Category: Cozy Mysteries

Book Review: Ghost Light by Jane Tesh

I’m a big fan of author Jane Tesh, so of course I was delighted to have the opportunity to read her new standalone mystery “Ghost Light”. Not surprisingly, I loved it!

First, the main character of Teddy (short for Theodosia) was excellent! I enjoyed seeing the events of the book through her eyes, and getting to know her as a character. Teddy is smart, intuitive, kind, and loyal. She also has a touch of OCD that turns out to be quite helpful when it’s time to commit herself to solving a mystery. Her need for order and closure propels her to a find the answer when a local theater employee is murdered.

As an added bonus, Teddy provides the mystery world with something that is much needed: diversity! During the course of the novel, Teddy realizes that she is asexual, and it was wonderful to see a less-stereotypical heroine. Her discovery was treated in a straightforward, non-judgemental manner that I found refreshing. Teddy is a unique voice, and I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to witness her journey of self-discovery and acceptance.

The main focus on the book is Teddy’s attempt to solve the murder of Paula, the former theater stage manager. Since “the show must go on”, Teddy quickly finds herself taking over Paula’s job, despite having no theater experience beyond enjoying the shows. Watching her learn the ins and outs of her new job was almost as enjoyable as watching her investigate the mystery! Both threads were well-written and seamlessly interwoven, and the story flowed perfectly.

As for the mystery itself, there were plenty of clues for Teddy to follow and suspects for her to question and investigate. I liked the way her natural methodical nature helped in her pursuit of the guilty party. The reader follows the leads along with her, and I loved every minute of it!

Sadly, the author has indicated that this is a stand-alone mystery. I hope she reconsiders making it the start of a new series! Teddy has a lot more to offer as a leading character, and with the theater as a backdrop, there’s no limit to the adventures she could have and mysteries she could investigate!

Definitely 5 out of 5 perfect chunks of my favorite sharp cheddar!

A Hint of Mischief by Daryl Wood Gerber

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review “A Hint of Mischief”, the third book in Daryl Wood Gerber’s “Fairy Garden Mystery” series. I have to say that I loved everything about it….this installment definitely lived up to the high standards set by the earlier books, and I eagerly await the next book in the series.

Main character Courtney comes across as a genuine, real person. She’s smart, hard-working, kind, and loyal; she seems like the kind of person you could meet (and really like) in real life. The fact that she can see and talk to fairies adds a fun element to her character, and to the story. It’s a tribute to the author that these magical realism elements fit right in with the narrative, and feel believable within the parameters of the story.

The mystery element (in this case, the murder of a famous actress in town for a friend’s birthday) was very well done. I enjoy Courtney as an amateur sleuth, because she actually makes an effort to investigate. She is methodical and focused in her approach, and talks openly to the police. (Of course, they want her to stay out of things, but since she’s finding clues they didn’t, they can’t complain too much.) Due to the victim’s disagreeable personality, there is no shortage of suspects and motives for Courtney to research. The mystery takes front-and-center stage in this book, which I really appreciated.

In addition to the main mystery, there are several enjoyable side plots regarding a string of small-scale local thefts, an author’s missing manuscript, and the question of who is responsible for a series of fairy doors that are appearing around town. While this may sound like a lot for one book, I found that all the threads ties together perfectly. These side stories were all interesting, and added a touch of realism to the book. (After all, in real life, aren’t lots of things happening at the same time?) I especially appreciated new insights these stories provided into Courtney’s character and relationships, both past and present.

All the normal cozy elements are represented as well. The reader will spend time at work with Courtney in her shop, and as she interacts with her friends and pet. There are plenty of lighter moments to offset the murder investigation, and I enjoyed them very much.

All in all, an EXCELLENT cozy mystery with a bit of magical flair. Five out of five slices of perfect provolone!

Five Belles Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein

“Five Belles Too Many” is the fifth book in the Sarah Blair series by Debra H. Goldstein. This book definitely lives up to the high standards set by the previous books in the series; in fact, it’s my favorite installment so far! This book provides more of everything I love about the series and adds another of my favorite things: reality television programming!

This time around, Sarah’s mother is competing on a reality show to win the perfect wedding, and Sarah has been roped into participating as a chaperone. I really enjoyed the amount of attention paid to the various aspects of filming a reality show, and appreciated the behind-the-scenes glimpses into the process.

Overall, my favorite thing about this series is main character Sarah, who is a caring woman with common sense who approaches cooking (and life) with a philosophy of “the quicker and easier, the better”. She is also not a perfect size 2, and still seems to like herself, which is nice to see in any book. Minor characters (including twin sister Emily and mother Maybelle) are also well-drawn, with distinctive personalities. Even thought they are “temporary” characters, the cast and crew of the reality show are each given enough distinguishing traits to make them easy to keep straight. As always, Sarah’s pets Fluffy and Rah-Rah are adorable, even if they’re fairly off-screen this time around.

Once again, Ms. Goldstein manages to avoid a major cozy mystery romance trope. Five books into the series, and our heroine is still single, and perfectly happy without a serious romantic relationship in her life.

By the end, I had a pretty strong suspicion as to the identity of the “bad guy”, because Sarah is so detail-oriented and organized with her investigating. The final reveal was exciting, and everything made sense based on all the clues.

I have only good things to say about this book, this series, and this author. I think this book could stand alone, but you’ll miss out of some lovely character development. It’s up to you…start with Book 1, or dive right in with this one. You can’t go wrong either way!

Five out of five slices of delectable provolone!

Book Review: Murder Through an Open Door by Melissa Bourbon

I loved the first two book in this series, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this third book, “Murder Through an Open Door”. I am happy to say that it was every bit as good as the first two, and has left me eagerly anticipating the next installment!

This time around, Pippen focuses more on the series-wide mystery of her family’s curse. One of her inn guests turns up dead, and Pippen quickly learns that he was actually in town to see her, and might have had information about the curse and her father’s research. I enjoyed watching her investigate in an effort to learn the truth, and appreciated her methodical approach, as well as the fact that she sought out help from family and friends instead of trying to do it all herself.

The reader gets to know Pippen and Grey even better in this second book. We also meet a potential new permanent character in Hazel, as well as spending more time with series favorites like Jamie, Cyrus, and (of course) Sailor. I like seeing these major characters, as well as their relationships, evolve over the course of the series. I especially appreciated the evolution of Pippen’s relationship with Jamie this time around.

The actual mystery was very well written. Pippen delves into her investigation, using both regular techniques and her bibliomancy. (This is a special gift she has in which books reveal information to her magically.) She’s fairly methodical about this, and I liked following the clues along with her. One mysterious character from the second book made a reappearance, and I hope we see more of him in the future. Once the culprit was revealed, it all made sense based on the clues uncovered throughout the story. Of course, more information about the curse, and how to potentially break it, was uncovered along with solving the murder.

As an added bonus, we spend some time with a member of Pippen’s extended family, and learn more about her family history.

I feel that this book could be read as a stand-alone. The author provides enough information about what has already happened that the reader should be able to figure everything out fairly quickly. However, due to the underlying family curse storyline, I would recommend reading the books in order if at all possible.

Five out of five chunks of creamy Brie!

Book Review: Fatal Fantasy by Jane Tesh

First off, after reading book 7 last year, I was a huge fan of this series when I started this book. Now, I’m even more crazy about it. (I have Book 1 waiting for me to find time to pick it up and start the earlier adventures of Randall, Camden, and crew.)

One thing that makes this series stand out for me is that there are multiple mysteries to solve. Main character David Randall is a private investigator, so it makes sense that he has more than one case going on at a time, and that things he learns while investigating one thing can lead to new mysteries. I love the way he goes about his sleuthing, taking a professional, methodical approach. He considers all the angles, talks to all the witnesses/suspects, and follows all the leads. He sometimes has help from his psychic best friend Camden, but this paranormal element is never used as a “cheap” way to solve a case. (By this, I mean that Camden doesn’t have a vision at just the right time that clearly and easily reveals the guilty party.) Instead, Camden’s gift sometimes guides David towards or away from a theory, but never spells out the answer directly.

Both David and Camden are interesting characters, and their genuine friendship and care for each other is heartwarming. Additional major characters are also intriguing, and this time around we learned more about Kary’s tragic backstory. This book also featured the Enforcettes, a group of costumed warriors who both help David and add to the mysteries he needs to solve. They added some delightful humor to the otherwise-serious murder investigation.

The book is mainly set at a local convention similar to ComiCon. I enjoyed reading about the various activities and events that were part of the convention, and was impressed by the number of fictional fandoms the author created, as well as the attention to detail given to each of them.

Of course, most of the mysteries are solved by the story’s end, with one interesting line of inquiry still open for further development.

I highly recommend this book (and series) to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, PI story, or quality fiction in general.

Five out of five chunks of perfect cheddar!

Book Review: Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers by Heather Weidner

“Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers” is the first book in a new series, but doesn’t read like one. I mean that in the best possible way. Often, first books tend to spend a lot of time setting the scene and introducing the characters, with the murder almost taking a backseat to the series background. This book launches right in with the mystery element, and does an excellent job of introducing characters, relationships, and the location as part of the narrative.

I liked main character Jules. She is a sensible businesswoman who approaches the murder at her glampground in a logical, methodical way. I appreciated that she kept some of her focus on her business instead of devoting every waking minute to solving the mystery, as some cozy heroines tend to do. I also liked the way she worked with her tech-support friend and law enforcement instead of trying to do everything herself. Other characters, especially Roxanne, Jake, and Bijou (her terrier) were well-written, detailed, and added a lot to the story.

The mystery itself was also well-written. There were plenty of clues to follow, and I enjoyed watching Jules try to track down answers, both online and in person. I liked the way more was gradually revealed, both about the crime and the motive behind it. One thing that made this mystery stand out was that the main suspect was obvious early on. The real questions to be resolved were WHO exactly this person was, what motivated him, and how to actually apprehend him. I always enjoy it when a cozy offers me something a little different, and this one definitely hit the mark!

While the romance aspect was on the back-burner in this book, there is plenty of potential for an interesting love triangle to develop for Jules. I need to learn more to decide which man I’m rooting for. Roxanne’s budding romance is also intriguing, and could have some entertaining developments in future books.

I very much enjoyed the setting at a glamping-style campground near real-life Charlottesville, Virginia. I liked reading about the different themes of some of the refurbished campers, and the tiny houses. I look forward to seeing more featured in the next book in this series.

Five out of five slices of perfect Provolone!

Book Review: A Murder Yule Regret by Winnie Archer

I started this series with the previous book (“Death Gone A-Rye”), and was hooked. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this sixth installment in the series. I’m happy to report that this one did NOT disappoint! It was every bit as good as the previous one, and I’m sure the next book will follow suit. As someone who jumped in to the series with Book 6, I can report that both books work fine as stand-alones.

The characters, especially main sleuth Ivy, were all well-written and detailed. I enjoyed learning more about her (as well as other major characters) this time around, and gained a better appreciation of the depth of the various relationships. Even minor characters were given enough distinguishing features to make it easy to keep everyone straight, and make each person seem like a truly unique individual. I also enjoyed meeting movie star Eliza, as Ivy got to know her over the course of the investigation. I hope she’ll become a regular feature in the series!

And speaking of the murder investigation…it was excellent! This time around, Ivy gets involved because the murder took place at party she was working, both as a Yeast of Eden employee and as a photographer. Ivy’s photography plays an important role in the investigation, and I enjoyed learning more about this aspect of her life.

I suspected a couple of people at different times, and was proven wrong in the end. In retrospect, there were plenty of clues pointing to the actual culprit, and everything made perfect sense at the final reveal.

Another note: I appreciated that Ivy is best friends with the main police presence it town, instead of being either a love interest or an enemy. I liked the way the two of them worked together, with Emmeline being no-nonsense and professional about her job, while still appreciating Ivy’s help and suggestions.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this mystery. Five out of five slices of perfect provolone!

Book Review: Deck the Donuts by Ginger Bolton

I was initially attracted to “Deck the Donuts” by the absolutely charming cover! A cat, holiday treats, snow falling in the background….what could be more appealing? I’m so glad I decided to read this one, and the inside was every bit as appealing as the exterior.

First off, I should say that this is the sixth book in the series, but the first one I have read. I didn’t feel lost or like I was missing something at all. The author provided everything I needed to know to jump right in with this book; it works perfectly well as a stand-alone.

I really enjoyed the small-town setting. I loved the descriptions of local businesses, events, and holiday traditions. The way the residents genuinely cared about others and tried to be kind and helpful was heartwarming. Even though it’s only October, I’m definitely in the mood for Christmas now. This sweet small town provided the motivation for me to start thinking about decorating!

The mystery itself was excellent! Even though the victim was from elsewhere, there were plenty of locals who had reasons to wish him harm. Lots of non-locals were stranded in town, adding to the suspect pool. I enjoyed this mix of suspects, and the way the author directed suspicion in multiple directions. Once everything was revealed at the end all the clues the reader gathered along the way made sense.

I enjoyed reading about main character Emily. One interesting note is that, despite this being Book 6, her romance is still in the very early stages. I might have missed something due to not having read the earlier books, but I get the sense that she has been single and not romantically involved so far. This is a nice change of pace for a cozy, and I appreciate the focus on a single woman who is focusing on her job, her friends, and herself without having a love interest at all times.

I’m happily rating “Deck the Donuts” five out of five wedges of creamy Brie!

Book Review: Hexes & Hijinks by Sherry Soule

“Hexes and Hijinks” is the perfect first installment in a promising new cozy mystery series! It covers everything needed to set up the series (characters, relationships, locations, jobs, pets, and a new love interest) without ever bogging down the storyline. This can be difficult to accomplish at the start of Book 1, and I appreciate the author’s skill in integrating everything so well.

Main character Danika is a breath of fresh air as a cozy heroine. She has pink hair, a serious love of tacos, and a great sense of humor. Occasionally, she directs a comment directly to the reader, which I enjoyed. I felt it drew me in to the narrative, and made me even more immersed in the story than I already was.

The mystery itself was very well-crafted. There were plenty of suspects, and the author seamlessly integrated them all into the story without overwhelming the reader. (There is a helpful character list at the beginning if needed.) I enjoyed Danika’s upfront sleuthing style, and her logical mind and outgoing personality are well-suited to this role. When all was revealed in the end, everything made sense given what the reader had learned along the way.

All in all, I enjoyed everything about this book, and very much look forward to the next installment in Danika’s adventures.

Five out of five slices of provolone!