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 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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Book Review of X Marks the Scot by Kaitlyn Dunnett

X Marks the Scot (Liss MacCrimmon Mystery)

Liss Maccrimmon – Ruskin serves as the focus of this installment in the Liss MacCrimmon  Scottish Mystery Series. Liss is the proprietor of Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium, a business started by her father and Aunt Margaret in the nineteen fifties.

A trip to Canada with Liss’ Aunt Margaret, the discovery of a dead body and several break-ins pepper the pursuit of the map’s significance. It’s at first not apparent whether the events are related to the map or not, but it soon becomes clear that others are aware of the treasure map as well.

A Shirley Temple lookalike and professed scholar, Benny Beamer, who is seeking material for the historical publication she is planning to further her career plays prominently in the tale as do those involved with The Chadwick Mansion, the estate where Liss believes the treasure map leads.

The antics of Lumpkin and Glenora, Liss’ cats, and Dandi and Dondi, Aunt Margaret’s Scottish Terriers (what else!) entertain animal loving readers like myself. And then there’s the attraction of Liss’s handsome husband Dan who, in addition to assisting his family’s businesses, Ruskin Construction, and The Spruces, a historic hotel his father restored and reopened, is a craftsman who creates specialty “puzzle tables”.

Liss’ friend Sherri Campbell, the local Chief of Police, as always assists in solving the mystery and strives to keep Liss safe, but in the end, Liss takes a risk and confronts her suspect, making for a suspenseful conclusion to the story. Will Liss survive this confrontation? Read and see.

A subplot has Liss worried about why her aging parents are returning to Maine after many years of living in Arizona.

Kaitly Dunnett is one of my very favorite creators of cozies. The style and characterization of this series has always resonated with me. It’s been very inspirational in the composition of my own cozy mystery manuscript, Black Cats, Schemes, and Childhood Dreams, which is nearing completion.

I highly recommend  X Marks the Scot and all the earlier works in the series.

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X Marks the Scot (Liss MacCrimmon Mystery)

Kilt Dead

Scone Cold Dead

A Wee Christmas Homicide

The Corpse Wore Tartan

Scotched

Bagpipes, Brides, and Homicides

Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones

Ho-Ho-Homicide

The Scottie Barked at Midnight

Kilt at the Highland Games

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Keep Calm and Read On

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X Marks the Scot (Liss MacCrimmon Mystery)

Book Review of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

The Keeper of Lost Things: A Novel

The most intriguing read I’ve discovered in some time, a feel good story with a grand conclusion. The Keeper of Lost Things tells the tale of a nearly middle aged woman, Laura who, after a troubling divorce finds her place in life as the assistant of writer Anthony Peardew, working in his grand house, and caring for the treasures throughout his home as though they were her own.

He is exceedingly grateful for Laura’s dedicated service and the wonderful professional relationship they have formed, but forbids her to enter one room of his home, leaving readers guessing the reason. Upon his death he bequeaths his estate to her and though the contents of the room are revealed, they lead to more questions.

The discoveries Laura  makes and the relationships she forms with the home’s caretaker and an interesting young neighbor, hold the readers interest, and keep pages turning as one chapter triggers a craving for the next.

An isolated subplot is sprinkled amid the main narrative. Both tales come together impressively in the end, bringing a fascinating conclusion to the thoroughly enjoyable experience of this enchanting read.   The Keeper of Lost Things encourages the belief in the possibility of modern miracles.

 

Ornaments of Death by Jane K. Cleland

Ornaments of Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries)

This book has been around awhile, but especially at the Holidays, it’s always great to revisit favorite stories. And favorite places too. Rocky Point is a fictional town in the real setting of Seacoast Region New Hampshire.

Southern Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire towns and beaches have been the setting for many of my New England escapes, and I love them dearly.

In this story, a visit from a newly discovered distant relative is in order for Josie Prescott, owner of Prescott’s Antiques a prestigious auction house. His visit coinsides with the holiday party planning of Josie and her small trusted staff.

The suspenseful events regarding the theft of an antique, the disappearance of her newfound family member and the interest added by Hank, Josie’s captivating cat make for a memorable holiday season.

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Ornaments of Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries)

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