Category: Cozy Mysteries

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!

Book Review: Danger at the Cove by Hannah Dennison

I was excited to receive a review copy of “Danger at the Cove”, book two in the new Island Sisters series. I absolutely adored the first book, and was eager to read this second one. In this installment, Evie and Margo are preparing for their upcoming open house and grand opening. Since nothing can ever be easy, things are complicated by unexpected guests and a body count.

I loved the concept of setting this series on an isolated island that can only be accessed at certain times of day due to the tides. I’m enjoying this angle for a murder mystery; suspects can be added or ruled out based on whether or not they had access to the island during the time of the crime.

The descriptions, of both the landscape and the hotel itself, were just detailed enough to enable me to “see” everything, without bogging down the narrative at all. Tregarrick Island is based on the Scilly Isles, and it’s an area I’d definitely love to visit, even if Evie’s hotel is fictional.

I also enjoyed getting to know more about main characters Evie and Margot. Evie was likable and intelligent from the beginning, but I liked seeing her growth as she becomes more businesslike and independent this time around. Margot was a bit difficult in the first book, and it was refreshing to see her becoming a better person (and sister) with this story. I imagine we’ll see lots of character growth from both ladies in future installments. One other note: I appreciated Margo’s traditional morality and strong views on the subject. It will be interesting to see how she reconciles her personal views with the choices some of the future guests will no doubt make.

The mystery itself was interesting, and was made even more so by the limited suspect pool provided by the island. Despite the relatively small number of people involved, there was plenty of room for doubt, suspicion, and clue-hunting. The author did a fabulous job of expanding on the old “closed-room mystery” sub-genre, and doing so in a unique and fascinating way. Patty, the head law enforcement person for the area, is a breath of fresh air! Her style is reminiscent of old-school detective novels along the lines of Holmes of Poirot. Any time she made an appearance, she definitely stole the scene!

As other reviewers have mentioned this, I will add that the murder didn’t take place until around the mid-point of the novel. I didn’t find this a negative at all, as I was completely caught up in the lives of the characters and the goings-on at the hotel. I would happily continue this series if there were no more crimes at all, and Patty was relegated to investigating things like someone’s missing luggage.

Honestly, I loved everything about this story, and can’t wait until the next book comes out.

Five out of five chunks of perfect provolone!

Book Review: Draw and Order by Cheryl Hollon

After enjoying the debut novel in the “Paint and Shine” series last year, I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of the second book, “Draw and Order”. The first book covered all the introductory items necessary for a new series, and I was looking forward to seeing what happened next. I was NOT disappointed by Book 2! It had all the warmth and charm of the first book, but I honestly think it was EVEN BETTER!

Main character Miranda has now established herself as a businesswoman in her new hometown, and is being taken seriously by the locals. I very much appreciated how much Miranda has grown in business acumen and confidence since the first book. It’s nice to see a legitimate growth arc in a cozy mystery, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Miranda. Her romance is moving along at a respectable cozy pace, her businesses are interesting, and her puppy is adorable. Basically, she’s the perfect cozy heroine!

The murder mystery was also handled very well. Since Miranda’s business involves taking various groups of people (often out-of-town guests) on a cultural experience, there’s always a nice influx of new characters/victims/suspects. This is a genius idea for a business for a cozy heroine, and I loved that it’s different from what I often see in this genre. The new group of guests this time around brings Miranda the discovery of a cold-case-disappearance-turned-murder and plenty of new suspects to investigate. I loved the way she methodically uses her “murder notebook” to keep track of her sleuthing; it’s very organized, and helps the reader visualize her thought process. Once everything was revealed in the end, it all made sense given what Miranda (and the reader) had learned along the way.

I also enjoyed the positive relationships Miranda has with the local sheriff, coroner, and park ranger. It’s nice to have the official folks getting along with an amateur sleuth instead of constantly resenting her involvement. Of course, the sheriff warns her to “stay out of it”, but it seems to stem more from his concern for her safety than from any real belief that she wouldn’t be helpful.

Another added bonus this time around is that Miranda’s distillery business is progressing…it won’t be long before she’s able to brew her own moonshine! I’m enjoying learning more about this topic, and really enjoy the moonshine cocktail recipes included along with the food recipes. (Of course, I grew up near Franklin County, VA, so that might be part of it.)

I also need to add that the author clearly knows her novel’s location very well on a personal level. Her love for the natural beauty of the mountains of Kentucky shines through with every scene she describes. I’m enjoying this unique cozy setting, and a lot of that is because of how authentic Ms. Hollon’s descriptions of people and places are. Kudos for some truly excellent writing and storytelling!

Five out of five slices of white cheddar!

Book Review: A Glimmer of a Clue by Daryl Wood Gerber

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review “A Glimmer of a Clue”, the second 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 book 1, 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 woman that virtually nobody liked) 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.

However, 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. Some side plots from the first book are addressed (a friend’s missing daughter, Fiona’s quest to earn her wings, Courtney’s relationship with her father), but I don’t think anyone starting the series with this book would have any trouble picking up on what’s happening.

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