful and satisfying conclusion. Oh, and Lucy manages to cook some superior meals amid the myriad of responsibilities. Something I could certainly never accomplish. She shares recipes for some of the dishes at the end of the book, along with some creative ways to color eggs.

It may not be spring, but it’s a great time to read this story and dream that the approaching winter is over. Think what a fun Christmas gift it would make for a friend who enjoys cozies.

Book Review of A Fatal Fiction by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Mikki Lincoln, seventy year old retired junior high school teacher turned freelance editor is making her life exciting by investigating a murder again. The scariest part of A Fatal Fiction for me was when she jumps from a seven foot high roof in order to “escape” her nephew’s detection.

(You have to read the story to find out why.)

Lenape Hollow, in the Catskill area of New York state is the setting. It’s Mikki’s hometown, where she’s spending her later years, after moving back from Maine. A dispute over a long-closed resort is the focus of much of the story, the setting for some of the scenes relating to the murder mystery.

Mikki is editing the memoirs of the elderly daughter of the proprietor of the resort back in its heydey, when an array of famous people stayed there. I’m not sure the previous sentence is grammatically correct, but I’m sure Mikki – or Kaitlyn Dunnett . . . could tell me.

The trivia regarding grammar at the end of the book was a treat. This is the third mystery in the “Deadly Edits” series.

I enjoyed reading the detaiils of Mikki’s mundane but satisfying lifestyle, as well as the complex plot structure and the dramatic conclusion.

The cover of this copy is lovely too – books in prettily bound covers on a shelf, with an inset featuring Calpurnia, Mikki’s calico cat eying birds outside, against a background of purple Catskill Mountains and the lovely hues of the sky above them. In the foreground, manuscript pages flutter onto a table.

Looks like a perfect setting to me. I must get back to my “in process” cozy mystery manuscript. So many writing projects, so little time. . .

Book Review of Furmidable Foes by Rita Mae Brown

Furmidable Foes is yet another well-crafted story in this long running mystery series by Rita Mae and feline friend, Sneaky Pie.

Complex due to the inclusion of a side story that takes place in the eighteenth century, based in the same territory as the modern times tale—this one featuring springtime peonies, matching lipsticks, church events that include pets, seasonal farming and horse breeding facts, the more intelligent than humans discussions and antics of main character Mary Minor (Harry) Haristeen’s pets, Pewter, Tucker, Pirate, Mrs. Murphy.

As the fourth of July approaches, expect fireworks of all kinds in this wonderful classic installment of the tales I never tire of, the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries.

Our mature indoor tabby reminds me of Mrs. Murphy. Our younger tabby who forced her way into our home between one and two years ago behaves oddly, and not always politely, in a similar manner to Pewter. Have I been reading too many of these tales? Examining the behavior of animals too closely? Impossible.

A highly recommended read for lovers of dogs, cats, horses, wildlife, whimsy, and history

Book Review of A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Colette

This cozy mystery is from an author new to me. Abby Colette is a Cleveland, Ohio native and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of other mystery series’ but it was the title A Deadly Inside Scoop which intrigued me as it features a Chagrin Falls, Ohio ice cream shop.

A fictional shop, that is, but the town is a real place in the Northeastern Ohio snow-belt. Hailing from Ohio, that’s an area where I’ve always thought I’d like to live, for six months of the year, or if I was retired and didn’t have to go anywhere during the remainder.

But I digress. The book follows the classic process of a typical cozy. It begins with a day featuring details of the heroine, Bronwyn Crewse’s takeover of the historic family ice cream shop; her attempt to modernize the enterprise, which means taking in back to its roots of specializing in the title product, featuring flavors never imagined by its original proprietors.

Bronwyn is an unmarried, childless business major who left a successful career to be near her grandfather, parents and brothers and to save the heritage business.

The first day morphs into a stressful night as Bronwyn stays at the shop brainstorming ways to successfully launch a frozen treat business during a premature October blizzard. The discovery of a murder victim makes the night even more ominous.

A complex mix of suspects keeps readers on their toes through the body of the story featuring dramas involved in running a food business and solving the murder mystery in order to exonerate one of Bronwyn’s family members.   

The story closes with a nail-biting close call for Bronwyn and a friend who assists her in the final act of the murder investigation.

Grandma Kay’s Snow Ice Cream and several other recipes for frozen treats are included as a bonus at the book’s closing.

Oh, and I can’t forget – who could turn down a cozy featuring a cute white cat who is the ice cream shop mascot? Don’t tell the health department.

Book Review of How to Knit a Murder

I did have a difficult time keeping up with character identities in this fast flowing story, but a helpful guide was provided inside the front cover.

I picked up How to Knit a Murder  by Sally Goldenbaum on a day when I was mentally “down” and it delivered what M.C. Beaton mentioned as her reason for writing fiction – “to give someone a good time on a bad day”.

I do my best to make that my motto as I compose my own stories also.

The Cape Ann area is an inspirational place for me, so I immediately loved the setting of this book’s charming fictional village, which holds secrets and conflicts just as do all places of human habitation.

In this entertaining cozy, a group of close friends who share a passion for felines and knitting solve a murder, exonerate and welcome a former resident and schoolmate.

It was a bit unsettling to realize the identity of the murderer, but isn’t it always for those of us who empathize with everyone?

A lovely story which conveys the reminder that the imprint of childhood experiences, especially those involving strong emotions, can stay with us always.

How we deal with these powerful, sometimes terribly upsetting memories is up to us.