Thursday, August 16, 2018

Book Review: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness Mysteries #12)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Character growth, compelling mystery, lots of fun
Cons: Slow start, repetitive early sub-plot
The Bottom Line:
Wedding planning and
Mysteries at country estate
Make up this fun book

Is It the Summer of Weddings for Lady Georgianna?

Over the last several books in the Royal Spyness series, we’ve been building to several different weddings.  Both Lady Georgianna’s mother and grandfather are looking to get remarried while Georgie herself is planning her wedding to Darcy O’Mara.  All of these weddings are planned for the summer of 1935, which just happens to be the time period for Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding, the latest in the series.

Georgie is discovering that planning a wedding when you are a member of the royal family is tricky.  Even though she is giving up her claim on the throne since Darcy is an Irish Catholic, she is still related to the royal family, and Queen Mary is expecting to be invited as well as offering suggestions on who from the European royals might want to attend.

But the biggest concern that Georgie and Darcy are facing is where they will live when they are married.  The solution comes from the most unlikely place when they are offered a country manor half an hour from London.  Georgie heads out to begin setting it up for after the wedding, but she quickly discovers that something isn’t right.  She expected the skeleton staff, but something about the servants doesn’t seem right.  What is really going on?

The book starts with the usual updates on the people in Georgie’s life as well as some wedding plans.  Those who are familiar with the series won’t be surprised by this since many books in the series take some time with set up and characters updates.  I did find this part a little slow, but my biggest issue with this part of the book was a sub-plot that was very recycled.  I was really hoping that Georgie had matured beyond this by now.

However, once Georgie arrives at her potential new home, things definitely pick up.  This isn’t a typical murder mystery plot, and I loved the book for it.  Instead, it incorporates some Gothic elements as Georgie tries to figure out what in the world is going on.  This part kept me glued to the page as I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.  And the climax?  Wonderful!  In fact, I found the entire final part of the book to be very satisfying.

I was also very impressed with the character growth we saw in Georgie in this portion of the book.  I couldn’t picture the Georgie of the earlier books dealing with what she faces here, yet she does it with style.  She isn’t the only character I enjoyed in this portion of the book.  I won’t spoil who it is, but there is another character who has changed quite a bit for the better.  And it’s a character I used to despise, too.  The rest of the cast is wonderful as well, but these two really stood out to me.

Wondering if there is a wedding or three?  I’m not going to spoil that for you, you’ll need to read the book yourself to find out.

Fans of this series will be very satisfied by Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding.  This is another fun visit with our favorite minor royal.

And if you need more, check out the rest of the Royal Spyness Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner Thursday August 23rd, so please leave your comment before midnight Pacific Time on 8/23.  You will have until midnight on 8/28 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 8/29.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Movie Review: Garage Sale Mystery - The Mask Murder

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, continuity with supporting characters
Cons: Normal cheese, mask tie in weak
The Bottom Line:
Jen returns for a
Storage unit murder that
Will entertain fans

“These Are Death Masks.”  “That’s Not Creepy at All.” 

Storage lockers make great set ups for mysteries since you never know what you will find inside them, and a dead body is very easy to hide in them.  So, I’m not that surprised that it was the set up for The Mask Murder, this week’s new entry in Hallmark’s Garage Sale Mystery movie franchise.

Jen (Lori Loughlin) and Dani (Sarah Strange) are heading to a storage locker auction hoping to score some bargains for their store, Rags to Riches.  They are excited when they realize just what is in the locker they win.  With dollar signs in their eyes, they begin to move stuff to their store.

When Jen goes back for the final load, the owner of the facility asks if she would be interested in another locker owned by the same person as the one she already bought.  Excited by the prospect, Jen immediately agrees to take a look at it.  However, when she raises the door, Jen finds a dead body.  The young woman was an employee of the storage facility.  What could have led to her death?

Once again, Jen is off on a mystery that contains plenty of viable suspects and twists before we reach the logical climax.  I did feel the mask tie in was a little weak, but the rest was so strong, I’m certainly not complaining.

On the sub-plot front, the rest of Jen’s family gets involved in a fund-raising competition at Hannah’s college while Dani has a chance to reconnect with an old flame, Drew (Matthew Harrison), who we actually met in one of the movies from last summer.  It was nice to see a love interest for Dani brought back.  Meanwhile, Hannah (Eva Bourne) is still dating Officer Ryan (Cory Rempel), who we met in the previous movie.  I’m hoping that both pieces of continuity actually last.  As always, it was such fun to see the characters again.

And, as always, there’s the Hallmark cheese factor.  It seemed to be worse when the sub-plots were the focus rather than the main mystery.  Still, as long as you know to expect this going into the movie, you’ll be perfectly fine.

Hallmark’s mystery movies have quickly become addictive for me, and The Mask Murder was another pleasing one.  If you are a fan, you’ll enjoy it as well.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Book Review: A Dark and Twisting Path by Julia Buckley (Writer's Apprentice Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong plot and charming characters keep the pages turning
Cons: Timeline issues in the early pages, but minor overall
The Bottom Line:
Sam is framed again
Strong third book in this series
Will keep fans happy

Lena’s Path Continues to be Enjoyably Twisty

After the cliffhanger that ended the second book in the Writer’s Apprentice Mysteries, I was really looking forward to learning what happened next in A Dark and Twisting Path, the next book in the series.  I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint at all.

It’s been a few months since we last checked in with Lena London and the rest of the residents of Blue Lake.  In that time, Lena and best-selling suspense author Camilla Graham have gone on a tour to launch their first official book written together.  However, there has been no sign of baby Athena, and Sam West, Lena’s boyfriend, hasn’t given up trying to help his ex-wife recover her baby.

Lena has hardly gotten back to town when she gets a call from her friend Allison, who has just discovered a dead body at the edge of her property.  While Allison’s husband recently argued with the victim, Lena recognizes the letter opener sticking out of the victim as one she gave Sam.  Why is someone trying to frame him again for murder?

For those who aren’t familiar with this series, Camilla is writer who specializes in Gothic books, so these books have a bit of a Gothic feel more than a traditional, straight cozy.  That means we don’t get the typical suspects and puzzle.  As long as you know that when you sit down to read the book, you’ll be perfectly fine.

Why do I say that?  Because this is a fast-paced book with something always happening to keep us engaged.  I hardly wanted to put the book down and finished it in two days.  I was very satisfied when I finished the book.

I do have a small niggle, however, and that is with the timing of events in the first few chapters.  The characters can’t seem to remember when certain events happened.  As you know, this is a pet peeve, but after the first 40 pages, it was no longer an issue, and the timing wasn’t a key factor to the story.

While the plot may not be typical of a cozy mystery, I’d argue that the characters are closer to it.  We get a strong main character in Lena, who is determined to see justice done and to help those she loves.  The supporting characters are a fun mix, with a few eccentric characters thrown in for good measure.  The villain?  That is pure Gothic.  Okay, so I haven’t read any Gothic stories I’m aware of, so I’m guessing, but it certainly feels right to me.  As an added bonus, we get to meet Lena’s father and step-mother in this book; I really enjoyed getting to see them on the page and see a different side of Lena as a result of their presence.

Fans of the series will be thrilled with A Dark and Twisted Path.  If you haven’t picked up these books yet, you really shouldn’t jump in here.  Instead, go back to the beginning.  You’ll be enjoying this book before you know it.

Need to back up?  Here are the Writer’s Apprentice Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner Tuesday August 21st, so please leave your comment before midnight Pacific Time on 8/21.  You will have until midnight on 8/26 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 8/27.

Monday, August 13, 2018

TV on DVD Review: Arrow - Season 6

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Acting, stunts, villain, lack of flashbacks
Cons: Many story lines annoy
The Bottom Line:
Uneven season
Villain works; storylines don’t
Hope show bounces back

“She’s Right.”  “She Usually Is.”

I’ve been a loyal viewer of all the shows in the Arrowverse since the day Arrow premiered.  And, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed them until this year.  Arrow really took a dive in season six.

The season opens moments after the season 5 finale as we learn just who survived the island being blown up.  In the aftermath, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) finds himself with custody of his son, someone he’s just met.  Fortunately, he and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) are back together, so he has her help in building a relationship.

Of course, things aren’t quiet for long in Starling City.  Ricardo Diaz (recurring guest star Kirk Acevedo), a mobster, has decided he wants to take over the city, and he will do whatever he can, including going after Oliver Queen and the Arrow.  Meanwhile, Earth 2’s version of Black Siren (Katie Cassidy) is in town and complicating things because her resemblance to Laurel is stirring up emotions in the team.  Oliver once again draws fire for his vigilante activities as the Green Arrow.  And his efforts to protect those closest to him just drive people further from him.  Will Diaz wind up taking over the city?

Obviously, I had some issues with this season.  Not the least of which was the split in Team Arrow.  Yes, I know that superheroes constantly break apart and form new groups, and I do see how the writers attempted to give everyone good motives, at least in their own eyes, for what they were doing.  However, no one really came out of it looking good.  Also, it was obvious that they would have to repair their rifts to get rid of Diaz, yet no one was willing to work on that at all.  It made for frustrating viewing.

Then there was Laurel/Black Canary.  Having Laurel’s evil double in town had the potential for some good storylines, however, the one they settled on involved having some characters trying to redeem her.  Now, I’m all for redeeming evil characters.  It’s one of the reasons I loved Once Upon a Time.  However, when the characters keep getting played, it makes for frustrating viewing again.

And, of course, there is the fact that Oliver has been threatened with exposure and prison for his actions as the Arrow several times before.  Again, it felt repetitive.

On the plus side, we are done with the flashbacks.  I’m trying to remember if there were any at all in this season after the first episode.  If there were, they provided context to that episode’s story and didn’t carry over from one episode to another, which was a wonderful change.  The ongoing flashback stories had been my least favorite aspect of the show previously.

And I thought Diaz made a wonderful bad guy.  He was over the top brutal at times, but he’s a strong villain.

The acting has always been great, and that continues here.  You’ll notice I didn’t go into details about the cast like I normally might, but that was only to avoid spoilers about who survived the season five cliffhanger.  Likewise, the stunts are top notch.

It’s not that I outright hated the season (despite how it might sound).  It’s more that I found parts of it very annoying.  It wasn’t a show I looked forward to watching each week, but I wasn’t ready to quite watching it either.

Arrow has a new show runner going into the new season, so I’m hopeful that means we can put the mistakes of season six behind us and build up to more super superhero storytelling.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Ornament Review: Donkey Kong - 2018 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Perfectly captures a classic video game
Cons: Flaws with some, but none in mine
The Bottom Line:
Must rescue the girl
Memories with ornament
Shrinks classic arcade

Jump at Your Chance to Get this Arcade Ornament

About a decade ago, Hallmark released two arcade ornament replicas.  It was right before I started seriously collecting Hallmark ornaments, and I back collected both of them very quickly.  I’d given up on them releasing any new arcade ornaments, but they did just that with this year’s Donkey Kong.

The ornament itself looks just like an arcade machine.  In this case, it is created to look like the Donkey Kong machine, which means it is light blue with decals showing Donkey Kong with the girl he’s kidnapped over his shoulder climbing away from Mario, or Jumping Man as he was known back then.  The front has a screen and the simple controls – a joystick coming out of the machine and the buttons.

As much fun as the ornament is to look at, it is even more fun because it is a magic ornament, complete with light and sound.  When the three button batteries are in the compartment in the back of the ornament, all you have to do is press the one/two player buttons to start the magic.  When you do, you’ll find that the sign at the top of the game and the screen light up, showing an image of a game in progress.  You get the music from the start of the game and then sound effects as Mario tries to climb and rescue the girl.  The entire thing lasts just under 30 seconds, and it is guaranteed to give a little rush of nostalgia to anyone who grew up on video games.

That’s why I was so happy to add this ornament to my collection.  While I don’t play very many video games these days, I loved them back in the day, and this ornament captures those happy memories.

I have been reading about issues people have had with this ornament.  Sometimes the stickers are crooked.  Worse, I have read about lines in the display screen when it lights up.  I haven’t seen any of these things myself, but do be sure to check out yours quickly when you get it.

And I recommend that you get it quickly.  I obviously wasn’t the only one hoping for more of these classic arcade ornaments.  This one has been flying off the shelves.  It is already hard to find, and I suspect that any reorders that do come in between now and Christmas will disappear just as quickly.  So if you want one, buy it when you see it and test it immediately.

Since this is an arcade game shrunk to ornament size, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that it stands up straight, perfect for enjoying year round.  And when Christmas rolls around, you’ll find that it hangs perfectly straight on your tree as well.

Those who love classic video games will absolutely love this Donkey Kong ornament.  I know I certainly do.

Original Price: $19.99

Saturday, August 11, 2018

August 11th's Weekly TV Thoughts

American Ninja Warrior – I like what they’ve been doing this season and starting off with someone who makes it far.  So much better than introducing us to someone only to have them fall on the third obstacle like they’ve done in years past.  Can’t believe Isaac went out.  Well, I can because it is always a challenge for everyone, but still, it was a surprise.  That cane obstacle was brutal!

Castaways – I have always been fascinated by being stranded on an island.  Don’t ask me why since I love modern technology so much.  Anyway, when I saw this show, I knew I had to give it a try.  Think Survivor without the competition aspect.  I’m intrigued by the people they have out there.  It might be boring, but I am curious how they will or won’t get along and what they will face as they “wait for” rescue.  (They may not know when rescue is coming, but the producers know where they are and when it will come.)

Suits – I’d forgotten about Louis’ storyline until it happened.  That was something.  I liked how it played out and how the characters came together in the end.  Zane does need to realize these people are used to working in a certain way.  And really, with the way everyone is always after each other, it’s hard to take the discussion of family very seriously around there.  But it sure does make for a great show.

Take Two – That had more of a sadness to it than I was expecting.  Not that it wasn’t a great episode, but it was more bittersweet than the episodes normally are.  I was so hoping that Ava would turn out to have faked her death, which seems to be something they do on the show regularly, but it wasn’t the case this time.  I do love how the relationships between the characters are developing.

TKO – There were some close finishes in the competition this week.  The difference between first and second and fourth and fifth was extremely close.  Very well done, ladies.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Review: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Sebastian and Partner
Cons: Most of the characters; cops too corrupt and evil
The Bottom Line:
Character study
With too little I could like
Not enjoyable

Character Study that Left Me Cold

I’ve been driving all over the place the last couple of months, so I decided to branch out from my normal audio book authors.  Since John Grisham writes standalones, I figured grabbing one of his at random would be fine, so I picked up Rogue Lawyer.  Turns out I was disappointed.

Really, this is more a character study than a novel.  Sebastian Rudd is a defense attorney who takes on the clients that no one else wants to handle.  The result is he winds up with some interesting clients and plenty of enemies.  Sometimes, the police aren’t happy with him because of his clients, and sometimes his clients aren’t happy with him when he loses.

The reason I call this more a character study than a novel is because, over the course of the book, we watch Sebastian interact with several clients.  There’s the defendant on trial for a horrific crime the entire town is already certain he committed.  There’s the mobster on death row.  And there’s the man who fired on the police when they invaded his home in a raid in the middle of the night.

Unfortunately, I had several issues with the book.  None of them were the episodic nature of the stories.  There are enough threads that run all the way through the book to make it feel like a whole, although I would be very surprised if this wasn’t originally released as a series of stories somewhere else and just collected together for sale later.  The book introduces us to the same characters multiple times, even giving us some of the same backstory.  And the ending?  It leaves us hanging about what comes next for Sebastian.  I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I’m honestly not sure how else the book could have ended.

No, my issue is more with some of his clients.  Now, I’m not saying that guilty people don’t deserve a good defense.  But even keeping that in mind, some of his clients bothered me.

Then there’s the police.  Yes, corrupt cops exist.  Yes, they make excellent obstacles in mysteries and especially legal thrillers.  However, the police here went well beyond the corrupt cop trope.  I have friends who are cops, and the way the police are portrayed here really bothered me as a result.

It certainly didn’t help that one storyline hit very close to home.  No, nothing like it has actually happened to me, fortunately, but I could identify with the people affected by it a little too much.

Then there are the characters.  I actually did like Sebastian and his paralegal/body guard Partner.  But it was hard to find much to like in many of the rest of the characters, both clients and people in Sebastian’s life.  All this time around characters I didn’t like bothered me.

As I listened, I couldn’t help but think of Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller character, aka the Lincoln Lawyer.  Sebastian felt like a cheap knock off, which is maybe another reason I had such a hard time with the book.

I listened to the audio version narrated by Mark Deakins.  He did a wonderful job bringing the story and characters to life.  My issues are with the book itself and not with his narration at all.

I listened to a few abridgments of John Grisham books years ago, and I’ve seen some of the movies based on his books, so I know that he can tell a good story.  Rogue Lawyer just wasn’t it.  I will definitely give him another shot when looking for an audio book in a pinch.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Book Review: Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett (Detective by Day #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery, fantastic characters, fun
Cons: None I could find
The Bottom Line:
After party death
Sets Day back in action in
Fantastic sequel

I Didn’t Want Hollywood Ending to End

Sometimes, when I love a debut, I worry a bit about whether I will enjoy the follow up as much.  That thought was going through my mind as I picked up Hollywood Ending.  I had absolutely nothing to worry about since this book was just as good if not better than the first book.

It’s awards season in Hollywood, and retired actress turned PI Dayna “Day” Anderson is getting into the season since her boyfriend, Omari, has been nominated for a Silver Sphere award.  He’s the breakout star of a TV show in its first season, and a win could be a huge boost for his career.  Of course, to win, he has to be seen at all the right parties in the weeks leading up to the ceremony.

It’s after one of these parties that publicist Lyla Davis is killed when she stops at an ATM, one that Omari had just been at.  When the Silver Sphere organization offers a huge reward for any information leading to Lyla’s killer, Day begins to investigate.  She quickly gets a line on the killer.  Almost too quickly.  Is she making the same mistakes she made before?  Or is there something else going on?

It may have been a year since I read the debut, but it was like no time at all had passed when I picked up the book, and I was right back in Day’s world.  Her friends are fantastic, and I loved seeing them again.  There’s definitely been some growth, at least in some of the characters, and I enjoyed seeing how the relationships have changed as a result.

The mystery itself is fantastic.  There are some wonderful twists that kept me guessing until the end, which was absolutely fantastic.

And, once again, there is an insider’s look at the world that is Hollywood.  It really is a town like no other, fueled by the entertainment industry.  If you love it like I must admit I do, you’ll enjoy this glimpse of what life can really be like behind the scenes.

All of this is wrapped in a delightful sense of humor.  I laughed several times, and was smiling and chuckling the entire way through.

Hollywood Ending ended all too soon, and now comes the very long wait until I can visit Day again.  If you are looking for a smart and fun mystery series, you need to start the Detective by Day series now.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Movie Review: Garage Sale Mystery - The Pandora's Box Murders

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and sub-plots with characters we love
Cons: Hallmark cheese factor
The Bottom Line:
Is puzzle box clue?
Jen faces two challenges
In fun mystery

“Be Careful.  The Last People to Touch It Turned Up Dead.”

After last summer’s successful month of Garage Sale Mysteries, I wasn’t too surprised when Hallmark announced that they were doing it again.  The four new movies kicked off in great fashion with The Pandora’s Box Murders.

As we first meet Jennifer Shannon (Lori Loughlin) and Dani (Sarah Strange), co-owners of Rags to Riches, they are being filmed for a pilot.  A production company wants to feature them in a reality series.  They are in the middle of filming a scene when Tamara Andronicus (Jessie Fraser) walks into the shop with a puzzle box from her recently deceased mother-in-law.  Jen is intrigued, and the producer is excited, thinking this could be the highlight of the pilot episode.

Unfortunately, when filming a scene the next day, the box is stolen.  When Jen goes to break the news to Tamara, she discovers the woman dead at the bottom of the stairs.  It looks like it could be an accident, but Jen is certain that there is something else going on.  Can she get into the puzzle box?  Will any secrets inside lead to the killer?

The franchise provides a great opportunity for unique and fun clues, and the puzzle box at the heart of this movie certainly plays perfectly into that.  While Jen is busy collection suspects and then clearing them, she is also working hard on figuring out how to get into the box.  Naturally, everything comes together for a perfectly logical climax, although one that certainly surprised me.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Shannon family get their own sub-plots.  Daughter Hannah (Eva Bourne), who is working on a post-graduate degree, finds herself possibly maybe dating a cop (Cory Rempel).  Honestly, I hope this relationship lasts for at least a couple of movies, something her relationships don’t seem to do.  And how do they meet?  He’s the officer who responds to brother Logan’s (Connor Stanhope) minor accident in their father Jason’s (Steve Bacic) prized classic car, and Logan spends the rest of the film trying to figure out how to pay for the damage.  Honestly, I loved this sub-plot as well.  Realistic?  Maybe not, but it was nice to see how everyone reacted to it.  I saw the ending coming, but that didn’t mean I liked it any less.

Of course, the movie does come with the usual Hallmark movie cheese warning.  But that’s no surprise at this point, right?  The cheese doesn’t extend to the coroner’s corny joke of the movie.  It was definitely one of his better ones.

I’m looking forward to seeing what other trouble Jen can stir up this month.  If you are a fan of this franchise, you’ll enjoy watching her solve The Pandora’s Box Murders.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Book Review: Death on the Menu by Lucy Burdette (Key West Food Critic Mysteries #8)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters; mostly good mystery
Cons: Mystery pacing uneven at times
The Bottom Line:
Catering, conf’rence
Great to visit with Hayley
Such a fun series

Political Conference Derailed by Theft and Murder

Among the cozy mystery series that have been canceled over the last couple of years, one I’ve been most upset about is the Key West Food Critic Mysteries.  I love Hayley Snow and the gang, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to visit the island of Key West.  In fact, it’s put the island on my must visit bucket list.  So when Crooked Lane picked up the series, I couldn’t wait to visit again in Death on the Menu.

The island is buzzing about the upcoming conference between the leaders of Key West and the leaders of some towns in Cuba.  Because of their proximity to each other, relations between the two islands is of upmost importance, and the recent changing of relations with Cuba and the US has allowed these meetings to take place.  Hayley’s mom has landed the plumb job of catering the meals for the weekend event, and Hayley is helping out in addition to working on some Cuban themed assignments for Key Zest magazine.

However, not everyone is thrilled with the conference.  Protestors are coming to the island, and security is tight.  In fact, police detective Nathan Bransford, Hayley’s boyfriend, is encouraging Hayley and her mother to back out, even at this late date.

And Friday gets off to a rocky start.  First, an artifact loaned to Key West goes missing.  Then a busboy is found murdered.  Hayley is moved by the victim’s family to step in and make sure justice is done.  Are the two events related?  Can Hayley figure out what is going on?

Despite what I said earlier, I hadn’t realized just how much I missed Haley and the rest of the gang until I started reading this book.  It was so wonderful to be back in Key West, at least fictionally.  This time, we get to visit the Harry Truman’s Little White House as well as Hemingway’s house, and I’ve now added them to my must visit list when I make it there in person.  (I think I’ll have to be there a month to visit every place I want to visit.)

This book has a slightly different tone from the earlier books in the series because of the Cuban meeting and the politics involved.  The author does a decent job of presenting both sides, although I do feel that a few points could have been better represented.  Then again, that may just be my perceptions since my thoughts on the topic were the ones not presented as strongly as I would have liked.  They are still there, however, which I appreciated.  Either way, you aren’t in for lectures.

However, the drama that the conference generates and the drama of Hayley’s mom trying to get the meals together do detract from the mystery at times.  The further we get into the book, the more the mystery takes center stage, as it should, and we wind up with a wonderful climax.

As much as I was raving about the setting earlier, it was just as fantastic to be visiting the characters again, something I will never be able to do in the real Key West.  Hayley’s love life has been much more complicated than usual for a cozy series, and I enjoyed seeing how it developed here.  All the regulars are back, although we don’t see much of the Key Zest gang, as you might suspect given the set up for this book.  We do get plenty of Miss Gloria, Hayley’s older roommate, and I’m not complaining about that at all since she’s one of my favorite characters.

And there are the recipes.  With the Cuban flavor of the book, we get recipes for Cuban roast pork, a Mojito cake, and a delicious sounding flan among others.

Those, like me, who have been missing this series will be delighted to pick up Death on the Menu.  And if you haven’t started this series yet, you need to do so now.

Here are the rest of the Key West Food Critic Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.