Book Review of The Liar in the Library – a Feathering Mystery – by Simon Brett

Jude, who is a healer in the British coastal village of Feathering, is normally the character who supports others needing help. In this book, however, Jude herself is in need of support as she becomes a suspect in the murder of an old friend.

Zosia, assistant to Ted Crisp, proprietor of The Crown and Anchor, the pub patronized by Jude and her co investigator of local murders, Carol, is having some difficulties which become entwined with the murder plot.

A visit to this village is always a pleasure. In the end, Jude and Carol solve the murder as usual. I’m not totally getting the last page of the book, but perhaps I was just tired when I finished it and the connection wasn’t registering.

Let me know what you think if you should read the book.

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Book Review of Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake by Sarah Graves

A fun fast paced read in Sarah Graves’ new series. Always a fan of the Home Repair is Homicide Mysteries by Ms. Graves, the same spirit of adventure and beloved characters play their parts in this series as well.

Picture Maine in early summer, a super storm, almost hurricane on the way as plans for the Fourth of July Holiday are in full swing.

Cheesecakes really do take center stage. Jake and friend Ellie, the main sleuths summon super-human energy to bake a number of them needed for the fundraising auction at the festival.

Baking them and all the other items needed to operate The Chocolate Moose in Eastport Maine, the ladies’ new adventure takes place amid wild rides on boats and in cars, as the girls flee from murder suspects, and work out what really happened in order to save Ellie from being jailed as a suspect herself.

A bit over the top at the end with new threats and developments, but an enjoyable read for lovers of active plot cozies.

I wondered at the beginning where the rest of Ellie’s family went, but by the end they reappeared, and the explanation made sense

A super summer story.

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Book Review of Lions and Tigers and Murder, Oh My A Devereaux’s Dime Store Mystery By Denise Swanson

Several interwoven plots add interest to this cozy – Lions and Tigers and Murder, Oh My (Devereaux’s Dime Store Mystery) . –  The second book I’ve read recently which features a decision to be made by the main character concerning the choice of two suitors.

If you like old time dime-stores with a modern twists to make them work in today’s world, you’ll find this story entertaining.

Devereaux is the proprietor of the store. She rents space to a fledgling private detective (one of the love interests). His latest client is a man who proposes to build a sort of rescue zoo for wild animals. The man’s wife is missing and the police aren’t sympathetic.

The mystery focuses upon finding the wife and figuring out what really happened and who the perpetrator actually is.

Maybe not a book for young children, not that they would likely read this type of story anyway. The language and insinuations aren’t extreme, but stronger than in most cozies.

I would visit Devereaux’s Dime Store and Gift Baskets again. There’s actually a bit of a cliff hanger at the end (no peeking).

 

Book Review of Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early

After enjoying most of this story, I must admit the ending has me flummoxed. The solution to the mystery made sense, though it was a bit emotionally upsetting. But I feel the rest of the story should perhapsdisappear , leaving out the rather odd events on the last two pages.

Don’t go reading the last pages first, though. Read from start to finish and see what you think. Then let me know.

Anyone who loves collectible toys – from vintage games to model trains – will enjoy this story in which such items play prominently. The setting is a small town in Western New York. Liz McCall and her father, a retired policeman who owns a vintage toy shop are the main characters.

The murder mystery begins as the town’s toy show ends. Being a law enforcement family, Liz and her dad feel compelled to solve the murder. Liz nearly succumbs to the same fate, as a result of their research.

I figured out who the culprit was just before Liz did, anticipating the coming events.

I have much in common with author, Barbara Early, who enjoys . . . classic movies and campy seventies television, board games, and posting pictures of her four cats on Facebook. . . according to the “about the author” blurb. Will surely visit her site when time permits!

This is the second installment in the Vintage Toyshop mysteries. I will seek out the first also. Barbara offers a number of creatively crafted and intriguingly descriptive phrases throughout the story that will inspire readers and aspiring writers alike.

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Book Review of Pawprints and Predicaments – A Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery by Bethany Blake

Book Review of Pawprints & Predicaments (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery)

Spent my first plein air reading session of the year, sprawled in the springtime grass on this fair Sunday, one of a very few fine days we’ve seen this April. Was determined to finish Pawprints and Predicaments.

I’m really beginning to become enamored of Daphne and her multi job lifestyle – like mine and that of so many Americans these days. Pet sitter, baker, and private investigator, though the latter job doesn’t pay her too well. It’s like writing, though. She’s compelled to continue, though there might be more profitable ways to spend her time.

A former world traveler and philosopher, she’s finding life in a small Pennsylvania town satisfying at this time in her life. Still young, she’s unattached and enjoys the occasional date at one of the interesting local restaurants.

As this story begins, Winterfest is in full swing. A way to attract tourists, a number of events are scheduled including the Polar Bear Plunge, and a cardboard “Iditarod” featuring conveyances made of cardboard pulled or ridden in by costumed pets of all kinds.

Daphne and her own pets plus those in her charge face one adventurous day after another as the events proceed. Her sister Piper, a veterinarian, and friend Moxie, a lover of vintage, plus all the other colorful characters make for a fun crowd. Not to mention her realtor mother who features prominently too.

A murder creates mayhem in the community, and fearless or foolish, however you view laypersons who confront their own suspects, Daphne, is on top of her own investigation.

I missed something along the way and the reveal of the culprit served to astonish             me, though I felt the other suspects to be innocent. In total bewilderment the last chapter, I smacked the side of my head and said, “of course,” when the character’s guilt was unveiled.

Sylvan Creek, on Lake Wallapawakee is a great town in which to spend an armchair trip.

A four and a half star story

****

Not a super favorite but a wonderful read I highly recommend to cozy lovers who are fans of animals. I will definitely look for more in this series. I read a small paperback copy. Would have enjoyed it more in hard cover.

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The Perfect Present for Mothers Who Love Mysteries

Only a few short weeks remain until Mother’s Day. Do you have a vague idea of what you’re going to give the mother(s) in your life or are you still clueless?

What better gift for mothers who love to relax with a good read than a book about the day?  Mother’s Day Murder (Lucy Stone, Book 15) one of Lesie Meier’s great creations would be a perfect choice.

Leslie’s main character Lucy Stone (named for a real life lady who was a leader in the cause for women’s rights) is a down to earth mother and now grandmother who works for the little local paper in the small Maine town where she resides.

The demands of keeping her family happy while holding down a job, being civically active, and solving murders mirrors the lives of most of we women of today. She’s fun, thoughtful, creative, and insightful. I’ve followed the Lucy Stone Series all the way through, watching her children mature and take off on lives of their own. I hope the series continues so we can see how Lucy evolves as she enters a new life stage.

Happy Mothers Day in advance to all My Readers!

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Book Review of: Claws for Concern A Cat in the Stacks Mystery By Miranda James

I am in danger of becoming a crank   here on the North Coast, where where Mother Nature is taking us on a roller coaster this week, climbing into summer temperatures one day, then letting us plunge back into winter weather for the rest of this week.

Claws for Concern (Cat in the Stacks Mystery) got me through the weekend, and I have another Bethany Blake book ready for any spare moment I may find this week.

Here’s my take on Miranda James’ latest mystery:

A forty pound domestic cat? One that has to have a sitter if his owner leaves the house without him?  The profile of Diesel was a bit of a reach for my imagination at first. But, pet lover that I am, I did grow fond of the well-mannered feline who shares his life with Charlie Harris.

This is the ninth installment of the Cat in the Stacks mystery series, but the first one I’ve read.

I found it interesting and comforting to follow Charlie through his days as a library volunteer who forays into the field of criminal investigation as a hobby. Charlie has a loyal housekeeper, Azalea, and rents part of his home to two men and their pet dog. The sixtyish gentleman has two children and is currently enamored with his new baby grandson.

This tale involves newly discovered family ties, and a carefully entwined plot that includes interesting coincidences. The mystery plot is suspenseful to the end. Diesel, of course, helps with the interrogations, in his own way.

This mystery may not be on my “top shelf” of favorites, but I did enjoy it. I plan to seek out some more titles in this series that features one of my favorite cat breeds, the Maine Coon Cat. I don’t know that any Maine Coon approaches Diesel’s nearly bobcat size, but individuals of this breed do tend to be larger than average. Diesel is charming and dog-like and I do recommend this series to lovers of pet-themed cozies.

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Book Review of The Darling Dahlias and The Unlucky Clover By Susan Wittig Albert

Ready for a trip? Order a copy of   The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover         Travel back in time to the days of the depression when times were tough but never boring.

I’m so thankful that Susan Wittig Albert decided to write another “Darling Dahlias” mystery, in response to reader requests. I really would love to see a couple more in the series.

Set in the South – “Darling” Alabama during the Depression of the 1930’s, (1934, this edition) the series serves as a historical record of the culture of the time, in addition to being a light and entertaining collection of mystery stories.

This particular story includes details of automobiles of the era, and the business of moonshine making. Moonshine manufacturing was just one of the enterprises people pursued in an attempt to make a living in lean times. In 1934, prohibition had been repealed, but moonshining was still illegal. The author includes a few details of the differnces in moonshine making in various areas of the country. In the deep south, it seems, the shine was shipped fresh. Packed as soon as it was prepared, makers would load it in a fast car then rush it off to the nearest big city for sale.

The New Deal, FDR’s plan to improve the lives of the public, was coming to fruition in this story. The CCC Camp, just outside of the town of Darling, provided jobs for some. The Writer’s Program was beginning to take shape.

Liz Lacy is my favorite character, of course, since she’s an aspiring writer. Liz’s day job, one she enjoys, is the position of secretary to the town’s lawyer, Mr. Mosely. Liz learns of The Writer’s Program – put together to offer writers, educators, and artists an ability to make a living at a time when these types of jobs were hard to come by. Liz’s employer didn’t know how he could function without Liz, but his income was as uncertain as any, so he wasn’t sure he could keep her on. The program thus holds her interest.

Liz faces other dilemmas concerning Grady Alexander, her former beau who took up with a teenager he had to marry as she became pregnant. His young wife suffered a premature death due to cancer. He is now pursuing Liz, realizing not only that he still loves her, but that he needs a wife to assist him in raising Grady junior. She loves living on her own in her cute little cottage, and writing in her spare time, so is unsure what the right thing to do may be.

Amid the difficulties of the lives of all the Dahlia ladies, a suspicious death occurs. A man whose wife is about to divorce him, meets his demise in an accident which must be investigated. His death could also affect the fate of some of the town’s businesses. Additionally, the man was a member of the Lucky Four Clovers Barbershop Quartet. The group was, at the time, preparing for a major competition.

My mother told many tales of happenings during depression days. The Darling Dahlia series takes me back to the times of her stories. Though there was nearly no spending money, people seemed to have a better sense of style and culture then than today. They enjoyed celebrations with friends and neighbors. More people raised their own chickens and had gardens, so food was available to many. (Some great pie recipes are included in this title. Ones you won’t easily find in today’s cookbooks.)

For all the difficulties, and the war that followed, overall the country came out of the struggle stronger, more prosperous. Business and industry leaders shared the wealth with workers when times improved. We can hope that a similar outcome will follow today’s culture changes that seem to leave so many behind.

Once again I highly recommend  The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover, and hope that Susan Wittig Albert will create a couple more works in the series, taking us at least up to the beginning of “The War”.

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Keep Calm and Read On

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Pick Your Poison – The Mystery Writer’s Dilemma

Since I began to compose my own mysteries, the biggest struggle seems to be how to kill someone. Maybe it just doesn’t come naturally to me to think of killing someone.

These days, I wouldn’t wish pain upon even my worst “enemies”.

But I have come to love my cozies, the lighthearted mysteries that entertain and comfort me in spite of the misfortune of the murder victims as they are violently attacked, or ingest toxic substances.

So, in my “spare” time, I try to come up with believable, yet unpredictable plots. Research into ways to kill someone can be quite troubling, though. Some poisons that were readily available in earlier times have become regulated today, but still, a good number of drugs, plants and household products could still be accessed by someone plotting a murder, or hopefully, only a good story. Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons (Howdunit Series) is a classic for mystery writers seeking toxic products for plots.

I’m still not sure how someone who grows more peace loving with age has become enamored of reading and now writing cozy mysteries.

I do know I was never a fan of most fiction,  the plots seemed either too boring or too filled with human drama. Then I discovered cozies. Cozy writers seem to enjoy the same aspects of life that I do. Many focus upon pets, gardening, and generally living a modest but pleasurable lifestyle. While they’re upset by murders, they seem to accept them as an unpleasant but inevitable part of life.

Of course, historical mysteries are still may favorite to write. I think they can be every bit as intriguing as stories involving current era fatalities. One of these days, Black Cats, Schemes, and Childhood Dreams, or a short story of mine may see the light of publication, when I deem them to be ready for public reading.