Category: Cozy Mysteries

Book Review: That Last Weekend by Laura DiSilverio

Laura DiSilverio may be one of the most versatile writers that I follow. I first met her through her cozy mysteries, then went on to enjoy her YA dystopian trilogy. Now, I can add her newest suspense novel, “That Last Weekend”, to the list.

“That Last Weekend” tells the story of five college friends who got together for a girls’ weekend once a year at a bed and breakfast. When their last weekend together ended in tragedy, the ladies fell out of touch until they received invitations ten years later to revisit their favorite B&B and their old relationships.

The reader meets the five main characters, as well as the key people in each of their lives, in fairly quick succession at the start of the book. It is a tribute to Ms. DiSilverio’s wonderfully rich characterizations that you never feel confused about who is who. Each key figure is well-drawn and unique, and therefore easy to remember.

The plot itself unfolds at a nice pace, alternating between (mostly) the current events at the B&B with occasional flashbacks to what happened the last time. When tragedy strikes anew, the friends vow to work together to prove themselves innocent, as well as to uncover the truth about what happened during their previous visit. The police officer who believed one of them was guilty ten years ago is now the sheriff; the fact that he heads up the current investigation makes for some interesting dynamics between him the and suspects, as well as a wonderful plot development that I won’t share to avoid being spoiler-ish.

About mid-way through the book, I was positive that I knew who had committed each of the crimes. I was both surprised and delighted to learn that I had been completely wrong! The clues are all there, but they aren’t easy to unravel. The reader will enjoy uncovering information (both new and old) about the events that transpired, and trying to figure out who the guilty party is.

I highly recommend “That Last Weekend” to fans of mysteries, group-of-friends stories, and anyone who enjoys an incredibly well-written novel!

Five out of five yummy chunks of cheddar!

that.last.weekend

Advertisements

Book Review: The Secret, Book, & Scone Society by Ellery Adams

secret.book.scone

“The Secret, Book, and Scone Society” by Ellery Adams is an absolutely wonderful start to a new cozy mystery series! The story is centered upon Nora, a woman with scars both physical and emotional. Nora runs a bookshop and often helps customers heal from emotional trauma by suggesting just the right mix of books. One such potential reader is found dead before he can enjoy his books, and Nora sets out to determine what really happened.

The mystery is well-plotted, with enough clues and information provided to the reader to keep things interesting, but never enough to make the answer obvious. Nora thinks things through and takes logical steps to solve the mystery, instead of bumbling around and occasionally coming across a clue (like so many cozy heroines are prone to do). Of course, this doesn’t mean that she never does anything dangerous or stupid! Nora’s flaws are actually what make the reader love her; perfect heroines get annoying quickly.

The book also shines in the area of characters and their relationships with one another. Despite running a successful business, Nora has kept herself fairly closed off from others. As the mystery unfolds, she finds herself drawing together a group of like-minded women with problems of their own. As the story progresses, each woman begins to share her secrets and find personal healing. I love the way that these personal journeys are woven into the mystery plotline, and look forward to watching the friendships deepen as the group goes on to solve future crimes (which will undoubtedly occur in their cozy town).

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about “The Secret, Book, and Scone Society”. It has everything a typical cozy should (including a crew of very oddly-behaving cats), but brings so much more to the table. Nora’s character in particular has the potential for extensive growth and development in future installments of this series. The other regular characters (plus one mysterious newcomer) also have plenty of room to grow and provide the bases for more stories.

Overall, five chunks of the tastiest, sharpest cheddar available!Chewie.doodle

Book Review: Edited Out by E.J. Copperman

edited.out

Edited Out” by E.J. Copperman provides a unique twist on the cozy mystery genre. The protagonist, Rachel Goldman, is a mystery author. The over-arching premise of the series is that a man claiming to be Duffy Madison, her main character, appears in her life. In addition to solving the current mystery in which she finds herself involved, Rachel must try to figure out who the man claiming to be a fictional character actually is, all while trying to finish writing her current book.

What makes this book so enjoyable is first person narrator Rachel. She tells the story, but also speaks directly to the reader, and she is hilarious! For example: “Women were not put on this planet to be buffers between men. It’s a side service we sometimes offer while we plot our takeover of the world. Go ahead. Assume I’m kidding.”

In addition to Duffy and Rachel, the minor characters are also well-drawn and full of potential. I look forward to the next installment in this series; I’m eager to see what mystery our main characters are confronted with next, to gather more clues to Duffy’s true identity, and to hopefully learn more about the backstories and personalities of Ben (police investigator) and Rachel’s father.

The story itself is well-paced and cleverly plotted. It is a bit reminiscent of old-school detective stories, as Duffy and Rachel interview witnesses, gradually gathering more and more information (and misinformation) about the case. I enjoyed this aspect of the book; in many cozies, the heroine spends most of the book going about her life, occasionally coming across some clues. In “Edited Out”, Rachel is actively (if reluctantly) trying to solve the mystery.

Another aspect of “Edited Out” that I found interesting was the information that Rachel shares about being a writer. During the course of the book, she talks about deadlines, editors, agents, writer’s block, and her writing process. This is never overwhelming, and the reader doesn’t feel like the book has suddenly transitioned from a mystery to “How To Be a Writer”. However, what Rachel shares about her career comes across as insightful and relevant.

Side note: Other reviewers have said that this book can be read as a stand-alone. I can’t honestly address this, as I had already read book 1, “Written Off“. That being said, I think that a reader could pick up “Edited Out” and figure out what was going on fairly quickly. However, I’d recommend starting with the first book, both for continuity of storyline and for the more detailed character development provided.

I highly recommend this book to fans of cozy mysteries. I also think that fans of traditional mysteries would enjoy this story, as it provides a significant amount of focus on trying to solve the crime. Anyone looking for something unique would also find “Edited Out” a worthwhile choice.

Book Review: Mission Impawsible by Krista Davis

mission-impawsibleThere are so many cozy mystery series being published today that I have chosen a select few to follow. The “Paws & Claws” series by Krista Davis is one of my absolute favorites, and I highly recommend it to all fans of the genre. Although each title can be read as a standalone, I suggest beginning with Book 1, “Murder, She Barked”, if you are new to the series.

“Mission Impawsible” is the fourth installment in this delightful series set in fictitious Wagtail, Virginia, at an inn that caters to pet owners and their furry friends. This time around, main character Holly has to solve a murder in the midst of a pet-based matchmaking event hosted by the Sugar Maple Inn. Because of this event, the town is full of suspects, potential love interests, and adorable animals, making Holly’s search for the killer even more challenging. I happily give this book five out of five thick, savory slices of Bergenost!

What makes this book (and series) so special, you may ask? In  my opinion, the single most important element of any mystery is the development of the crime-related plot. It needs to make sense, be intricate enough to not have an obvious solution, but also provide enough clues that the reader can figure it out about the same time as the heroine. “Mission Impawsible” does this extremely well. There are plenty of potential suspects with plausible motivations, plenty of clues (and red herrings) to unravel, and the reveal at the end is logical based on everything that has happened before. I was able to correctly guess the identity of the killer, but not early enough in the book to make the rest of it boring.

Characters are another key aspect of any cozy mystery, and the protagonist of this series, Holly Miller, is ideal. She is likable and funny without being over the top, and is portrayed as intelligent and competent in her job. I especially like the fact that she comes across as a real person, with believable relationship issues and a genuine thankfulness that she lives in a place in which her meals are provided. I tend to be a bit annoyed by those “perfect” characters who are able to whip up a dinner spread for six unexpected guests with only the three random items they find in the fridge. I really appreciate that Holly isn’t the perfect chef and hostess, but the kind of real, everyday woman I can identify with. The other characters (both human and animal) are also well-drawn and entertaining, adding just the right amount of fun and quirkiness to the mix.

Many cozies include recipes at the end of the book; this one is no exception. What makes this section above average is the fact that recipes from the story for both people AND animals are featured. As a bonus, they tend to be reasonable enough (in terms of ingredients and cooking expertise required) that the average person could prepare them successfully.

You can learn more about Krista and her books on her website. To really get to know her, follow her on Facebook. You’ll enjoy author chats, giveaways, and more. If you’re really lucky, your pet might be chosen as an official Wagtail Ambassador and receive a swanky bandanna like the one Musket is sporting!

img_0500

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Cupcake Caper by Kelle Z. Riley

I am a regular reader of several cozy mystery series already, so there has to be something potentially special in evidence to encourage me to start a new one. “The Cupcake Caper” by Kelle Z. Riley (Book 1 in the Undercover Cat Series) seemed to fit the bill, and I have to say that I’m glad I took the chance on this debut mystery!

What was it about this book made me pick up a new cozy series, you ask? The answer: intelligence, both on the part of the author and the main character, Dr. Bree Watson. Both author and character are PhD scientists, as well as smart, witty, women. Bree is able to hold down a serious, demanding job, and apply her common sense and research capabilities to solving the murder that takes place at her lab. (On a side note, Ms. Riley’s website is wonderful as well; it’s clean, easy to read, and has substantially more interesting content than the typical author website.)

The story itself is interesting and well-paced, with plenty of action interspersed with scenes of Bree actually trying to solve the crime in question using her brain. Unlike many cozy heroines (who often simply go about their lives, ask a few questions here and there, and sometimes stumble over actual clues) Bree tackles her investigation head-on, with a great deal of thought, planning, and organization.

I would actually call “The Cupcake Caper” a cozy-mystery-hybrid. While it includes the key cozy attributes (a pet, a hint of romance, food/cooking, quirky friends), this book offers the reader more. It edges toward being a “standard” mystery in that much more attention is focused on solving the crime than in a typical cozy. The heroine’s job, and the fact that she holds a PhD, make her come across as a woman to be taken seriously. There is also more of a sense of real danger than what one typically encounters in a cozy. As a result I really enjoyed the book. I liked all the standard cozy tropes, but appreciated the more intense and serious nature of the mystery. The book ends with a hint of things to come for Bree, and I look forward to reading about her future adventures.

Five out of five blocks of delicious feta!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala

The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio is Book 3 in the author’s Book Club Mystery series. Normally, I try to avoid starting a series any way other than with Book 1, but this one intrigued me enough to pick up the newly released (8/2/16) third book. What was it about this title that had me abandoning protocol and diving right into Book 3, you ask? The simple answer is: “Rebecca”! The title Readaholics are reading and discussing the du Maurier classic, which is one of my favorites. I was pleased to see that, during the course of the story, the club actually meets and discusses “Rebecca”. In addition, the main character thinks about the classic story throughout her adventures.

Other highlights from The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala include:

  1. The main character, Amy-Faye Johnson, is an event planner, and her main event for the duration of this book is a series of events that make up the Gothic Gala celebration. I had a general sense of the definition of gothic fiction before reading this book, but I actually learned a good bit more by following the events of the Gala. The information flowed naturally, however, and never felt like factual overload.
  2. Laura diSilverio includes lots of current pop-culture references, which gave the book a modern feel. I particularly enjoyed the fact that I share several common popular interests with Amy-Faye (and/or Laura DiSilverio).
  3. The suspects and red herrings were plentiful. My initial guess for “whodunit” was not correct, but not entirely wrong, either. When the “big reveal” occurred and all was made clear, everything made sense and fit with the previously provided clues.
  4. Starting a series with Book 3, as expected, left me playing a bit of catch-up with the characters. However, I was able to quickly figure out the major players, and was never left feeling that I really *should have* read books 1-2 first. I definitely plan to go back and catch up, and have already ordered book 1 (The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco).
  5. Although the author does not rehash (or spoil) the events of the previous books, Amy-Faye does reference things that have happened and mysteries she has been involved with before. I liked this and found it added realism to the character. After all, if someone has been involved in any way with a murder investigation, that person would certainly think about it going forward, especially when faced with another crime.
  6.  The character of Maud is a delight! My favorite Maud moment comes when Amy-Faye reads aloud a note that was attached to a projectile directed at the group. Maud’s first comment is, “I hate sloppily used pronouns with unclear antecedent references.” I look forward to seeing more of her in future books!

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed this cozy mystery. Five out of five yummy slices of aged British Cheddar!